Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 13 July 2017
Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence
Framework Agreement between European Union and Republic of the Philippines: Motion
I would like to be associated with the comments of the Chairman in congratulating the Minister of State on his appointment and I wish him all the very best. I know this is the first of what will be many visits to this committee, given his other areas of responsibility.
I have a general question. We dealt with another framework agreement for Mongolia recently. Ireland was the last or the second last in Europe to ratify that agreement and we are again second last in this regard. That is not a criticism and I am wondering whether this is a resource issue or a procedural issue. Why is it that Ireland and Greece are the last two countries in the EU to get to this stage?
In one respect, that is not necessarily a bad thing and I do not think we should rush the fences. I note we have a substantial Filipino population in Ireland and they play a very active part in the community here. However, over the course of this framework arrangement being negotiated, we have seen quite substantial changes in the Philippines, in particular around the extrajudicial killings and the comments of its President, whose regular public comments nearly incited people to take the law into their own hands with regard to suspected drug dealers. There are vigilante gangs, bodies being left on streets and people being murdered after being dragged out of their homes. While he seems to be extremely popular, based on opinion polls in the Philippines, I would be particularly uncomfortable with the manner in which he is ruling his country.
The Minister of State rightly mentioned the area of human rights and the potential for the death penalty to be reintroduced. Does he consider this the right time to be ratifying an agreement like this with the Philippines given the horrendous human rights record under President Duterte? I would have serious questions. Trade is important and we certainly need to look to new markets. To be specific, trade with the Philippines is not insignificant and there is potential given the large population, our long-standing good relations with the people of the Philippines through the work of missionaries and Irish Aid and, as I said, the substantial Filipino population here, who are very welcome. I am most uncomfortable with this and I want to know what assurances, if any, the EU has got from the Philippines Government about what is happening in the country at the moment and about ensuring the rule of law is upheld, given the regular extrajudicial killings, which greatly concern me. I want to know what assurances the EU or the Irish Government have sought and received from the Philippines Government. I would also like to know that we have received assurances the death penalty will not be reintroduced and what outs there are in this framework agreement should the situation there deteriorate politically. What would be available to the EU at that stage, should we formally enter into this agreement? I have genuine concerns about this.