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EU Ambassador Franz Jessen. ALVIN I. DACANAY

No pause in EU financial help as new aid deal eyed

Despite President Duterte’s decision to reject European Union (EU) grants and aid with conditions involving governance, the EU continues to offer financial assistance to the country. 

The government and EU were in talks for a possible development assistance, particularly for Mindanao, EU Ambassador Franz Jessen said.

He said the EU continued to work with various government agencies on projects and programs focusing on sustainable development.

“We have an ongoing dialogue with the government. And within that, we are focusing on the different sectors, particularly to support the peace process in Mindanao, and we do that with different actions,” Jessen said.

He added that among the targeted development assistance of the EU in Mindanao, in collaboration with the Philippine government, include job creation, promotion of sustainable energy, and electrification in rural areas.

“The amount is not determined yet but we are looking at a very substantial contribution to that,” he said.

Jessen said the EU, when granting aid for the Philippines, did not push any conditions specific for the country.

“We don’t have grants with specific conditions. There’s some misunderstanding on that,” he said.

The envoy mentioned that the EU, like any other donors, makes sure that there are specific targets and updates needed to be achieved.

“What we have is, as all other donors of course, when we provide grants, there will be title that this will go to this sector, and there are specific actions under that. And of course, we do not come with a sack of money and we gave that and we say you can do whatever you want,” Jessen said.

“There will always be terms of reference for the assistance,” he noted.

“So, it’s a general condition that other countries also signed up without any big conditions. And for the Philippines, because nothing specific for the Philippines, it is we called general conditions,” he added.

Jessen said all development assistance would undergo review and evaluation to ensure that grants were not tainted with corruption.

Meanwhile, the five-year development assistance of EU through the EU-SWITCH Policy Support Component Philippines is set to expire this month.

Through the program, the EU provided 3.5 million euros, or about P190 million, worth of technical assistance to the Philippine government, which resulted in several key policy measures supporting the country’s Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016 and the PDP 2017-2020 and the AmBisyon Natin 2040.

EU remains major trade partner

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is also optimistic of the country’s trade performance for the rest of the year considering thriving exports and trade linkages, especially to Europe and East Asia.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that total trade grew to $11.7 billion in April 2017, with the 12.1 percent growth in exports offsetting the 0.1 percent decline in imports.

“For exports, East Asia and the EU remain the top destinations of our products, accounting for 62.3 percent of total export receipts,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said.

Exports to EU and East Asia grew by 36 percent and 10 percent in April 2017, respectively.

“Despite global uncertainties, we remain upbeat that the country will sustain the strong performance of export and trade growth recorded in the first quarter,” Pernia said.

Meanwhile, sales of exports to Hong Kong (36.8 percent), China (26.4 percent), South Korea (18.9 percent), and Taiwan (26.4 percent) posted double-digit growth while exports to Japan fell (-16.6 percent).

“We aim to deepen our engagement with our neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region to enhance trade and investment links,” said Pernia.

He recognized positive contributions of trade connections and cited China as an example, where merchandise exports increased by 27.7 percent from October 2016 to April 2017 compared with the 7.1 percent decline from January to September 2016.

“Also worth noting is the tripling of exports to the UAE and India in April. This was the third month that receipts to UAE tripled, and the second month for India,” he added.

Exports to UAE and India grew by 286.4 percent and 204.1 percent, respectively.

“We see an opportunity to strengthen bilateral ties with India as it becomes a major player in the global economy. Their large consumer base can be an important market for Philippine products,” he added.

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