RM1.2b worth of grants turned down over bloc’s crit­i­cism of drug war

New Straits Times - - World -

THE Philippines’ de­ci­sion to stop de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance from the Euro­pean Union (EU) is a dis­play of the coun­try’s in­de­pen­dent for­eign pol­icy, a top aide of Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte said yes­ter­day.

The poor and con­flict-hit coun­try was will­ing to forego about €250 mil­lion (RM1.2 bil­lion) worth of grants to pre­vent EU from med­dling in its in­ter­nal af­fairs, ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary Sal­vador Me­di­aldea said.

“We’re sup­posed to be an in­de­pen­dent na­tion,” he said af­ter the pres­i­dent had re­sented crit­i­cism made by Euro­pean coun­tries on his war on drugs pol­icy, which has killed thou­sands of poor slum dwellers.

Al­most 9,000 peo­ple, many small-time users and deal­ers, have been killed in the Philippines since Duterte took of­fice on June 30.

Po­lice say about a third of the vic­tims were shot by of­fi­cers in self-de­fence dur­ing le­git­i­mate op­er­a­tions.

In Oc­to­ber last year, the fire­brand leader dared Europe and United States to with­draw de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance if they did not agree with his drug war pol­icy.

“We will not beg for it,” he said. “How do you look at us? Men­di­cants?”

Pres­i­den­tial spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte had ap­proved a rec­om­men­da­tion from the Fi­nance Min­istry “not to ac­cept grants that may al­low to in­ter­fere with in­ter­nal poli­cies”.

But Eco­nomic Plan­ning Min­is­ter Ernesto Per­nia said Manila’s de­ci­sion to cut aid from Europe might still change.

“I will not take that as a pol­icy,” he said. “It is more of a re­ac­tion to crit­i­cism. I don’t think it’s go­ing to re­main as such.”

He said Europe ranked fifth or sixth largest donor of of­fi­cial de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance.

Franz Jessen, EU am­bas­sador to the Philippines, said he was in­formed this week of Manila’s de­ci­sion to stop re­ceiv­ing aid from Europe, which was fund­ing about 100 com­mu­nity projects across the coun­try.

The EU has been pro­vid­ing sup­port to Manila’s ef­forts to end nearly 50 years of re­bel­lion in a con­flict that has killed more than 120,000 peo­ple, dis­placed one mil­lion and stunted growth in one of the coun­try’s re­source-rich re­gions.

Europe granted the Philippines €130 mil­lion in de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance be­tween 2007 and 2013.

In 2015, it pledged €325 mil­lion over four years to fi­nance projects in Mus­lim Min­danao af­ter Manila signed a peace deal with rebels in March 2014. Reuters

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