By Chino Leyco
The Philippine government is open in accepting grants and other aid from the European Union (EU) as long as they are in tune with the Duterte administration’s priority projects and programs, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.
After the government rejected a grant offered by the EU, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III spoke for the first time to clarify that the Duterte administration is not shutting its door on Europe’s future financial support.
“We’re not saying we’re shutting the door. Of course we will accept it, if it is according to our priority [like infrastructure],” Dominguez told reporters in an interview in his office last Friday night.
Dominguez also added that the government is open to renegotiate the rejected grant if Europe will respect the Philippines’ internal affairs.
“We’re saying okay, this one we don’t agree and we will not accept this one. We will not accept this particular set of conditions, we will not accept this money because we don’t think we need it for that purpose,” he added.
According to Dominguez, the government had two reasons to forego the $95 million worth of aid from Europe.
The first reason cited by Dominguez was EU’s perceived interference in the country’s internal affairs, and second, the conditions set out under the contract do not conform with the administration’s priorities
He disclosed EU was offering the money on conditions that the government will use the funds solely for the Duterte administration’s adherence to rule of law.
“The day is past when you have these marketing officers from foreign funding agencies come here to tell us what to do,” Dominguez said, adding that Europe also wanted some conditions that could be hostile to the Philippines.
“We don’t want also this conditionality in the contract that [says] ’if we [EU] decided you’re doing things we don’t like, we can cancel it [the grant] anytime without notice to you.’ I don’t think that’s right,” the finance chief said.
Dominguez believes that the country’s grants, loans and aids from foreign institutions should be in line with the Duterte administration’s priorities, such as infrastructure development, poverty reduction, and achieving peace.
“I believe that all funded projects have to emanate from what our priorities are, after all the people have elected us because those are our priorities,” Dominguez said.
“What we don’t want is foreigners coming here and say ‘oh you know, you should be doing this, you should be doing that.’ That’s a no no as far as this administration is concerned. You follow our priorities,” he added.
The finance chief also admitted that he was the one who advised President Duterte to thumb down EU’s grant, saying “for the last six months, our President has been talking about particularly the EU interfering in our internal affairs.”
“If you’re a government official, particularly if you’re a cabinet member, you have to listen to what the President is saying, so that when an issue comes before you, passes your desk, you have to alert him and say ‘hey, there is something here that doesn’t seem totally in sync with your saying,’” Dominguez said.
The DOF chief, however, assured that all existing grants and aids from the EU will continue.
“What you gave us in the past and what was accepted, [it’s] fine. We’re not bothered with that, it’s ongoing,” Dominguez said.
“But from here on, you follow what our priorities are, and if it does not follow our priority, it’s not right for us to accept it because that’s not what our President and this administration was elected for, that’s not what the people elected you for,” he added.
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