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MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Hours after it confirmed the new government policy to refuse grants from the European Union, Malacañang clarified that this will only apply to aid with conditions that will interfere with the Philippines’ internal policies.
The new policy does not cover humanitarian aid that usually comes without any conditions, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a news briefing on Thursday, May 18.
“The President has approved the recommendation of the Department of Finance not to accept grants – this is not necesarily humanitarian aid from the EU – that may allow it to interfere with the internal policies of the Philippines,” Abella said.
“These grants pertained to particular projects or programs that have the potential of affecting the autonomy of the country,” added Abella.
Asked what the Philippine government considers as “interference,” Abella said its definition does not “necessarily” apply to comments by EU officials on Duterte administration programs.
“Comments do not necessarily interfere but when it begins to impose certain conditionalities that will interfere with the way we handle it, then we consider that objectionable,” he said.
He declined to give specific examples of offered grants and conditions.
Abella assured the public that the government will respond to the needs of communities or programs that are counting on the renewal of EU grants for certain needs. (READ: What Typhoon Yolanda foreign aid looks like with US, EU, UN)
“It’s something that will have to be addressed properly by the proper agencies. Yes, it has a response regarding this matter,” said Abella.
He asserted that the country can live without conditional EU grants, citing the overall growth of the country’s economy.
“The Philippines is growing by leaps and bounds. It’s second fastest growing right now in Asia. We have to gain a certain confidence in ourselves. This is exactly the kind of mentality the President wants the Filipinos to avoid – a mendicant attitude,” said Duterte’s spokesman.
Earlier that day, the National Economic and Development Authority announced that the Philippine economy grew by 6.4% in the first quarter of 2017, which is below expectation, and lower than the gross domestic product growth in the previous quarter and in the same period a year ago. (READ: PH GDP grows slower by 6.4% in Q1)
The government is eyeing a 6.5% to 7.5% average growth for 2017.
Triggered by specific program
The DOF recommendation approved by Duterte was apparently triggered by a specific grant package that the EU offered “fairly recently.”
“There’s this particular proposal, it’s a grant, that had a conditionality which the DOF recommended we should not accept for the plain and simple reason that it would allow them to use that grant to interfere with the way we handle things,” Abella said in an ambush interview after the press conference.
Duterte’s approval of the recommendation means DOF can cascade the new policy to all departments to ensure all are in the same page.
“There are so many departments, one of them might accept [a grant], so all were informed,” said Abella.
EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen said up to P13.85 billion grants are affected by the Duterte government’s new policy.
Improving the Philippines’ rule of law has always been part of EU aid to the country.
In 2015, the EU announced that it was doubling its aid to the Philippines for the next 7 years, citing the country’s improved performance in competitiveness and governance reforms.
In January 2015, diplomats representing EU-member states and NEDA signed the multi-annual indicative program (MIP) for 2014-2020. Under the aid blueprint, the EU was to focus on projects aimed at improving the country’s rule of law, sustainable energy, and job generation. – Rappler.com