Reports from Bong Sarmiento and Ben O. de Vera, July 13, 2020; Philippine Daily Inquirer

https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1305933/eu-oks-p3-4b-for-mindanao

Manila, Philippines — The European Union has approved grants totaling 60.5 million euros (around P3.4 billion) for two government projects in Mindanao, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III announced on Sunday.

Dominguez said he recently signed separate financing agreements for the 35.5 million euro (P1.98 billion) Mindanao Peace and Development Program (Minpad) and another 25 million euro (P1.4 billion) for the Support to Bangsamoro Transition (Subatra) program.

He said the grant for the Minpad project, to be implemented by the Mindanao Development Authority, would involve agricultural cooperative financing and infrastructure projects that were also expected to create jobs in rural communities in Mindanao.

On the other hand, the five-year Subatra program will involve capacity-building projects in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to develop infrastructure for its democratic instutitions.

The European Union will provide 96 percent of the project’s 26-million-euro (about P1.46 billion) cost while the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation will cover the remaining 1 million euros (P55.89 billion).

Subatra will boost the capacity of the Bangsamoro executive branch to formulate and implement transitional policies and to strengthen the BARMM Parliament’s legislative, oversight and representation functions.It also seeks to improve the capacity of BARMM’s multifaceted Bangsamoro Justice System to adjudicate legislation aligned with international human rights standards and to enhance the role of civil society in contributing to the peaceful transition.The European Union has been a major contributor to the Mindanao Trust Fund for Reconstruction and Development, a multidonor grant facility set up in 2005 to consolidate international development aid for the socioeconomic recovery of conflict-affected communities on the island.Dominguez thanked the Europian Union for its continued support for government efforts as the grant would help the administration achieve regional growth and financial inclusion in the area.

“This EU assistance will certainly help the Duterte administration achieve its goal for a just and lasting peace and development in southern Philippines, and in supporting genuine autonomy in the Bangsamoro region,” Dominguez said in the statement.

Conditionalities

The EU grants came months after the government lifted the suspension on foreign loan and grant agreements that carry conditionalities. In 2017, the Philippines rejected a 6.1-million euro trade assistance from the Europian Union, as the government declined foreign grants with conditions from the donors. Three other projects amounting to 39 million euros were also turned away in 2018.

Last February, the government lifted this ban and resumed talks for financing deals with countries that had wanted to scrutinize the Philippines’ human rights record.

For several years now, Japan has remained the Philippines’ biggest source of official development assistance, reaching 41.2 percent of the $14.5 billion total aid commitments in 2018. Loans and grants provided by Japan to the Philippines amounted to $5.98 billion as more projects were agreed upon by the two countries in that year.

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