PH, EU say aid, joint projects intact despite Duterte's ire

Reuters

Posted at Mar 02 2018 08:06 PM


MANILA- The Philippines and the European Union said on Friday they were still working together on development projects, despite President Rodrigo Duterte's rebukes of the bloc and declarations he would not accept its aid.

Duterte has repeatedly slammed the EU for what he perceives as criticism of his war on drugs, where thousands have died. He has approved a finance ministry recommendation to stop accepting grants that carried conditions, especially on human rights.

EU aid to the Philippines will continue, Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said, despite "misunderstandings."

Pernia on Friday met Stefano Manservisi, chief of the European Commission's Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development, to discuss an electrification project for rural areas.

"We have a good relationship. Friends sometimes have misunderstandings," Pernia told reporters after the closed-door meeting.

Manservisi, in a media briefing, said he also met with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.

"The issue that our aid is rejected was not discussed. The issue of (the EU) being here or not has not been discussed," Manservisi said.

"We discussed what we can do together, how we can do it."

He also clarified that EU's development assistance to the Philippines was not linked to any "unilateral conditionality."

Asked to comment on Pernia's remarks, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said what Duterte had rejected were aid packages "with strings attached."

"I will have to check but there may be a lot of aid packages," he told reporters.

The EU currently has a Philippines funding commitment of 260 million euros (P16.64 billion) mostly for renewable energy development and rural electrification projects, which "can go on," he said.

The EU could provide an additional 170 million euros (P10.8 billion) or more in financial assistance in the future, which may include funding being worked out with the Asian Development Bank, he said.

Manservisi said he had not discussed human rights with Philippine officials.

The issue is extremely sensitive to Duterte, who believes foreigners are misled by human rights advocates and do not understand the magnitude of the Philippines' drug problem.

He has lashed out numerous times at the EU bloc when criticized by members of the European parliament or by European activists.

The President has declined an invitation to visit Brussels this year. 

The administration has asserted that it was not behind summary killings, saying drug suspects slain in police operations had put up violent resistance