Philippines bust-up with EU opens door to closer ties with China

The Philippine government early this year announced that it would reject aids from the EU, days after China promised to pour in billions of dollars for projects under its One Belt, One Road initiative which could purportedly help the Philippines.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano speaks during the universal periodic review of the Philippines by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on May 8, 2017 at the UN offices in Geneva. The Philippines’ record is reviewed by the UN human rights council for the first time since the inauguration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been accused of massive violations in his so-called drug war. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines will no longer accept new grants from EU to stop the bloc’s perceived meddling in the country’s domestic affairs, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Wednesday after President Rodrigo Duterte mistakenly aimed his ire at Europe.

Cayetano said that while the Philippines is being “treated as a sovereign nation,” the EU supposedly uses the aid package as an “excuse” to criticize Manila, particularly the conduct of Duterte’s deadly drug war.

The country’s top diplomat also slammed “specific” EU member-states and human rights groups for supposedly spreading “fake news” to the international community and for being “biased” against the Philippines.

“The whole point of his (Duterte) speech is that we have a problem and the problems are drugs. It’s affecting millions of Filipinos, millions of families, and we have to do something about it,” Cayetano told reporters in Camp Bagong Diwa.

“But certain groups are giving wrong facts—are giving fake news. Sinisiraan tayo all over the world so that’s why he’s decided na sa ngayon, hindi tatanggapin ang new grants from EU,” he added.

The EU has been a strong critic of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, which has taken the lives of more than 3,900 suspected drug personalities.

READ: All suspects killed in police ops were drug dealers, says Cayetano

EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen earlier said cutting aid from the 28-member bloc would mean the loss of about €250 million or $278.73 million worth of grants.

To recall, the Philippine government early this year announced that it would reject aids from the EU days after China promised to pour in billions of dollars for projects under its One Belt, One Road initiative which could purportedly help the Philippines.

But Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia later said the decision to reject EU grants was “not a policy,” adding that Duterte, who is known to flip-flop on his statements, might “take back” his remarks soon as this could only be driven by “reaction.”

READ: Philippines ends P13.8-B funding from European Union | Duterte may reverse decision to reject EU aid, Pernia says

Duterte tells EU envoys: Leave in 24 hours

Last week, Duterte falsely accused Europe of calling for the Philippines’ expulsion from the United Nations and told European diplomats here to leave in 24 hours.

This came after the seven-member delegation of the International Delegates of the Progressive Alliance visited the Philippines. The bloc clarified the delegation was not an EU mission as “falsely reported” in the media.

As his aides scrambled to soften the impact of the chief executive’s tirades against the EU, Duterteremains unapologetic and slammed EU anew for doing nothing about the visit of the seven-member group—which criticized the spate of killings under the drug war.

In the same media interview on Wednesday, Cayetano said Manila’s trade relationship with EU will not be affected by the Philippines’ move to turn down assistance from the bloc.

“So having said that, there are a lot of talks of different kinds of assistance — different countries,” he said.

European Development Fund

Europe had been funding about 100 community projects across the country, which is drawn from the European Development Fund.

In 2015, EU had more than doubled its grant assistance to the Philippines to 325 million euros (P17 billion) for 2014-2020, channeling “a more than proportional amount” of it to Mindanao as part of the bloc’s contribution to the peace process.

EU overtook the United States and Japan as being the largest destination of exports from the Philippines in March, according to the Philippines Statistics Authority.

With $901 million of total exports, this makes the EU the biggest and fastest growing export market for Philippine goods.

In 2014, the Philippines was granted beneficiary country status under the General System of Preference (GSP+) —a preferential trade deal that allows 6,200 of its products to enter the EU market duty free.

However, the alleged cases of extrajudicial killings in the country as part of Duterte’s drug war has put at risk the country’s GSP+ privileges.

The country’s beneficiary status under the GSP+ necessitates the implementation of the 27 international treaties and conventions on human rights, labor rights, environment and governance.

Results of the latest GSP+ review is expected to come out in January next year.

READ: ‘No surprises’ for Philippines, EU says, as results of trade perks review loom

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