MANILA, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines has decided to withdraw its application for a second round of grants from a U.S. aid-giving body, Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), after MCC suspended aid packages to the Philippines over human rights concerns last December.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told a press conference on Tuesday that the Duterte administration needs to focus on rehabilitation efforts in southern Marawi City.
"By way of final announcement, we have opted to withdraw from the second millenium challenge," Roque said. "The decision to withdraw was because of the urgent priority of the administration to rebuild Marawi," he added.
The first compact of grants to the Philippines from the MCC, worth 434 million U.S. dollars, was approved in 2010 and expired in 2016. The aid supported national road development project, community development project and other programs in the Philippines.
Last December, MCC refused to renew the aid packages to the Philippines over "significant concerns around rule of law and civil liberties in the Philippines," referring to the alleged "extrajudicial killings" in the "drug war" that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte started since he took office last year.
However, Roque denied that the Philippines' withdrawal this time has anything to do with U.S. criticism on the current campaign against illegal drugs.
"It was really just that Marawi happened. We did not expect it and it's going to be a very costly rebuilding," he said.
Marawi, a city on Mindanao island, was ruined by a five-month battle between the government troops and terrorists from Maute group and Abu Sayyaf, who laid siege to the city in May. The Philippine military declared an end to the armed conflict on Oct. 23.
Roque said the Philippines still welcome the help from the United States. "We have invited the U.S. government's continued support and assistance for the reconstruction of Marawi," he said.