February 25, 2018, 3:58 am
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Duterte and Europe

PRESIDENT Duterte’s foreign policy thrust has lately been defined, or limited by, the way our friends in the international community perceive his very personal advocacy, the war on drugs.

The continuing criticisms being dished out by members of the European Union and by certain agencies of the United Nations against extrajudicial killings in the war against illegal drugs prompted Duterte to reject assistance from the EU, even those intended for Marawi rehabilitation and aid to disaster victims.

Last month, it was announced that Malacañang rejected 6.1 million euros in aid (P382 million) under the EU-Philippine Trade Related Technical Assistance. This snags the implementation of another P2.4 billion or 39 million euros worth of aid in sustainable energy projects. The rejection came weeks after the European Parliament called for an investigation into state-sanctioned killings linked to the anti-illegal drug campaign of the government.

The latest manifestation of presidential displeasure and abhorrence of critics is the Chief Executive’s decision not to attend the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting in Brussels this October.

Duterte said he rejected the invitation because he will just be insulted there, will be questioned about his policies on drugs, etc. In fine, the President felt that his city-mayor ego has been pricked by European dignitaries. (“You used to belittle me. Why change your assessment of my persona? What am I supposed to do there? Ask me questions? Insult me? I will curse all of you there.”) and worse, snooty and vainglorious (“Hindi ako gaya ng ibang presidente na puede mo lang...”).

This latest tirade against Europe was dished out by the President in a speech at the 45th anniversary of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) in Pasig City last Tuesday.

Of course, European diplomats such as EU Ambassador Franz Jessen are disappointed. Jessen pointed out that Duterte’s attendance at the ASEM-12 would give him the chance to develop a better understanding of Europe.

Duterte should by now realize that he is no longer mayor of Davao City, but President of the Philippines, and he has to take care of all Filipinos, whether here or abroad. Those abroad, more than 10 million of them, are scattered in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and North and South America, and contribute much to the Philippine economy -- some $2 billion a month. Is their welfare not reason enough for their President to set aside small-town mindset and for once be a statesman that could separate the chaff from the grain, make sense of how national priorities should take precedence over personal biases?

Is it national economic interest versus ego and self-satisfaction? It’s the President’s call.
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