As EU questions Duterte tirades, Palace insists: Europe-PH ties still solid

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 28 2017 05:38 PM | Updated as of Mar 28 2017 06:34 PM

FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while answering questions during a news conference upon arrival from a trip to Myanmar and Thailand, March 23, 2017. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

MANILA - Ties between the Philippines and Europe remain "excellent and solid," Malacañang insisted Tuesday after the European Union (EU) asked Manila to explain the "unacceptable" comments of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

"If you're talking about relationships with Europe, our relationships are quite solid and economically-based," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press conference. 

The bloc, Abella added, has even offered help in rehabilitating Filipino drug dependents. 

The EU has summoned and asked a Philippine envoy to explain the Duterte's statement that he would be happy to hang foreign officials who oppose his anti-drug and pro-death penalty campaigns. 

Abella defended Duterte's statement, saying the President had only affirmed Philippines' sovereignty. 

"It was on the context of non-interference with the national sovereign affairs simply because he felt they were infringing on our national sovereignty," he said. 

"I'm sure that by this time we understand that it's more than being literal. He basically speaks about an attitude, that we should be left alone to do our part." 

Duterte has repeatedly lambasted the EU after it joined an international chorus condemning the deaths of thousands of suspected criminals amid Manila's crackdown on narcotics. 

The EU is currently reviewing whether the Philippines can still qualify for trade incentives that are pre-conditioned on compliance with international agreements, including those on human rights.

The European Parliament has also called for the immediate release of detained Senator Leila de Lima, one of Duterte's fiercest critics.