MANILA— Malacañang on Friday dared the European Union's lawmaking body to push through with a threat to revoke tariff incentives on Manila's exports in what could be another blow to the Southeast Asian nation's shrinking economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Citing alleged human rights abuses and the "deteriorating level of press freedom in the Philippines," the European Parliament called for a review of the tariff incentives extended to Manila which could lead to a suspension of the perks.
The international body's move comes just as the Philippines is working to resuscitate its economy dragged down by the pandemic after the country plunged into recession, a first in nearly 30 years.
The development did not sit well with Malacañang, with President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesperson daring the international body on Friday to "go ahead" with the threat.
"Kung gusto nilang dagdagan ang pahirap ng sambayanang Pilipino sa panahon ng pandemya, so be it. We will accept that as history repeating itself," Duterte's spokesperson Harry Roque said during a press briefing.
(If they want to add to the burden of the Filipino nation during this pandemic, so be it.)
"We have hit the rock bottom by way of our economy dahil sa COVID-19. Kung gusto pa magdagdag ng pahirap ng mga Europeans at ikaliligaya nila, go ahead," he added.
(If Europeans will be happy to add to our burden, go ahead.)
Apparently irked by the development, Roque then apologized for being "very undiplomatic" in his comments but emphasized that the Philippines cannot be threatened even as the country continues to grapple with the impact of the pandemic.
"What else can I say? At a time of pandemic they're threatening us? Susmaryosep. What else do we lose?" Roque said.
"Ang ating demokrasya ay nakikita ng lahat pero hindi po tayo makukuha ng pananakot sa panahon ng pandemya dahil we have hit rock bottom," he added.
(Everyone can see our democracy but they cannot sway us with their threats during a pandemic because we have hit rock bottom.)