US not renewing aid package for Philippines

The US has not renewed a major aid package to the Philippines because of "significant concerns" about the rule of law under President Rodrigo Duterte.
The US has not renewed a major aid package to the Philippines because of "significant concerns" about the rule of law under President Rodrigo Duterte.PHOTO: NYTIMES

Concern about rule of law under Duterte; previous grant worth $625m expired in May

MANILA • The United States has not renewed a major aid package to the Philippines because of "significant concerns" about the rule of law under President Rodrigo Duterte, the US embassy said yesterday.

"This decision reflects the board's significant concerns around rule of law and civil liberties in the Philippines," embassy spokesman Molly Koscina said in a statement after the country was not selected for a new Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant.

The previous five-year grant - worth US$433.9 million (S$625 million) - expired in May.

The US government set up the MCC to promote economic growth and reduce poverty around the world. Countries qualify if they "demonstrate a commitment to just and democratic governance, investments in its people, and economic freedom", according to the corporation's website.

The US has been a vocal critic of Mr Duterte's war on drugs, which has claimed more than 5,000 lives since he took office nearly six months ago.

The criticism, including from US President Barack Obama, has severely strained ties between the long-time allies.

Mr Duterte has in response branded Mr Obama a "son of a whore" and told him to "go to hell", while seeking to establish closer ties with US rivals China and Russia.

Ms Koscina said the corpor- ation's board decided to withhold a vote on whether to reselect the Philippines because of rights concerns, although it could still be considered in the future.

"MCC will continue to monitor unfolding events in the Philippines and underscores that all country partners are expected to maintain eligibility, which includes not just a passing scorecard but also a demonstrated commitment to the rule of law, due process and respect for human rights," she said.

Philippine police have reported killing 2,086 people in anti-drug operations since Mr Duterte took office on June 30. More than 3,000 others have been killed in unexplained circumstances.

This week, Mr Duterte said he had personally killed suspected criminals when he was mayor of a southern city to set an example for the police.

At least two senators have said the President risked impeachment for his remarks on Monday, but Mr Duterte's allies in Congress dared his opponents and critics to file such a motion, saying removing the leader through a political process was a numbers game.

There are fewer than 50 opposition lawmakers in the 293-member Lower House of Congress. A two-thirds vote is needed to impeach a president.

An opinion poll released yesterday showed the President retained a "very good" rating, with a net satisfaction rating of 63 per cent, just lower than 64 per cent in September.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2016, with the headline 'US not renewing aid package for Philippines'. Print Edition | Subscribe