By Ben O. de Vera, March 5, 2020; Philippine Daily Inquirer

https://business.inquirer.net/291870/pernia-resuming-talks-with-banned-donor-countries-to-benefit-infra-buildup

Manila, Philippines — Resuming the negotiations for loans and grants from the 21 countries that wanted to scrutinize the Philippines’ human rights record will help the government’s infrastructure development push, the country’s chief economist said.

The Duterte administration last year deferred talks for financing deals from countries that voted for or supported the United Nations’ probe of alleged human rights abuses in the Philippines due to its war on illegal drugs, but lifted this suspension last week.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia told the Inquirer on Wednesday that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was “in a better position to answer” why the government backtracked, but nonetheless said that doing so “can only benefit the Philippines in terms of its drive to improve physical, social and human infrastructures.”

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, meanwhile, declined to comment and said questions should be addressed to Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea, who issued the Feb. 27 memorandum reversing last year’s stance.

To recall, 18 countries voted in favor of the UN Human Rights Council resolution last July 11: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Uruguay.

Three non-UNHRC members—France, Germany, and Sweden—backed the resolution, hence had also been covered by the Office of the President’s memorandum in August last year that suspended negotiations for and receipt of grants and loans.

Last year, Dominguez said among the borrowings in the pipeline that had been affected by the memo included France’s 21-million euro proposal to finance the Metro Manila Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as well as Germany’s $36-million pitch to fund studies on climate change.

Dominguez had said the President’s earlier order “will not significantly affect the infrastructure program of the government” nor the economy as a whole.

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