Philippines' chief economist to appeal Duterte decision to reject EU aid

MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - On the Duterte government’s decision to reject grants from the European Union, the Philippines’ chief economist says: “We have to parse this carefully because you know our President has a style of doing something and then taking it back later. It’s some kind of a tactic.”

The country’s chief economist will appeal President Duterte’s decision to reject the 250-million euro (US$278.9 million) aid from the European Union (EU) even as the government expects more grants from China.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the decision to decline EU aid was not a policy and would be implemented only for that specific grant.

“Projects [funded by the EU] on stream will continue,” said Pernia, head of the National Economic and Development Authority.

Noting that the decision was never discussed in Cabinet meetings, Pernia said the President was generally “open to suggestion.”

“We have to parse this carefully because you know our President has a style of doing something and then taking it back later. It’s some kind of a tactic,” he said.

Pernia said that based on his recollection, “the letter of the President rejecting the assistance from the EU was done before the trip to Geneva of our human rights team.”

The government team, led by then senator Alan Peter Cayetano, now the foreign secretary, explained the country’s human rights record to the European Union.

“What I gathered from them was that they were able to explain the human rights situation here… So, perhaps that might help change the global perception of the EU and other countries regarding the human rights situation here,” Pernia said.

But even without the EU grant and given the country’s closer ties to China, Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, “we can get other grants, too,” he said.

“That’s what the President is saying: assistance from China can make up [for the loss],” he added.

Senate allies

As expected, allies of the President supported his move. “Aid with conditions,” which “amount to interference in our sovereignty,” is not aid at all, said Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III.

Opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV called Mr. Duterte’s move “another reckless and whimsical decision.”

In the House of Representatives, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said the move was “short-sighted and obviously not well thought out.”

The decision to turn down the EU aid saddened the disaster and risk reduction management officer of Biliran province, one of the areas that received aid from the European Union in the aftermath of  Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) in 2013.

The European Union provided Biliran livelihood assistance and helped construct multipurpose buildings that would also serve as evacuation centers, according to Sofronio Dacillo.

The Department of Health, meanwhile, saw no negative impact of the decision on the health sector.

“I just got information that the EU has around P2 billion for the health sector until next year. It won’t affect us because as far as the (EU) commitment is concerned, it is a done deal,” said Assistant Health Secretary Enrique Tayag. 


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