Legarda: Senate Concurs in Ratification of Free Trade Agreement with EFTA, 7 Maritime-Related TreatiesMarch 6, 2018
Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, today said that the Senate has unanimously concurred in the ratification of the Philippines’ Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) States, and acceded to seven maritime-related treaties.
With 19 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and no abstention, the Senate on Monday (March 5, 2018) approved on third and final reading the following resolutions:
- Senate Resolution No. (SRN) 647, Resolution Concurring in the Ratification of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Between the EFTA States and the Philippines;
- SRN 648, Resolution Concurring in the Accession to the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships, 2001, or the AFS Convention;
- SRN 649, Resolution Concurring in the Accession to the Protocol of 1997 to Amend the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as Modified by the Protocol of 1978 Relating Thereto, or the MARPOL Protocol;
- SRN 650, Resolution Concurring in the Accession to the Protocol of 1988 Relating to the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966, or the Load Lines Convention;
- SRN 651, Resolution Concurring in the Accession to the Protocol of 1978 Relating to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, or Protocol 1978, SOLAS Convention;
- SRN 652, Resolution Concurring in the Accession to the Protocol of 1988 Relating to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, or Protocol 1988, SOLAS Convention;
- SRN 653, Resolution Concurring in the Acceptance of the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas; and,
- SRN 654, Resolution Concurring in the Accession to the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, or the Port State Measures Agreement.
Legarda said that as a broad-based agreement, the FTA covers trade in goods, trade in services, investment, competition, the protection of intellectual property rights, government procurement, and trade and sustainable development.
Legarda explained that entering into an FTA with EFTA states—the Switzerland Confederation, the Kingdom of Norway, the Republic of Iceland and the Principality of Liechtenstein—is part of the country’s strategy to gain a stronger foothold in the European market.
“Considering that EFTA requires the same standards as the EU, this will allow PH exporters to Europe to gain from economies of scale through improved market access in both EU and EFTA,” she explained.
In the area of trade in goods, EFTA abolishes all customs duties on industrial products as of the entry into force of the Agreement, whereas the Philippines will gradually lower or abolish its duties on the vast majority of such products.
Legarda stressed that the PH-EFTA FTA was negotiated only with the promotion of fair economic cooperation in mind—one that will enable a business environment conducive for investments and provide opportunities for producers, consumers, and service suppliers alike.
Likewise, all negotiating positions crafted were consistent to and compliant with the Philippines’ laws, rules, and regulations.
“Opening markets through Agreements such as this goes hand-in-hand with all the economic reforms and ease of doing business initiatives of the government to project a clear message that the Philippines is, more than ever, ready and ‘open for business’,” said Legarda.
Meanwhile, Legarda also explained the importance of the seven maritime agreements approved by the Senate.
The Protocol of 1978, SOLAS Convention updated the safety standards of crude carriers and product carriers by requiring the fitting of inert gas systems, which are crucial in preventing ship fires and explosions on tanks filled with oil and flammable gas, as well as radars and steering gear mechanisms to enhance safety of navigation.
The Protocol 1988, SOLAS Convention was adopted to introduce the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), an international system which uses improved terrestrial and satellite technology and ship-board radio systems to ensure rapid alerting of shore-based rescue and communications authorities in the event of an emergency.
“The Protocols of 1978 and 1988 add further to the long list of safety requirements on ship construction and equipment under SOLAS. It behooves Flag States to ensure that ships under their flag comply with these safety requirements,” said Legarda.
The Load Lines Convention that was adopted in 1966 prescribes the minimum reserve buoyancy and freeboard of ships to ensure their stability by preventing overloading. The Convention prescribes visible special markings amid ships on each side of the ship in order to determine their loading limits under different types of water conditions.
“The Philippines’ accession to Load Lines Convention will demonstrate our country’s commitment in ensuring the safety of ships and preventing accidents that could lead to massive loss of life and serious damage to the marine environment through oil spills,” she said.
The MARPOL Protocol and the AFS Convention both address issues on marine environment protection.
The MARPOL Protocol includes regulations aimed at preventing and minimizing pollution from ships—both accidental pollution and that from routine operations. The Convention sets limits on sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhausts, which are harmful to human health, and prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone depleting substances; while the AFS Convention calls for the establishment of a mechanism to prohibit the use of harmful “organotins” in anti-fouling paints used on ships and the potential future use of other harmful substances in anti-fouling systems.
Finally, two maritime-related agreements aim to address issues on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities.
The Port State Measures Agreement or PSMA is the first binding international agreement to specifically target IUU fishing. Its main objective is to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing by preventing vessels engaged in IUU fishing from using ports and landing their catches. In this way, the agreement reduces the incentive of such vessels to continue to operate while also preventing fishery products derived from IUU fishing from reaching national and international markets.
Meanwhile, thee Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas aims to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine living resources on the high seas by requiring states to exercise their flag state responsibilities over their fishing vessels, which are 24 or more meters in length, fishing on the high seas.
Under the Agreement, only ships authorized by the Flag State are permitted to engage in fishing activities on the high seas. But flag states must ensure that their vessels fishing on the high seas do not undermine the effectiveness of international or regional conservation and management measures whether or not they are members of regional fisheries agreements.
“Our lives are naturally linked to the ocean and with the richness of its resources. Thus, we must make our oceans benefit us in a sustainable manner by protecting not only our people who journey along its vastness but also the marine life underneath. With our accession to these treaties, we affirm our commitment to cooperate with the international community towards the responsible use of marine resources, the safety of vessels plying our seas, and the protection of our high seas,” Legarda concluded.