DTI, DoLE to certify labor practices of textile firms tapping GSP+
by Victor V. Saulon, Businessworld, Jul 19, 2017
THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is set to sign a joint order with the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) that will highlight the country’s insistence on compliance with global labor standards in the textile industry.
“DTI and DoLE will issue a joint department order on the certification of labor standards compliance for garments and textile industry exporters who will take advantage of [trade] preferential schemes,” said Ceferino S. Rodolfo, Trade undersecretary and managing head of the department’s investment promotion arm Board of Investments.
Mr. Rodolfo told reporters the move is in effect targeted towards the Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+), a preferential tariff scheme that allows the Philippines to export more than 6,200 products to the European Union’s (EU) member countries tariff-free.
He said the joint order should be issued before the end of July as it had been prepared and was awaiting the signature of DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez and DoLE Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III.
On Tuesday, Mr. Lopez and Mr. Rodolfo, along with Philippine Special Envoy to the EU Edgardo J. Angara met in Makati City with members of the EU Parliament led by Soraya Post “to freely exchange views on the political and economic fronts” of the Philippine-EU relations.
Mr. Rodolfo said the joint order will require garment and textile exporters to the EU using GSP+ to first secure certification from the government agencies that they are compliant with local labor regulations.
“We’re self-imposing this,” he said, adding that no other country enjoying the same preferential treatment is issuing certification that their export goods were not produced in sweatshops and those who made them were paid the right wages. It will state that no child workers were employed by the exporter.
He said the scheme will certify that union-busting is not practiced by the exporter and that their workers have a right to self-organization.
“We want to take the offensive and highlight [that in the Philippines] workers are being treated decently,” he said.
Mr. Rodolfo said the department was awaiting a response from the EU on the country’s report regarding four issues identified by the bloc: the extrajudicial killing of journalists, Lumad rights, the rights of political prisoners and labor rights.
“We have gone over and beyond these international commitments,” he said.
Separately, the Trade department said in a statement on Tuesday that Mr. Lopez during the meeting “stressed that President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s anti-drug campaign and state efforts to apprehend illegal drug elements have always been anchored on the tenets of human rights and the rule of law.”
He also pointed out that majority of Filipinos “feels safer today and approves of the President’s leadership.
“The meeting also touched on the need for EU to engage the Philippines through the GSP+ as it is precisely a meaningful program assistance developed by EU to help a trade partner institute socioeconomic reform resulting from greater trade and economic activities. Such also increase income in rural communities, as well as in areas experiencing conflicts.”
Mr. Lopez also urged the EU to maximize its economic relations with the growing Philippine domestic market and its free trade access to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its dialogue partners.