MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippines formally rejected at least P380 million (6.1 million euros) in aid from the European Union, Ambassador Franz Jessen confirmed Wednesday, January 24.
Jessen, head of the EU Delegation to the Philippines, was referring to the EU-Philippine Trade Related Technical Assistance (TRTA) worth 6.1 million euros, or around P383.64 million.
Asked if the Philippines has ever formalized the rejection of EU aid, Jessen said: "It was formalized in the sense that we had, for example, the TRTA, a document that actually had to be signed by the end of the year. And that has been returned to us unsigned."
In an interview with reporters after the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay, Jessen said the TRTA "was rejected at the end of the past year."
The Philippines earlier said it is rejecting all forms of aid that come with conditions, such as respecting human rights.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly slammed the EU for supposedly meddling in his war on drugs, which has killed thousands. (READ: Behind the scenes, PH scrambles to mend EU ties)
On Wednesday, the EU ambassador also said the Philippines is about to reject an additional P2.4 billion (39 million euros) in aid for sustainable energy projects.
Jessen said the Philippine government's objections have to do with the words "rule of law," "democracy," and "human rights" linked to the TRTA.
The ambassador said the conditions attached to EU aid, however, "are not specifically for the Philippines" but for the EU's cooperation "with all countries in the world."
"For me it's a bit sad that after 30 years plus of development cooperation, we suddenly get into this situation. And the independence of Philippine foreign policy – I'm still struggling a bit to understand how we are interfering in that," he said.
PH policy on aid
Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said the Philippines is not rejecting all forms of grants from the EU.
Cayetano said that the Philippines will reject only foreign donations that come with "conditionalities that will affect our sovereignty." He said that this is "not an EU-specific policy."
A visiting EU official, Gunner Wiegand, told reporters in May 2017 that the EU will not "beg" the Philippines to accept European aid, as there "is no lack of other countries" to help if the Philippines rejects their offer.
Wiegand is managing director for Asia and the Pacific of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU's diplomatic service, the counterpart of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Wiegand said, "We do not believe that we have to, in any way, beg, to ask the Philippines, 'Please, can you take our money?'"
"We are willing to continue to cooperate with the Philippines, but we are not asking for this. We are offering," he added. – Rappler.com
*1 euro = P62.89
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.