Officials of the Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) have expressed openness in exploring opportunities for development cooperation with the Philippines in the areas of infrastructure and human capital development, according to the Department of Finance (DOF).
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said QFFD’s commitment to provide assistance to sectors in the country that are most in need bodes well for the government’s ongoing efforts to assist the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in implementing long-term development projects that would serve as “beacons of hope” for its people living in impoverished communities.
In a meeting with a visiting delegation from QFFD last year, Secretary Dominguez said areas that would benefit immensely from Qatar’s support include the government’s capacity-building efforts for BARMM, peace building, the normalization of the peace process, Islamic banking, education, fisheries development, rural infrastructure development, health care, disaster risk reduction and management, and the energy sector.
He said these initiatives will ensure BARMM residents that the creation of the new Bangsamoro government would bring tangible benefits and “real change in their lives.”
Secretary Dominguez told QFFD officials led by its senior advisor, Mr. Samer Frangieh that assistance to the new Bangsamoro government is crucial in ensuring that its transition to a regional government is successful.
The Philippines is also looking forward to further cooperation in the field of sustainable development, and exploring possible areas of investment with the Qatari government, Secretary Dominguez said.
Secretary Dominguez pointed out that the Duterte administration has devoted its efforts to prepare the economy for rapid inclusive growth by, among others, maintaining the highest standards of fiscal discipline, reforming the country’s tax system, reducing its debt service load, increasing foreign currency reserves, improving the ease of doing business, liberalizing the economy and embarking on a massive infrastructure modernization program.
These game-changing initiatives form part of the Duterte administration’s priority goal of reducing poverty among Filipinos, along with developing a law-abiding citizenry and ensuring peace within the country and with its neighbors.
He informed the QFFD delegation that the DOF is currently working closely with BARMM officials to help them set up the Bangsamoro regional government and in scouting opportunities to expand development assistance to the region.
“We are encouraging more investments in this region to improve the lives of its people in underserved island communities,” the Finance chief said during the meeting held at the DOF office in Manila.
The QFFD is a Qatari public institution in charge of coordinating and implementing external development assistance projects on behalf of the State of Qatar. It aims to help Arab countries and developing economies across the globe implement economic and social development programs through loans, grants and technical assistance.
“I look forward to further working with you in achieving our shared goal of inclusive growth and the development of areas under the BARMM,” the Finance Secretary told the QFFD delegation.
Mr. Frangieh expressed deep interest in providing QFFD assistance to development projects in the Philippines, including the BARMM, especially in the areas of education and health care, expanding livelihood opportunities in the region’s fisheries sector, and initiatives to bring former rebels to the economic mainstream.
Secretary Dominguez welcomed QFFD commitment to study the possibility of allocating some of its efforts for the development of BARMM.
“We have the BARMM now, so what does it mean to the ordinary person in the region? I think it’s very important that we take this opportunity very quickly to show a real change in people’s lives. They have to see that they have water, electricity, their fishing capacity is better, the ability to process their food is better. They have better nutrition, they have better schools,” Secretary Dominguez said.
Mr. Frangieh said he will reach out to other Qatari agencies to explore ways of funding other BARMM projects beyond QFFD’s mandate’s and capabilities.
He also offered Qatar’s assistance and expertise on disaster and risk management and response to help the BARMM respond to the needs of earthquake victims in North Cotabato, of which 63 of the province’s barangays are part of the Bangsamoro region.
The Qatar Red Crescent Society had earlier partnered with the Philippine National Red Cross in providing humanitarian aid to earthquake and typhoon victims in the country.
“The purpose of this visit for our delegation is to put all the minds together into one place and come up with an intervention development strategy,” Mr. Frangieh said during the meeting. “We will be coming back with our work hat, not the thinking hat. We will put our words to action and hopefully we will be reaching out to the various departments we have networked to kind of indicate and insure that the priorities are properly set.”
Mr. Eduard Guerra, the BARMM Minister for Finance Budget and Management, welcomed QFFD’s offer of assistance, especially in helping transform some 40,000 former combatants in the region to productive individuals and law-abiding citizens.
BARMM Minister for the Interior Government Naguib Sinarimbo said the Bangsamoro government is planning to transform rebel camps into “economic-producing areas.”
During the meeting, Finance Undersecretary Mark Dennis Joven said the DOF and BARMM will rely on Qatar’s experience in building stable and effective institutions within the Bangsamoro government.
Secretary Dominguez tasked Undersecretary Joven in discussing with the Qatari government the possibility of arranging a framework agreement between the Philippines and Qatar to ensure their seamless bilateral cooperation.