EU aid is welcome but without conditions.
Malacanang yesterday clarified that the new government policy to refuse grants from the European Union only applies to aid with conditions that will interfere with the Philippines’ internal affairs.
The new policy does not cover humanitarian aid that usually comes without any conditions, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella told Palace reporters yesterday in his regular briefing.
“The President has approved the recommendation of the Department of Finance not to accept grants – this is not necessarily humanitarian aid from the EU – that may allow it to interfere with the internal policies of the Philippines,” Abella said.
“These grants pertained to particular projects or programs that have the potential of affecting the autonomy of the country,” added Abella.
Asked what the Philippine government considers as “interference,” Abella said its definition does not “necessarily” apply to comments by EU officials on Duterte administration programs.
“Comments do not necessarily interfere but when it begins to impose certain conditionalities that will interfere with the way we handle it, then we consider that objectionable,” he said.
He however declined to give specific examples of grants offered with conditions.
But Abella assured the public that the government will respond to the needs of communities or programs that are counting on the renewal of EU grants for certain needs.
He insisted that we can live without conditional EU grants, citing the overall growth of the country’s economy.
“The Philippines is growing by leaps and bounds. It’s second fastest growing right now in Asia. We have to gain a certain confidence in ourselves. This is exactly the kind of mentality the President wants the Filipinos to avoid – a mendicant attitude,” said Duterte’s spokesman.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said in a statement that the recommendation not to accept the EU’s offer of a grant of $280 million “would involve review of our adherence to the rule of law. “
“That specific grant that is considered interference in our internal affairs,” Dominguez added.
EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen said up to P13.85 billion grants are affected by the Duterte government’s new policy.
Improving the Philippines’ rule of law has always been part of EU aid to the country.
In 2015, the EU announced that it was doubling its aid to the Philippines for the next 7 years, citing the country’s improved performance in competitiveness and governance reforms.
Cutting aid will stop the European Union from meddling in the country’s internal affairs and is a way of asserting the Philippine’s independence stance, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said even as he confirmed that the Philippine government is no longer accepting aid from the European Union.
“To keep them from interfering with our internal affairs. We’re supposed to be an independent nation,” Medialdea told reporters in a text message.
The European Parliament has been critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, voicing its opposition to the campaign against illegal drugs and the supposed extrajudicial killings related to the campaign, as well as the reinstatement of the death penalty.
It sympathized with Sen Leila de Lima, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, and urged that she be released from detention.
De Lima was imprisoned because of her anti-Duterte stand, according to the European Parliament. She is accused by the Duterte administration of supposedly benefiting from the drug trade in prisons.