European Union and the Philippines to Begin Tense Dialogue

On Thursday October 12, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte gave a fiery speech to his constituents in regards to comments made by European diplomats. Among the most striking declarations made by the Head of State was his claim that he would expel all European Union (EU) diplomats from his country.

The threat came after several ambassadors working with The Progressive Alliance, which is unaffiliated with the EU, made statements critical of the Philippines’ on-going War on Drugs. For a time, it was unclear whether or not the expected expulsion would derail an upcoming economic summit.

Fortunately for those emissaries, and their homelands, President Duterte has rescinded his words leading up to the EU-Philippines Business Summit (EPBS).

A spokesperson for the administration, later on Thursday the 12th, released a statement to the press clarifying the situation. Ernesto Abella communicated to the media the fact that President Duterte did not know the diplomats were not on official EU business.

Abella’s statement did not include an apology, however the spokesperson did confirm that no directives had been issued pursuant to the speech, meaning no diplomats will be expelled from Manila.

The Business Summit is set to begin on Tuesday October 17, and will be the fourth annual conference. It is also scheduled to be the largest European business event held this year.

About 350 delegates will attend, representing not only the EU and the Philippines, but many countries throughout Europe and Asia.

The EU-funded project’s theme is ‘Partners for Progress and Prosperity’, and will not only celebrate friendly relations between the archipelago nation and the EU, but also bring together major industry and local, Filipino, businesses.

EPBS is expected to yield fruitful information for both sides, as well as uncover action points to be examined further by all parties involved.

There are four main topics which will be discussed; fruitful EU investment opportunities, creating a more competitive business environment in the Philippines, integration of the Southeast Asian market and profiling industries with high investment potential.

The Summit’s theme seems in contradiction to the recent row over the international community’s reaction to the Philippines’ War on Drugs. According to Filipino Police, the government’s crackdown on illicit substances has claimed some 3,850 lives.

The EPBS’ current schedule leaves no time for discussion about the Drug War, however Duterte’s harsh words may very well linger heavily over the delegates for the two-day event.

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