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Angara: Philippines, EU not going through divorce

Special envoy to the European Union and former Senate president Edgardo Angara appealed yesterday to his former colleagues in the Senate to speed up their concurrence to the framework Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the country and the EU. File

MANILA, Philippines — Special envoy to the European Union (EU) and former Senate president Edgardo Angara appealed yesterday to his former colleagues in the Senate to speed up their concurrence to the framework Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the country and the EU.

He made the appeal while stressing that divorce from EU was out of the question despite President Duterte’s latest rant against the bloc over human rights.

Angara, who recently led a high-level delegation to the EU, noted that EU officials have agreed on a “compromise language” on the issue of grants and official development assistance (ODA) for the Philippines.

“Our meetings in EU are really high level and across the board, in every instance…what they ask is: ‘How can we help?’ not on how we are going to divorce,” he explained.

Angara denied reports from the Department of Foreign Affairs that the Philippines would stop accepting grants from the EU.

“He was reacting to the original EU delegation statement. It’s stale news,” Angara said, referring to DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano’s announcement of the country’s rejection of EU aid.

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“It’s an umbrella organization so we can submit projects in any sector and they will consider it. If they think it is worth funding, then they will look into it,” he pointed out.

The potential projects are on top of the estimated 250-million euros in EU grants and development aid.

Angara said the EU is looking at providing 70-million euros more in development assistance despite Duterte’s rant.

Duterte ratified the framework agreement last Feb. All 28 member-states of the EU have ratified the PCA.

The other day, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella reiterated only aid offered without conditions would be acceptable.

“But we can say this, that we’re always open to the offer of constructive advice. We are also very, very open to trade and not so much to aid and grants with conditions,” Abella said in a press briefing at Malacañang on Friday.

“Meaning to say, if certain conditionalities are tied to the aid or grant, we must respectfully decline as we do not wish to subject ourselves to monitoring or be dictated to. That is, apparently, the position of the President at this stage,” Abella added.

Asked if this “policy” would also cover aid for the rebuilding of Marawi, Abella said he was not sure.

“Certainly, we have a lot of needs. The nation is quite challenged in many areas. However, the President has again and again underlined that this is not … we’re not to be mendicants, and that we are not to compromise the sovereignty of the nation,” he said.

Post-recess work

With Congress now in budget season and with the prospect of the Senate getting saddled with impeachment trials, Angara expressed hope his former colleagues at the Senate would work on the ratification of the framework agreement as soon as the 17th Congress resumes session on Nov. 13.

Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, has expressed optimism on the continued cooperation between the Philippines and the EU.

“We value our bilateral relations with the EU and we expect this to be more robust especially with the impending concurrence of the Senate in the ratification of our Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with them,” she said.

In pushing for the PCA ratification, Legarda also cited statistics in 2016 ranking EU as the Philippines’ fourth largest trading partner, fourth export market and fifth import supplier.

EU member-states represent the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country, supporting over 500,000 local jobs. It also ranks fourth among sources of ODA grants.

Moreover, the EU is home to an estimated 700,000 to 800,000 Filipinos; the 3rd largest source of remittances from overseas Filipinos and the 5th largest source of tourists in Philippines.

“We are currently negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU which will be linked to the PCA,” Legarda said.

Meanwhile, British Ambassador Daniel Pruce is seeking stronger ties between the United Kingdom and the Philippines as the two countries celebrate 71 years of diplomatic relations amid fresh tirades from Duterte.

“Celebrating 71 years of UK-Phl friendship! Sana mapalakas pa natin ang ating magandang relasyon (I hope we can further strengthen our good relations),” Pruce said in a statement.

The President last week caused confusion when he claimed that the country had refused an aid package from the UK, which the DFA later said was non-existent.

“The Philippines acknowledges the UK’s support in the development efforts of the Philippine government, particularly in Mindanao. At the moment, there is no new offer of direct monetary assistance to the Philippines,” the DFA said in a statement.

“The Philippine government is committed to continued engagement with the UK in furthering our longstanding and mutually beneficial partnership,” it added.

The UK embassy in Manila has yet to address the issue.

Cayetano on Friday also met United Nations (UN) resident coordinator in the Philippines Ola Almgren to discuss ways of further improving relations.

“Warm and productive discussion with (Cayetano) on UN & Philippine government partnership,” Almgren said on Twitter. Details of the meeting have yet to be released.– With Janvic Mateo

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