Duterte Rejects Millions of Dollars in Aid to Defend Drug War


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has forgone helicopters, weapons and a proposed train line through Manila worth millions of dollars – all in defense of his deadly drug war.

Duterte rejected the loans and grants from nations critical of his policy – the latest includes the U.K., Australia and 16 other countries that favored a U.N. resolution urging a probe into the government’s campaign that’s claimed thousands of lives over the last three years. Japan, the Philippines’ top source of foreign aid, abstained from the U.N. vote.

“The President will not compromise the nation’s dignity over any amount of foreign loan, aid or grant,” said Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo, describing criticism of the drug war as foreign intervention. Most citizens support the drug war, according to a recent survey.

Still, not everyone in the government agrees with Duterte’s decision. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said his department will ask to be exempted from the directive, as it is affecting the country’s military modernization plans which tap foreign aid.

Duterte’s rejection of foreign aid shows “hypersensitivity” to opposition to the drug war, said Malcolm Cook, senior fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “Most populist leaders play this same sovereignty card when criticized by foreign governments.”

Below is a list of foreign deals and assistance rejected by Duterte:

  • A plan to buy 26,000 firearms from the U.S. was scrapped in 2016, after Democrat Senator Ben Cardin sought to block the weapons sale due to concerns over drug killings.
  • A $235-million deal between Canada and the Philippine military to buy 16 helicopters was canceled last year following Ottawa’s order to review the purchase on human rights concerns.
  • A total of 6.1 million euros ($6.7 million) in trade assistance from the European Union – whose parliament has called for an end to drug-related killings – was also waived by Duterte’s government.
  • Talks with France and Germany for $69 million in loans will be halted after they sponsored the U.N. resolution on the drug war, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said Wednesday. Some 200,000 euros ($220,040) from Spain will be affected based on figures released by Dominguez, who said suspended talks “will not have a significant impact on the country.”

Duterte’s reaction to foreign nations’ opposition to the drug war will discourage future aid, said Professor Maria Ela Atienza, University of the Philippines political science department chairwoman. “There appears to be more damage than benefits for the Philippines in the long run.”

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