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Calls for Suspension of GSP for the Philippines aired at European Parliament

European Union expresses concern over human rights issues in the Philippines; will look into possible suspension of GSP

MANILA – The European Union conveyed their collective concern over human rights issues in the Philippines in its plenary session at 9:00 P.M. (Brussels time) and 3:00 A.M. Manila time Friday.

Delivering her remarks, Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen, on behalf of High Representative/Vice President Joseph Borrell, she said the European Union has expressed, on several occasions, its concerns about human rights issues in the Philippines. She added the most recent was through the EU27 statement at the Human Rights Council as well as last February during the biennial Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) report discussed at the European parliament.

Commissioner Urpilainen said the EU has also talked with Philippine authorities during the first Joint Committee of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) last January this year.

“More specifically on Maria Ressa’s case, the European External Action Service (EEAS) Spokesperson issued a statement on 16 June 2020 underlining that her conviction ‘raised serious doubts over the respect for freedom of expression as well as for the rule of law in the Philippines. We expect the Philippines, like all countries, to uphold its international human rights obligations and protect and promote fundamental freedoms,’” she said.

Regarding the monitoring of the Philippines’ commitments under the GSP+, Commissioner Urpilainen said the Trade Commissioner has already communicated EU’s concerns to Philippine Trade officials “and the Philippines’ reply will be taken into account in assessing the compliance to the GSP+ conditionalities during the scheduled bilateral talks with the Philippine government.

She said the European Union remains convinced both the Philippines and the EU have most to gain from constructive engagement.

“During our January Joint Committee, we agreed on the establishment of a Subcommittee on Good Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights. The Subcommittee, expected to meet regularly, will be an important forum to for directly addressing all human rights issues.

The EEAS, according to Commissioner Urpilainen, has already proposed to hold a first meeting soon or by year-end, “even under a virtual format.”

In closing, she said the European Commission and the EEAS will continue raising these matters with the Philippine government “in a clear and constructive way.” (Melo M. Acuña)

Commissioner Jutta Urpilianen. (Screen grab from European Parliament Plenary Session)

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