Cayetano: PH will decline any foreign aid with conditions

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 20) — Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said it is now the country's policy to decline foreign aid that comes with conditions.

He clarified, however, the decisions will be made based on individual aid packages, as the government will still accept aid from any country or organization so long as the package does not come with strings attached.

This follows the government's decision to block aid from the European Union (EU) supposedly because it places restrictions on the administration's war on drugs.

"Many countries in the EU believe in the legalization of drugs, legalization for possession for personal use. So aanhin mo yung napakalaking pera kung magiging addict naman yung mga tao?" Cayetano said.

[Translation: What good will the huge amount of money be if the people become addicts?]

In line with Cayetano's statement,  Malacañang earlier clarified the Philippines will only reject aid from the EU if it meddles with the country's internal affairs.

READ: PH only refusing EU aid that affects internal affairs

The country's new Foreign Affairs Secretary added while the conditions are not explicitly laid out, government agencies could still recognize the provisions.

"Ngayon, kung babasahin mo yung ibibigay nilang aid, you might not see that there. But trabaho namin sa gobyerno - Finance Department, NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority), Executive Secretary, the military, PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency), DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) - to read between the lines," Cayetano said.

[Translation: Now, if you read the aid they will give us, you might not see that there. But it is our job in the government - Finance Department, NEDA, Executive Secretary, the military, PDEA, DFA - to read between the lines.]

Cayetano then asked the EU to show some support for the anti-drug campaign, because, he said it is based on the rule of law.

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday that Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez advised him of the idea to reject billions of pesos in aid from the EU, as it came with conditions, including a review of the country's adherence to the rule of law.

"It was not my idea initially, it was the decision of Carlos Dominguez III, Finance Secretary…kasi kapag tumanggap ka, under that condition, magtatanong 'yan sila ngayon, 'yung human rights," Duterte said.

[Translation: It was not my idea initially, it was the decision of Carlos Dominguez III, Finance Secretary…because if you accept that money, under that condition, they will have the right to question you on human rights.]

READ: EU delegation confirms PH refusing aid from EU

In a text message forwarded by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, Dominguez said Duterte "approved the recommendation not to accept the EU's offer of a grant (of) about $280 million which would involve review of our adherence to the rule of law. That specific grant is considered interference in our internal affairs."

The country is set to receive 325 million euros (around ₱18.05 billion) in aid from 2014 to 2020 under the EU's Multiannual Indicative Program for the Philippines. The money will be used for sustainable energy and job creation, legal and judicial reform, as well as feasibility studies and outreach programs.

It is not clear if the $280 million (₱13.95 billion) EU grant earlier mentioned by Dominguez is part of this figure.

Clarifying conditions

European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) President Guenter Taus said they were surprised by the the government's refusal to accept the EU grants.

"Usually grants by the EU (worldwide) are unconditional and are given in support for various (mostly humanitarian) purposes," Taus said in a statement. "In this particular case, as far as we know, most of the grant was earmarked for developing Mindanao, i.e. peace process, green power solutions, etc."

However, he said the aid might have been confused with the Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) and the free-trade agreement (FTA), which usually have guidelines and conditions attached.

"In this particular case, GSP+, an agreement that covers 6,300 items for tax and duty free import into all EU countries, did have some mutually agreed upon conditions attached to it, while for the FTA, it is premature to speculate as it is an agreement still under negotiation," Taus added.

He maintained the aid is actually allotted for further nationwide improvements, such as to help fight poverty and establish peace and order.

"As far as the business community is concerned, it has been pointed out by most (if not all) business sectors, that peace and order is an essential and integral part of doing business and attracting investments, no matter where these come from. Hence grants help to expedite this very cause," Taus said.

Taus also emphasized how the grant could help business growth in the country, while helping the citizens through employment.

"While usually grants are not affecting businesses, it must be said that they do greatly contribute to creating desirable conditions for businesses to thrive and spur inclusive growth as it creates much needed jobs - and grants come free of charge and conditions," he said.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent JC Gotinga and Digital Producer Ver Marcelo contributed to this report.