May 19, 2017 12:00 am JST

Philippines to reject EU grants after criticism of drug war

Support from China expected, President Duterte's resolve in doubt

CLIFF VENZON, Nikkei staff writer

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte's government said on Thursday it will decline donor support from the European Union if it is used as a license to "interfere" in Philippine domestic affairs.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the president has approved the finance department's recommendation "not to accept grants" from the EU that invite meddling, but declined to be more specific.

The EU has been a major donor, and supported rehabilitation of areas devastated by typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and peace efforts in the southern Philippines. In a 2015 report, the EU said it has planned for 325 million euros ($361.5 million) in  in grants to the Philippines over the 2014-2020 period for job creation and promoting the rule of law -- up from 130 million euros in the previous period.

The EU has consistently criticized the government's ferocious war on drugs. Over 8,000 drug suspects have been killed in the 10 months since Duterte came to power. Over 2,000 were executed in police operations, and the remainder by unidentified vigilantes.

Duterte has said the West does not appreciate the gravity of the drug problem in the Philippines, and made derogatory comments about both former U.S. President Barack Obama and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon after they were critical.

The firebrand president said the Philippines can get by without EU or U.S. aid. "If you think it's high time for you guys to withdraw your assistance, go ahead -- we will not beg for it," Duterte said in October.

Abella said there are other sources of funds. "As you can very well see from the past achievements of the president, he has brought in enormous amounts -- huge slabs of bacon," he said.

Duterte attended a major China-led infrastructure summit in Beijing on Monday and met with President Xi Jinping. It was his second trip to China after a state visit in October last year when he brought home $24 billion dollars in credit lines and investment pledges.

Ernesto Pernia, the socioeconomic planning secretary, said Duterte's decision could still change. "We have to parse this carefully," he said. "The president has a style of doing something and taking it back."

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