THE Philippines will reject all forms of aid from the European Union so its member states will not think they have the right to meddle in domestic affairs, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Thursday.
In an ambush interview, Cayetano said he will formally notify EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen about the country’s decision, which comes on the heels of President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest vitriolic attack on the EU, which has been critical of his bloody war on drugs.
“The point of the speech of the President last night [Wednesday] was if the grant has strings attached [such that] you can meddle in our politics, it’s more damaging than helpful [due to the] sovereignty issue,” Cayetano told reporters in the sidelines of a forum on the Asean organized by the think-tank Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia.
Cayetano said he has no information whether there are new EU grants in the pipeline, and could not confirm Duterte’s claim about rejecting a grant of $18 million to $20 million from the United Kingdom.
He then assured the public that the decision to reject the EU aid will not affect the country’s “overall relationship” with the European bloc.
“The view of the President which is shared by a number of Cabinet members is that these grants give them the legal authority to meddle that crosses [the line],” Cayetano said.
Cayetano was referring to Duterte’s pevious remarks ordering all EU diplomats to leave the country within 24 hours as he was enraged by the visit of a small group of European parliamentarians denouncing the extrajudicial killings in the anti-drugs campaign.
The EU later explained that the delegation did not speak for the EU, but Duterte was not satisfied with the clarification.
Cayetano also resented how European non-government organizations have repeatedly called on the Philippines to stop rights abuses in the so-called drugs war.
“EU-based think tanks and human rights groups have made bad and damaging conclusions and it creates an environment for them and for us, for their policymakers in not being able to deal with us in a much more friendly manner,” he said.
He said the government can take the criticism, “but let’s not talk about aid and grants because we’ll view it as meddling and you view it as you have the right to meddle.”
Cayetano described EU grants as “one-sided” since the agreements allow the EU to unilaterally end the grant and dictate the conditions.
He said “many” other countries give grants without conditions, naming India, China, Russia and Japan. He said many US grants also have “no strings attached.”
But China has granted billions in loans, not grants, to the Philippines.
Cayetano admitted he has not spoken to the EU ambassadors since the President threatened to expel them last Thursday.
“The President is not apologizing because he believes there are certain elements of the EU that are creating the environment of deceit, wrong information here and in the international media. So there’s no order [to the ambassadors] to leave [but] certain meetings will be set to clarify these issues,” he said.
The EU rdeclined to comment on Cayetano’s fresh tirade and the decision to reject the bloc’s aid.
A source said that Jessen has requested a meeting with Cayetano on Oct. 18.
The request, the source said, was made in the early afternoon of Wednesday.
In May EU on Asia and the Pacific managing director Gunnar Wiegand declared that if the Philippines does nor want it, the bloc will transfer development grants meant for the Philippines to other countries.
In a round table discussion among selected journalists, Wiegand said that if the Philippines decided not to accept the €250 million grant or P13.89 billion, the bloc will not “beg... the Philippines” to accept the aid.
“We do not believe that we have to, in any way, to beg to ask Philippine ‘please can you take our money?’...but if we are not welcome to provide money there is no lack of other countries in the region and beyond where the money can be very well used,” Wiegand, who is now in the Philippines to attend this week’s Asean Regional Forum, said.
He said there are three programs that will be affected by the rejection of €250-million fresh grant; 1) peace process including livelihood programs for people directly affected by the conflict; 2) promotion of renewable energy in Mindanao; and 3) significant rule of law component with the Supreme Court, Human Rights Commission, and other parts of the Philippines’ legal system.
He said that EU is adhering a standard principle to all recipients of their aid, which is to “observe rule of law and the guaranty of human rights.”
The envoy added that the EU’s principle is not difficult to apply especially in a democratic country such as the Philippines.
The EU was the 8th largest contributor of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Philippines in 2015, according to latest data from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). The EUprovided $227.31 million in grants, interest-free, and accounted for about 2 percent of the total ODA funding in 2015.
According to the EU office in Manila, aid to the Philippines was raised to €325 million for 2015 to 2019, from €130 million for 2007 to 2014. The bulk of the current aid has gone to Muslim communities in Mindanao where the EU has been active in funding peace- and development-related initiatives.
Since 1992, the EU has given the country a total of €2.3 billion or P128.91 billion in aid.
The country’s special envoy to the EU, former Senate president Edgardo Angara, played down Caytenao’s statement as “stale news.”
Angara said the country is set to receive more than €70 million in additional grants for the development of Mindanao, despite the President’s recent threats.
This will be on top of the €250 million that the EU is principally funding to continue with the peace negotiations with the Moro rebels.
Angara, who recently spoke with top EU officials in Brussels, told the country’s Foreign secretary to be “more careful” with his statements that might affect the country’s relations with the EU.
“Let’s not rebuild the warfare. It’s stale news,” he added.
Angara insisted that mutual consultation should arise before the Philippines could cut ties with the EU.
Duterte on Thursday told his Western critics not to interfere in the country’s domestic affairs, but said he would even give them a lead role in dealing with the drug problem if they do it “the civilized way.”
In what he called his “most courteous, ever the most condescending” speech as President, Duterte told a crowd of diplomats and senior government officials that the Philippines is trying to solve its “serious” drug problem, adding that he’s trying to solve it in his own way.
“I would like to address myself now to the Western world. Please do not impose your will on us. Do not derogate our sovereignty by lecturing on us, ” Duterte said in a high-level forum on the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“If any western country is interested to do it the civilized way, then come. I am inviting you to join the fray. And I would be glad to appoint you the lead role in the problem,” he said.
“Otherwise, if you cannot stop interfering, at least be educated in your assessment. For after all, all countries suffer from social problems.”
In another tirade against European socialists who recently visited the country, Duterte said that while the Philippines do experience many social injustices, the government “is try[ing] to correct it along the way.”
“It’s a social problem. You do not come here upon the invitation of some NGOs and the opposite political parties and look only on the number of extrajudicial killings,” Duterte said.
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