MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano appear to have different interpretations of President Rodrigo Duterte's stance on European Union (EU) aid to the Philippines.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella on Friday, October 20, said that Duterte's directive is that the Philippines will only refuse EU aid or grants with conditions.
The day before, however, Cayetano said that the Philippines will reject all types of grants from EU.
During a Palace briefing, Abella said: "If certain conditionalities are tied to the aid and grant, we must respectfully decline as we do not wish to subject ourselves to monitoring and be dictated to. That is apparently the position of the President at this stage."
Asked if this means Duterte does not wish to reject all EU aid, for instance, aid for Marawi rehabilitation, Abella said: "I cannot specifically answer for that. It all depends on the conditionalities being given."
The EU has offered P49 million in aid for Marawi rehabilitation. Humanitarian aid such as this typically come with no conditions.
This is different from grants, which could come with some requirements on how the assistance is to be used.
But on Thursday, Cayetano told reporters that his department will soon relay to the EU that the Philippine government will decline all types of grants.
Asked by reporters if this covers all types of aid, Cayetano said, "That's my impression – so aid meaning grants."
The Foreign Secretary said this is in fulfillment of a "directive" from the President himself who announced his position on the matter "in front of the uniformed personnel and the Malacañang Press Corps."
He was apparently referring to Duterte's speech on Wednesday, October 18, at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
During that speech, Duterte revived his complaint about grants from EU that come with conditions, and insisted on the supposed $18 to 20 million aid from Britain which he said the government will reject.
Abella's office insisted, however, that Abella's and Cayetano's statements are the same.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, head of the task force in charge of Marawi rehabilitation, told Rappler they would abide by the DFA's decision on whether or not to accept EU assistance for the city's recovery.
The President had talked about refusing EU aid in the first few months of his presidency, in response to the EU's expression of concern over the rising death toll in his war on drugs. (READ: Duterte to EU, US: Withdraw aid, we'll survive)
In May, the Philippines informed the EU that it would no longer accept new EU grants, pegged at around *250 million euros or P15.2 billion. – Rappler.com
*1 euro = P60.8
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.