Philippines to reaffirm EU ties after Duterte criticism

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 30 2017 12:00 PM | Updated as of Mar 30 2017 12:18 PM

MANILA - The Philippines will reaffirm its strong ties with the European Union, which President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly attacked for criticizing his war on drugs, his chief envoy said Thursday.

Duterte on Wednesday said members of the European Parliament were "foolish" for demanding the release of Senator Leila de Lima, whom they deemed a political prisoner.

"The message we’ll be sending to the EU of course is to reaffirm our strong relationship with the European Union, and our efforts to build up on that," acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said.

"We have a big relationship and we try and keep it steady and look at the aspects, positive aspects," he told ANC's "Headstart."

The EU accounted for nearly 10 percent of the Philippines' total external trade in 2016, with receipts worth $6.4 billion.

Manalo siad he shared Duterte's concern over the European bloc's call to free De Lima, a vocal critic of the President who was arrested on drug-dealing charges.

"We already have informed the EU on that recent resolution by the EU parliament and the fact that we are a bit concerned about the language that they had used in that resolution," he said.

"Sometimes, we’re not exactly sure where they get their information. They don’t bother to double check what’s going on," he added.

The EU this week summoned Philippine Chargé d'Affaires to Belgium, Alan Deniega, to explain Duterte's "unacceptable" remarks.

In an expletive-laced tirade, Duterte last week rejected the EU's health-based approach to solve the drug problem.

Manalo said Deniega and European External Action Service Deputy Secretary General, Jean-Christophe Belliard "had a broad discussion on issues of mutual concern to the Philippines and to the EU."

"I think our report was they had a good exchange on the overall state of our relationship with the EU, which by the way, has a very long and extensive history," he said.