Philippines declines new grants from EU: officials

AP, MANILA

Fri, May 19, 2017 - Page 5

The Philippines will no longer accept new grants from the EU, officials said yesterday, forgoing possibly more than 250 million euros (US$278.7 million) in funds for development projects.

The EU delegation in Manila said the Philippine government informed it about its decision on Wednesday, but it has yet to receive a written notice.

Philippine Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, in a text reply to reporters, said the move was “to discourage them from interfering with our internal affairs.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte earlier had challenged the EU to stop its assistance after the bloc warned that the Philippines risks losing tariff-free exports to Europe because of the thousands killed in the war on drugs launched by Duterte and Manila’s moves to revive the death penalty.

“The president has approved the recommendation of the Department of Finance not to accept grants from the EU that may allow it to interfere with internal policies of the Philippines,” Philippine presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters yesterday.

EU Ambassador Franz Jessen said more than 250 million euros worth of grants could be at stake.

“We are still awaiting more detailed clarification from the government,” Jessen said in an e-mail. “The amount possibly concerned by the new decision is 250 million euro plus. For this year the amount affected could be 100 million euro.”’

Development projects using EU assistance include a 35 million euro grant to support the peace process with Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines.

The EU is the largest foreign investor in the Philippines, the only ASEAN member to enjoy duty-free exports under the EU’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences incentives for developing countries.

The Philippine’s duty-free exports to EU was worth about 1.6 billion euros last year, according to EU delegation data.

In March, the EU summoned a Philippine envoy to explain an expletive-laden tirade by Duterte, who threatened to hang EU officials for opposing his efforts to reimpose the death penalty.