Senate approves PH treaties with EU, Sweden, Germany

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Monday, January 22, unanimously concurred in the ratification of treaties between the Philippines and the European Union (EU), Sweden, and Germany.

The chamber's approval came despite President Rodrigo Duterte's criticism against the EU for its opposition to his policies, especially the drug war.

The Senate has approved the following:

Senate foreign relations committee chairperson Loren Legarda emphasized that these agreements would be beneficial to Filipinos.

Legarda said many overseas Filipinos do not have social safety nets, leaving them in a dangerous situation. She also said Filipinos who migrate to countries that allow coverage for foreigners are still unable to accumulate enough insurance periods to qualify for full social security pensions.

"The Philippines has entered into social security agreements with several countries, especially those that host a sizeable number of Filipinos, not only to protect the interest of our kababayans (countrymen), but also as a way to boost our diplomatic relations with other countries," said Legarda.

The PH-Germany SSA would ensure that at least 21,000 Filipinos living and working in Germany would have social security benefits, while promoting the Philippines as a retirement haven for qualified German pensioners under the Philippines Retirement Act.

Both the SSAs with Germany and Sweden contain standard provisions consistent with International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 118 on the Equality of Treatment and ILO Convention 157 on the Maintenance of Social Security Rights.

Meanwhile, the agreement between the Philippines and the EU would allow better cooperation on political, economic, and development issues, since at present, the Philippines only has an ad-hoc dialogue with the EU through the Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM).

"Without [it], what we currently have is an ad-hoc dialogue in the form of the PH-EU Senior Officials' Meeting and its working groups, which only discusses issues of concern in a compartmentalized manner. Given the current realities of our bilateral relations with the EU, [it] will serve as a solid platform for dialogue to explore ways to achieve our shared goal of a stronger partnership based on mutual respect, trust, and equality," Legarda said.

She explained that under the agreement, the Philippines and the EU have committed to pursue dialogue in 41 areas of cooperation, including terrorism, human trafficking, illegal drugs, climate change, and exchange of experts in the fields of science, technology, and food, among others.

The Philippines and the EU have had diplomatic relations since 1964. An estimated 700,000 to 800,000 Filipinos are living in the EU, with the largest Filipino communities residing in Italy, Greece, and the United Kingdom. The UK, however, is in the process of leaving the union.

Back in October 2017, the Philippines announced it is rejecting all kinds of grants from the EU because of conditions that can be supposedly used to criticize the Duterte administration. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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