The diplomatic community was caught by surprise when Philippine President Duterte challenged EU ambassadors to leave the country within 24 hours. The sudden announcement of Duterte came about when a group of European Parliament of socialists and democrats visited the Philippines and criticized Duterte for the alleged extra judicial killings incidents.
The European delegation also warned that the Philippines could lose some deals with the EU if the government did not stop the killings related to illegal drugs. Upon learning of this announcement, Duterte warned that he would no longer accept any aid from the EU, especially those aid with political conditions.
This was also affirmed by Foreign Affairs Minister Alan Peter Cayetano, who said that the Philippines will now reject all forms of aids and grants from EU with dictating conditions.
The EU community was earlier reported to allocate 3 million euros for its on-going poverty reduction programme and another six million euros for counter terrorism interventions for the Southern Philippines. Just a few years back, the EU has partnered with the Konrad Adenauer Stifftuing (KAS) and the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) to provide series of capacity building programs for civil society organizations in Bangsamoro communities.
Such an initiative is significant because this will pave the way to strengthen the democratic institutions of Bangsamoro communities at the height of the peace process between the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Islamic revolutionary organization in the Philippines. It is also instrumental to suppress violent terrorism in the country.
Moroever, the Philippines has been an important partner of the EU community because there are 30,000 Europeans living in the Philippines and 900,000 Filipinos are either working and residing in Europe. Thus, it will be quite difficult if the Philippine-EU ties are permanently severed because of their existing political, cultural and socio economic connections.
But the recent announcement of Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella is showing signs that the Philippine government is not at all closing its doors to the EU when he publicly announced the country also needs the EU's constructive advice and is very much open to trade with EU.
Abella seems to make manifestations that the Philippines needs the EU as a trading partner because the EU remains to be a huge market to stimulate the Philippine economy. The Philippines has been exporting coconut oil, micro electronic gadgets, electronic machinery, equipment, semiconductor devices, storage units, static converters, and other digital monolithic integrated circuits that keeps the Philippine economy afloat.
Thus, with this announcement, Philippine and EU development experts should consider looking at this as an entry point to prevent the jeopardy of the Philippine-EU fragile relations
With this development, the Philippine – European community relations can still be restored by focusing on its trade relations and how can future EU aid can enhance trade relations without mentioning the Duterte's drug war this time.