Press Release
May 18, 2017

Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on the Duterte govt's rejection of EU aid

The Duterte government's contradictory and confusing statements on its decision to reject aid from the EU are alarming. These expose the government's lack of a clear foreign policy framework on how to deal with foreign aid. I strongly suggest that the government think this over carefully. The fact that it is at a loss for a coherent explanation for this unprecedented foreign policy decision should serve as basis for it to pause for deep reflection and reconsideration.

Firstly, there is a strong need to conduct a comprehensive debt audit as called for by Senate Resolution No. 253. The government needs to verify first what loan agreements the Philippines has entered into come with unjust terms and conditions and to enact measures to ensure the prudent and proper use of foreign aid. The principle of rejecting foreign aid with unfair conditionalities should apply not only to the EU but to all loans the country has entered into with other nation-states and international financial institutions. These include the billions of dollars in loans recently acquired from China.

Secondly, the Duterte government must approach this matter in a judicious and diplomatic manner with due consideration to the longstanding relationship the country has had with the EU and the impact it will have on our anti-poverty programs. Without the benefit of wide-reaching consultations with the legislature and economic managers on foreign affairs, trade and the economy, this decision could severely undermine legitimate aid-funded programs and services to poor and conflict-hit regions in the country. It could also needlessly strain our relationship with our biggest trading partner and send the wrong message to the global community that we are abandoning the principle of multilateralism as part of Philippine development policy.

I call on the Duterte government to get its act together and fully explain the reasons behind this unprecedented foreign policy decision. Was this based on a thorough appraisal of EU aid in the Philippines? What foreign policy objective will this serve? I hope that this is not simply a reaction to the criticisms hurled by the EU regarding the human rights situation in the country, which if true, would be myopic and irresponsible.

To reiterate, foreign aid or loans by themselves are not bad. They can be a tool for development or a symbol of solidarity between nation-states. What the Duterte government should oppose are tied aid or loans with neoliberal economic prescriptions and other grossly unfair and unconscionable terms; as well as illegitimate debts that were not used for the benefit of the people, whether they are from the EU or China.

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