THE country is missing out accessing millions of dollars’ worth of grants which it could use now to augment tight government finances to respond to the coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) and the recent disaster spawned by typhoon Ulysses.
Senators yesterday said the country has lost its chance to get much-needed international funding assistance because it flunked the strict governance scorecard of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MMC), an independent foreign assistance agency of the United States which assists the world’s poorest countries in reducing poverty through economic growth while strengthening good governance, economic freedom, and investments in people in countries selected to receive its assistance.
“Another missed opportunity. We missed a great opportunity to get funding aimed at reducing poverty and strengthening good governance,” Drilon said in a statement on Monday.
The Washington-based MCC has given the Philippines a failing mark on corruption, rule of law, freedom of information, health expenditures, immunization rates, and access to credit, effectively shutting the country from a new financial assistance package in 2021.
In a statement on November 9, the MCC said that “the scorecards are a key component in MCC’s annual competitive selection process that determines which countries are eligible to develop a five-year grant agreement, known as a compact, with the agency…To be considered for an MCC compact, countries are expected to first pass MCC’s scorecard, passing at least 10 of the 20 indicators, including the Political Rights or Civil Liberties indicator, and the Control of Corruption indicator.”
Drilon said the Philippines had previously benefited greatly from the MCC after it got a $434 million grant during the Aquino administration which was used to modernize the Bureau of Internal Revenue to strengthen tax collection, provided community-driven development projects to far-flung and high-poverty communities, and rehabilitated a critical secondary national road in the island province of Samar.
“It saddens us that the government’s inability to curb corruption has affected our access to critical grants such as the MCC. This underscores the need to combat corruption.
Otherwise, we risk losing several funding, grants and incentive programs that can help alleviate poverty in the country,” Drilon said.
Drilon said the year 2021 should be a year for recovery from the impact of Covid-19 pandemic and the onslaught of typhoons, adding that access to various funding, grants and incentives such as the MCC could help the country recover faster.
“The country has lost not only grants, but a chance to change lives and create impact as well,” he added.
Drilon said MCC had helped generate additional domestic tax revenues for the government since 2013, renovated 222 kilometers of a national road “that serves as a lifeline for numerous towns and municipalities in one of the poorest and most typhoon-prone areas of the country” to new climate-resilient standards, and implemented 4,000 small-scale community-driven development projects in rural, high-poverty areas based on needs identified and prioritized by residents across Filipino communities.
Sen. Joel Villanueva also shared Drilon’s sentiments.
“This is very unfortunate as we need all the help we can get given all the challenges we are facing right now. The Millennium Challenge Fund has been very helpful to us. Their assessment may serve as a challenge for us to do better especially in governance,” Villanueva said.