No human rights conditions for aid to PH, says EU

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 23 2017 05:34 PM

MANILA – The European Union on Tuesday clarified its development aid to the Philippines does not come with conditions on human rights.

EU's clarification came after the Philippine government decided to reject grants from the bloc as it lamented EU's supposed interference in the country’s internal affairs.

EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen told reporters that EU's development assistance come only with "standard conditions" and is not related to human rights. 

"Human rights discussion is in a sense unrelated to our development assistance. We have a political dialogue which the Philippines and we raise our... issues...," Jessen said.

He said these standard conditions apply to all development assistance in other countries as well. 

"There are no specific conditions for the Philippines. What we do here in the Philippines is in line with what we do with other countries around the world. Similar conditions. It's standard conditions,” he said.

"You talk about for example things like corruption that if a project is heavily tainted by corruption, then we think how to do that and so on. So it's standard conditions. Also in any project you have of course specification what type of assistance we are offering. So if we support the health sector then the money should go to the health sector, they should not go to another department. So it's standard.”

Asked about the contention that the assistance was tied to human rights, Jessen said, "We have to get clarification what exactly it is that they are referring to. Those two words were not mentioned in any meeting..."

Jessen said EU won't withdraw any aid until it received clarification from the Philippine government. He said EU was "in contact with the government about how best to work on the development assistance."

The EU, Jessen said, has not yet received formal communication on the rejection of the grant.

Jessen will meet with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano next week to clarify matters related to the aid.

Jessen earlier said 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 aimed at programs starting this year until 2020.

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 from 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, 1,800 have been found to be drug-related, and over 5,000 still under investigation.

In January, the EU warned Philippines may lose trade incentives tied to compliance with international commitments, including those involving human rights.