MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said government’s decision to reject a fresh conditional grant from the European Union was made upon the recommendation of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
“I’ll tell you the truth, it was not my idea initially, it was the decision of Carlos Dominguez III,” Duterte said in a speech in Davao City.
"If you receive the money, they will have the right to question the money and interfere in our [affairs]. Kasi tumanggap ka. Under that condition, magtatanong sila ngayon,” Duterte also quoted Dominguez as saying.
EU Ambassador Franz Jessen earlier said the Philippines' decision to cut aid from the EU would mean the loss of about 250 million euros (P13.8 billion) worth of grants mostly allocated to Muslim communities.
The grants were supposed to support aid programs starting this year until 2020.
Palace officials earlier said the Philippines was not rejecting all grants from the EU, but only those that come with conditions that seem to intervene with the country’s internal affairs.
Dominguez also clarified in a text message sent to reporters Thursday that Duterte declined the aid because it “would involve [a] review of our adherence to the rule of law.”
"That specific grant is considered interference in our internal affairs,” he added.
The EU has provided a total of 2.3 billion euros (P127.8 billion) in aid to the Philippines since 1992, including support for projects in conflict-stricken Mindanao.
It granted the Philippines 130 million euros in development assistance between 2007-2013. In 2015, it pledged 325 million euros (P18.03 billion) over four years to finance projects in Muslim Mindanao after Manila signed a peace deal with rebels in March 2014.
The Philippines' relations with the EU took a turn as the bloc criticized President Duterte's war on drugs, drawing sharp retort from the tough-talking leader.
The EU had earlier expressed concern over alleged extrajudicial killings in the administration's anti-drug campaign, even raising the matter before the United Nations Human Rights Council in March.
Nearly 3,000 drug suspects have died in presumed legitimate police operations under Duterte's war. Out of some 9,000 homicide cases meanwhile, 1,800 have been found to be drug-related, with over 5,000 under investigation.
In January, the EU warned that the Philippines may lose trade incentives tied to compliance with international commitments, including those involving human rights.