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EU threatens trade sanctions vs PH

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EU threatens trade sanctions vs PH

Protesters stage a rally against the extrajudicial killings under President Duterte’s so-called war on drugs, which has drawn criticisms from Western nations. —AP

Protesters stage a rally against the extrajudicial killings under President Duterte’s so-called war on drugs, which has drawn criticisms from Western nations. —AP

The European Union (EU) threatened trade sanctions against the Philippines over the government’s war on drugs, a Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) official confirmed on Monday.

Assistant Interior Secretary Epimaco Densing III said EU officials reiterated Europe’s concern over the antidrug campaign in a recent meeting with Philippine officials in Brussels.

“They’ve threatened to abrogate the 27 trade agreements we had with them,” Densing said.

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“They also threatened to stop the duty-free importation of Philippine products in Europe, which would be very detrimental to our exporters,” he said.

Densing did not specify which trade agreements he meant, but he was apparently referring to pacts with individual nations since talks for a free-trade deal with Europe were still pending.

The EU is the country’s fourth-largest partner in trade, which reached $6.8 billion in the first half of 2015 alone.

The Philippines was also the first Southeast Asian nation to enjoy special tariffs on over 6,000 products under the Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+)

The GSP+ is only granted to developing nations which ratify and implement core international conventions relating to human and labor rights, environment and good governance.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström had already warned in March that the country’s special privileges under the GSP+ might be affected by the government’s war on drugs.
“We have now an agreement between us, called GDP+, which opens up good trade possibilities, but is also subject to certain international conventions. So the European Parliament and EU member states have some concerns about this development,” Malmström said.

Cause of alarm

Densing said officials of the EU’s external affairs service were alarmed amid reports from nongovernment organizations and politicians, among which was Vice President Leni Robredo.

“The meeting was very important because of some misinformation that the EU heard from the second-highest official in our government,” Densing said.

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Densing said their discussion showed that EU officials had thought that Mr. Duterte always wanted to kill and were never told about the President’s remarks about a proportional response to criminals.

Clarification

“We emphasized to them the statement of the President [that] the police were allowed to defend themselves by killing the alleged pusher, only if the pusher fought back and endangered the life of the policeman,” he said.

“That was the complete statement and it was the first time they heard that. This is something they never heard in the past,” he added.

“I mentioned one [policy] speech of the President in Cagayan de Oro that if the alleged drug pusher were only carrying a big stick, [the [police] did not have to kill him, but merely hit his legs,” Densing said.

He hoped that the clarification would lead European leaders to review their statements.

Densing also noted to the EU officials that the number of drug-related deaths had gone down since March.

While there had been one death reported for every 20 police antidrug operations during the last six months of the Aquino administration and the first three months of the Duterte government, the number went down to one death for every 50 operations in the last two months.

“There’s an improvement. We committed to the European Commission that we would improve that number,” Densing said.

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