MANILA REJECTS EU AID OVER MEDDLING
RM1.2b worth of grants turned down over bloc’s criticism of drug war
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