Dominguez pushed nixing EU aid — Duterte

By Edith Regalado and Pia Lee-Brago

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Duterte revealed yesterday it was Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III who had suggested that the administration reject the European Union’s 250-million-euro development assistance to the Philippines.

“It was not my idea initially. It was the decision of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and he told me, ‘Look, if you accept the money, they have the right to look for the money,’” the President said in remarks at the 33rd Philippine Coast Guard national convention.

On Wednesday, the Duterte administration informed the EU that it would no longer accept development aid from the bloc, especially those with strings attached or conditionalities pertaining to human rights issues.

“I said bugok kayo (you’re stupid),” Duterte said, addressing the EU.

“Take your money, we will survive,” he added.

He said EU lawyers are no match for Filipino lawyers, apparently referring to a scenario where he might have to face trial for human rights abuses in an international court.

Duterte stressed that the EU should respect the independence of Filipinos. “There is such thing as dignity of the race,” he said.

In Manila, his newly appointed foreign affairs chief, meanwhile, admitted the country’s relations with the EU are heading for “rocky” territory with the Duterte administration’s rejection of development assistance from the bloc.

“We have good relations with EU but it’s going to a rocky period or roller coaster ride. But we’re in this ride together,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters on his first day at work yesterday.

In a chance interview at the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Office of Consular Affairs, Cayetano said he would meet with EU Ambassador Franz Jessen immediately after coming back from Russia as part of President Duterte’s official delegation.

“We will try to navigate this roller coaster ride together. I think there is a lot of miscommunication here,” he said.

The DFA chief said the “ball actually is now in the hands of the EU” to tell the Philippines that there are no strings attached to its grants.

“So we’re just drawing our red line,” Cayetano said.

“We’re just telling them very respectfully we believe in our independence, we know our problems better than you, you are welcome here, let’s do business but we will not accept aid if there are conditions or you will interfere,” he explained.

“But if the aid will help us or you will help us with our present problems and we can agree on a framework, that can be a different matter,” he added.

The Philippines, he said, would also want to hear the EU’s support for the country’s law and order campaign.

“They keep saying ‘rule of law’ but if they see people die they don’t call it ‘rule of law.’ So what do they want? That the police are the ones killed?” he asked in Filipino.

Cayetano cited China and Japan which, he claimed, are helping the Philippines without condition.

Reacting to National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director-general Ernesto Pernia’s statement on Thursday that he hoped the President would change his mind, Cayetano said, “I’m sure that the President will not accept money if there are conditions of it would allow interference.”

He also said the Netherlands had suggested to the Philippines the legalization of abortion during the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva last week.

Cayetano stressed the country cannot accept financial aid if it would mean giving up its strong position against abortion and illegal drugs. He said such conditions are not explicitly mentioned in the terms of aid or assistance, but it’s the job of officials like him “to read between the lines.”

Double standard

By rejecting EU aid and accepting Chinese pledges of financial assistance and investments, President Duterte was showing double standard in dealing with foreign assistance, opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay said yesterday.

“While he rejects assistance from the European Union because of alleged conditions related to his bloody campaign against drugs, he accepts Chinese pledges of aid and investments,” he said.

“This despite the overriding condition that the Philippines must not enforce against China the UN-supported arbitral decision of the United Nations arbitral tribunal adjudicating that the resource-rich and vast areas in the West Philippine Sea are part of Philippine territory and exclusive economic zones, including Benham Rise, Spratlys and Panatag Shoal,” he said.

He pointed out that while EU grants are delivered and spent mostly in Mindanao, Chinese promises of assistance and investments remain mostly promises.

“The worldwide concern on the unabated extrajudicial killings of drug suspects is merely being echoed by the European Union in the same manner that 45 out of the 47 members of the United Nations Human Rights Council have called for the end of the extrajudicial killings and endorsed the investigation of human rights violations,” he added. – With Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero, Artemio Dumlao, Marvin Sy

 

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