EU pours fresh P3.4-B grant for Mindanao projects

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 12 July) – The European Union (EU) has poured a combined grant of 60.5 million euros (around P3.4 billion) for peace and development projects in Mindanao, with focus on the fledgling Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III announced on Sunday.

In a statement, Dominguez said he recently signed separately, on behalf of the Philippine government, the financing agreements (FAs) for the Mindanao Peace and Development Programme (MINPAD)-RISE Mindanao (35.5 million euros) and the Support to Bangsamoro Transition (SUBATRA) program (25 million euros).

Mindanao map courtesy of Google Maps

The MINPAD-RISE Mindanao project will be implemented by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), he said.

Upon the signing of the FAs, Dominguez thanked the EU for “its continued support of government efforts to achieve regional growth and financial inclusion, this time by way of a grant that will help MinDA improve infrastructure and create jobs in rural communities.

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

According to the International Finance Group (IFG) of the Department of Finance (DOF), RISE Mindanao aims to “contribute to a peaceful, cohesive, secure and inclusively developed Mindanao” and “improve social cohesion, resiliency of communities, and increased economic opportunities in Mindanao.”

Among the expected outputs of the MINPAD-RISE Mindanao project is the strengthened capacities of agricultural cooperatives “for better service delivery and creation of an enabling environment for the private sector” and the improvement of community-based socio-economic infrastructure providing basic economic and social services to communities.

For the five-year SUBATRA, the EU provided 96 percent of the estimated total project cost of EUR26 million (about P1.46 billion or US$29.2 million) with its EUR25 million grant, while the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID or Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo) committed to cover the remaining EUR1 million.

The SUBATRA program is designed to “contribute to a peaceful, cohesive, secure and inclusively developed Bangsamoro” and “establish an enabling democratic governance environment for a smooth implementation of the transition in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).”

SUBATRA is expected to boost the capacity of the Bangsamoro executive branch in formulating and implementing transitional policies, and strengthen the BARMM Parliament’s ability to exercise its legislative, oversight and representation functions during the transition.

Improving the capacity of BARMM’s multifaceted Bangsamoro Justice System to adjudicate legislation that are aligned with international human rights standards and enhancing the role of civil society in contributing to a peaceful transition in the autonomous region are also among the expected outputs of the program.

The EU is a major contributor to the Mindanao Trust Fund for Reconstruction and Development, a multi-donor grant facility established in 2005 to consolidate international development assistance for the socio-economic recovery of conflict-affected communities in southern Philippines.

Suspended, lifted

The Duterte administration through a memorandum from Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea  on August 27, 2019, suspended negotiations for and signing of all loan and grant agreements with countries that co-sponsored and/or voted in favor of the July 11, 2019 resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council that sought, among others, a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Philippines and urged the Philippine government to “take all necessary measures to prevent extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, to carry out impartial investigations and to hold perpetrators accountable, in accordance with international norms and standards, including on due process and the rule of law.”

Approved by a vote of 18 yes, 14 no and 15 abstentions, the resolution drew the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte who said he would not accept loans or grants from the 18 countries that voted in the affirmative. Among the 18 are member-countries of the European Union.

The suspension was lifted through a memorandum issued by Medialdea on February 27 this year. (Bong Sarmiento / MindaNews)