MANILA—Senators have mixed feelings on the decision of the Duterte administration to reject the PHP13 billion aid offered by the European Union (EU).
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, in a statement, said that it showed “a significant shift in the country’s foreign policy under the Duterte administration.”
Lacson interpreted it as “a declaration of independence from the influence of the west.”
He further said that it spoke volumes about the determined position of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to stand up against the traditional patrons of former colonies like the Philippines.
The senator, however, admitted that he is not ready to say this early if it was the right direction for the Philippine’s foreign policy.
“Only time can tell if it will do our country right or not, or if it is all worth giving a chance to be tested,” he added.
He pointed out that it would have been easier to concede that it is “worth the gamble” if it were not for the territorial dispute with China.
Neophyte Sen. Risa Hontiveros said that she would “strongly suggest” that the government think their decision over carefully describing their move as an “unprecedented foreign policy decision.”
She urged the need to verify first what loan agreements the Philippines has entered into 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,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
She also reminded the government of the longstanding relationship between the Philippines and EU and the impact it will have on the country’s anti-poverty programs.
“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,” she added.
“It is the prerogative of any state to refuse to accept help from its friends abroad, the international community. The administration must then provide these ongoing projects with sufficient government funding,” Sen. Francis Pangilinan said in a statement.
Pangilinan further said that the government should also ensure that all existing and ongoing EU aid programs benefiting Filipinos in the local communities do not suffer when the aid is pulled out.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea earlier said that the decision to reject the aid is to prevent EU from meddling with the internal affairs of the Philippine government.
EU has repeatedly criticized the administration under Pres. Rodrigo Duterte for its aggressive campaign against illegal drugs.