Business groups warn of more job losses should EU revoke tariff perks for Philippines

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 20 2020 09:23 AM | Updated as of Sep 20 2020 09:28 AM

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MANILA - The Philippines will suffer more job losses should the European Parliament revoke tariff incentives on Manila’s exports over human rights concerns, the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (Philexport) said Sunday.

The European Parliament's threat to suspend Manila’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status will affect up to 20 percent of its exports to EU, according to Philexport president Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Jr.

"Kung 'di mo ihahanap ng kapalit yun, syempre, apektado, lalo ngayong pandemic, hirap na hirap bumalik ang mga kumpanya... Kung talagang mawawala, talagang maraming maaapektuhang trabaho," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

(If you cannot find replacement, of course, companies will be affected, especially during this pandemic, they find it hard to get back on their feet... If the status will be removed, many jobs will be affected.)

"Syempre, nakakabahala dahil 9 percent ng ating export eh sa EU. I think, in... 2019, mga 8 billion euro ang trade natin. At out of that, nag-e-enjoy yung GSP preference, mga 1.9 billion euro."

(Of course, it's alarming because 9 percent of our exports go to EU. I think, in... 2019, we had 8 billion euro in trade. And out of that, we enjoyed a GSP preference for some 1.9 billion euro.)

Malacañang, on Friday, dared the European Union to push through with its threat. 

It might take two years before the revocation may take effect, Ortiz-Luis said. "Kung i-a-out ka nila, bibigyan ka ng tsansa na makapaghanda," he explained.

(If they take you out, they will give you a chance to prepare.)

"Lahat tayo ngayon, apektado... Pero ako, I’m very confident na maso-solve yan. Madalas naman tayo tine-threaten d'yan pero may counters din within the EU na nagdedepensa sa'tin," he said.

(We are all affected... But I'm confident this will be solved. We are often threatened but there are counters within the EU that defend us.)

"Ang trade natin sa EU eh, halos balanced. Hindi lang tayo ang maaagrabyado, sila man. May investors sila rito na maapektuhan."

(Our trade with EU is almost balance. They will also suffer. They have investors here who will be affected.)

The industries of coconut, marine products, semi-conductors, and leather goods might take a hit, Ortiz-Luis disclosed.

"Isa pang malaking epekto sa atin ngayon, yung mga tuna... Malalaking kumpanya 'yan," he added.

(The tuna industry will be another industry here that will be greatly affected... And these are big companies.)

He hailed the response of the country's Department of Trade and Industry - Board of Investments to the EU resolution, which, according to him, called for understanding and discussions over the issues raised.

While tapping another market for these affected industries may be possible, Ortiz-Luis said, "Sayang yung opportunity. Hindi ganun kadali na lumipat, mag-develop ng market."

(It would be a wasted opportunity. It's hard to move and develop markets.)

The EU Parliament, in a resolution adopted Thursday, called on Manila to stop violent operations against drug offenders, renew the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp., and drop charges against Sen. Leila de Lima and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, among others.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which dragged the economy into recession, has left some 3.3 million Filipinos jobless, according to the labor department’s records. This is fewer than the Philippine Statistics Authority’s estimate of 4.6 million jobless Filipinos as of July.