METRO MANILA – Amidst the prevailing atmosphere of protectionism and isolation under the current administration, calls of cooperation and open trade resounded yesterday at the European Union-Philippines’ (EU-PH) business summit held at the Solaire Resort and Casino.
The EU-PH Business Summit, themed “The EU and the Philippines: Partners for Progress and Prosperity”, allowed European diplomats and Philippine government officials to talk about improvements on foreign relations and liberal trade policies.
The EU diplomats reported the trading status between the Philippines and European countries. In return, Philippine government officials revealed pending laws in the House of Representatives that would improve the ease of doing business for foreigners.
However, the EU diplomats took advantage of the summit to express their take on President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest outburst against them. It can be recalled that the president threatened to expel the EU from the country after the Progressive Alliance visited the country on October 8 and 9. The delegation condemned the current administration for its brutal anti-drug war.
The EU denied having official ties to the Progressive Alliance, a statement which government officials took as a cue to defend the president’s threat of EU expulsion.
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce, and Industry calmed the international community’s doubts that the Philippine government could help foreign industries grow. Zubiri cited some laws pending at the Senate. These laws were tailored to ease the process of doing business here in the Philippines.
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, chairman of the Senate Committee for Trade, Commerce, and Industry, advised the EU diplomats to “dismiss the (president’s) rhetoric”.
The EU seemed to welcome Zubiri’s advise. EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen and EU-PH Business Network Steering Committee Chairperson Guenter Taus even joked that “We (the EU) are still here.”
“We (European Union) seek to facilitate a constructive dialogue for the creation sound economic policies,” said EU-PH Business Network Steering Committee Chairperson Guenter Taus as he welcomes the delegates to the 2017 EU-PH Business Summit at the Solaire Resort and Casino on October 16, 2017.
His Excellency, EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen recounted the history of diplomatic ties between the EU and the Philippines. The existing foreign relations between EU and the Philippines, he said, can be further strengthened through open trade policies.
In spite of the stir caused by the president’s latest pronouncement, the EU-PH Business Summit went on as expected and delivered positive reports about the EU-PH trade relations.
Philippines’ exports to the EU in 2016 amounted to EUR 6.6 billion, making the country the Western Bloc’s fourth largest trade partner.
Philippines’ vibrant trade and foreign relations with the European Union is more evident now than it was in the past years.
Pasig Congressman Arthur Yap called for the protection of the Philippines’ marginalized sectors, especially the farmers and the fisher folks. Yap’s message was anchored on the anticipation that the free-trade agreement (FTA) would result to drastic changes in the Philippines’ economic situation.
Among the top imports to EU were crude coconut oil, canned tuna, preserved pineapples, and rubber.
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez encouraged EU member countries to continue capitalizing on Philippines’ potentials.
While defending the current administration, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez encouraged investors from the West to come to the Philippines and take advantage of its budding economy.
“Invest not only in the Philippines of today, but in the Philippines of tomorrow,” said Lopez.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Frank Cimafranca represented his superior, Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano, during the EU-PH Business
Journalist James Deakin grilled Transportation Assistant Secretary Leah Quiambao on matters related to Transportation. Quiambao, who came on behalf of his superior, Secretary Arthur Tugade, clarified that the controversial public utility jeep (PUJ) modernization program is not anti-poor, as some extreme leftist groups were claiming. Quiambao also said that the transport strike staged by extreme leftist groups was not as significant as it was described in propaganda materials.
Information and Communications Technology Undersecretary Monchito Ibrahim proudly reported that the outsourcing industry is flourishing in the Philippines, with 300,000 jobs created outside of the National Capital Region alone.
German Club Manila’s Treasurer Andreas Klippe talked with Mr. James Deakin as other members of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) looks on. Klippe is also the vice chairman of Clark Investors and Locators Association. As representative of Clark’s business community, Klippe consulted Deakin on the possibility of opening a transportation maintenance and education hub in Clark
Information and Communications Technology Undersecretary Monchito Ibrahim (seated second from left), Ms. Maria Rosell S. Gomez, and Philippine Privacy Commissioner Raymund Enriquez Liboro (seated fourth from left) held a panel discussion about the effects of modern technology to the conventional ways of conducting business in the Philippines.
Journalist Annalisa Burgos raised questions to a panel of experts on food and drug industry.
German Club Manila’s Treasurer and Clark Investors’ and Locators’ Association Vice Chairman Andreas Klippe addressed the Bureau of Customs to inquire about the proper procedure of importing goods in the Philippines. Klippe raised the concerns of a German meat exporter company to the Philippines, the products of which were blocked at the Bureau of Customs. In response to his queries, Director Jeoffrey Tacio from the Bureau of Customs promised to take a look on the case.
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo hoped that the unbridled human rights violations allegedly perpetrated in the Philippines would not mar the country’s relationship with the European Union.
The summit capped with a keynote speech from Vice President Leni Robredo, who said that in spite of human rights violation being a “contentious issue” these days, it should not affect the strong ties between EU and the Philippines.