The head of a think tank in the Philippines on Saturday revealed that the threat of the European Union (EU) to revoke tariff incentives on Manila’s exports over human rights concerns is alarming particularly in this time of a pandemic.
In a statement, Dindo Manhit — the president of Stratbase ADR Institute — said losing a market would lead to unemployment, thus aggravating poverty and it would come at a bad time since the Philippine economy has been dragged into recession by the lingering coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We cannot afford to lose an export market at this time. If you lose a market, even if its not that big, it would still hit the income of the country. There could be job loss and this could worsen poverty,” Manhit said.
To recall, the European Parliament called for a review of the tariff incentives extended to Manila citing human rights abuses and the deteriorating level of press freedom in the Philippines.
Manhit stressed that it would be bad for the country if the EU will remove it because of issues of human rights violations and attacks against media and journalists, adding that the loss of an export market would mean less opportunity to sell Philippine products and could also impact jobs and push medium enterprises in the country to closure.
“Let’s hope this won’t happen and that the government listens to this kind of resolution,” Manhit said.
The think tank head also noted that it would be better if the government responds and not simply dismiss it as there are already fears that some export firms might lose their business.
Previously, Malacañang dared EU’s lawmaking body to push through with the threat and presidential spokesperson Harry Roque stressed that the Philippines cannot be threatened even as the country continues to grapple with the impact of the pandemic.
“Let’s not quarrel, it would be better to discuss the best moves since we have an ambassador there, and if this is really misinformation then the government should explain,” Roque said.
Workers group Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines is calling on the Philippine government to address the issues.
“We urge the government to take the right action and take more steps in addressing the issues raised by the resolution. We have workers and their families behind every product being sold in the EU market, if the Philippine government fails to make the right response to the resolution we will lose the market which could result to more unemployment and loss of business opportunities, “ Gerard R. Seno, ALU National Executive vice president, said.
Losing grip to zero tariff
The labor group vice president maintained that the Philippines has been enjoying since 25 December 2014 a zero tariff on 6,274 products to the EU market to help the country develop, provided it improves its compliance to human and labor rights, environmental protection and good governance standards.
Seno revealed some of these products which enjoy no tariff include pineapples, mangoes, tuna, vegetables, nuts, coffee, cacao and garments, footwear, pearls, precious metals and select furnitures.
The group noted that based on the Department of Trade and Industry records, in 2014, the then granting of GSP+ tariff-free export increase Philippine exports to the EU by 35 percent and created 200,000 more jobs.
“If the revocation of the GSP+ privilege is completed, we will lose these jobs,” the group stated.