Seoul, South Korea – The government of South Korea expressed commitment to double its official development assistance (ODA) to the Philippines from $500 million to $1 billion, Malacañang announced on Tuesday, June 5.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. made the announcement during a press briefing here on the sidelines of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s official visit to the East Asian country. He was joined by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, who also provided updates on President Duterte’s bilateral meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday, June 4.
Secretary Roque said South Korea offered to double its ODA to the Philippines in support of the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.
“Pagdating doon sa usaping economic cooperation, dinoble po ng South Korea ang kanilang [ODA] para po sa mga imprastraktura, suporta po para sa ating ‘Build, Build, Build’,” he noted.
Finance Secretary Dominguez added that of the $1 billion assistance to be provided by South Korea, $172.64 million will be used for the New Cebu International Container Port Project. A loan agreement for this initiative was already signed by Dominguez and Export-Import Bank of Korea Chairman and President Sung-soo Eun.
Three projects were also placed in the pipeline under the billion-dollar framework agreement, including a $50-million project preparation facility for the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), a $100-million financing for the new Dumaguete airport development project, and a $41-million project for the implementation of an electronic receipt system for the monitoring of taxes paid by Philippine retailers.
Furthermore, Dominguez said the government plans to use the remaining $636-million balance to fund two to three more flagship projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program.
He then assured that none of the assistance provided to the Philippines would be wasted on corruption, stressing that the Commission on Audit (COA) would be involved in the monitoring of projects to be financed by the ODA.
Trade Secretary Lopez, for his part, announced that five government-to-government agreements were signed during the bilateral meeting between the Philippines (PH) and Republic of Korea (ROK). These include an MOU for the expansion of renewable energy deployment with the Department of National Defense (DND); an MOU on scientific and technological cooperation with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST); an MOU for transportation with the Department of Transportation (DoTr); a Loan Agreement for the Cebu Port; and the establishment of a Joint Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation.
Secretary Roque likewise mentioned that there is also an MOU for mutual visits, trainings, and exchanges between the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) and South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.
Palace: Firing of appointees not for show
During the same press briefing, the Palace Spokesperson belied claims that the firing of officials tagged in corruption allegations and other issues is merely done for show.
“Wala pong gimik dito dahil ang mga nasisisante ay ang pinakamalapit kay Presidente, lalung lalo na noong panahon ng kampanya at wala pong makakapag-deny niyan,” Roque stated.
This came after Malacañang had confirmed that Celestina Ma. Dela Serna was removed as Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) Officer-in-Charge following an investigation by the Office of the President.
The Palace Spokesperson stressed that the P8-billion deficit incurred by PhilHealth under her watch was unacceptable.
“As you know, the President would want to implement a universal healthcare – libreng pagamot, libreng gamot sa lahat… We need a completely honest PhilHealth if we’re going to have a successful universal healthcare,” Roque said.