MANILA – Malacañang clarified on Friday, October 20 that the Philippine government’s acceptance of grants from the European Union (EU) “depends” on the conditions attached to them.
In a media briefing, Palace Spokesperson Ernesto Abella was asked if the Philippines would turn down all kinds of grants from the bloc, including any possible help for the rebuilding of the war-torn Marawi City in Mindanao.
While admitting that the country has “a lot of needs,” Abella noted that “if certain conditionalities are tied to the aid and grant,” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s position “at this stage” is to decline it.
“It all depends on the conditionalities that are being given, but one thing we are sure, we are open to, of course, is trade,” the Palace official said.
The European Commission recently pledged to provide €850,000, or about P49 million, in humanitarian aid for the victims of the Marawi crisis.
Abella maintained that the Duterte administration does not wish to subject the country “to monitoring or be dictated to.”
Earlier on Wednesday, October 18, Duterte announced that the Philippines will no longer accept grants from the EU, saying that it is an insult to the country’s sovereignty.
“I will not accept it. Hindi na baleng maghirap tayo (It’s doesn’t matter if we remain poor). Sabihin ko sa mga tao, magtiis tayo pobre tayo, pero kung ganun lang naman kung tuturuan ka kung paanong gawin (I will tell people that we can remain poor, but if they just keep telling us what to do)...We cannot forever be dependent on aid,” Duterte said.
The president remarked that he has been hurling expletives to the bloc because the European countries “do not know how to respect sovereignty.”
Duterte recently slammed the EU over the recent criticism from a seven-member delegation of international parliamentarians on the administration’s war on drugs. The bloc later clarified that the delegation does not represent the EU as “falsely reported” in the media.
Following the president’s verbal rejection, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the government has stopped accepting grants from the bloc.
According to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, the grants are apparently being used by the EU as an “excuse” to criticize the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, particularly its anti-illegal drugs campaign.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the president’s visit to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, Cayetano claimed that countries have been using grants to undermine the Philippines’ sovereignty.
“We have an issue about how we are treated as a sovereign nation, and these are donations or grants but usually may agreements, but they use it as an excuse to criticize us on certain aspects of our governance,” the foreign secretary said.
Concerning the possibility for the country to accept aid from EU again, Cayetano said it is likely as long as it was offered without conditions.
“[In my] personal view, if EU starts giving us with no strings attached, everyone could use the help. But if [it affects our] sovereignty, I don’t blame the president in drawing the line,” he said.
The foreign secretary also assured that the move to turn down the grants will not affect the Philippines’ trade with EU-member countries.
The Philippines, likewise, will continue to strengthen its bilateral relations with separate member-states of the EU.
“So, it’s a policy for us now not to accept grants from them, but I’m saying our relationship should not be affected. What the president wants is: ‘Do not accept new EU aid,” Cayetano added.
EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen previously said that cutting aid from the bloc would mean the loss of about €250 million or $278.73 million worth of grants.
It can be recalled that earlier this year, the Philippine government announced it would reject aids from the EU that “may allow it to interfere with internal affairs” of the Philippines.
Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, however, said the move to reject EU grants was “not a policy.”