MANILA - The Philippines will no longer accept conditional aid from all countries and not just members of the European Union (EU), Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Wednesday.
The country’s top diplomat made this clarification after earlier saying that Manila would no longer accept aid from the European bloc to prevent it from interfering in the country’s domestic affairs with its criticism of the government’s war on drugs.
“If there are conditionalities — and this is not an EU-specific policy, I cleared with the President — that will affect our sovereignty or give you the right to interfere into our domestic affairs, we will not accept that donation,” Cayetano told reporters.
Duterte has been repeatedly slamming the EU for its criticism of his anti-narcotics campaign, calling it undue interference with Manila’s domestic affairs.
Cayetano said rejecting aid that comes with conditions would not mean that people who need it would suffer, noting that the EU may still course their donations through private entities.
“You can give it directly to the people. So for example, the US, they use international organizations. Even [the] EU gave some of the money to [the] International Red Cross,” Cayetano said.
The foreign affairs chief met with EU representatives in Clark, Pampanga on Tuesday and explained the Philippine position on the aid issue.
He also said the Philippines and EU’s trade ties should not be affected.
“In trade, you pay for what you buy. If there are [trade] privileges, their consumers also benefit and we also benefit,” he said.
Earlier this year, the EU had said it was reviewing the Philippines' trade perks pre-conditioned on the country's compliance with international agreements, including human rights pacts.
The EU was the Philippines' fourth largest trading partner in 2016. Since December 2014, the Philippines has enjoyed enhanced trade preferences with the EU under the bloc's Generalized Scheme of Preferences plus (GSP+), a trade privilege that is tied to a country’s performance of its human rights obligations.
Human rights groups estimate that the death toll in the war on drugs could be as high as 13,000, a figure dismissed by the government as overblown.
Police statistics place the number of deaths at 3,800.
The administration has said it does not sanction summary killings of drug suspects, adding that those slain in police operations had put up violent resistance.