MANILA – The European Union will find ways to continue helping the Philippines even after the government rejected another P380 million in aid from the bloc, European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines President Guenter Taus said Friday.
“It's not a very pleasant situation to be in because, first of all, the money is appropriated for certain purposes and we have all hope that we could push through with it, but we usually adapt to the circumstances and we find ways to continue to aid one way or the other,” Taus told ANC's Market Edge with Cathy Yang.
EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen had confirmed earlier this week that the government turned down 6.1 million euros or more than P380 million in aid from the European bloc.
This followed earlier statements of Philippine officials that the Philippines would no longer accept tied aid from the EU and other foreign governments that may affect the country's sovereignty.
The bloc had drawn President Rodrigo Duterte's ire for its criticism of his war on drugs, with the Chief Executive saying Europeans do not understand the magnitude of the country's drug problem.
For Taus, aid offered by the EU were "standard contracts."
“From the EU perspective, there’s no issue there because these are standard contracts, standard agreements with numerous different countries, it’s a standard clause that’s there, it is imposed by the European parliament,” he said.
The ECCP, he said, intends to keep trade relations with the Philippines and even bring business to Mindanao despite the enforcement of martial law in the area, Taus said.
Granting the President's request due to remaining security threats, Congress had extended martial law in Mindanao until December this year despite the end of the five-month conflict between state troops and Islamic State-linked terrorists in Marawi City.
“Again, you still have uprising now and then, people watch it and people say would I want to put $100 million investment in area which is under martial law? If you live here, it's totally different from those who don’t live here and don’t understand the rules on the ground. Our work becomes a lot more difficult. It's not an easy task,” he said.
Despite the aid rejection, the Philippines gets to keep its trade perks under the EU's grant of preferential trade access to developing countries, allowing tax and duty free exports of about 6,000 products to Europe.
“It would have been a pity if we lose that status but thank God we retain it. I would say we should see some more growth there,” Taus said.
He said President Donald Trump’s “America first policy” will allow the EU to "pick-up the slack and channel more goods out of the Philippines to Europe."