Toward stronger development partnership with the Philippines
DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Han Dong-Man (The Philippine Star) - February 28, 2019 - 12:00am

During President Duterte’s visit to Korea last June, he and Korean President Moon Jae-in declared 2019 – the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Philippines-Korea diplomatic relations – as “A year of mutual exchange.” As part of the exchange of high-level officials between the two countries, Ms. Lee Mi-kyung, president of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), is visiting the Philippines from Feb. 26 to March 2.

KOICA has provided more than $250 million in grant aid to the Philippines, greatly contributing to the development of Filipino lives since 1991. The country now stands as the third largest recipient of Korean grants. KOICA has annually provided more than $20 million to the Philippines. For example, the “Pasa Small River Irrigation Project” – Korea’s largest grant aid to the Philippines at $21.76 million – which was inaugurated last June would help to uplift the lives of farmers. Isabela Governor Faustino Dy III mentioned that Isabela was hardly damaged by typhoon Ompong last September thanks to this dam. 

President Lee, during her visit, will reaffirm Korea’s commitment to strengthen development of the Philippines. Yesterday, she met with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique Manalo. They exchanged views on how to promote bilateral cooperation on official development assistance. President Lee will then attend the signing ceremony of the Agreement with the Food and Agriculture Organization for the project called “Support for the Agriculture and Agribusiness Enterprises in Mindanao for Sustainable Development.” The project aims to achieve sustainable development through consultations and construction of necessary facilities.

Reflecting Korea’s emphasis on education as a driving force for development, President Lee will join a forum on KOICA’s US$6.1-million project, “Better Life for Out-of-School Girls to Fight Against Poverty and Injustice.” Yesterday, with Education Secretary Leonor Briones and representatives of UNESCO in attendance, Ms. Lee witnessed the progress of establishing the Girls Education Center in Tacloban and the nationwide Alternative Learning System modules for young out-of-school Filipinas.

President Lee will also grace the opening of the Panay Local Food Terminal as part of KOICA’s $6.5-million “Panay Upland Sustainable Rural Development Project.” This terminal in Iloilo will serve as the regional hub for the consolidation and marketing of local agricultural products in Panay Island. I hope this project will further increase agri-productivity in the region, and amplify the synergy with three hospitals built by KOICA in Iloilo in 2016.

This year, KOICA has allocated more than $20 million for development projects in the Philippines. In January alone, two projects were inaugurated. On Jan. 14, 120 forensic kits were turned over to the Philippine National Police for enhancing its criminal investigation capability. These will aid the PNP in maintaining public safety and order. The kits are in addition to 130 police cars and vans provided in May 2018 and 142 motorcycles that will be turned over this year as part of the $6.6-million project. On Jan. 24, the “Integrated Health and Nutrition Actions in the First 1,000 Days” was inaugurated. This $6-million project will contribute to the achievement of universal health care for Filipinos, and demonstrates our dedication to uphold the development goals of the Philippines. 

By mid-year, KOICA and the Department of Finance will begin implementing the “Electronic Invoice and Sales Reporting System Project” to support the Philippine government’s tax reform efforts, which I believe will lead to a simpler, fairer, and more efficient tax system. Also, as the Korean government pledged to actively support efforts to bring lasting peace in Marawi and in Mindanao, KOICA, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration, will provide assistance for the comprehensive rehabilitation of Marawi.

As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic ties, I firmly believe that the visit of KOICA’s president will bring more momentum to our bilateral cooperation on ODA, paving the way for more mutual people-to-people exchanges and stronger partnership than ever. 

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(Han Dong-man is the Ambassador of South Korea.)

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