Philippines rejects European development money as China fills the funding gap | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 18.05.2017
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Philippines rejects European development money as China fills the funding gap

Last year President Duterte dared European Union officials to withdraw funding if they didn't approve of his drug war. Now, flush with Chinese money, he can finally sever his reliance on EU cash.

The Philippines will no longer accept European Union aid, officials said Thursday, instead relying on the support of China.

"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," presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters Thursday.

Philippine Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea echoed the sentiment, saying the decision to decline about 250 million euros ($280 million) from the EU was to preserve national autonomy.

"We're supposed to be an independent nation," he said in a message to reporters.

'We will not beg for aid'

In October 2016, President Duterte dared Europe and the US to withdraw development funding if they did not like his war on drugs, which has killed almost 9,000 alleged small-time users and dealers since Duterte took office in June.

"We will not beg for it," he said at the time. "How do you look at us? Mendicants?"

The comments came after consistent EU criticism and a Brussels review of the Philippine exports' duty-free status.

The EU delegation in Manila said the Philippine government informed it about its decision Wednesday, but it had not yet received written notice.

Filipino funeral parlor workers carry a dead body following a police operation against illegal drugs in Manila, Philippines, 10 November 2016 (picture alliance/dpa/F.-R. Malasig)

Western criticism of Duterte's deadly drug war has pushed the Philippines expand ties with China

But the country's Economic Planning Minister Ernesto Pernia said the decision could still change.

"I will not take that as a policy," he told reporters. "It is more of a reaction to criticism. I don't think it's going to remain as such."

Europe gave the Philippines 130 million euros in development assistance from 2007 to 2013. In 2015 it pledged 325 million euros over four years to finance projects in Muslim Mindanao after Manila signed a peace deal with Maoist rebels in March 2014.

The 50-year conflict killed more than 120,000 people and displaced 1 million others.

Billions of dollars from China

The move came just days after Duterte reportedly won pledges worth billions of dollars from China, which has supported his drug war and sought to deepen economic ties.

During a trip to Beijing for the Belt and Road Forum, Duterte's much-softened approach to Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea earned billions of dollars of investment for the country.

Four agreements were signed during the visit, including free infrastructure projects, feasibility studies for further infrastructure projects, memorandums of understanding on cooperation in human resources development and personnel exchanges, energy cooperation, and enhancing government capabilities in communication and publishing.

Very few Western leaders attended the diplomatic summit, which showcased President Xi Jinping's signature foreign policy initiative.

Duterte has also warmed up to Russia and will travel to Moscow next week to meet President Vladimir Putin.

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