Aquino told: Submit RP-EU trade pact to Senate

THE fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday  asked President Benigno Simeon  Aquino III to submit the RP-European Union Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) to the Philippine Senate for deliberation five months after the Philippine government and the European Union (EU) initialized the agreement in Brussels, Belgium.

Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said the Aquino administration should follow the legal and constitutional processes required in sealing bilateral treaties with other nations such as the free trade agreement with EU. On June 2010, the outgoing administration of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the agreement with representatives of EU, about three weeks before Aquino took over president from now Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Arroyo.

“The RP-EU bilateral agreement is treaty and therefore requires the full-blown deliberation and concurrence of at least 16 senators of the Philippine Republic. Mr. Aquino should not hide the agreement, misrepresent the RP-EU bilateral pact as an executive agreement to escape Senate debate, approval or rejection,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

“The Philippine Senate under the leadership of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile should compel Malacanang to submit the RP-EU trade pact to the Upper chamber of Congress. It seems to us, President Aquino, his economic and foreign relations officials have no intention of submitting the still undisclosed deal to Senate which is mandated to scrutinize, reject or approve any treaty entered into by the executive branch with foreign nation,” added France.

France recalled that EU Ambassador to the Philippines Alistair MacDonald had said the new trade agreement’s official signing will be on September or October this year once the PCA text is translated into 22 other languages of EU. But he noted that up to now, there is now official statement from Malacanang that  the translation of the agreement has been completed and cooperation pact is officially signed.

The Pamalakaya official theorized that the 69 million euro  development assistance fund recently given to Aquino government by member states of EU  is plain sugar coating to make the agreement appear as mutually beneficial to both parties. France said the EU development assistance is also meant to fast-track the signing and implementation of the bilateral agreement between the country and EU. The EU aid, according to Palace officials, provides support fund to government projects meant to eradicate poverty, promote good governance, human rights and trade cooperation between Manila and member-states comprising EU.

Pamalakaya said the RP-EU pact is a highly questionable agreement. The group said negotiations for the bilateral agreement, which lasted for 18 months were kept away from the Filipino public and concerned groups asking for transparency were flatly rejected by officials of the Arroyo administration.

According to Pamalakaya, it was the EU which initially drafted the agreement and the Philippine government merely obtained a copy of the PCA on February 1, 2006 obtained a copy.

“If this is a joint partnership agreement, how come the content of the agreement is made and decided by only one party to the agreement which is the EU. Is this really a partnership agreement or an imposition from the powerful EU bloc to first rate puppet state?,” the group said.

Pamalakaya said efforts to secure a copy of the partnership agreement but these efforts proved futile. “If our memory serves us right, Rep. Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna requested the office of Secretary Alberto Romulo for documents regarding the ongoing negotiations between the Arroyo government and the European Commission (EC) but his request was denied,” the group said.

“The Aquino administration and the 23 senators are constitutionally bound, legally mandated, politically and morally obliged to look into the impact and consequences of the PCA, which is currently being syndicated among top officials of Malacañang and the European Commission,” the fisherfolk group stressed.

Pamalakaya further asserted the Senate should not be caught flat- footed as in the case of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, or Jpepa, where the Senate, the ratifying body, was kept in the dark in the early stages of the negotiations and was compelled to seal the agreement despite Jpepa’s all-out violation of national interest and the 1987 Constitution.

“If Jpepa is nightmare, the RP-EU partnership and cooperation pact is an across-the-nation tragedy that will soon hit this nation of impoverished and starving people,” Pamalakaya said.

“The real agenda of EU in orchestrating this biggest sell-out of the century is to pass the burden of their economic crisis to the downtrodden people of the Third World like the Philippines,” the group added.

Former Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Edsel Custodio on February 19 released a foreign affairs statement dated February 9, 2009, on the draft RP-EU PCA, which was submitted by the European Commission on November 21, 2006. Custodio said the Philippines had received from the EC the initial draft of the PCA on February 1, 2006. At that time, the PCA, consisted of two separate framework agreements: the main PCA document and the political elements on weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and the ICC.

In May 2006 then President Arroyo met with then-EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and expressed the Philippines’ keenness on pursuing negotiations after thorough evaluation by the agencies of the Philippine government. In accordance with this directive, the DFA established the interagency process on the PCA.

Since then, according to Custodio, the draft underwent further revisions by the EC. The second revised PCA draft dated November 21, 2006, merged the two separate agreements of February 1, 2006, into one omnibus PCA. This version underwent a lengthy but thorough interagency process of over two years and involved around 30 agencies and offices of the Philippine government.

Inter-agency deliberations continued throughout much of 2007. Some issues-particularly the nature and rationale behind the PCA and its relation to the regional free-trade agreement-emerged that required further discussion. For this reason, the DFA and the EC held the first informal consultations on the draft PCA on September 24, 2007.

The Philippines is only the second Southeast Asian country to complete negotiations on an updated PCA with the EU. The EU last year clinched a bilateral trade pact with Indonesia and was signed in November 2009. The EU is also in the process of clinching negotiations with Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore

Interagency discussions intensified in frequency and deepened in analysis in 2008. The number of agencies involved in the PCA increased, while some sub-clusters were consolidated due to the interrelatedness and cross-cutting nature of certain provisions.


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