The Department of Finance (DOF) is in exploratory talks with some of the Philippines’ international development partners to augment support for projects adversely affected by the suspension brought about by the United Nations-sanctioned investigation into the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has directed Undersecretary Mark Dennis Joven, who heads the DOF’s International Finance Group (IFG), to review affected projects and find ways on how these can be financed by other bilateral partners that did not support the resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which had sought a comprehensive written report on the Philippines’ human rights situation in relation to its tough war against illicit drugs and narco-trafficking.
Dominguez did not identify these potential donor-countries as the DOF talks with them are still in the preliminary phase.
“We are currently in exploratory talks with our other bilateral partners on how they can assist the Philippine government in funding the grants that were previously under negotiation but were suspended on orders of the President, pending the review by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) of our country’s relations with countries that had voted for or sponsored the UNHRC resolution,” Dominguez said.
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Uruguay all voted in the affirmative to adopt the resolution of the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Fourteen others voted in the negative while 14 abstained.
France, Germany and Sweden were among the UNHRC non-members that backed the resolution.
Dominguez made it clear that the Palace order, signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, only directed the concerned agencies to “suspend negotiations for and signing of, all loan and grant agreements with the governments of the countries that co-sponsored and/or voted in favor of the aforesaid resolution, pending the assessment of our relations with these countries.”
The suspension, according to Dominguez does not mean a permanent cancellation of the talks, but only meant a deferment pending the assessment of the Philippines’ relations with these countries.
Dominguez said the assessment will be done by the DFA, which is the Cabinet department tasked to promote and protect the Philippines’ interests before the international community.
He also clarified that the suspension only covers those under negotiation, and will not affect existing loans and grants that are already being implemented.
Dominguez pointed out that the proposed financing with the affected countries, except for a small project loan for the Metro Manila Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the amount of 21 million euros, cover technical assistance grants, “and hence, will not significantly affect the infrastructure program of the government.”
“In any case, multilateral development financial institutions (MDFIs) and other bilateral partners have signified their willingness to finance the said 21 million euro project loan,” he added.
Moreover, Dominguez said the loan terms offered by the affected countries, if there are any, are no better than the rates offered by MDFIs and the other bilateral partners.
The ongoing grants on record with the affected countries amount to US$197.03 million, including US$172.4 million with Australia; US$4.8 million, Italy; US$1.11 million, Spain; US$9.74 million, France; and US$8.98 million, Germany.
“All of these will not be affected,” Dominguez said.
The projects in the pipeline that will be affected are with France, which cover the Metro Manila BRT and those with Germany valued at around US$36 million to fund studies mainly on climate change, he said.
Dominguez said during a recent briefing on the DOF’a 2020 budget at the Senate that the government has already found a substitute for the 21-million euro loan, while the DOF is now looking for a replacement to finance the Germany-funded program.