MANILA – “We value your friendship.” This was the message of Vice President Leni Robredo to the European Union and the European business community in the Philippines, as she delivered a speech at the EU-Philippines Business Summit at the Solaire Resort and Casino in Parañaque City Tuesday.
“Your importance to us goes beyond economics, trade, and aid. We are grateful for your support and guidance in many aspects of our lives,” she added.
At a time when human rights is a “contentious issue” in the country, the Vice President said she hopes this will not “extensively strain” the Philippines’ relations with the EU.
“I never thought I would see the day when such a universally accepted and protected concept can be painted as undesirable and even wrong,” she said. “Every day I worry about how this will affect our young ones and our future generations.”
Her remarks come a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte told foreign critics and European diplomats to “Leave my country in 24 hours,” in reaction to international organizations saying the Philippines may be expelled from the United Nations Human Rights Council.
“We are past the colonization stage. Don’t f*** with us,” the President had added.
The Philippines enjoys GSP+ status under the EU’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences, enabling the country to export goods to the EU with zero duties. In 2016 alone, the Philippines was able to export Euro 1.71 billion worth of goods and services.
However, there are specific conditions for the Philippines to maintain GSP+ status: it has to implement 27 international conventions on human and labor rights, environmental protection, and good governance.
Robredo said the GSP+ can create more markets for Filipino entrepreneurs who want to make it outside of the country.
“The agenda for all of us is clear,” she told the businessmen and diplomats in the audience. “How do we tear down walls and find ways to collaborate better, so that our joint business agenda can serve those who have been left behind by progress, as well as enhance economic growth?”
She noted how the Office of the Vice President had created the Angat Buhay program to make a dent on poverty despite its lack of financial resources.
Here, the OVP connects local government units in need to corporate foundations and development partners.
“By redefining growth to include those who now feel betrayed and hurt by the global economic system, we can change the future,” Robredo added.
She concluded, “Let us keep talking. Let us keep finding ways to collaborate better. And thank you all for keeping faith in the Philippines. More power to all of you. Mabuhay po kayo.”