MANILA, Philippines – The European Union (EU) will not rush negotiations for a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with the Philippines as it is bent on reaching a “quality” agreement.
James Moran, director for Asia of the European Commission (EC) in Brussels and head of the first negotiating round on the PCA between the EU and the Philippines, said the EU understands the Philippine position that expects to meet delay in the negotiation for a complete agreement that involves cooperation on human rights and fight against terrorism.
“It’s a sectoral agreement and major areas of cooperation and also economic-related agreement. What’s important is quality that should come first. There’s no point rushing an agreement,” he said.
The Philippines earlier said the area of political pillar, particularly human rights and its different level of standards with the EU will encounter rough sailing in the negotiation and finalizing the proposed PCA.
While the Philippines and the EU are one in upholding human rights, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary for International Economic Affairs Edsel Custodio said the European Commission has higher level of standards than the Philippines but it should realize that the Philippine situation is entirely different.
“I think under the present economic situation it’s necessary for the Philippines to network with our overseas partners to be able to go through the crisis for example in development and education that are priorities to us,” Custodio said. “In the end there are political issues that might delay the process like human rights. We’re the same but we differ in priorities, people and their level of standards on this is probably higher than us.”
Although he did not elaborate on the difference over human rights and level of standards, the Philippines still failed to act on the ratification of the Rome State of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the prosecution of individuals who committed the most serious crimes to the international community despite calls from countries that had ratified the treaty including Japan.
The Japanese government has renewed calls for the Philippines to follow in ratifying the Rome Statute after Japan acceded to the ICC and deposited in July 2007 its instrument of accession to the ICC with the United Nations.
“We’ve to move at the pace we’re comfortable with but the EC should realize they’re dealing with situation entirely different with standards we’ve to do with national security objective. That’ll differ,” Moran said.
“That’s the area of political pillar we’ll not have smooth sailing. This’ll influence the flow of negotiation. We’re at the same directions although our emphasis will differ in the end,” he added.
In a statement, the DFA and the EU said the Philippines and the EU made significant progress on a proposed PCA during their two-day initial talks that started on Monday.
Both sides acknowledged that current global realities demand greater dialogue and cooperation. The current economic crisis and its impact on development, as well as other concerns affecting both RP and EU has given a renewed urgency for the Philippines and the EU to pursue joint action.
Both sides shared the view that the proposed PCA would provide a new framework which would deepen existing relations and open new avenues for collaboration.
“The PCA would re-affirm the close relations between the Philippines and the EU, including their shared commitment to development, democracy and human rights. In this regard, the PCA would enhance political cooperation and related matters, trade and investments cooperation, and economic and development cooperation through policy dialogue and technical assistance,” the statement said.
During the two-day meeting, a thematic review of the draft PCA was undertaken. To facilitate negotiations on a key issue of shared concern, both sides agreed to hold seminars on migration and taxation that would bring together RP-EU experts for comprehensive consultations. Both sides also agreed to support multi-stake holder consultations on the PCA.
The Philippines and the EU expect to pursue a second round of negotiations in July 2009, after each side has updated their respective drafts. The first round of talks stemmed from the October 2008 decision of President Arroyo and EC president Jose Manuel Barroso to start negotiations on the PCA. –Pia Lee-Brago, Philippine Star