By Mike Policarpio / Envoys&Expats Editor
NEARING the end of his tour-of duty in the Philippines, Ambassador of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) Franz Jessen described his four-year stint as “exciting,” as it coincided with the transition of a new government.
The diplomat, whose amiable demeanor endeared him to the local press, touched on key issues that marked his stay, while he made his presence felt across the archipelago as the top representative of the 28-member regional bloc.
The envoy started his speech on Tuesday by underscoring the EU’s close collaboration with various sectors on peace and stability, which “we have supported very strongly,” particularly with the diverse spectrum of players: from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp), to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
He cited the “good working conditions of the estimated 800,000 overseas Filipino workers” in the continent, adding that they have never received “complaints from [Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III],” and cited the high level of respect for labor rights within the EU.
He described the local labor force as “competitive” and “very strong,” such as in the sectors of seafaring, but cautioned that it should not rely on its past successes, as competition is slowly emerging in other parts of the world. On trade, Jessen touted significant European investments in the Philippines.
He noted the complementing demographics of the Europeans and Filipinos that could augur well for both: “We have an aging population armed with sophisticated technology on one side, and a young population which can provide labor and could work not necessarily in our region, but for European companies based in the Philippines.”
EU has helped address the plight of those involved in illegal substance abuse in the Philippines, and Jessen trumpeted one of the established facilities in the province of Tarlac, the Model Drug Recovery Clinic, which aids addicts in recovering and eventually finding work opportunities.
The EU envoy took pride in recalling that the delegation was awarded the “Project of the Year” in the BusinessMirror’s Envoys&Expats Awards in April 2019 for the creation of the rehabilitation center. (Since then, it has accepted more than 500 patients, and has successfully contributed to the recovery of about 300.)
The European envoy also touched on the occurrence of extrajudicial killings in the country, adding this engendered a “murderous climate.”
Jessen believes that it is not only a domestic issue, but “it affects and impacts how the Philippines is seen abroad, including investors.”
To cap the gathering, Jessen was quizzed for sound advice to his successor. He cautioned the next EU envoy to “not react immediately” to the situation, and for him or her to “stay back and wait a little longer” before responding to the issue at hand.