Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte stated on October 18 that his country will no longer accept aid from the European Union if it comes with conditions. While speaking at a visit to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, a city in the metro Manila area, Duterte stated: “I’m cursing them [the EU]because they do not know how to respect sovereignty,” making it clear that he views foreign aid that comes with conditions as a form of disrespect to sovereignty.
The specific affront to Philippine sovereignty refers to the EU’s criticism of the current, violent war on drugs in the Philippines. Duterte views such criticisms as interference in an internal issue.
These strong and provocative comments from Duterte have led to a series of contradictions and back-pedalling among officials in the Philippine government. The Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella publicly announced opposing policy on accepting aid within a day of each other.
On October 19, Cayetano told reporters that the Philippines would not accept any aid from the EU despite months of talks with the organization. Cayetano based these comments on a directive from the President himself.
The next day, on the 20th, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella contradicted what Cayetano had said less than 24 hours earlier, stating that, “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.”
Next week, on October 25, Cayetano stepped back on what he had said 6 days earlier and brought his stance in line with Abella’s statements that only aid and grants with conditions would be rejected.
“I already stated the policy, if there are no conditionalities and it will not affect our sovereignty, then everyone is free to help. If it will [have conditionalities], then we will not accept it but it will not hurt Marawi or the community because they are free to give it to international organizations or to the community directly,” the Secretary of Foreign Affairs said.
Duterte’s reactions and the contradictions in his ministers’ statements are part of a long series of incidents that have questioned the Philippines’s international reputation and the status of its internal domestic politics.