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EU to take aid elsewhere if PH doesn’t want it

/ 05:45 AM May 26, 2017

A visiting senior official of the European Union (EU) called on the Duterte administration on Thursday to make clear its position on receiving financial aid, saying there were other countries “where the money can be well used.”

In an interview with reporters in Manila, EU managing director for Asia and the Pacific Gunnar Wiegand said that there was still no clarification on what the Philippine government meant in pronouncing its categorical rejection of EU aid.

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“We hope misunderstandings can be clarified soon. But if we are not welcome to provide money, there is no lack of other countries in the region and beyond where the money can be well used,” he said.

Constructive dialogue

But Wiegand said that the EU was currently engaged in “constructive dialogue” with the Philippine  government.

Wiegand is in the country to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional forum on ways to boost cooperation in combating nontraditional security threats.

Wiegand noted that while the EU did not take the Philippine government’s pronouncement last week as an outright rejection of its financial aid, he said:

“We are looking for a clear expression of the government’s position on what is meant with the announcements that we have recently heard. My understanding is that this country wants to continue to cooperate with the EU in a number of important fields, but I need to have the clarity about the arrangements which would be seen as necessary.”

Clarification

He assured that the 27-member EU was “willing to continue to cooperate with the Philippines.”

Addressing the Philippine government’s apparent abhorrence of aid with conditions, Wiegand clarified what “conditionality” meant.

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“Conditionality is standard provision of all our financing agreements with partners whether it is in this region or other regions of the world. There’s nothing special about it,” he said.

Standard provisions

Among the standard provisions in EU financial agreements, partner-countries are required to ensure that the funding is used for the purpose for which it is given, that there will be no corruption, and that the grant is based on respect of human rights and rule of law.

“We believe that our cooperation with the Philippines is based—and will continue to be based—on those very principles. And I don’t see why the Philippines would argue against any of those principles,” he said.

He added that applying the provisions should not be too difficult for a democratic country that “stands for the rule of law and which takes its own commitments for the guarantee of human rights seriously.”

EU has given some 75 million euros in financial grants for various programs in the Philippines and some 200 million to 250 million euros have been set  aside for new projects in the areas of the peace process, renewable energy and strengthening the country’s legal system, said Wiegand. The bulk of the new aid package will go to Moro communities.

Taxpayers’ money

“We do not believe that we have, in anyway to beg, to ask the Philippines, ‘Please take our money.’ It is the offer of Europe that we stay engaged in these fields in which we have an established track record of working well together with Philippine partners and beneficiaries,” Wiegand said.

He denied that conditions attached to grants were a form of interference to domestic affairs of the Philippines.

Asked why the EU had to set standard provisions for its financial aid, Wiegand simply said: “Because it is the money of our taxpayers. They want to see where their money goes.”/rga

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TAGS: EU-Philippines relations, European Union, Foreign aid, Gunnar Wiegand
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