By John Ezekiel J. Hirro

European Union (EU) lawmakers are pushing to revoke the Philippines’ Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) tariff-free perks over the “rapidly deteriorating” human rights situation in the country.

Europe is the country’s fourth-largest trading partner

The GSP+ allows more than 6,200 Filipino products to enter the EU tariff-free. In 2019, about P113 billion worth of locally made goods entered the EU duty-free under GSP+ mechanism.

“The European Parliament… calls on the European commission to trigger the procedure to temporarily suspend trade preferences for the Philippines for failing to comply with the conditionality provisions on human rights,” a European Parliament joint resolution read. 

“Parliament expresses its deepest concern at the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte and calls on the country’s government to implement all the recommendations outlined by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to address a range of serious issues, such as the ‘widespread and systematic’ killings related to the authorities’ anti-drug campaign,” it added.

The resolution also detailed the European Parliament’s alarm over the “deteriorating level” of press freedom in the Philippines, citing and condemning threats and violence against Maria Ressa and other journalists.

“All politically motivated charges against her and her colleagues should be dropped,” it added.

The parliament adopted the resolution with 626 in-favor votes, seven against and 52 abstentions.

‘Go ahead!’

Malacañang on Friday dared European lawmakers to “go ahead” and revoke the tariff perks.

He said the Covid-19 pandemic had pushed the Philippine economy to “rock bottom” but if Europe pushed through with the measure, the Philippines would have nothing to do but watch.

“Kung gusto nilang dagdagan ang pahirap ng sambayanang Pilipino sa panahon ng pandemya so be it….Tama na iyang mga diskusyon na iyan! Gawin nila ang gusto nilang gawin! Sa mga panahon na ito, if they want to implement it, go ahead!” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said during a virtual presser.

He also said it would be a matter of history repeating itself.

“Hayaan po nating panoorin nila na lalong maghirap ang sambayanang Pilipino, dahil tayo naman pong mga Filipino mahigit 300 years na po tayong naghirap sa ilalim ng isang European country. Umuulit lang naman po ang kasaysayan, tatanggapin din po iyan ng mga Filipino pero tayo po ay makakaahon taas-noo kahit anong gawin ng ating mga dating colonial masters,” he said.

Roque also claimed that the European Union would become the “biggest contributor” to the violation of right to life of Filipinos should the measure be adopted.

He also urged European representatives to come to the Philippines and see the situation for themselves.

“Sinasabi nila human rights violations; sinasabi natin bukas ang mga hukuman, ayaw naman nilang maniwala; nandito naman, puwede naman silang pumunta rito… I’m sorry, I was being undiplomatic in my answer, pero what else can I say. At the time of pandemic, they are threatening us, susmaryosep what else do we lose,” he said.

“Everything is a matter of public knowledge. We have real numbers. Wala kaming tinatago,” he added.