July 8, 2011
European Solutions Inspire Philippine
A seven-person delegation of the Philippine Liberal
Party (LP) found several solutions to issues of party building
and also to policies affecting the Philippines international relations
during a whirlwind visit to Europe 3-9 July. But they were also
warned by some of the problems that their European liberal counterparts
In wide ranging meetings at the European institutions in Strasbourg
(France) the seven delegates studied cooperation between liberals
in Europe, as well as Philippine-EU relations and lessons that
could be drawn from the European experience for ASEAN cooperation.
In a meeting with Maria Bigday
of the Liberal
(ILDG) in the Parliamentary Assembly of the 47-country
Council of Europe
they discussed the work of
the European Court of Human Rights and the impact of liberal parliamentarians
on the human rights work of this international organisation.
In the European Parliament they met with Sir
Graham Watson MEP of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats
for Europe (ALDE) to discuss the challenges facing South East
Asia. Sir Graham suggested that the ASEAN countries should work
closer together in facing common problems, such as how to face
China’s ambitions in the South China Sea. With European
Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom
the delegates exchanged ideas on how to cooperate more, particularly
in the field of combating human trafficking and child sex tourism.
In an extensive meeting with European liberal leader
Guy Verhofstadt MEP
, president of the ALDE Group in the
European Parliament, and with European Liberal Party president
Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck MEP
and Liberal International
president Hans van Baalen MEP
discussed the paramount importance of strong party structures
and grassroots organisation for the long-term future of liberal
political parties, especially the involvement of party members
at all levels in decision making of the party.
The LP delegates, who were officially welcomed in the plenary
session of the European Parliament, went on to share experiences
on the transition of opposition to government with German MEP
Alexander Graf Lambsdorff and his UK colleague
Chris Davies. Both described the difficulties
that a party in government faces when voters do not see core election
promises implemented soon after the elections, and when internal
party debates begin to dominate national news headlines.
Finally the delegates met with European Trade Commissioner
Karel de Gught to explore trade issues, and in particular
the possibilities of an EU-Philippine free trade agreement.
The delegation was welcomed at a meeting of the ALDE
and was briefed on the workings of the liberals
in the European Parliament by Deputy Secretary General Thomas
and ALDE staff members Wim Vanden Broucke, Arjen
Bouter and Jeroen Reijnen. The visit to Strasbourg was expertly
organised by Dr. Ellen Madeker and Christina Brunnenkamp of the
FNF Brussels office.
The delegation, which consisted of Congressmen Maria
Carmen Apsay, Jorge John Banal, Vicente
Belmonte Jr, Loreto Leo Ocampos, Mel
Senen Sarmiento as well Cebu LP chairman Hilario
Davide III and LP director general Gladys Sta.
Rita and was accompanied by FNF Philippines country director
Jules Maaten, then went on to Berlin, the capital of Germany,
where Dr. Gabriele Thöns was in charge of the programme.
At a lengthy meeting at the Foreign Office they
exchanged ideas on how to strengthen German-Philippine relations
and the progress that the Aquino administration is making. Issues
such as the human rights situation and the judicial system in
the Philippines, as well as the climate for foreign direct investments
At the liberal party FDP
the delegation heard at first hand from the deputy head of the
dialogue and campaign department Andreas Pauker
how the party is organised at the local and the national level,
with more than 75000 membership fee paying members who are involved
in the decision making process of the party, and the cooperation
with independent organisations such as the young liberals (JuLis
In Potsdam at the FNF headquarters the delegates were received
by the head of the Asia department Charles du Vinage who
explained the work of the foundation both in Germany and abroad.
They were welcomed by Ulrich Niemann, the head
of the international department.
The delegation got an insight of the work of the Bundestag from
, who was an assistant to
the former leader of the FDP faction. In the Bundestag they met
with Dr. Bijan Djir-Sarai MP
, member of the foreign
affairs committee for the FDP, to discuss tasks and instruments
of an MP in the government coalition. With Harald Klein
at the ministry for economic cooperation and development
they discussed basic policy issues and organisation of bilateral
development cooperation, as well as the challenges of jumping
from opposition into government.
In Berlin the delegation was received by Philippine Chargé
d’Affaires Hon. Leah Manago Basinang-Ruiz
and had a meeting with the Filipino community in Germany.
“The delegation returns to Manila with a bag full of ideas
and suggestions,” said FNF Philippines country director
Jules Maaten. “I think we should consider quite a few of
the ideas for the organisation of LP,” added LP director
general Gladys Sta. Rita.
Cong. Maricar Apsay was keen to pick up on ideas to improve the
work of LP Congressmen, “We shall also see how we can pick
up on some of the suggestions on how to make ASEAN more effective,”
commented Cong. Bolet Banal.
The visit took place as part of the visitors information programme
organised by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF).
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