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Rejection of EU aid a significant shift in foreign policy – Lacson

Published

By Mario B. Casayuran, Hannah L. Torregoza, and Ben R. Rosario

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson yesterday said the decision of President Duterte to reject foreign aid with strings attached shows a significant shift in the country’s foreign policy.

Lacson said the decision is apparently a declaration of independence from the influence of the West, such as the United States (US) and European Union (EU).

Lacson (Manila Bulletin)

Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson (Manila Bulletin)

These nations, according to Lacson, have been using grants and trade as the proverbial stick and carrot.

Lacson was referring to President Duterte’s decision to reject $278.73-million grant from the 28-member EU for mostly Muslim communities.

The decision “speaks volumes about the President’s determined position to stand up against the traditional patrons of former colonies like the Philippines,” he said.

Lacson said he is not ready this early if this is the right decision of the country’s foreign policy.

“Only time will tell if it will do our country right or not, or it is all worth giving a chance to be tested,” he added.

Drilon warns of negative effect

But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon warned that the decision to reject the aid may negatively affect the Philippines trading relations with EU-member countries.

Drilon said the Philippines and EU’s partnership has resulted in billions of pesos in trade, helping to boost the economy and generate job opportunities.

Thus, he said, he is saddened by this latest development noting that the EU has been a reliable trading partner “and their assistance, by way of grant or aid, extended to the country through the years has been benefiting our people particularly those in the impoverished communities in Mindanao.”

“I hope that the government has studied this thoroughly and carefully and is prepared to deal with the consequences of its decision,” Drilon said.

The EU has been the Philippines’ committed partner in the pursuit of peace and development in Mindanao, Drilon said.

Due to EU’s support to the government’s peace process, Drilon said, it provided around 80 percent of the total funds to the Mindanao Trust Fund – a facility set up by various donors to fund socio-economic recovery of conflict-affected communities in the Southern region.

Zero tariff in peril

Drilon said the administration must not forget that aside from developmental aid, the Philippines is also a beneficiary of the Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) that allows the Philippines to export 6,274 products to the EU at zero tariff, including the famous tuna of General Santos City.

“This makes EU as one of the biggest trading partners of the Philippines, with the total trade between the EU and the Philippines reaching 12.9 billion euros or roughly P704 billion in 2015,” Drilon said.

“Of which, 1.38 billion euros were from products qualified under the GSP+ scheme,” he underscored.

Citing the first quarter data for 2017 provided by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the senator said exports to EU constitute 15.5 percent of total exports of the Philippines, making the EU as the fastest growing export market for Philippine products.

Drilon recalled that before the Philippines was accepted in the GSP+ in 2014, Filipino exporters had suffered heavily from the declining trade with the EU, from 8.5 billion euros in 2002 to 5.1 billion euros in 2014.

And this decision of the Duterte administration to reject EU aid “might trigger the removal of the Philippines from the GSP+.”

“Once GSP+ is withdrawn, Filipino producers will be charged tariff rates,” he said, saying further that the tuna industry would be imposed a 22 percent tariff once GSP+ is removed.

The value of tuna exports to EU member countries such as Germany, United Kingdom and the Netherlands in 2015 amounted to $133.12-million or roughly P6.65-billion, he noted, citing the PSA data.

He also warned that the tuna industry, as well as those products enjoying zero tariff stand to lose millions of pesos in case the GSP+ is terminated.

Drimon said he does not believe the EU has any intention to interfere in the government’s war on drugs and other internal affairs.

“The Philippines and EU’s long-standing partnership has always been based on mutual respect and cooperation,” he said.

“While it is the right of any country to accept or reject any grant from another country or institution, I do not agree that the grants offered by the EU would give it a license to interfere in our country’s internal affairs,” Drilon added.

“We are just being asked to adhere to our treaty obligations and they did not come from the EU but from the treaties that we have signed and ratified,” the lawmaker reiterated.

Decision decried

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman of the Liberal party (LP) decried President Duterte’s decision to reject the EU aid, saying that it is “skewed double standard” policy in the handling of foreign aid.

Lagman said that while Duterte snubbed the EU aid for being pinned with conditions related to human rights and his anti-drug campaign, the Chief Wxecutive welcomed China’s pledges for aids and investment that is cloaked with a condition that Philippines should set aside the UN arbitral decision on the West Philippine Sea dispute.

He aired doubts that Duterte consulted with his economic team before making the decision, saying that the President may have ignored their advice.

However, former LP Rep. Winston Castelo strongly backed Duterte’s action, saying the EU’s conditions for the grant of aid contradicted the Chief Executive’s foreign relations policy.

“Self-determination and sovereignty do not have a price, which was what the Duterte administration had shown in its decision to stop aid from the European Union that has strings attached that interferes in the internal affairs of the country,” said Castelo, a Quezon City congressman who recently joined Duterte’s PDP-Laban party.

Castelo, chairman of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development, said the EU and other foreign governments have no sufficient basis to accuse the Duterte government of violating human rights in trying to win the war on drugs.

He said many foreign countries are being misled into believing that there exists state-sponsored killings, adding that the figure of extra-judicial killings, which had been placed at over 8,000, is being fed by political critics of the president.

“The recent surveys showing 80 percent public support on Mr. Duterte show the majority perception that the President is making the right decisions to benefit Filipinos,” Castelo said.

