European Union External Action

Philippines and the EU

12/05/2016 - 17:01
EU relations with Country

The relationship between the EU and the Republic of the Philippines is a longstanding one, which has broadened and deepened remarkably in recent years. Europe's dialogue with ASEAN began in the late 1970s, and was formalised in 1980 with the signature of an EC Cooperation Agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). For many years this agreement was the primary legal framework for EU relations with the Philippines.

Discussions on economic and political issues of common interest, at both ministerial and official level, have been held regularly since then. In addition, bilateral dialogues with the Philippines have included periodic reviews of political, economic and cooperation issues in regular Senior Officials Meetings.

On 1 March 2018, the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the EU and the Philippines entered into force. The Agreement provides a new and enhanced legal framework, enabling the European Union and the Philippines to strengthen their bilateral relationship, in particular on political, social and economic matters, including human rights. It reflects the longstanding partnership the European Union has with the people of the Philippines and the European Union's commitment to investing in a strong and beneficial relationship that benefits both EU and Filipino citizens.

Since 25 December 2014, the Philippines has enjoyed enhanced trade preferences with the EU under the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences plus (GSP+). Before that, the Philippines was a beneficiary of the standard GSP scheme.

Negotiations for an EU-Philippines Free Trade Agreement were launched on 22 December 2015. A first round took place in May 2016. The aim is to conclude an agreement that covers a broad range of issues, including tariffs, non-tariff barriers to trade, trade in services and investment, as well as trade aspects of public procurement, intellectual property, competition and sustainable development.

The EU Human Rights Country Strategy for the Philippines focuses on the following areas of concern: 

  1. Support to Human Rights Defenders (HRDs). This support is taken forward through continued assistance to Civil Society Organizations/HRDs, through grants under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), through individual programmes of EU countries, and through improved human rights dialogue with HRDs;
  2. Support to justice sector reform and support for efforts to combat impunity in the areas of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances. The support includes an EU justice sector reform project, funded under the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), support to the National Monitoring Mechanism for Extra Judicial Killings (EJKs), EU countries support projects and HR dialogue with civil society, as well as the monitoring and follow-up of EJKs cases;
  3. Support to improve Economic, Social and Cultural rights. The support mainly includes continued EU development assistance focusing on poverty alleviation and human and social development;
  4. Support for Children Affected by Armed Conflict (CAAC). This is done through the EU's support of the peace process in Mindanao, including the support of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), support for NGOs calling for protective legislation, and through supporting respect for international laws and standards.

EU-Philippines Human Rights Dialogue

The EU-Philippines Partnership and Cooperation Agreement signed in 2012 calls for the establishment of a meaningful Human Rights dialogue in the form of a Working Group on Human Rights. Ahead of the ratification of this Agreement, Human Rights are discussed under the legal framework of the periodic meetings of Senior Officials (SOM). The 9th SOM  took place on 4 July 2017.

EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World

Every year, the Council of the EU adopts the EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World. The 2018 report was adopted on 13 May 2019 .

This document includes a chapter devoted to the Philippines. In 2014, the EU continued to engage with its partners, including the national and regional Commissions on Human Rights (CHR), state actors (Department of Justice, Department of Interior and local governments), human rights defenders and civil society.

In its regular political dialogue with the Philippine authorities, the EU repeatedly recalled the need to address more systematically the issue of impunity, and bring the perpetrators of gross human rights violations to justice. Under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), in November 2014 the EU made available € 1.8 million to pay for projects, which will focus on the protection of human rights defenders and groups threatened by extra-judicial killings, torture or others of the worst forms of human right violations, the protection of the rights of children affected by armed conflict, and the promotion of the people’s rights in the Bangsamoro territory.

The EU continued providing financial support through the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) and the Instrument for Stability (IfS) in the "Justice for All” programme, aimed at enhancing access to justice and fighting impunity; building up the Regional Human Rights Commission in the Autonomous Region in Mindanao; protection of economic, social and cultural rights of the population, focusing on poverty alleviation, human and social development, and good governance.

With bilateral trade in goods amounting to €14.2 billion in 2017, the EU ranked as the Philippines' fourth largest trading partner, while the Philippines was EU's sixth largest trading partner in the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN). Philippines' exports to the EU grew by 12.7% according to Comext– an effect mostly due to an uptake in GSP+-related exports; in 2016, the GSP+ utilisation rate of the Philippines was  71%.

In 2015, EU share in the total trade of the Philippines was 11% but the relationship changed from the EU being a stronger import partner to a stronger export partner of the Philippines. In the recent years, the Philippines moved from trade deficit to a surplus of €960 million in 2017. Overall, the trend of increasing trade and investment continued in 2017, a consequence of more demand, preferential treatment under GSP+ and a more positive business climate resulting in more business missions from the EU to the country.

