Rody's top priorities for China's $16B aid: Education, agri and health

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Rody's top priorities for China's $16B aid: Education, agri and health
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a signing ceremony in Beijing, China, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016.
AP / Ng Han Guan, Pool
MANILA, Philippines — The government would prioritize education, agriculture, and health programs in the $16 billion assistance to be provided by China next year, President Rodrigo Duterte said.
Speaking to officials and residents of typhoon-hit Isabela, Duterte said he would make sure that every centavo of the assistance would benefit the Filipinos
“The $16 billion is equivalent to more than half a trillion pesos. I expect that next year. Our lives will not prosper at once but next year, that money will come,” the president said.
“The thrust of my government is first, education, second is agriculture, third is health,” he added.
Duterte came home last Friday from a four-day visit to China which officials said signaled the recovery of the relationship between Manila and Beijing. The two countries’ relationship was strained by the dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a resource-rich area where about $5 trillion worth of goods pass through every year.
Duterte said part of the assistance would be used to provide the poor access to medicines. He said he is planning to revive the Botika ng Bayan, state-run drug stores that sell cheap medicines.
During his visit to typhoon victims in Tuguegarao also Sunday, Duterte said agriculture would get a “big slice” of the funds. He said the money would be used to buy seedlings and support farmer cooperatives.
“We will restore the financing for agriculture. We will set-up cooperatives,” the president said.  
The president said the government would manage the cooperatives, noting that “there are a few success stories about financing.”
“In the meantime, if I think that you cannot really carry on the burden of operating the (financial mechanism). Don’t be insulted. It’s applicable to the entire Philippines,” he said.
Duterte also bared plans to revive the agriculture programs of former President Ferdinand Marcos, whom he described as “one of the brightest Filipinos.”
He said he would come up with programs patterned after the Masagana 99 and Biyayang Dagat, which provided fishermen and farmers access to funds.
“I’d like to get the idea of Marcos. I will revive that. I will copy that,” the president said.
Duterte said the Defense and Interior departments would not get much from the funds because the security situation has improved. He also reiterated that he would not tolerate any form of corruption under his watch. 
“We will make sure that everyone will benefit,” he said.
Last week, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Duterte’s four-day visit to China has yielded about $24 billion worth of deals.
The figure covers loan facilities and private sector agreements and touches across different industries. 
The deals signed include investments in agriculture, energy, tourism, food, manufacturing, tourism, telecommunications, and infrastructure.



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