Yasay slams US for suspending multi-million dollar development grant
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. slammed on Friday the United States for suspending its multi-million dollar development grant, saying if America is sincere to help a friend and ally, it would not set conditions.
In a press conference in Singapore where he accompanied President Rodrigo Duterte on a state visit, Yasay downplayed the impact of the decision of the Millennium Challenge Corp., a US aid agency, to defer a vote on re-selecting the Philippines to receive bigger funding due to concerns on "rule of law and civil liberties."
US has been criticizing how the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has been implementing its war on illegal drugs, resulting in the death of over 5,000 suspects since he assumed office on June 30.
"Now, according to our economic experts, the decision not to give us this assistance under the Millennium Challenge Corporation will not really have a great impact," he said.
While the second compact would involve "much substantial amount" than the first grant of $434 million, Yasay said, "we’re not really bothered by it, we will not be sleepless over this decision."
Yasay said if the US would really like to help the Philippines on the basis of its need, the assistance should be given without any conditions.
"But unfortunately, especially in recent months, when the president has taken over as president, they had raised concerns about not granting this because of concerns, alleged concerns with respect to again alleged violations of human rights, that they have, they have based simply on unverified reports," he said.
The US, instead of relying on propaganda against the Duterete government's war on drugs, should have verified and validated the reports with the Philippine diplomatic post or use its "very good assets and information gathering" in the Philippines, he said.
"They cannot just simply come up with decisions in the grant or non-grant of this assistance, on the basis of these unverified reports," Yasay said.
"And this is precisely the beef at which we are taking against the United States, especially so, that this has come soon immediately after we said we were going to realign our concept of an independent foreign policy where the paramount national interest will always be pursued," he explained.
Yasay said it is "very clear" now to the Philippine government that this imposition "is simply being made so that on the other hand, if we will be given this assistance under the Millennium Challenge Corporation, we first have to bow down to the impositions of conditions that they are making and this is something that we feel is not conducive to strengthening our relationship with friends, especially traditional allies, especially close friends, you know."
He expressed hope America would try to reconsider this, stressing the government's appeal to "treat us with mutual respect and treat us as a sovereign equal."
"You cannot just simply (say) that, ‘Oh we know, we would like to give this to you but you have toe the line insofar as our policy is concerned’," he said.
Yasay said the Duterte government understands America's concern about alleged human rights violation and the Philippines is also "very deeply" concerned about this.
He said the government is trying to address the concern in the best way it can.
"But America must make sure that in our ability to deal with our problems and addressing it as effectively as we could, they must recognize that we have to deal with these problems on the basis of the priorities and urgent needs that are on the ground for us to effectively address them," he said.
In the same press conference, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said instead of suspending the assistance, US could have helped the Philippines by providing the fund to catch the criminals and the drug lords.
"And we also hope that the decision whether to push through or not would be based on much more in depth study rather than basing it on you know, either the press, what’s coming out in the media, you know, out there, which may not have solid... not based on solid grounds," he said as he reiterated that the government does not condone extrajudicial killings and human rights violations.
Yasay said if the MCC assistance was merely a ploy by the US to cow the Philippines and to bow down to the former's demands, "we will not do so. If they don't want to help us, then we'll accept that."
"But we feel very strongly that as friends, this is not the tack that should be adopted." Celerina Monte/DMS