DOLE move imperils PH GSP + renewal

DOLE move imperils PH GSP + renewal

MANILA — The Philippines stands to lose its bid for the renewal of the European Union (EU) Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP +) amid an order by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to cancel the deposit of the instrument of Ratification of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 81.

The ILO Convention 81 is one of the six additional conventions proposed by the European Commission (EC) for GSP + renewal. It is the only convention the Philippines has yet to completely ratify for its reapplication under the new GSP + framework.

In June this year, former President Rodrigo Duterte signed the instrument of ratification of ILO Convention 81. Said instrument was set for deposit with the ILO Director-General in Geneva, Switzerland last July.

However, diplomatic sources revealed a top Labor official ordered the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Geneva to cancel the deposit of the ratification instrument.

Contrary to earlier reports that the DOLE is working on the ratification process of ILO Convention 81, informants said Labor Undersecretary Benedicto Ernesto Bitonio has directed POLO-Geneva to backtrack the deposit of the instrument.

The same sources said Bitonio’s action was at the behest of Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma, but without clearance from President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

It was learned that the position of DOLE under its new leadership is to resubmit the Convention for ratification and Senate concurrence – a long tedious process that can undermine the country’s application for GSP + renewal.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has classified the convention to be an executive agreement, requiring only the approval and signature of the President to be considered as ratified.

Aside from causing trade and diplomatic faux pas, the DOLE action withholding the deposit of the ratification document could also be misinterpreted as a move by the Marcos administration to undo what President Duterte has done.

ILO 81 mandates member states of the ILO to put in place a system of inspection in workplaces to “secure the enforcement of the legal provisions relating to conditions of work and the protection of workers while engaged in their work, such as provisions relating to hours, wages, safety, health and welfare, the employment of children and young persons, and other connected matters…”

GSP + gives developing countries a special incentive to pursue sustainable development and good governance. Eligible countries have to implement 27 international conventions on human rights, labor rights, the environment, and good governance.

In return, the EU cuts its import duties to zero on more than two-thirds of the tariff lines of their exports.

The Philippines is privileged to be the only ASEAN member to enjoy the current trade incentive program which will expire on December 31, 2023. (ai/mtvn)

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