EU optimistic PH gov’t won’t reject P3-B fund earmarked for Marawi rehab

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Philstar file photo of European Union Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen

MANILA, Philippines — Despite Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano’s pronouncement that the Philippine government would no longer accept foreign aid with strings attached, the European Union remains confident that the P3-billion fund (55 million euros) it is earmarking for Mindanao, particularly for war-torn Marawi, will not be rejected by the Duterte administration.

EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen on Thursday told reporters on the sidelines of the Energy Smart Philippines 2017 in Taguig City that the union’s grants to the Philippines in the past had not affected the country’s independent foreign policy.

Last Wednesday, Cayetano said if foreign donors would “give us conditionalities that will affect our sovereignty” and “give (them) the right to interfere into our domestic affairs, we will not accept that donation.”

READ: PH gov’t to reject aid with strings attached from all countries, says DFA chief

Jessen said he had talked with Cayetano and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III last Tuesday and he thought that the two department heads “are practical people,” who “at the end of the day,” would “look at the principles, and look at what actually is happening, what is our development assistance all about.”

The envoy told reporters the union was internally discussing the amount that it was planning to grant to Mindanao that could be increased from 55 million euros to 100 million euros or about P6 billion.

He said the fund could help create jobs for Southern Philippines, particularly residents of the Lanao del Sur capital, as well as provide energy needs and support peace and stability efforts in the region.

“Job creation would be a major focus. The energy will also be a major focus,” Jessen said, adding that the EU had been quick to respond in rolling out assistance following the crisis in Marawi, including spending more than a million euros to provide potable water to those affected by the war in the city.