Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Marcos to bring up human rights in talks with EU

Bea Cupin
Marcos to bring up human rights in talks with EU

MARCOS ON CLIMATE. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. addresses the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York City, US, September 20, 2022.

Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

But the Philippine President says the country’s GSP+ status should not be ‘related’ to issues of human rights

BRUSSELS, Belgium – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos said the country’s human rights issues shouldn’t be “related” to negotiations of trade perks with the European Union (EU).

“We’ll bring it up with the EU. I don’t think one thing should be related to the other but we’ll see. We’ll see. Yeah. We’ll see,” said Marcos on Sunday, December 11, during a short interview with media on board the presidential plane on en route to Brussels.

The President was asked about the EU’s repeated warnings of GSP+ revocation over human rights issues under his predecessor.

In 2023, the Philippines will need to reapply to be included in the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus or GSP+, which gives the country special incentives and zero tariffs on over 6,200 Philippine products. The perk is conditional – in exchange, the Philippines must comply with certain human rights standards.

When asked about the EU’s criticism over the Philippines’ human rights issues, Marcos first clarified with reporters what issues they were referring to.

“What are the human rights issues?” he asked reporters.

The EU parliament had repeatedly called on the Philippines to address its unresolved and unaddressed human rights issues during the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte.

The previous administration unleashed a bloody “war on drugs,” which almost exclusively targeted the nation’s poorest. Former president Duterte and key personalities in the bloody campaign are being investigated by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

Marcos has promised to continue the “drug war” but with a supposed shift in focus: on drugs as a healthcare and wellness issue. Still, the documents that operationalized Duterte’s “drug war” are still in place.

While the EU parliament had repeatedly called out the Philippines over its Duterte-era human rights issues, and warned against the suspension of the GSP+ perk, it never actually did anything about it.

But a lot is at stake for the Philippines. Over 26% of the Philippines’ exports to the European bloc are qualified under GSP+. Its revocation would mean a loss in business advantage and, eventually, the loss of jobs back at home.

To be sure, human rights issues in the Philippines did not start or stop with the Duterte administration. The state’s respect for human rights has always been spotty – most notably during the administration of the President’s father and namesake, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

Marcos, alongside key Cabinet officials and some of his allies from Congress, is in Brussels to participate in the EU-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Commemorative Summit. He will also be joining the ASEAN-EU Business Summit and hold meetings with corporations and European heads of state. – Rappler.com 

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.