EU to “reorient” €15 million in grants for PHL pandemic response

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European Union (EU)

THE EUROPEAN UNION (EU) will be “reorienting” grants worth up to €15 million (around $17.08 million or P844 billion) for the Philippines’ fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in Mindanao.

In a ceremonial exchange of financing agreements in Manila, officials from the EU announced on Friday they are currently in talks with the Philippine government about “reorienting” existing funds to support anti-COVID-19 efforts in Mindanao estimated to reach up to €15 million.

“Team Europe stands ready to assist the Philippine government in its fight against COVID-19 by reorienting some of the funds to addressing the short to medium-term consequences of the pandemic,” EU Chargé d’ affaires ad interim Thomas Wiersing said in his speech.

The reoriented funds could be used to help cushion the impact of the pandemic on health, social and economic recovery, said Mr. Wiersing, but the terms of the financing agreement are still subject to discussion with the Philippine government.

The aid will be sourced from the combined resources of member states of the EU and other financial institutions through the so-called “Team Europe.”

Finance Undersecretary Mark Dennis Y.C. Joven said so far, the Philippines’ ongoing grants from the EU totalled €150 million, with around €63 million more in the pipeline.

“If we exclude the two new agreements (signed this month worth 60.5 million), we’ll have around €20-30 million in pipeline with the EU,” Mr. Joven added.

Mr. Wiersing represented the EU during the ceremonial exchange of two new financing agreements in Manila for €60.5 million (P3.4 billion) in grants it provided to the Philippines for two development programs in Mindanao.

The Philippine government was represented by Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III in the ceremony.

Enrico Strampelli, head of the Development Cooperation Section of EU’s Delegation in the Philippines, said the €15 million up for “reorientation” is part of this €60.5 million, plus other pending aid that have not been signed by the government.

The two grants signed earlier this month consist of €35.5 million (P2 billion) for the Mindanao Peace and Development Program and a €25-million (P1.4 billion) grant to support the transition program of the Bangsamoro Government.

The EU said the newly signed agreements “are part of a larger package of the EU cooperation programs expected to be finalized within this year.”

Mr. Dominguez said the EU development program for Mindanao will be used to support job creation in the agriculture sector and community-based infrastructure in the region, while the other grant will boost the institutions of the newly-established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or BARMM government.

“Overall, both programs will help clear the way for Mindanao’s rapid development and bring us closer to achieving President Duterte’s goal of genuine and meaningful autonomy in the Bangsamoro region. We are also pleased that the EU conveyed its intention to reorient portions of both grants to help the government address the effects of the pandemic in Mindanao,” he said. — B.M. Laforga