EU aid rejected due to ‘unacceptable language’ on PH sovereignty—Lopez

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez (File photo by GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

NEW DELHI— An issue over “unacceptable language” on sovereignty led to the Philippines rejecting a 6.1 million-euro trade assistance package from the European Union (EU), Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez told reporters here on Thursday.

“What was being reviewed at the time was this particular aspect on keeping the Philippine sovereignty, because that was the most critical part of the language that must be kept basically,” he said.

“So if an agreement was not reached there, it means the language was not acceptable,” Lopez said.

On Wednesday, EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen confirmed that the Philippine side had effectively rejected the 6.1-million euro fund allocated under the 300-million euro Trade-Related and Technical Assistance (TRTA-4) Project Phase Four.

READ: EU: 6-M euro aid gone amid strain in PH relations

Speaking at a news forum, Jessen said the Philippines was supposed to sign a document for the TRTA by the end of 2017, but “that has been returned to us unsigned.”

“We’re now in 2018. We cannot spend 2017 money, so that’s gone,” he said.

In October, President Duterte launched an invective-laced diatribe accusing the EU of disrespecting Philippine sovereignty after a visiting group of progressive European parliamentarians released a statement denouncing the country’s human rights record.

Mr. Duterte then announced that the Philippines would no longer accept grants from the EU.

Lopez acknowledged that there were efforts to correct the language in the TRTA document but the deadline had lapsed before it could be fixed.

Speaking at the same briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines was not dependent on doles.

“The Philippines does not rely on doles to respond to the needs of the people. We have outstanding Philippine growth… The Filipino can bring solutions to the problems of Filipinos,” he said. /je

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