Top products traded between the EU and the Philippines are dominated by machinery, transport equipment; machinery; chemicals, food products and electronic components. Office and telecommunication equipment and machinery are the strongest export product of the Philippines to the EU but growth in other sectors can be noted thanks to the GSP+-preferences.

Philippines total trade in services with the world according to the World Bank in 2014 is 16% of GDP at market prices (around US$ 46 billion (€38 billion). Bilateral trade in services between EU and the Philippines in 2014 was €3.3 billion, 5% growth from 2013. Import (from Philippines) and export (to the Philippines) of services grew by 6% and 3% respectively. The Philippines also had a steady export of services in the tourism and transport sector.

The Philippines and ASEAN

The Philippines is one of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the fifth largest economy in the region and, with a population of over 100 million, the second biggest market in ASEAN.

Taken as a whole, ASEAN would rank as the eighth economy in the world and the EU's third largest trading partner outside Europe, after the United States and China. In 2013, bilateral trade in goods and services between the EU and ASEAN reached more than €235 billion.

When completed, the ASEAN Economic Community will constitute the third largest market in the world, with more than 600 million potential consumers. Ensuring better access for EU exporters to the dynamic ASEAN market is a priority for the EU.

Since identifying ASEAN as a priority region in 2006, the EU has been actively engaged with the region. Negotiations for a region-to-region FTA with ASEAN were launched in 2007 and paused in 2009 to give way to bilateral negotiations, which should be building blocks towards a future region-to-region agreement.

Bilateral negotiations were launched with Singapore and Malaysia in 2010, with Vietnam in 2012, with Thailand in 2013 and now also with the Philippines. The talks with Singapore and Vietnam were successfully concluded in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Trade-related technical assistance

The EU has recast its development efforts on trade to help developing countries reduce poverty and provide sustainable opportunities for growth.

Since the establishment of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) as the trade-negotiation round of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the EU has strongly advocated open rules-based trade negotiations to ensure fair, free, and safe trade. On October 2007, the EU adopted the EU Aid for Trade Strategy to help developing countries to better integrate into the world trading system and to use trade to help eradicate poverty in the context of sustainable development.

The EU also provides considerable development assistance to third world countries to help them meet their responsibilities in the evolving global trading system, in which new rules and regulations aim at ensuring public health and public safety.

The EU is a firm supporter of the WTO, which lays down a set of rules to help open up global trade and ensure fair treatment for all participants (

The Philippines is fully committed to multilateral trade arrangements and to the liberalisation of its trade and economy. But a number of technical issues have impeded its active participation in global trade and reduced its ability to benefit from such global arrangements.

Towards the end of the 2004, the EU and Philippines agreed to cooperate to deal with these problems. In 2005, the first Trade Related Technical Assistance (TRTA) was formalized between the EU and the Philippines. The EU provided PhP 210 million (3.5m euro) for this technical assistance. TRTA 1 concluded in the third quarter of 2008 and was succeeded with two phases of TRTA.

Over the past four decades, the EU has been a major partner of the Philippines and has contributed more than a billion Euro (more than Php 60 billion) of grants to combating poverty and raising standards of living for the poor. The EU-Philippine relationship has deepened further especially after the entry into force of the  EU-Philippines' Partnership Cooperation Agreement in March 2018. EU development assistance is closely aligned with the Philippines Development Plan 2017-2022. It aims to achieve concrete results and to maximise the impact of the EU funding provided to the benefit of Filipinos across the country.

The seven-year EU support strategy for the period of 2014-2020 more than doubles EU grant assistance to the Philippines compared with the 2007-2013 period, from € 130M (PHP 7Billion) to €325M (PHP 17 Billion). Most of the EU funds are given as grants making the EU jointly with EU countries the largest grant donor in the Philippines. The new strategy – which is described in the "Multi Annual Indicative Programme 2014-2020" - is focusing on:

  • The rule of law: The EU and the Philippines both share a vision of improved governance and therefore want to increase cooperation in the justice sector to support the Philippine Justice Sector Reform Strategy.
  • Inclusive growth through sustainable energy and job creation: the EU is keen to help the Philippines' Government to achieve its ambitious electrification targets for poor areas. The promotion of renewable energy used in the Philippines is crucial to jointly address the global challenge of Climate Change.

A particular emphasis is placed on conflict affected Mindanao where the EU supports the peace process as well as community development on the ground. The EU remains a key development partner in the health sector – financed on the 2007-2013 budget -and provides trade-related technical assistance.

The bilateral EU-Philippines programme is complemented by additional money - often channelled through civil society organisations - to address social issues, the environment, indigenous peoples, human rights, peace building, and migration.

The EU is also one of the most important providers of funds to support the Philippines in cases of natural disasters which require emergency aid,  such as  after Super-Typhoon Haiyan which brought normous support from the European Commission and EU countries.

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