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Phl awaits for another EU grant worth 150-M euros

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By Victoria “NIKE” De Dios

There is no stopping the European Union’s generosity as it has committed an additional 150 million euros worth of grants to the Philippines, of which two-thirds will help finance programs to boost agricultural productivity in Mindanao and provide electricity to its far-flung small island-communities.

Last July 16, the Philippines and the European Union exchange the signed financing agreements for the EUR 35.5 million (P2 billion) grant for the Mindanao Peace and Development Program (RISE Mindanao) and the EUR25 million (P1.4 billion) grant for the Support to Bangsamoro Transition Program (SUBATRA).

The EU grant for the SUBATRA program will finance capacity-building initiatives for all three branches of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) government as well as the civil society organizations in the autonomous region. The RISE Mindanao, on the other hand, aims to unlock the productive capacities of Mindanao’s agriculture sector and expand economic opportunities for its farmers and small entrepreneurs while supporting the government’s priority of promoting growth in agricultural value chains.

Mr. Thomas Wiersing, the charge d’affaires of the EU Delegation to the Philippines, made this commitment during a recent virtual meeting with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to discuss the progress of the development cooperation between the Philippines and the EU.

As of August this year, the EU has extended a total of EUR85 million-worth of grants for the government’s peace and development initiatives in Mindanao.

During the meeting, Mr. Wiersing also reaffirmed the EU’s intention to reorient portions of its grants to the Philippine government’s COVID-19 response efforts in Mindanao, the DOF said.

Mr Wiersing also restated the EU’s continuing assistance to institute reforms in the Philippines’ justice system through the second phase of the Justice Sector Reform Programme: Governance in Justice (GOJUST 2).

On behalf of the Philippine government, Secretary Dominguez thanked the EU for continuing to support the Duterte administration’s peace- and confidence-building initiatives as well as for its assistance in boosting trade and agricultural productivity in Mindanao.

Secretary Dominguez also expressed his appreciation for the EU’s plan to reorient portions of its grants to Mindanao’s pandemic response efforts and its intention to provide support to cash-strapped local government units (LGUs) in the South.

He likewise welcomed the EU’s plan to provide grants for the electrification of Mindanao’s small island-communities and suggested the use of clean energy to implement this project.

Mr. Christoph Wagner, the new head of cooperation of the EU Delegation, welcomed the importance placed by Secretary Dominguez on the issue of the climate crisis with his clean energy recommendation for Mindanao’s rural electrification.

During the same meeting, Secretary Dominguez sought the EU’s expertise and assistance in accelerating the competitiveness of the Philippines’ manufacturing sector, given its weaknesses as a result of the country’s sudden jump from agriculture- to a services-based economy.

Secretary Dominguez said the EU, with its large manufacturing base, can share its technical expertise or extend assistance in providing the necessary equipment to help integrate medium-sized enterprises in the supply chain of big companies.

Strengthening and incentivizing the manufacturing sector will help the Philippines sustain its recovery from the pandemic, Secretary Dominguez said.

Secretary Dominguez also broached the possibility for the EU to assist the Duterte administration in its efforts to provide individual land titles to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), especially in Mindanao, so they could have property rights and access to credit facilities and other forms of financial support.

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