Duterte: EU is the least of my worries

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2017 04:29 PM

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in his speech during the during the Change of Command Ceremony at the Presidential Security Group (PSG) Compound in Malacañang Park on March 23, 2017. Toto Lozano, Malacanang Photo

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday blasted the European Union anew, saying the organization is the least of his worries.

“I’m now the President. The least of my worry is the EU. I have to build a nation, that’s why I went to China. I went everywhere, because we are really poor and we have to improve the economy,” Duterte said in a speech during the 31st Biennial Convention of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Duterte has been defiant against the US and other Western nations which have criticized his war on drugs.

Duterte’s incendiary rhetoric, as well as controversial policies, risk the Philippines losing its trade incentives from the EU.

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.

A monitoring team from the EU earlier arrived in the country for an assessment of the country’s trade perks under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+), which allows the Philippines to export to the EU without duties or with reduced tariffs.

The Philippines was given preferential status under the European Union-GSP+ in December 2014, allowing the duty-free export of some 6,000 eligible products to the EU market.

The European Parliament also recently called for the release of detained Senator and top government critic Leila de Lima.

In turning against the West, Duterte has embraced China despite Manila’s bitter dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea.

Duterte has chosen not to antagonize China over the dispute, in exchange for more vibrant economic ties. Last year, he often assailed the US government, then headed by President Barack Obama, for criticizing his bloody war on drugs.

Despite cozying up to China, Duterte maintained he is adopting a “non-aligned” foreign policy.

“I went to China, I said, Mr. Xi Jinping, I’m here to shake your hand. I’m not asking for anything. I just want to trade with you, because you seem to be far away,” he said.

“I said, I will adopt a non-aligned foreign policy. But I would like to trade with you and please help us. So we are getting a relief from our hardships.”