PH declines EU aid after pledge of billions from China

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The European Union flag. (Reuters file photo)

(UPDATE – 7:25 a.m.) The Philippine government has told the European Union it will no longer accept development aid from the bloc, putting at risk programs to assist poor and conflict-hit regions in the country’s south, Europe’s ambassador said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, an international human rights watchdog has asked the Japanese government not to fund “potentially abusive approaches to drug rehabilitation in the Philippines.”

Ambassador Franz Jessen said the decision to cut aid from the EU, a strong critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drugs war, would mean the loss of about 250 million Euros ($278.73 million) worth of grants mostly allocated to Muslim communities.

Manila’s move comes days after Duterte won billions of dollars in pledges from China after attending the Belt and Road summit in Beijing.

“The Philippine government has informed us they no longer accept new EU grants,” Jessen said without elaborating.

The EU will issue a statement on Thursday, officially announcing the end of its funding agreement with the Philippines.

There was no immediate response from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Duterte says European nations don’t understand the extent of the narcotics problem in the Philippines.

Almost 9,000 people, many small-time users and dealers, have been killed in the Philippines since Duterte took office on June 30. Police say about a third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defense during legitimate operations.

The EU has been providing support to Manila’s efforts to end nearly 50 years of Muslim rebellion in a conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people, displaced 1 million and stunted growth in one of the country’s resource-rich regions.

It granted the Philippines 130 million euros in development assistance between 2007-2013. In 2015, it pledged 325 million euros over four years to finance projects in Muslim Mindanao after Manila signed a peace deal with rebels in March 2014.

On the other hand, Kanae Doi, Japan director at Human Rights Watch, wrote Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Shinichi Kitaoka, president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, raising concerns over a pledge to provide the Department of Health with $17 million for the “upgrading of (drug) rehabilitation centers and enhancement of treatment protocols for drug dependents.”

“JICA should disclose precisely what kind of drug rehabilitation services it is funding and the safeguards it has imposed to ensure that Japan isn’t supporting services or facilities that are violating the human rights of people seeking drug treatment,” Doi said.

HRW has been outspokenly critical about extrajudicial killings it has accused Duterte of ordering since he was mayor of Davao City.

While acknowledging that “the Philippines desperately needs voluntary, community-based drug dependence treatment services that comport with international standards and human rights principles,” HRW pointed out that “neither JICA nor the Health department have provided any details about how the Philippine government will spend those funds.”

The group said the Japanese and Philippine governments “should avoid the abusive practices uncovered in Cambodia, China, Laos, and Vietnam, whose reliance on involuntary drug rehabilitation approaches has been linked to serious human rights violations” such as torture and other ill treatment.

“Japan should help provide voluntary and community-based effective drug treatment in the Philippines, not help provide cover for Duterte’s murderous war on drugs,” Doi said.