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Thursday, December 15, 2016

US cancels major aid package to the Philippines over human rights concerns

President Rodrigo Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte
US embassy says there are 'significant concerns' about civil liberties under President Duterte

The US government says it will not renew a major aid package to the Philippines worth hundreds of millions of dollars, due to concerns over the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The US embassy to the Philippines said it had “significant concerns” about civil liberties infringements in the country and declined to renew the Millennium Challenge Grant for a further five years.

The grant, said to be worth over $430 million, is open to nations that "demonstrate a commitment to just and democratic governance, investments in its people, and economic freedom”. It is aimed at reducing poverty in deprived areas.

"This decision reflects the Board's significant concerns around rule of law and civil liberties in the Philippines," the embassy said in a statement.

"The Millenium Challenge Corporation 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."

The US has been openly critical of Mr Duterte's controversial 'war on drugs', during which an estimated 5,900 people have been killed in five months.

More than 1.6 million houses of drug suspects have been visited by police to invite them to surrender and stop using drugs, or disengage from the drug trade.

Mr Duterte responded by declaring the Philippines was to "separate" from the US in a diplomatic sense, after decades of close ties between the two countries.

“By partnering with developing countries that meet rigorous standards for good governance, from fighting corruption to respecting the rights of women and the rule of law, we are maximizing our ability to fight poverty and transform people’s lives,” Millenium Challenge Corporation CEO Dana Hyde added.

The corporation announced that new grants had been given to Burkina Faso, Sri Lanka and Tunisia, with the Philippines still eligible for consideration in the future.

In October, Mr Duterte called US President Barack Obama "a son of a whore" and told him to "go to hell" following criticism of his policies.

Source: The Independent, Gabriel Samuels, December 15, 2016

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