In rejecting “objectionable” foreign aid, the Duterte administration is only following its policy of maintaining “an independent foreign policy” and avoiding a “mendicant attitude”, a spokesperson from Malacañang said on Thursday, May 18.
“We have an independent foreign policy… We can accept or respectfully decline that which we find objectionable,” Ernesto Abella said, hours after President Rodrigo Duterte announced that the Philippines would no longer accept aid from the European Union (EU).
EU Ambassador Franz Jessen confirmed the Philippines’ decision and said that this would mean the loss of about 250 million euros (P13.8 billion) worth of grants mostly allocated to Muslim communities.
Abella said, however, that in cutting the EU aid, “we need to gain a certain confidence in ourselves”.
“This is exactly the kind of mentality the president wants to avoid, a mendicant attitude,” Abella told reporters in a briefing.
Duterte’s announcement initially caused confusion even among his officials, with Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia saying in a televised interview on ANC that the decision may later be withdrawn.
But Abella said that Pernia was informed that Duterte’s statement was based on the recommendation of the Department of Finance (DOF).
Citing the DOF, Abella said the Philippine government would enforce the new aid policy on those that may interfere with the country’s sovereign affairs.
Abella, however, clarified that humanitarian aid would still be accepted by the Philippines.
He added that existing grants would continue to be implemented unless reviewed by the Philippine government.
“The President has approved the recommendation of the Department of Finance not to accept grants, and this is not necessarily humanitarian aid from the EU that may allow it to interfere with the internal policies of the Philippines,” Abella said.
“These grants pertain to particular projects or programs that have the potential of affecting the autonomy of the country,” he said.
Abella said the DOF issued this policy after the EU offered a conditional grant that seemed to interfere with the Philippines’ internal affairs.
He refused to identify the grant, saying it was a “delicate matter” but that it was offered “fairly recently.”
Malacañang’s move comes days after Duterte received billions of dollars in pledges from China where he attended the Belt and Road Initiative in Beijing.
Abella added that all government agencies were told of the new policy, noting that they usually received grants on behalf of the Philippine government.
The EU has been providing aid to the country regularly, especially in disaster response. It has also been supporting initiatives related to the Mindanao peace process.
It has, however, also been a staunch critic of Duterte, particularly on the rise of extrajudicial killings resulting from his campaign against illegal drugs in the country.