PRESIDENT Rodrigo announced that the Philippines would no longer accept new grants from the European Union (EU) to stop its alleged meddling in the country’s domestic affairs.
In a speech during his visit to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City on Wednesday, Duterte said he would reject any grant from the EU as it was an insult to the country’s sovereignty.
“Kaya ko ‘yan sila minumura kasi (I’m cursing them [EU] because) they do not know how to respect sovereignty,” Duterte said.
“Kailangan natin aid. Pero kung ganun lang naman, tuturuan ka kung paano gawin (We need aid but if it’s like that you are taught how to do it)… that’s pedantry,” he added.
The President said the British government was about to give a grant but he turned it down, disputing reports that London made no such offer.
“They are about to make an offer. (Finance) Secretary (Carlos) Dominguez asked, I said, ‘No, I will not accept it,'” Duterte said.
“It’s alright that we remain poor. I will tell people that we can remain poor, but if they just keep telling us what to do…we cannot be forever be dependent of aid,” he added.
In a chance interview after the event, Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano claimed that while the Philippines was being “treated as a sovereign nation,” the EU would supposedly use the aid package as an “excuse” to criticize Manila, particularly the conduct of Duterte’s deadly drug war.
“The whole point of his (Duterte) speech is that we have a problem and the problems are drugs. It’s affecting millions of Filipinos, millions of families, and we have to do something about it,” Cayetano told reporters in Camp Bagong Diwa.
“But certain groups are giving wrong facts—are giving fake news. Sinisiraan tayo all over the world so that’s why he’s decided na sa ngayon, hindi tatanggapin ang new grants from EU,” he added.
The EU has been a strong critic of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, which has taken the lives of more than 3,900 suspected drug personalities.
EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen said cutting aid from the 28-member bloc would mean the loss of about €250 million or $278.73 million worth of grants.
The Philippine government in early 2017 announced that it would reject aids from the EU, days after China promised to pour in billions of dollars for projects under its One Belt, One Road initiative which could purportedly help the Philippines.
But Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia later said the decision to reject EU grants was “not a policy,” adding that Duterte, who is known to flip-flop on his statements, may “take back” his remarks soon as this could only be driven by “reaction.”
Last week, Duterte accused Europe of allegedly calling for the Philippines’ expulsion from the United Nations and told European diplomats here to leave in 24 hours.
This came after the seven-member delegation of the International Delegates of the Progressive Alliance visited the Philippines. The bloc clarified the delegation was not an EU mission as “falsely reported” in the media.
As his aides scrambled to soften the impact of the chief executive’s tirades against the EU, Duterte remained unapologetic and slammed EU anew for doing nothing about the visit of the seven-member group, which criticized the spate of killings under the drug war.
In the same media interview on Wednesday, Cayetano said Manila’s trade relationship with EU would not be affected by the Philippines’ move to turn down assistance from the bloc.
He added that the country would also continue to move forward with bilateral relations with separate member-states of the EU.
“So, it’s a policy for us now not to accept grants from them, but I’m saying our relationship should not be affected. What the President wants is: ‘Do not accept new EU aid,” Cayetano said.