No ban on grants from EU, says Dominguez
The Duterte administration will decline foreign governments’ offers for aid only if they are not aligned with the government’s priority programs and projects, and if there are preconditions to such grants, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since the report on the country turning down a grant from the European Union came out, the head of the government economic team said there was no ban on grants from the EU. He said grants would be accepted especially if they were to be poured into infrastructure projects.
“There were two things involved in that. First of all, for the last six months, our President has been talking about, particularly the EU, interfering in our internal affairs. If you’re a Cabinet member, you have to listen to what the President is saying so that when an issue comes before you, you have to alert him and say ‘there is something that doesn’t seem totally in sync with what you have been saying.’” Dominguez said in an interview Friday night. President Duterte had said it was Dominguez himself who advised him to decline the grant.
“So we alerted him and he said ‘you’re right, this is an issue, and you’re right, we should take a hard stance here and say we will not allow people to interfere in our internal affairs,’” Dominguez said.
“Secondly, this issue has been discussed many, many times, and this is the issue of who is going to direct where our funding is going to go? Outsiders or us? I believe that all funded projects have to emanate from our priorities—after all, the people have elected us because those are our priorities. What we don’t want is foreigners coming here and saying ‘you should be doing this, you should be doing that’—that’s a no-no as far as this administration is concerned. You follow our priorities,” the Finance chief said.
“Now, the EU [offered]: ‘we want to help here, and by the way, we want to spend $95 million for adherence to rule of law.’ [But] that’s not our priority, [so] why should we accept it? Our priority is infrastructure, reducing poverty through infrastructure, and achieving peace. If that’s not our priority, why should we accept it? The day has passed when you have these marketing officers from foreign funding agencies coming here to tell us what to do,” according to Dominguez.
He said that when he was the agriculture secretary of former President Cory Aquino he had canceled a lot of “totally lousy” projects inherited from the Marcos (administration).
He said those projects were canceled because “there was a commitment fee.”
“Why should I have my grandson pay for a commitment fee for a project that is lousy anyway?” he said.
As far as the EU is concerned, it was only the specific offer for a grant aimed at adherence to the rule of law that was declined so far, Dominguez said. “What you [the EU] gave us in the past and what was accepted, we’re not bothered with that—they’re ongoing. But from here on, you follow what our priorities are, and if it [a proposed grant] does not follow our priorities, it’s not right for us to accept it because that’s not what our President and this administration was elected for,” Dominguez said.
The Finance chief said there was no total ban on EU grants. —BEN O. DE VERA
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