Alarming

But Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the Duterte government’s contradictory and confusing statements on its decision to reject aid from the EU are alarming.

“These exposed the government’s lack of a clear foreign policy framework on how to deal with foreign aid. I strongly suggest that the government think this over carefully. The fact that it is at a loss for a coherent explanation for this unprecedented foreign policy decision should serve as basis for it to pause for deep reflection and reconsideration,” she added.

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  • sherifffdb

    Any gift should be unconditional, no strings attached.

  • stjohnofthevatican

    If the EU really wants to help, there should be no condition except making it sure that the money goes to the people it intended to assist. As far as I can remember EU mentioned abut this grant few months back during the height of the so called “extra judicial killings”. So yes, they are forcing our government to change course in exchange for this so called “grant’.

  • Torogis ask

    Kita nyo si pesting Drilon, talagang baboy. Nagpapanic na kasi wala na siyang makukurakot na aid galing sa ibang bansa. Hoy mahiya ka! magtrabaho ka kasi huwag palaasa sa ibang bansa. Sa laki ng kawatan mong yan eh ready to eat lang hinihintay mo.

    • Marzan Rodesan

      torogis gamitin mo naman ang kapinaggot mong utak paminsan minsan, paano pa makakapangurakot ang mga lp wala na sila sa poder, ang concern nila ay ang kapakanan ng mamamayang na dapat makinabang sa mga tulong ng ibang bansa na may magandang loob pa na magbigay tulong sa kabila ng maruming bunganga ng panggulo ninyo.

  • Aubb

    How much did ordinary Filipinos really benefit from foreign aid and grants during the tenure of past administrations in the Philippines….????

  • Wilbert Santos

    GOOD! Philippines will RISE! faster than i reckon

  • Ray

    drilon is not making sense. if we decline to accept the aid the trade will get affected? aid and trade are apples and oranges. if the EU sees it differently then they do have a hidden agenda.

  • Aid is Pinas is abuse and source of corruption. Better try without aids for a while so we work ourselves for the good.

  • Idoy

    Even the richest country, the need for money is not enough. Take for example the USA which is the richest in the world, the lawmakers from the left still wants to tax corporations, personal income and trade because money is needed to fund for free health care for smokers, food abusers, drug crazy and unplanned pregnancies. Health abusers in the Philippines after getting sick and diseases resulting for abusing health like alcohol, too much partying, and drugs – ask and beg relatives for money to pay for hospital. Only crazy relative would offer lifetime savings and retirement money to help health abusers. Philippine does not need EU aid when considerable aid from China is already available.

  • Bakafighter

    Bullcrap! Drilon just reaffirmed the notion that the aid from the EU comes with strings attached. No aid no trade?

  • Luis Manalo

    This government is now saying we don’t need the EU aid, want to recall what happened when they earlier said we don’t need to import rice? They even fired an under secretary who thinks otherwise and is now proven to be more logical thinker than duterte…

    • Aphetsky Lasa

      Importing rice is different from receiving grants. When we import rice, we buy. It is a needful option to sustain us during low production yield. Money from grants is something that carries with it the stigma of our country being poor and thus needing outside aid to sustain us. If the EU feels the need to help, then it should have no strings attached to it, like meddling in our affairs. Perhaps they could give us the money as form of credit payable in a certain number of years. That way, wala tayong utang-na-loob dahil babayaran nga.

      • Luis Manalo

        My opinion is not even directed to the kind of loan or aid that we are receiving, if you’ll just tinker on it, am questioning more the reliability of their decision making.. which is by far have a pattern of flip-flopping since it is hastily made and lacked introspection…

        • Aphetsky Lasa

          Flip-flopping is part of objective governance because it takes into consideration another option that would work better. What’s the point of sticking to a finalized decision when it would not bring result in the long run? Hence many heads pooling together. The President is always open to suggestions and I believe he favors those that would bring result. If he and those trusted people behind him think that getting out of the clutch of the EU and other western countries bodes well for the country, then who are we to say otherwise? They are the leaders and know best. If they fail, then we judge. In the meantime, let them do their job.

          • Luis Manalo

            ha ha ha flip flopping is simply a sign of a dumb-founded decision…that’s all to it honey…

          • lance ceellot

            pasikat

          • Luis Manalo

            sikat na ba? :)

          • lance ceellot

            ha?

          • Aphetsky Lasa

            Well. That is your opinion. But, I hope you don’t get into a situation when you feel the need to reconsider because it could be a game changer. And when it becomes too late to change your mind, you might just want to kill yourself. There is a saying in Tagalog, which goes like this: Ang tumakbo ng matulin , pag matinik ay malalim. So, good luck na lang sa iyong makulay na mundo, honey.

          • Luis Manalo

            It would never cross my mind…and hindi na uso tatakbo ng matulin.. pwede ka sumakay para di ka matinik.. improvise, that is if you know how. :)

    • lance ceellot

      umalis ka dito sa goverment na to, doon ka sa pluto,

      • Luis Manalo

        Make me…he he

        • lance ceellot

          ok.. i will make you…. hahaha

  • Michael Tangonan

    there are several charitable agencies that the eu can donate so their money will be use directly to the needy.

  • Luis Manalo

    Come on people, get real, in this world when something is given, something is also to be taken…

    • lance ceellot

      greedy luis

      • Luis Manalo

        am I? :)

        • lance ceellot

          sagutin mo haha