Philippines says can live with less US aid
The Philippines says it could live with even less aid from the United States after Washington said it was halting a decision on a major aid package to Manila.
The US embassy in the Philippines said on Thursday that it had missed out on a second aid grant to Manila after it was “deeply troubled” by remarks made by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte had said in a speech on Monday that as a former mayo, he would patrol on a motorcycle, hunting for criminals to kill. He said that he was “really looking for an encounter to be able to kill.”
The US decision reflected “significant concerns around the rule of law and civil liberties in the Philippines,” said Molly Koscina, a spokeswoman for the embassy.
She made the remarks after the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US poverty reduction agency, said it had deferred this week a vote on a renewal of the development assistance package for the Philippines.
The MCC wrote on its website that for a country to receive funding, it “must demonstrate a commitment to just and democratic governance, investments in its people and economic freedom.”
The Philippines Economic Planning Minister Ernesto Pernia, however, said his county was not worried about the decision.
“It’s not going to be anything of significance,” he said. “Given the amount of investments that many countries are interested in putting in, I would not lose sleep over that.”
He said the Duterte government could tap other sources of financing in the region, including the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Duterte has pledged to increase infrastructure spending to help lift economic growth of more than 100 million in the country.
“The AIIB president was here the other day. He was trying to sell assistance,” said Pernia, adding that the government would also talk to Japanese and Korean officials looking for projects to invest in.
In October, the Philippine president suggested severing ties with the US after the White House criticized Manila’s war on drugs, which has so far killed more than 2,300 suspected drug sellers and users.
He also called on the US to withdraw its special forces troops from Philippines’ Mindanao island, to where they dispatched in 2002 for what it called training and advising Philippine military units fighting local militants.
Duterte said he was looking forward to relations improving under president-elect Donald Trump with whom he spoke on the phone in early December. He said Trump had encouraged him for the drug war and wished him well.