By Rosemarie A. Zamora
FOLLOWING the tirades by President Rodrigo R. Duterte made against the European Union (EU) on Thursday Oct. 12, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez has affirmed a statement by the EU that day on its “commitment” to ties with the Philippines.
“The EU mentioned hindi kanila ‘yung grupo na ‘yun and hindi, hindi mi — hindi nila mission ‘yun ano ‘no. (The EU said that was not their group, not their mission.) And so they disowned it and what they highlighted is a lot of collaborative, positive efforts and programs they’re doing with the Philippine government,” Mr. Lopez said in a press briefing at Malacañang on Friday.
The EU in its statement had clarified that “(t)he recent visit of the delegation of the ‘International Delegates of the Progressive Alliance’ to the Philippines on 8-9 October was not a ‘European Union mission.’”
The EU added: “The Delegation continues to operate and function normally, and is committed to working constructively and productively with the Philippines for the benefit of the population.”
“If you talk to the real EU Parliamentarians, the officials, they are more careful eh. They’re — they’re not… They don’t want to appear interfering eh. That’s the… I guess, they’re learning also,” Mr. Lopez for his part said.
“They know that we are a small country, sensitive in our sovereignty, and we wanna protect that, and that’s why they’re very careful. And they’re now… their approach nga is more collaborative,” he added.
On Thursday, Mr. Duterte asked the European ambassadors to leave the country within 24 hours, following criticisms on the drug war by New York-based Human Rights Watch, which said the country could be expelled from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The Progressive Alliance delegation said for its part the Philippines might lose its preferential trade position with the EU.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella, for his part said: “The President’s expression of outrage was in reaction to statements by this seven-member delegation of the International Delegates of Progressive Alliance, I believe, which was — which falsely portrayed itself as an EU mission. So, this delegation’s irresponsible statements protesting the alleged… You know, the perception was, it demeans our status as a sovereign nation, which the President was reacting to.”
“So the call of the President for the — must be taken in this light, you know. For so long as the President has tolerated these interferences, he has decided that these must stop if only to preserve the integrity and dignity of our state,” he added.
He also emphasized that “there is no directive” for the diplomats to leave the country.