May 18 (UPI) —Rodrigo Duterte turned down economic aid from the European Union, a sign the Philippine leader is looking to China to improve trade without being beholden to Europe’s stricter standards on human rights.
Sources in Manila told local news service ABS-CBN Duterte’s administration told the EU aid is no longer needed.
The decision comes at a time when Duterte has been building a strong rapport with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Beijing has already agreed to invest $ 15 billion in the Philippines, according to the report.
“I’m now the president. The least of my worry is the EU. I have to build a nation, that’s why I went to China. I went everywhere, because we are really poor and we have to improve the economy,” Duterte said.
Europe is willing to provide trade incentives based on compliance with international human rights agreements, a policy Duterte may not have liked.
The president has come under strong criticism from the international community for his war against drugs in the Southeast Asian country.
More than 3,000 killings were attributed to his nationwide anti-drug campaign in the first three months of his presidency, and the Philippine leader has admitted on several occasions he is directly responsible for killing suspects during his term as mayor of Davao.
The decision to turn down economic assistance may not have been unanimous.
Manila’s Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said Thursday he was not consulted on Duterte’s decision to turn down European aid, according to GMA News.
“No, I don’t think so,” Pernia said in response to a question on whether he was consulted of the decision.
The EU had previously pledged more than $ 330 million in aid until 2020, focusing on the southern region of Mindanao.
The financial assistance would not be conditional on the human rights situation in the country, according to EU’s Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen.