STATEMENT OF THE HON. ALBERT F. DEL ROSARIO, SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS DURING THE PRESS CONFERENCE WITH HER EXCELLENCY CATHERINE ASHTON, HIGH REPRESENTATIVE OF THE UNION FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND SECURITY POLICY AND VICE PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,
I am pleased to welcome Her Excellency, Lady Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, on her first visit to the Philippines.
The visit of Lady Ashton is taking place at a time when the Philippines and the European Union are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. This visit allows us to reflect on the progress in our bilateral relationship and also to discuss how to further build on these achievements.
Our half century of partnership has been anchored on the shared values of democracy, respect for the rule of law, promotion and the protection of human dignity and human rights, among others. Our shared values have underpinned growth in bilateral trade which amounted to US$12.5B last year, an increase of about 18% from 2012. The EU is the Philippines' largest source of foreign direct investment with some US$10.2B or about 1/3 of our total investment stock.
Lady Ashton recently co-chaired the 20th ASEAN-EU Ministers Meeting on 23 July 2014 in Brussels which I had the honor of attending. In her intervention as Head of the EU delegation and on behalf of 28 EU ministers present, Lady Ashton called on all parties to clarify and pursue their territorial and maritime claims in accordance with international law, opposing any unilateral attempt by any party to assert its territorial or maritime claims through the use of intimidation, coercion, or force. She supported the rights of claimants to seek peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including through legal dispute settlement mechanisms.
The final Co-Chairs' Statement of the Ministerial Meeting stated the following, and I quote: "The Ministers underscored the importance of peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and promoting maritime security and safety, freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded commerce, the exercise of self-restraint, including the use or threat to use of force, and the resolution of disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS)."
Philippines-EU partnership is further reflected in addressing one of the country's pressing concerns - disaster risk reduction and management. This partnership was demonstrated in the co-chairing by the Philippines and EU of the ASEM Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management last June. The Conference adopted the Post-Haiyan Tacloban Declaration which serves as a template on best practices in DRRM which should be reflected in the crafting of the global architecture for disaster risk reduction next year, otherwise known as the Hyogo Framework of Action 2.
The Philippines-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) I signed with Lady Ashton in 2012 has garnered more than half of the required signatures for ratification or concurrence to come into force. In providing a general framework for bilateral relations, we expect the PCA to elevate our partnership to an even higher level.
We also discussed this morning EU's interest in the search for lasting peace in Mindanao, both as member of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and as an active supporter of developmental initiatives. The EU's involvement has been on issues such as the economy, good governance, human society development, environment and crisis management. I took the opportunity to confirm the commitment of President Aquino for a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
We agreed to further boost our economic relations, noting that now is the best time for European businesses to invest in the Philippines in view of our relatively high growth rate, the upgrades by rating agencies, and the good governance policies of the President. In this connection, I brought to the attention of the High Representative and Vice President of the EU the importance of seafaring and fisheries to the country. On our application to the GSP+ scheme of the EU, I noted that this has been approved by the European Commission and that the application has now been transmitted to the European Council and, thereafter, the European Parliament for their respective deliberation and approval.
Finally, I take this public opportunity to express our appreciation to the EU for giving us a 6-month extension to fully operationalize various measures and reforms to fully meet the country's obligation under the STCW Convention, thereby ensuring that continued employment of approximately 82,000 Filipinos aboard EU-flagged vessels. END