EUROPEAN aid will no longer be accepted by the Philippines, says its government after securing billions in monetary pledges from China, resulting in the loss of about EUR250 million (US$278.73 million) worth of EU grants mostly allocated to Muslim communities.
“The Philippine government has informed us they no longer accept new EU grants,” said EU Ambassador Franz Jessen on Wednesday. The announcement comes after China promised billions of dollars to the Philippines at the Belt and Road summit in Beijing over the weekend.
In March, the EU Parliament called for the Philippines to immediately end extrajudicial killings as part of its brutal war on drugs and for the immediate release of Senator Leila de Lima – a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed on Thursday that as part of “this administration’s independent foreign policy,” the government would no longer accept aid from the regional bloc to prevent the EU from “interfer[ing] in the internal affairs.”
But Economic Planning Minister Ernesto Pernia said Manila’s decision to cut aid from Europe may still change.
“I will not take that as a policy,” he told reporters. “It is more of a reaction to criticism. I don’t think it’s going to remain as such.”
The EU grant funding was primarily aimed at supporting the peace process in the Philippines’ troubled Muslim-majority Mindanao. A 50-year conflict has seen the deaths of more than 120,000 people, displaced one million and stunted growth in one of the country’s resource-rich regions.
Duterte says European nations don’t understand the extent of the narcotics problem in the Philippines.
The announcement came just days after Ambassador Jessen announced the EU’s intention to develop closer ties with countries in Asean.
“The work between the EU and Asean is gaining increased importance,” he said last week.
“It is a fortunate coincidence that this celebration takes place during the Philippine chairmanship of Asean,” added Jessen, as quoted by The Inquirer.
Former President Barack Obama’s criticism of Duterte’s drug war led to a cooling in relations between the longstanding allies, however have recovered somewhat under Trump.
More than 8,000 people have been killed in the Philippines since Duterte became president last June, with police claiming 30 percent of killings happened in self-defence during legitimate operations.
Additional reporting from Reuters.