MANILA – Malacanang on Thursday said the Philippines has decided to reject aid coming from the European Union so it would not "interfere" in the country’s affairs.
"Yes. To enable them not to interfere with our internal affairs. We're supposed to be an independent nation,” Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea told reporters in a text message.
Ambassador Franz Jessen said the decision to cut aid from the EU, a strong critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's drugs war, would mean the loss of about 250 million euros (P13.89 billion) worth of grants mostly allocated to Muslim communities.
Manila's move comes days after Duterte won billions of dollars in pledges from China after attending the Belt and Road summit in Beijing.
"The Philippine government has informed us they no longer accept new EU grants," Jessen said without elaborating.
Duterte has repeatedly slammed the EU for criticizing his war on drugs. He says European nations do not understand the extent of the narcotics problem in the Philippines.
Official data from the Philippine National Police pegs the total number of homicide cases since Duterte came into power at 9,432.
Of this number, 1,847 are said to be drug-related, while 1,894 are not. The remaining 5,691, approximately 60 percent of the total figure, are still under investigation.
NO REJECTION OF TRADE PERKS
Manila’s rejection of aid from the EU also comes as the bloc reviews the trade perks it gives the Philippines which are tied to its adherence to human rights commitments.
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.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez told reporters that the Philippines still wants to engage the EU on trade matters, noting that the both the Philippines and the EU “mutually benefit” from the GSP+.
"No we don’t want the current GSP to be affected. It’s not a grant and they are commercial transactions that can mutually benefit both sides. EU should continue to engage the country,” Lopez said in a text message.
"GSP provides better market access to our exporters but it allows cheaper Philippine products for EU consumers or cheaper inputs for their manufacturers. EU investors in the country that exports back to EU also benefit from the GSP. Its a mutually beneficial arrangement."
The EU has been providing support to Manila's efforts to end nearly 50 years of Muslim rebellion in a conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people, displaced 1 million and stunted growth in one of the country's resource-rich regions.
It granted the Philippines 130 million euros in development assistance between 2007-2013. In 2015, it pledged 325 million euros over four years to finance projects in Muslim Mindanao after Manila signed a peace deal with rebels in March 2014. – with Reuters