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DFA seeks EU assurance ‘no strings’ on future aid

By Ted Tuvera, Joyce Ann L. Rocamora and Charlie V. Manalo

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) wanted an assurance from the European Union (EU) that its future offers for grants and aids would have “no strings attached” after it banned EU financial assistance deemed intervening in internal policies.
“The ball actually is now in the hands of EU,” Cayetano said during his inspection in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) consular office in Aseana City in Parañaque to mark his first activity as new Philippine top diplomat.
Cayetano said future EU financial assistance should be guided by: the removal of “strings” in their humanitarian help; that they will not interfere in the country’s internal affairs, and that these will support the  campaign for law and order.
Cayetano said during the recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of United Nations (UN) members on their compliance to human rights provisions, where most EU member states were present, there were suggestions raised that were not aligned with Philippine principles.
“One suggestion from the Netherland is to allow abortion,” he said, asking that if EU will provide aid, “do we also allow abortion to push through?”
Continuing further, he said many countries in the EU also believe in the legalization of drugs, legalization for possessionfor personal use.

“So what will you do with that huge amount of money, if people will be left with their addictions?”, he said.
Cayetano said while there were no mentions of these conditions in the EU aid agreement, “if analyzed, these were inferred.”
“Our work in the government, the Department of Finance, National Economic Development Authority, the Executive Secretary, the military, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the DFA, is to read between the line,” Cayetano added.
He said the country has “good relations with EU but it’s undergoing a rocky period, as what they say, a roller coaster ride. But we are in this ride together.”
Cayetano to meet EU envoy
Cayetano said he will see the EU Ambassador immediately after his trip in Russia with President Duterte, and “will try to navigate this roller coaster ride together.”
He added the current policy (of rejecting EU aid with string attached) is “good” since “we are an independent nation, and we have an independent foreign policy.”
“We are drawing the red line. We are not slapping it at EU or any other countries, we are just telling them very respectfully that we believe in our independence, we know our problems better than you,” he added.
Cayetano compared the financial assistance packages from China and Japan, which he said do not have conditions attached to these.
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo defended the Duterte administration over its rejection of EU grants and aid.
No price tag on sovereignty
“Self-determination and sovereignty do not have a price, which was what the Duterte administration had shown in its decision to stop aid from the European Union that has strings attached that interferes in the internal affairs of the country,” said Castelo.
Malacañang said the Duterte administration has rejected specific but not all the grants offered by the EU saying it reserves the right to decline offers from foreigners which interferes in internal affairs.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said there are provisions in the EU aid offers that tends to interfere in the policies of the Duterte administration and which President Duterte disagrees with.
Abella clarified that the aids rejected were those with specific requirements that impose conditionalities on how the government does its function and not those with humanitarian purposes. Pending EU grants which are intended mainly for social development and improved governance were estimated at around 250 million euros or P14 billion.
The EU Parliament had earlier sharply criticized the Duterte administration’s conduct of the war on drugs as it threatened to withdraw trade privileges on Philippine products over the alleged extrajudicial killings (EJK) linked to the President’s tough campaign against drugs.
Castelo said that foreign governments should first review the basis of their allegations on Mr. Duterte since no proof yet exists that the President was either behind or had encouraged EJK.
Philippine National Police (PNP) representatives were recently in the United Nations (UN) and EU in Geneva Switzerland, and Brussels, Belgium, respectively to clarify the methods in government’s all-out war against illegal drugs before the European Union (EU) Human Rights Commission.
What was specifically clarified was the number of deaths classified as EJK which had rapidly risen from 7,000 to 9,000 and 10,000 deaths which was a capricious figure based on yellow concoctions.
The PNP delegation maintained that only around 2,800 have been killed in legitimate police operations related to the campaign against illegal drugs.
The PNP said the homicide and murder cases were erroneously lumped together with the death figures which resulted in a bloated figure.
Castelo said partisan efforts to destabilize the Duterte administration have a lot to do with the bloated EJK figures that are being peddled to foreign media which then come up with stories that link the EJK to the President.
“The recent surveys showing 80 percent public support on Mr. Duterte show the majority perception that the President is making the right decisions to benefit Filipinos,” Castelo said.
Examine US aid, too — Ibon
Think-tank Ibon Foundation also advised Mr. Duterte to also review grants coming from the United States that has conditions attached similar to those from the EU.
Ibon said if the Duterte administration thinks that the EU’s aid come with conditions that appear to intervene with internal policies, then President Duterte should consider how more interfering were conditions attached to US assistance.
“The US is the most interventionist foreign power in the country and aggressively interferes in the country’s economic and political affairs far beyond what the aid figures might indicate,” Ibon said yesterday.
Labeling the US as “the single-biggest foreign influence on Philippine economic policy-making,” the group cited that since 2011, the US government had been using the $739 million Partnership for Growth (PFG) initiative to bring the Philippines into its flagship Asia-Pacific economic integration scheme – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.”
It also pointed to “interventionism” in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded The Arangkada Philippines project (TAPP) administered by the American Chamber of Commerce from 2010 to 2016 that lobbied for 471 policy recommendations of which some 80 percent have been started or already completed.
Other USAID economic policy projects cumulatively worth some $50 million include: the Trade-Related Assistance for Development (TRADE), Facilitating Public Investment (FPI), Investment Enabling Environment (INVEST), and Advancing Philippine Competitiveness (COMPETE) Project.
“The US wants policies that benefit American corporate export and commercial interests as well as create the kind of free market-driven trade and investment system in the Asia-Pacific that allows it to maintain its hegemony and dominant economic position,” Ibon said.
“US intervention in Philippine economic policy-making has always been to serve its own economic interests and not to develop the country,” it added.
True enough, compared to America’s ODA to the Philippines, EU’s is relatively smaller.
The US$227 million from the EU in 2015 was just 1.5 percent of total ODA for the year.
Even if aid from multilateral agencies is not counted, EU aid to the Philippines is still less than 3 percent of total bilateral aid from individual donor countries, Ibon noted.
Japan leads with a 65 percent share of total bilateral aid followed by the US at 15 percent, Australia at sevem percent, and Korea at six percent.
No serious backlash — Villar
The government can do away with the European Union’s developmental aid which comprise not even a fraction of the government’s yearly national budget, Sen. Cynthia Villar said yesterday.
“That’s (approximately) P16 billion. Our budget is P3.3 trillion. How many percent is that of the (national) budget? That is small compared to the total budget,” the senator said in reference to the EU’s 250 million Euro aid turned down by the Duterte administration.
“I’m a believer. We can improve ourselves on our own and we will work hard for it,” she said.
Villar, an administration ally, backed Mr. Duterte’s decision saying that it would be not so much of a loss to the government especially if there are conditions in the grant would not be realized.
It’s understandable for the administration to reject such aid as there appears to be some colatilla attached on some of their concerns, the senator said.
The senator said it’s only but logical for the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to come in contradiction with the position of Malacanang.
                      

Angie M. Rosales

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