By BusinessMirror, October 8, 2020; Business Mirror

The United States, through USAID and the Department of Finance (DOF), signed a new, five-year bilateral assistance agreement valued at more than P10.5 billion (about $213 million) to boost the country’s economic development and growth.

This agreement enables USAID and the Philippines to deepen their commitment in accelerating inclusive, broad-based economic growth through policies that increase investment and trade throughout the archipelago. New programs and activities will promote inclusive, market-driven growth; improve the business environment; expand economic opportunities through private-sector led innovation for medium and small businesses; and increase information and communications technology access for the digital economy which will benefit both producers and consumers.

Activities also include strengthening local civil society organizations to advance locally led programming and policy-making in the Philippines, as well as facilitating coalitions and partnerships between the government and other stakeholders toward data-driven decision-making.

Additionally, USAID will continue to support Philippine government objectives by improving public sector transparency and accountability; advancing the rule of law and the justice system; and boosting local governments’ responsiveness to Filipinos’ needs.

“This new USAID and DOF bilateral agreement will expand our support to help the Philippines achieve long-term, private sector-led economic growth and strengthen economic governance,” USAID Mission Director Lawrence Hardy II said. “These programs will create jobs and help ensure more inclusive, broad-based economic development.”

This bilateral agreement with the DOF is one of four new, five-year USAID-Government of Philippines Development Assistance Agreements set to launch within the year, with an anticipated total value of P32.7 billion (around $675 million) over five years. Other new agreements include:

With the Department of Health: To improve underserved Filipinos’ health by strengthening health systems while improving the quality of health services, especially in treating tuberculosis, providing access to those who seek family planning services, and community-based drug dependence treatment;

With the National Economic and Development Authority: To protect ecosystems by promoting sustainable use of natural resources, enhance energy security, and build capacity to mitigate risks and respond to natural disasters; and

With the Department of Education: To improve early grade reading, expand science and mathematics curricula, as well as increase out-of-school youths’ access to education, professional, and technical skills development that will lead to new job opportunities, and strengthen education governance.

In the past 20 years, the US has provided nearly P228.8 billion ($4.5 billion) in total assistance to advance the Philippines’s development goals.