Diplomatic Relations: Philippines

The Secretary of State Was Asked – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th July 2017.

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Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson Conservative, North Swindon 12:00 am, 11th July 2017

What steps he is taking to strengthen diplomatic relations with the Philippines.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

We have a strong and wide-ranging relationship with the Philippines on prosperity, education and security issues. Ministerial visits to the Philippines and annual high-level talks between officials help to progress that co-operation—my hon. Friend Alok Sharma, the former Minister for Asia and the Pacific, was there as recently as last December—which enables us to discuss human rights concerns while pursuing closer diplomatic and trade links.

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson Conservative, North Swindon

My constituent Kevin Taylor has been held in the Philippines since 2008. The Filipino authorities continually delayed his case, held him in unsafe conditions and, finally, sentenced him to 12 years for an employment offence. They have now failed even to acknowledge a clemency request, despite his very poor health. With his health failing further and amid concerns about the safety of the institution, and with his parents worried that they will not see him again, will my right hon. Friend set out what is being done to support the family’s efforts to bring him home?

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

I thank my hon. Friend for all his assiduous work over many years on behalf of Mr Taylor’s parents, his constituents in North Swindon. We have been providing ongoing consular and welfare support to Kevin Taylor since his arrest almost 10 years ago. Most recently, he was visited in prison, and we liaised with his parents only yesterday. Our consular support has also extended to delivering funds and vitamins. Most recently, we requested additional medical appointments after Mr Taylor brought his health concerns to our attention. A clemency request was made as recently as 2015, but I reassure my hon. Friend that we will do our level best to continue that work. I will be in touch with our department in Manila to ask it to redouble those efforts in the days ahead.

Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

In the year since Rodrigo Duterte became President of the Philippines, 13,000 people have been killed. He has threatened to extend martial law across the entire country, and last week he said that he would eat the livers of terrorists with salt and vinegar, but the Secretary of State for International Trade claims that Britain has “shared values” with President Duterte. Can the Minister tell the House which values we share with the President?

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

The hon. Lady will recognise that there are shared values on international trade, and it is not an issue of ditching anything else. I, like her, am very concerned by the high death toll in the war on illegal drugs that has come to a head under President Duterte. We have been urging much more thorough and independent investigations into all violent deaths, and the Foreign Office has repeatedly raised, and will continue to raise, human rights concerns with the Administration. I hope to visit Manila at some point to make precisely the case that the hon. Lady has made.