President Duterte secures highest foreign assistance at PHP1-T in short period

DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte has raised the highest amount of Official Development Assistance (ODA) for the Philippines at close to PHP1 trillion in only seven months of his administration.

This was disclosed by Department of Finance (DoF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez during the 49th Annual Installation of Officers and Board of Trustees of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCCII) on Saturday night at the Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City.

Dominguez said this is the highest amount raised by any new presidents of the country in history. The amount was raised only from July 2016 to the present from two of the world’s biggest economies.

In a press briefing after the DCCCII event, Dominguez said the total ODA covers only the foreign assistance from China amounting to USD9-billion and Japan’s offer of USD9-billion (JPY1-trillion). These are voluntary offers from China and Japan and not requests from the Philippine government.

“I’m only counting the amounts from China and the amounts from Japan. Both of them are roughly US-billion a piece, which is about 18 trillion. And there are some more ODA that we have received but I haven’t counted in from various other countries,” Dominguez explained.

He said the total amount does not count trade deals like the USD15-billion private commercial deals between the Philippines and China.

According to Dominguez, ODA means government-provided financial loans for infrastructure projects with generally low interest rates and long term payment.

On Monday, Dominguez said they are going to start lining up projects to be funded by ODA and also discuss in details the terms of the assistance offered by Japan. However, he said they have projects in the pipeline not in the amounts that were announced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his recent visit in the Philippines.

Since Japanese ODA is a fresh offer, Dominguez said they still need to consult their counterparts in the Japanese government whether their priorities match with the Philippines. “And I am pretty sure they will,” Dominguez added.

While they will still discuss on the table the JPY1-trillion assistance offered by Japan, Dominguez said they already submitted a list of projects to China last November 29, 2016. Sometime this January, they will travel to China to discuss how to progress the projects submitted to them.

Among these are the rehabilitation of the Agus River project, the irrigation projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a seaport in Cebu.

On why the country is receiving such big offers, Dominguez said, “Maybe they see that the money will be truly used for people.” He added that these countries see lots of potentials in the economy under current administration.

“I think they see a lot of potential in the Philippine economy.” He said these are potential for the growth of the Philippine economy and a potential for the two countries to do business here.

He cited as an example the Calabarzon (Calamba, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) which saw a lot of infrastructure developments during the term of President Corazon Aquino. Dominguez was also a member of the Cory administration.

Dominguez, who has served the Cory administration, said the CALABARZON area was mostly financed by Japanese ODA funds. He said the Calabarzon opened many Japanese companies to relocate in the industrial estates.

So we are looking forward to a similar move but probably do this integrated area development projects farther away from the greater Manila or the Mega Manila area,” he said.

Dominguez said they are targeting Mindanao, in the North, beyond Pampanga and those areas to develop the infrastructure and allow companies to locate, create jobs, as well as exports for the country.

Dominguez however emphasized that infrastructure developments would not only cover physical projects but also education, training and other services that will make workers and citizens more competitive abroad.

“So it’s not only hard infrastructure but also education, science and technology…,) he added. LILIAN C. MELLEJOR/