Philippines wants United States to provide aid without conditions

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines on Friday appealed to former colonial ruler the United States to reconsider a decision to withhold humanitarian aid, with Manila’s foreign minister asking for the assistance to be provided without any conditions.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks next to Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, before Filipino workers who were repatriated by the Philippine government from Saudi Arabia, upon their arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines August 31, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

President Rodrigo Duterte told U.S. President Barack Obama to “go to hell” in October, and has alluded to severing ties, after being infuriated by U.S. criticism of his war on drugs, which has claimed 2,000 lives since he took office on July 1.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. poverty reduction agency, said on its website its board had “deferred a vote on the re-selection of the Philippines for compact development, subject to further review of concerns around rule of law and civil liberties”.

“If they would really like to help us on the basis of our need, they should give it to us rather, without any conditions,” Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay told reporters in Singapore, while accompanying Duterte on a visit to the tiny city-state.

“We would hope that America would try to reconsider this. This has always been our appeal to America. Treat us with mutual respect, and treat us as a sovereign equal.”

Yasay said Duterte’s government was trying its best to tackle allegations of human rights violations, the main concern of the United States.

“But we would like to make sure that if this is merely a ploy, this is merely to bow down to their demands, we will not do so,” he said.

“If they don’t want to help us, we’ll accept that.”

If Washington finally decided to withhold the aid because of human rights concerns, Yasay said it would not have a “great impact” on Manila’s economic situation.

He blamed the United Nations special rapporteur on arbitrary killings for the Philippines’ bad image overseas, and demanded an apology from Agnes Callamard.

“She must apologize for the arbitrary findings that she has made,” he said. “She must withdraw the findings immediately and admit it in public because she has unfairly damaged the country.”

Yasay said Callamard’s report could be among the reasons for the U.S.-based aid agency to consider dropping the country from its list of poor nations to be given anti-poverty assistance.

The Philippines said Callamard could still come to Manila to conduct investigations on extrajudicial killings if she agreed to government guidelines for next year’s visit.

More than 2,000 people have died in anti-drug police operations, with another 3,000 deaths, caused by motorcycle-rising masked men and by vigilante groups, under investigation since Duterte took office on July 1.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Clarence Fernandez