The Philippines on Thursday said it would reject a package of U.S. $279 million (250 million euros) in grants from the European Union tied to humanitarian projects in strife-torn Mindanao island, saying these had the potential to affect the country’s autonomy.
This would mean that Manila is turning its back on the grants which have for years funded many projects to help communities affected by armed conflict in the southern Philippines.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters the Philippines would reject EU grants that would interfere with its internal affairs.
“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 the internal policies of the Philippines,” Abella said.
EU Ambassador Franz Jessen initially told reporters on Thursday about Manila’s decision, but said his office has not received a written notice from the Philippine government.
The Philippine government’s move is an apparent rejection of the EU’s criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte’s tough anti-drug policy that, according to human-rights activists, has killed 10,000 people.
Duterte earlier had mocked the EU, challenging the bloc to stop its aid after warning that the Philippines risks losing tariff-free exports to Europe because of the killings.
This month, Philippine officials also questioned the private visit by the United Nation’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, who has been effectively blocked from carrying out an independent probe on the killings.
EU recently approved a $4 million aid package to support programs tied to a peace deal signed between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In 2015, it pledged 325 million euros ($360 million) over four years to finance projects in Muslim Mindanao after Manila signed a peace deal with rebels in March 2014.
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