Senate committee approves EU-PH partnership and cooperation agreement

MANILA -- The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations chaired by Senator Loren Legarda on Thursday approved the Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation (PCA) between the European Union and its Member States and the Philippines.

In a statement, Legarda said she is ready to sponsor the pact with EU along with two other agreements with Germany and Sweden before the Senate goes on a break next week.

The idea of PCA was first broached in 2004 when the EU proposed to upgrade its relations with ASEAN and its member states.

As chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2017, Legarda said the Philippines must push forward for its ratification.

"I'd like it to be said that while we are chair now, we (must) ratify this agreement as a form of cooperation and support for our ASEAN nations that have ratified and is already into force and those that are in the process of ratification as well," she said.

The senator explained that the country will benefit from the PCA through the following:

Customs and Trade Facilitation, which will provide technical assistance and exchange of experts between the two sides; Cooperation in Combatting Illicit Drugs through strengthened information and information exchange, drug-related research, drug profiling and prevention of manufacture of dangerous drugs and diversion of controlled precursors; Cooperation in Combatting Terrorism and Transnational Crimes; Migration and Maritime Labor.

Aside from these, she said the PCA, which will serve as a general framework of the two parties' relations, will also allow better cooperation on political, economic and development issues.

We are currently negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU which will be linked to the PCA. Through the FTA, we will be able to further unlock our trade and economic potential by providing our products with wider access to the markets of the Member States of the European Union, thereby ensuring benefits for small and medium enterprises, Legarda said.

Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella said the process for the negotiation, signing, and ratification of the PCA has taken both parties 13 years and counting.

At present, there is only a 1980 executive agreement that serves as basis for the two parties' relationship.

"In the absence of the PCA, the only official dialogue mechanism that we have is an ad-hoc Philippines-EU Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM) and its working groups," he said. "Issues of concern to either Philippines or EU are being discussed in an ad hoc and compartmentalized manner."

"With the PCA, discussions on these issues would take place in a clearly defined and institutionalized mechanism, i.e., a Joint Committee and its subsidiary bodies," he stressed.

In an interview, EU Ambassador to Manila Franz Jessen said the committee approval is a "symbolic step" towards the strengthening of Philippines-EU relationship.

Once ratified, Jessen noted there would be "new instruments" for the two sides to work on and "new structure" for the relationship.

"But I think it serves to show to us and to the world, and to us between the Philippines and the EU how stable and forward looking our relationship is," he said.

Source: Philippine News Agency