European Union says Philippines declines new EU grants

Philippines' Duterte gets tough on tobacco with ban on smoking in public

"We're supposed to be an independent nation", Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea said in a text message to reporters on Thursday. He did not elaborate.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reacts during a news conference at the presidential palace in Manila, Philippines March 13, 2017.

Mr Duterte past year used expletives and raised his middle finger in response to a European parliament statement expressing concern over the killings.

People who sell tobacco products in banned places could be jailed for up to three years, the order said.

"Well, we have to parse this carefully because you know the President has a style of doing something and then taking it back later".

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, whose anti-drug crackdown has incited the deaths of more than 7,000 people in the past year, has banned smoking in public.

The lady senator advised the Duterte administration to approach the matter in a "judicious and diplomatic manner with due consideration to the longstanding relationship the country has had with the EU" and its impact on the country's anti-poverty programs.

And in a press briefing, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte had approved a recommendation from the Finance department "not to accept grants that may allow (others) to interfere with internal policies".

"We also look forward to strengthening our presence in terms of the defense offices both in Moscow and here in Manila", she said, baring plans to "actually opening soon an Office of Defense Attache in Moscow". "That specific grant, that is considered interference in our internal affairs", Dominguez said in a statement sent to media.

Economic secretary Ernesto Pernia added to the confusion by saying the announcement of rejecting aid may just be a response by Duterte to the criticism and he may retract it.

"I will not take that as a policy". It is more of a reaction to criticism.

"If you think it is high time for you guys to withdraw your assistance, go ahead", he said.

The EU has been a major donor, and supported rehabilitation of areas devastated by typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and peace efforts in the southern Philippines.

The country continues to receive some donations from foreign agencies like the United Nations Population Fund.

"The Philippines is growing by leaps and bounds". Abella said he is sure Duterte sought the opinion of his economic managers before making the decision.

The scheme requires compliance with 27 global conventions, which include a commitment to never reinstate the death penalty.

Europe is willing to provide trade incentives based on compliance with global human rights agreements, a policy Duterte may not have liked. "It's a mutually beneficial arrangement", Lopez added.

The Chief Executive said he cut assistance from the European Union, staunch critic of his drug war policy, as it provided a "consensual" contract that he must uphold human rights, law and order.

"Once GSP+ is withdrawn, Filipino producers will be charged tariff rates", said Drilon.

Duterte on Friday explained that he approved the recommendation of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to reject about $200 million in financial aid from European Union to block any interference from them.

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