New Philippines - European Union partnership, cooperation accord in the offing

 Sen. Loren Legarda is confident that relations between the Philippines and the European Union (EU) will remain strong despite the latest tirades of President Duterte against its members.

As this developed, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) clarified on Friday that the United Kingdom has no recent financial assistance to the Philippines as mistakenly claimed by Duterte.

Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations, said the long-standing partnership between the Philippines and the European community, which dates back to 1964, is expected to improve further.

“We value our bilateral relations with the EU and we expect this to be more robust, especially with the impending concurrence of the Senate in the ratification of our Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with them,” Legarda said.

Duterte ratified the Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation between the Philippines and the EU last Feb. 28.

All 28 member-states of the EU have ratified the PCA, and the EU Council is set to adopt a conclusion on its ratification.

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Legarda said she expects the Senate’s concurrence in the ratification of the agreement, which will serve as a general framework of relations between the Philippines and the EU and will allow better cooperation between the two parties on political, economic and development issues, to come soon.

“We are currently negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU which will be linked to the PCA. Through the FTA, we will be able to further unlock our trade and economic potential by providing our products with wider access to the markets of the member-states of the European Union, thereby ensuring benefits for small and medium enterprises,” Legarda said.

According to Legarda, the Philippines will benefit from the PCA through various fronts such as customs and trade facilitation, which will provide technical assistance and exchange of experts between the Philippines’ Bureau of  Customs and EU Customs administrations. 

The PCA also provides for cooperation in combating illegal drugs through strengthened information exchange, drug-related research, drug profiling and prevention of manufacture of dangerous drugs and diversion of controlled precursors; cooperation in combatting terrorism and transnational crimes; and migration and maritime labor.

Other areas of cooperation under the PCA include employment and social affairs; development cooperation; economic policy; financial services; good governance in the tax area; industrial policy and SMEs; information and communications technology; audiovisual, media and multimedia; science and technology; transport; tourism; education, culture, intercultural and interfaith dialogue; energy; environment and natural resources including climate change; agriculture, fisheries and rural development; regional development; health; statistics; disaster risk management; and public administration.

Legarda also noted that in 2016, the EU ranked as the Philippines’ fourth largest trading partner, fourth export market and fifth import supplier. 

EU member-states have the the largest share of foreign direct investments (FDI) in the country, supporting over 500,000 local jobs. It also ranks fourth among sources of official development assistance grants.

No new aid from UK 

Meanwhile, the DFA said on Friday that the UK has not offered any direct monetary assistance to the Philippines, contrary to the claim made by Duterte on Thursday that he declined $18 million from the UK government.

But the DFA said “the Philippines acknowledges the UK’s support in the development efforts of the Philippine government, particularly in Mindanao.”

“The Philippine government is committed to continued engagement with the UK in furthering our longstanding and mutually beneficial partnership,” it added.

During a press briefing on Thursday, Duterte said he told Finance Sectary Carlos Dominguez III not to accept the offer from the UK.

Duterte recently resumed his tirades against foreign governments over fresh criticisms of the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

But in its statement, the DFA reaffirmed the country’s relationship with the UK, noting that the two countries have enjoyed 71 years of friendly, productive and dynamic relations.

“During this time, the UK has remained one of the most active bilateral partners of the Philippines in the political, security, economic, cultural and people-to-people spheres,” it added.

Source: Phil Star

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