Japan long supports small projects with big impact
DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Koji Haneda (The Philippine Star) - October 24, 2019 - 12:00am

When we talk about official development assistance (ODA), we usually think of roads, railways, airports, and the like. More than promoting connectivity, these big-ticket projects create spillover effects in the economy, employment, and business environment. Japan’s major partnership with the Philippines in its large-scale infrastructure development, such as the Metro Manila Subway project, North-South Commuter Railway and Bohol-Panglao International Airport, is something we are truly proud of. But I have to say that small-scale projects also deserve a place in this discussion. Like big-ticket projects, they have far-reaching impact on local communities, directly benefiting people’s lives in ways that are beyond measure.

The Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) is our ODA scheme that caters to small initiatives in a wide range of fields including education, health, and agriculture. To date, we have implemented a total of 543 grassroots projects amounting to 33 million dollars across the Philippines.

These small projects are well positioned to yield positive impacts at the grassroots level, especially for post-conflict peace building where there is a need to enable people to experience the dividends of peace. This is why, with the launching of the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD) in 2006, we have since focused our attention on Mindanao in selecting grassroots projects and intensified our assistance as part of our support to the Bangsamoro peace process. Throughout Mindanao, we have funded 52 education projects worth $5 million, 28 health projects worth $2.3 million, and 14 agriculture projects worth $1.3 million under GGP.

I can still remember the hope-filled atmosphere I felt among GGP stakeholders during a signing ceremony in Cotabato City back in December 2018. It gave me a much better grasp of the huge influence these projects bring to the lives of people on the ground. At that time, I signed four GGP grant contracts intended for the construction of classrooms, water systems, training center, and crisis center for children in conflict with the law (CICL) for various areas in Mindanao. Seeing the exuberant smiles written all over the people’s faces, I knew right there and then that these assistance from Japan would go a long way.

While the implementation of these grant contracts is currently in progress, completed grassroots projects are already making a difference in the lives of many beneficiaries. The six-classroom building we turned over to Catalunan Grande Elementary School in Davao City last August is a sigh of relief for both teachers and students there. After its old school building built in 1962 fell into disrepair, we made sure that the new school building we constructed would encourage more children to attend classes in a safe and clean environment conducive to learning.

The mobile clinic with X-ray machine we provided to the Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC) last April is another example. Many of the 98 barangays in Zamboanga City are situated in rural areas, making it difficult for people in underserved communities to receive proper medical care from service providers that are generally based in the city center. This mobile clinic helps ZCMC reach out to more people in Zamboanga City for simple diagnosis free of charge.

For agriculture, one of last year’s completed projects is the provision of a container wing van to the Labangan Farmers First Consolidated Multi-purpose Cooperative for the benefit of small rice farmers in Labangan, Zamboanga Del Sur. This allowed farmers to carry out post-harvest transportation by themselves and distribute their crops to the market without having to go through an intermediary.

Through these small-scale projects, Japan is able to help bring progress closer to the Filipino people wherever it is most needed. All these projects are implemented in close partnership with local NGOs, LGUs and other non-profit organizations. We truly take pride in working closely with them.

There still remain areas, including the Bangsamoro region, where grassroots support is seen very crucial. For this year alone, we will be implementing around 10 projects under GGP. We are continuously seeking for opportunities to serve as a source of support for small-scale projects around the Philippines, for we firmly believe that their long-term impact on people’s lives far outweighs the resources we put into these projects. Indeed, no project is too small for Japan when it is for the gain of the Filipino people.

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(Koji Haneda is the Ambassador of Japan.)

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