As Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator Loren Legarda today sponsored three treaties with the European Union, Germany, and Sweden--all of which have been ratified by President Rodrigo R. Duterte but still require concurrence from the Senate in order to enter into force.
The following treaties are: the Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation Between the Philippines and the European Union (PH-EU PCA); the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the Federal Republic of Germany on Social Security (PH-Germany SSA); and the Agreement on Social Security between the Republic of the Philippines and the Kingdom of Sweden (PH-Sweden SSA).
"It has always been in the interest of our country to establish and fortify formal relations with international partners that will protect and improve the welfare of Filipinos here and abroad. Our august chamber has never been remiss in initiating and supporting efforts to achieve this goal," said Legarda, in her sponsorship speech.
Legarda said that the Philippines and the EU have long established diplomatic relations since 1964, with the EU remaining to be a robust economic partner and committed development partner of the Philippines. She added that the EU is home to an estimated 700,000 to 800,000 of fellow Filipinos, with the largest Filipino communities living in Italy, the United Kingdom, and Greece.
The Senator said that Filipinos stand to benefit from the PH-EU PCA, which commits Parties to pursue dialogue in 41 areas of cooperation, which include combatting terrorism, human trafficking and illicit drugs; countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, small arms, and lights weapons; protecting human rights; encouraging environmental sustainability; reducing the impact of climate change; promoting development cooperation, and capacity-building and technical cooperation initiatives; and exchange of experts in the areas of science, technology, statistics, food, and drugs.
She emphasized that the PCA also ensures benefits for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which comprise 99.5% of total businesses and employ 61.6% of the total workforce in the country. The treaty will bolster our status as a beneficiary country under the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) and provide basis for concluding a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which aims to enhance market access for goods, services, and investments for the two sides.
"Without the PCA, what we currently have is an ad-hoc dialogue in the form of the PH-EU Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM) 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, the Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation 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," she said.
Meanwhile, Legarda said that since the early 1980s, the Philippine Government has been negotiating on social security agreements with countries that host a sizeable number of Filipinos--such as Austria, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Spain, France, Canada, Quebec, Switzerland, and Belgium--not only to protect the interest of Filipinos, but also as a way to boost our diplomatic relations with other countries.
She said that many overseas Filipinos do not have social safety nets, thus leaving them in a precarious situation. On the other hand, Filipinos who migrate to countries that have coverage for foreign nationals are unable to accumulate enough insurance periods to qualify for full social security pensions. Furthermore, many employers risk the payment of double contributions or dual coverage when sending a worker on a temporary basis to the other country.
It is in this context that Legarda is seeking Senate concurrence on the ratification of the social security agreements with Germany and Sweden.
Legarda said that the PH-Germany SSA will ensure that the more than 21,000 Filipinos living and working in Germany are covered with social security benefits, while promoting the Philippines as a retirement haven for qualified German pensioners under the Philippines Retirement Act.
Legarda also noted that both the social security agreements 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.
"These Agreements aim to contribute to equality of treatment, allow the portability of benefits to overseas Filipinos and nationals of the host country, and improve the processing of claims while eliminating dual coverage, among others. We must pursue initiatives that will help uplift the lives of our overseas workers and help secure their retirement in their twilight years," she explained.
"It is, thus, my hope that the Senate concurs in the ratification of the Social Security Agreements with Germany and Sweden, as we actively pursue similar social security agreements with other countries that have compatible social security schemes with the Philippines and home to most number of Filipino workers," Legarda concluded.
Source: Senate of the Philippines