EU Parliament's threat to revoke Manila's tariff incentives alarming, may worsen poverty

Aleta Nieva Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 19 2020 10:05 AM

Jeepney drivers wearing face masks line up to receive food aid from a concerned resident on a road in Manila on Thursday as Metro Manila reverted to modified enhanced community quarantine where public transportation is not allowed. The Philippines plunged into recession after its biggest quarterly contraction on record, data showed on August 6, as the economy reels from coronavirus lockdowns that have wrecked businesses and thrown millions out of work. Lisa Marie David, AFP

MANILA - The threat of the European Union to revoke tariff incentives on Manila’s exports over human rights concerns is alarming particularly in this time of a pandemic, the head of a think tank said Saturday.

Dindo Manhit, president of Stratbase ADR Institute, said losing a market would lead to unemployment, thus aggravating poverty. This, while the Philippine economy has been dragged into recession by the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sa panahon ngayon wala tayong dapat mawalang market. 'Pag nawala ang binebentahan mo ng produkto, kahit hindi sila malaki, tatamaan ang kita ng bansa. Ang mawawala ay trabaho at ang mawawala 'pag nawalan ng trabaho dadagdag ang kahirapan ng taongbayan,” Manhit said.

(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.)

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.

“'Pag tinanggal ito dahil sa isyu ng violation of human rights, dahil sa atake sa media at journalists nakakalungkot na pangyayari,” Manhit said in an interview on TeleRadyo on Saturday.

(It’s going to be sad if they remove it because of issues of human rights violations and attacks against media and journalists.)

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.
“Sana 'wag mangyari, sana pakinggan din ng gobyerno ang mga ganitong resolusyon,” he said.

(Let’s hope this won’t happen and that the government listens to this kind of resolution.)

He said 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.

Malacañang on Friday dared EU’s lawmaking body to push through with the threat.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines cannot be threatened even as the country continues to grapple with the impact of the pandemic.

“Dapat sana wag lang awayin, magandang mapag-usapan, meron naman tayong ambassador doon, ano ba talagang dapat gawin kung talagang misinformation ito, ipaliwanag ng gobyerno,” he said.

(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.)