Secretary Cesar V. Purisima of the Department of Finance and Ambassador Massimo Roscigno of the Italian Embassy in Manila jointly approved the funding and the eventual Grant Agreement signing for two (2) large projects (Php35M max) – the Partnership for Sustainable Management of Municipal Waters in Burias Pass for the Benefit of the Disadvantaged Sectors proposed by the Legazpi – based Bicol Consortium for Development Initiatives, Inc. (BCDI); and the Muyong Project: An Intervention to Improve Forest Cover and Household Incomes in Upland Communities proposed by the Provincial Government of Ifugao.
The project proposed by BCDI aims to improve the quality of life of small fishers on 24 selected coastal barangays surrounding the Burias Pass in Albay, Sorsogon, and Masbate by working with fisherfolk organizations and Local Government Units towards better conservation measures in Burias Pass, reef rehabilitation, mangrove reforestation, and providing alternative livelihood to fisherfolks, which have the highest poverty incidence among the basic sectors. This project’s eco-tourism value is likewise recognized, with Burias Pass among the known migratory paths of whale sharks (Butanding).
Meanwhile, the Muyong Project by the Provincial Government of Ifugao seeks to enrich/reforest at least 405 hectares of land through a well laid-out agro-forestry plan and forest enrichment activities which, through peoples’ participation, are expected to provide additional livelihood source and income to about 2,500 farmers. This project rests on sound environmental practice supportive of Ifugao’s traditional culture of maintaining the Muyong, the parcels of land traditionally maintained as source of firewood and as watershed for the farmlands. This will also benefit a portion of the rice terraces inscribed by UNESCO as one of the natural World Heritage Sites.
“This will further increase the gains of the Aquino administration in terms of environmental protection and poverty reduction, onward to providing a better life for our basic sectors – the farmers and fisherfolks – in the countryside. This is inclusiveness in practice; we thank the Italian Government for supporting us”, Purisima said.
For his part, Italian Ambassador Massimo Roscigno expresses great satisfaction to be working with Filipino partners in realizing the objectives of the Program. “It is a privilege to be a development partner of the Philippine Government through this exciting Program, along with other Italian ODA projects in the Country”, he says, adding that “we are looking forward to seeing these projects as a successful model for the debt-for-development swaps being undertaken by the Italian Government.”
It would be recalled that on May 29, 2013, the Italian and Philippine Governments signed a Debt for Development Swap Agreement involving the conversion of the Philippines’ outstanding loan with the Italian Government amounting to Euro 2.9M (approximately Php152M) to finance development projects targeted at environmental protection and poverty reduction.
Representatives from the Department of Finance, Italian Embassy, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Philippine and Italian Civil Society Organization evaluated 102 projects proposed for funding under the Program by National Government Agencies, Local Government Units, Philippine and Italian Civil Society Organizations, International Organizations, and Community-based Organizations.
The two governments approved the two projects for Grant signing. Continued validation is ongoing for the six (6) shortlisted projects, 4 of which are in the medium category (Php25M max), while two (2) are in the small project category (Php10M max).
The Program aims to rehabilitate/reforest a total of 965 hectares of forest, rehabilitate 100 hectares of mangrove forests, and provide livelihood support to about 8,000 household beneficiaries as part of poverty reduction strategy in environmental protection. All these, while contributing to the conservation of three of the UNESCO-declared World Heritage Sites and the areas in the Philippines with high poverty incidence.