THE EUROPEAN Commission is closely monitoring political developments in the Philippines after flagging “serious concerns” about the country’s human rights situation, according to a spokesman.
The body is engaging with the Philippines through political and technical dialogue backed by “rigorous analysis” of the situation on the ground, the spokesman, who asked not to be named, said in an e-mail.
The European Parliament last year asked the commission to start the process of withdrawing trade incentives from the Philippines after the government failed to improve the human rights situation.
More than 6,000 Philippine products enjoy zero-tariff entry to the European Union (EU) as long as the country complies with 27 core international conventions that include human and labor rights, environmental protection and good governance.
The commission earlier raised “serious concerns” with President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s war on drugs that has killed thousands and his attacks on human rights leaders.
“We are also using the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) monitoring process to raise these issues with the authorities of the Philippines and seek compliance with its international commitments under GSP+,” the spokesman said. “This is an ongoing process.”
The temporary withdrawal of GSP+ privileges could be done as a last resort if all other options fail, the spokesman said.
The Trade department has said the Philippines would likely keep the tariff perks. Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo earlier told a business forum the agency had submitted its responses to the 2021 EU GSP+ monitoring questionnaire.
“‘The Philippines remain to be engaged at the technical level with respect to the monitoring of our compliance with the EU GSP+ commitments,” he said.
The potential loss of tariff advantages offered by the EU could harm crude coconut oil, canned tuna and garment exports, business leaders have said.
Goods exported under GSP+ preferences accounted for about a quarter of total Philippine exports to the EU in 2018. Philippine use of GSP+ compared with all eligible exports was 73.1%.
The International Criminal Court last month ordered an investigation of Mr. Duterte’s drug war, finding “reasonable basis” that crimes against humanity had been committed.
The European Union (EU) Parliament earlier adopted a resolution urging the Philippines to free Senator Leila M. de Lima, whom the Duterte government is trying for drug trafficking, and look at extrajudicial killings in connection with the drug war.
The EU lawmakers also asked the European Commission to revoke tax perks enjoyed by the country if the government fails to address human rights violations.
The local Anti-Money Laundering Council earlier said investigators had found no money flowed from the bank accounts of the senator and her co-accused.
Ms. De Lima has been in jail since Feb. 2017. Several witnesses against her were drug convicts serving time at the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City. — Jenina P. Ibañez