MANILA, Philippines?Negotiations for the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the European Union (EU) have been finalized with both parties agreeing to protect and defend human rights, among others.
In an interview with reporters, Ambassador Alistair MacDonald of the Delegation of the European Union in the Philippines said the PCA is expected to be ?initialed? within the month of June. The official signing may be on September or October once the text is translated into the 22 other languages of the EU.
The PCA, which was negotiated over a period of about 18 months, aims to further advance the bilateral cooperation between the Philippines and EU in a wide range of issues, including political security, counter-terrorism, trade and investment, development cooperation, education and culture, energy, transport, migration, and human rights.
The Philippines is only the second Southeast Asian country to complete negotiations on an updated PCA with the EU. EU?s PCA with Indonesia was signed in November 2009, while negotiations with Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore are still ongoing.
The ambassador said the human rights issue has been a tough topic during the negotiations. ?The extrajudicial killings have been a major concern from 2005 to 2007, but in recent years, the figure has been diminishing,? MacDonald told journalists at the sidelines of the celebration of the 35th anniversary of the bilateral relations between the Philippines and China held at the Makati Shangri-la hotel Monday night.
He said that compared with other Asian countries concerning human rights, the Philippines is doing fine. ?The Philippines is not Burma,? he added, referring to junta-led Myanmar.
MacDonald made the statement just a couple of days after the PCA negotiations were concluded in Brussels over the weekend.
The ambassador said that while the old EEC-Asean Cooperation Agreement signed in 1980 between Manila and EU has served its purpose well over the last 30 years, it has become out-of-date.
"With the agreement now reached on the PCA, the EU and the Philippines will benefit from a framework agreement which will be fit-for-purpose for the 21st century,? MacDonald said, adding that climate change, human trafficking, organized crime, and human rights did not figure prominently in the 1980 pact.
The need to update the legal framework for EU-Philippine relations was first raised during the discussion between European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Philippine President Gloria Arroyo in September 2006 at the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit in Helsinki.
Further discussions at the time of the ASEM Summit in Beijing in October 2008 allowed formal negotiations to commence in Manila in February 2009 that paved the way for the successful conclusion of the discussion last June 3 after seven negotiations in almost two years.Veronica Uy