TRADE Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo is confident the World Trade Organization (WTO) will allow the Philippines to make its case for retaliation in a 12-year trade dispute with Thailand.

“We are confident that the WTO and its members will uphold the exercise of substantive rights by a decent and responsible member (Philippines) which has been abiding by WTO rules,” he said in a statement Monday.

Thailand declined to discuss at the WTO its ongoing dispute with the Philippines over cigarette imports in a dispute settlement meeting Friday.

The Philippines first complained in 2008 of Thailand’s customs valuation of cigarette imports, which the WTO decided in favor of the Philippines in 2010.

The trade department said in November that it is considering retaliatory measures for Thailand’s non-compliance with the WTO ruling, saying that it may impose quantitative restrictions or tariffs on Thai automotive exports to the Philippines.

Mr. Rodolfo, who chairs the technical committee on WTO matters, said he does not want to preempt any WTO action. The WTO is currently studying Thailand’s objections to the meeting.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told reporters Monday that the Philippines wants official authorization from the WTO to impose countermeasures against Thailand.

“We just have to hear that go-signal from the WTO,” he said. Asked if he would consider unilateral countermeasures outside of the WTO, he said the WTO process must be observed to prevent back-and-forth retaliations.

Kung may authority na binigay, walang (If authority is given, there won’t be) retaliation (from the other side) because you are authorized to do that.”

Mr. Rodolfo said the Philippines has been abiding by the rules of the organization.

“The Philippines is confident that the WTO and its Members will see through the tactics being used by the other Party in order to impair the country’s exercise of its substantive rights.”

He said the blocking of the meeting agenda halted discussions on the Philippines’ substantive rights.

“We are confident the WTO and its Members will see through this underhanded attempt to prevent our exercise of our right, by blocking even the very WTO Meeting where this would have been discussed,” he said.

“In a rules-based environment, those who break the rules and who go unpunished, derive the most benefits-at the expense of those who diligently abide by the rules.” — Jenina P. Ibañez