The European Union is set to provide the Philippines with 243.1 million peso (€3.8 million) for its drug rehabilitation programme, despite having rocky relations with President Rodrigo Duterte.
The European Commission’s international cooperation and development chief Stefano Manservisi told the media the programme was “addressing how to bring back to normal life people”.
He added that there was no condition attached to the latest development aid, which was part of 10.6-billion peso the EU was planning to donate for Philippine projects by 2020.
An estimated 900,000 Filipino workers are in the EU and Manservisi said the Duterte administration’s alleged disregard for human rights did not automatically result in a suspension of aid.
“This is something on which we express concern. This is part of the political dialogue. But this does not imply an automatic conditionality that since we are concerned therefore we suspend our cooperation,” Manservisi added.
Manila said last May that it would no longer accept EU aid because Duterte said it would come with conditions for the Philippines, particularly on human rights and the rule of law.
Manila said the EU invested 61.8 billion peso in 2016, representing 28 per cent of foreign-direct investment that year.
In December Manila formally rejected €6.1 million in EU Trade-Related Technical Assistance, which Manservisi said was different from development aid.
EU ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen said in December the bloc would talk to Philippine finance minister Sonny Dominguez to make a “last attempt” to ask Manila to accept the aid.
In 2016, the EU accounted for 9.7 per cent of total Philippine trade, amounting to US$13.7 billion, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
The EU said it allotted the Philippines 20.2 billion peso in development aid from 2014 to 2020 but said only 4.8 billion peso had so far been used.
Brussels said on Friday it was poised to rekindle ties on an “equal footing” after the Philippine senate ratified the EU-Philippine Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in January.
It is hoped the deal will end troubled relations since Duterte cane to office in mid-2016, largely over Brussels’ concerns over his so-called war on drugs that has left thousands of alleged small-time dealers and addicts dead.
“The EU-Philippine relations are now firmly anchored on an ambitious and shared agreement,” Jessen said.
The deal covers education, intellectual property rights, investment, legal migration, maritime labour, security, training and trade.
It was signed in 2012 under former president Benigno Aquino.
Last month the European Parliament discussed the EU commitment to the Philippines under the Generalised System of Preference Plus (GSP+) programme. The debate followed Duterte’s outburst, where he said: “Europe wanted to give financial assistance with a condition. I said, ‘You go to hell, I don’t need your money.’”
The Philippines is one of nine countries under the EU’s GSP+, which removes customs tariffs on 66 per cent of goods.
Philippine exports to the bloc include electronics, electrical machinery, transport equipment, coconut oil, chemicals, processed meat and fish, optical products, processed vegetables, fruits and nuts.
Drug suspects are being kept in overcrowded conditions. Picture credit: YouTube