Anti-FTA group sees 10-million European food aid to Manila as grease money for rapid OK of RP-EU pact
Manila, Philippines—An anti free trade agreement (FTA) group in Manila on Sunday said the 10 million Euros or roughly P 640 million worth of food aid granted by the European Commission to the Philippine government was a form of grease money to fast-track the approval of the RP-European Union Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which the group asserted has been kept from public scrutiny since 2004.
The Office of the Delegation of the European Commission to the Philippines in a press statement said the P 640 million grant was part of the first package of projects to support agriculture and improve food security in the country.
It said the projects will be implemented by the Department of Agriculture and co-financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will help to assure supply of rice seed and increase rice production to prevent the repeat of last year’s rice crisis.
But Fernando Hicap, national chair of the fisherfolk group PAMALAKAYA asserted the 10 million Euro food aid as oil money to facilitate the rapid approval of RP-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Manila and the European member states.
“The granting of the P 640 million food grant is highly questionable since it was timed when the Manila government and the European Union are negotiating on a bilateral pact which was authored, written and pursued by the EU giants”, the Pamalakaya leader said.
According to Pamalakaya, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her top economic and diplomatic officials never facilitated in the drafting of the RP-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and were reduced as mere audience as they European Union counterparts proceeded in writing the bilateral which is supposed to be a joint partnership agreement.
“The RP-EU is supposed to be a bilateral agreement to be drafted by the two parties involved. But the Arroyo presidency never participated in the drafting and was only made to wait for the final version of the pact that would be finalized by their EU counterparts. On the other hand, the P 640 million food grant looked like a prize for the Arroyo government for performing its role to the hilt as willing lapdog of the EU transnational giants,” the militant group said.
Earlier, Pamalakaya urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alberto Romulo to make available the content of the RP-European Union Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which was initially drafted by EU a few years ago, and a copy of which was obtained by the Philippine government on Feb.1 2006.
The militant group also learned that Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo requested the office of Secretary Romulo to furnish him documents regarding the ongoing negotiations between the Macapagal-Arroyo government and the European Commission but what was given to activist lawmaker was the statement of the DFA on the RP-EU ongoing negotiations on the partnership and cooperation agreement.
“Why this agreement is being processed through the syndicate way? What is the big secret being concealed by the Philippine government and the European Commission from the Filipino people? If there is nothing wrong or sinister about the PCA, then both governments, by all means, should reveal the content and let the Filipino people judge according to their collective interest,” said Pamalakaya.
Likewise, Pamalakaya urged Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile and 22 other senators to compel the DFA Secretary Romulo to furnish the Senate all the important and vital documents concerning the PCA that involves issues such as trade and investment cooperation, economic and development cooperation, political cooperation and institutional framework.
“While the executive department’s job is to negotiate, the Philippine Senate which is the sole ratifying body should not be kept in the dark. The senators are constitutionally bound, legally mandated, politically and morally obliged to look into the impact and consequences of the PCA is which is currently being syndicated among top officials of Malacañang and the European Commission,” the fisherfolk group stressed.
Pamalakaya further asserted that the Senate should not be caught flat footed like in the case of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa) where the Senate, the ratifying body were 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. The real agenda of EU in orchestrating this biggest sell-out of the century is to pass the burden of their economic and global crisis to the downtrodden people of the Third World like RP,” the militant group said.
DFA undersecretary Edsel Custodio on Feb.19 released a foreign affairs statement on Feb.9, 2009 on the draft RP-EU PCA which was submitted by the European Commission on Nov.21 2006.
Usec. Custodio said the Philippines had received from the EC the initial draft of the PCA on 1 February 2006. At that time, the PCA consisted of two separate Framework Agreements: the first refers to the main PCA, while the second refers to the political elements on WMD, Terrorism, and the ICC.
In May 2006, President Macapagal-Arroyo had 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 Inter-Agency process on the PCA.
According to Custodio, since then, the initial draft underwent further revisions by the EC. The second revised PCA draft dated 21 November 2006 merged the two separate Agreements of 1 February 2006 into one omnibus PCA. It is this version that has undergone a lengthy but thorough Inter-Agency process, spanning a period of over two years and involving around 30 agencies and offices of the Philippine government.
Inter-Agency deliberation continued throughout much of 2007. Some issues—particularly the nature and rationale behind the PCA and its relation to the regional FTA—emerged that required further discussion. For this reason, the DFA and the EC held the first informal consultations on the draft PCA on 24 September 2007. There we discussed the draft PCA with the EC in order to arrive at some clarity on the nature and rationale of the PCA and how to proceed further with a view to engaging in more substantive discussions.
Inter-agency discussion intensified in frequency and deepened in analysis in 2008. The number of agencies involved in the PCA increased, while some sub-clusters consolidated due to the inter-relatedness and cross-cutting nature of certain provisions.
The Philippine response to the PCA—the Counter-Draft—was now taking shape.
On 6 October 2008, a second informal consultation was held with the EC. By this time, our agencies have thoroughly deliberated on the PCA, with some changing positions reflecting the changing times and the complexity of the issues.
A Philippine Counter-Draft was almost substantially complete. Both sides tackled the issue of how to proceed further towards actually commencing formal talks and some institutional matters regarding possible structure and modalities of the impending bilateral negotiations.
On 24 October 2008, at the fringes of the ASEM Leaders Summit in Beijing, our Leaders, President Macapagal-Arroyo and EU President Jose Manuel Barroso, had made the announcement that both sides have agreed to commence negotiations. With the political mandate clear, and with no foreseeable legal or substantive impediment to negotiations, the only question left unanswered is when.
According to Usec. Custodio, this question was taken up during the 6th RP-EU Senior Officials Meeting, the official bilateral dialogue of the Philippines and the EU. There both sides agreed to start the first round of negotiations on the PCA on 9-10 February 2008, in Manila.
The EC also announced formally that an updated PCA draft, with new sections on labor and employment, justice, governance, and climate change, was to be transmitted to the Philippines by the end of 2008.
“This new EC draft, dated 22 December 2008, is still being considered by the Inter-Agency. Notwithstanding this development, the Philippines stands ready to discuss in more substantive detail its counter-proposal in this first Round of Negotiations on the PCA,” the DFA official added..#