Philippines rejects EU aid to avoid "interference"
President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to reject grant aid from the European Union to stop it from "meddling" in the internal affairs of the government, specifically on its war against illegal drugs.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said it was Finance Secretary Carlos Domiguez III who recommended to Duterte not to accept any more aid from EU.
"The president has approved the recommendation of the Department of Finance not to accept grants and this is not necessarily humanitarian aid from the EU that may allow it to interfere with the internal policies of the Philippines," he said in a press briefing.
"These grants pertain to particular projects or programs that have the potential of affecting the autonomy of the country," added Abella.
In a text message, EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen said “the Philippines will no longer accept new EU grants.”
Affected will be 250 million euros covering 2017 to 2022, the EU added.
According to the data of the National Economic and Development Authority, EU's grant aid to the Philippines last year stood at $270 million.
EU's assistance to Manila was in the form of grants.
The Philippines reserves the right to accept loans and grants that helps attain its objectives of promoting economic development inclusiveness and reducing poverty, attaining peace within its borders and with its neighbors, and fostering a law-abiding society, Abella said.
As the Philippines has the right to accept assistance, it has also the right to "respectfully decline offers that do not achieve these goals and offers that allow foreigners to interfere with the conduct of its internal affairs," Abella added.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, in a text message to reporters, said the rejection of the EU aid was made, "to enable them not to interfere with out internal affairs.
"We're supposed to be an independent nation," he said.
Duterte has hit EU for allegedly interfering in the internal affairs of the Philippines, particularly on his administration's war against illegal drugs.
EU has been criticizing the increasing number of drug suspects being killed in the Philippines.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, in a press conference in Pasig City, expressed belief declining EU's assistance would not be a policy.
"You know our president has a style of doing something and then taking it back later. It's kind of a tactic," he said.
He admitted the decision to reject EU's aid was not discussed in any Cabinet meeting.
Asked when he thinks Duterte would retract his decision, he said, "We'll see. Maybe after the visit to Russia when he finds out that...it's also a difficult country to deal with."
Duterte is set to visit Russia on May 25 to 27.
But Pernia hoped with the appointment of former Senator Edgardo Angara as special envoy to the EU, the situation would be fixed.
"I think that is a way of modifying or softening the impact of that golpe de gulat (surprising action)," he said.
Abella and Pernia said the rejection of the EU aid could be applied to future assistance as the existing ones would not be affected.
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez expressed hope that with the latest development, the EU's Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+), which provides zero tariff for more than 6,000 products being exported to any of 28 EU member countries would not be affected.
"We dont want the current GSP+ to be affected. Its not a grant and they're commercial transactions that can mutually benefit both sides," he said in a text message.
He said EU should continue to engage the Philippines.
"GSP provides market access to our exporters but it allows cheaper Philippine products for EU consumers or cheaper inputs for their manufacturers. EU investors in the country that exports back to EU also benefit from the GSP. Its a mutually beneficial arrangement," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS