More loans, grants for PH vaccines, disaster preparedness

Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez III and South Korea’s Ambassador to the Philippines Kim Inchul when signing a $ 100 million loan agreement to boost the Philippine government’s vaccination program against COVID-19. Photo courtesy of the Korean Embassy in Manila.

Manila, Philippines – Additional loans have been provided by multilateral banks and bilateral development partners to the Philippines so that they can purchase booster and pediatric injections and better prepare for disasters.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III confirmed on Friday that the board of directors of the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) approved Thursday evening its additional funding of $ 250 million for the second health system improvement underway to fight and limit COVID-19 under the Asia-Pacific Vaccine Access Facility (Heal 2) project.

With the co-financing also of $ 250 million approved by the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) earlier this week, the Heal 2 project currently being implemented by the Department of Health (DOH) will have a total of $ 553.7 million in funds. , the remainder to be disbursed by the Philippine government.

In March, AIIB granted the Philippines a $ 300 million loan for Heal 2, as part of its COVID-19 crisis recovery mechanism, for the purchase of vaccines – the bank’s first-ever loan led by China for the vaccination programs of its member countries.

Next week, the World Bank’s Washington-based board will approve its additional $ 300 million loan to the Philippines to purchase more vaccines for next year. In total, the government will borrow $ 800 million to purchase millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine intended to further protect healthcare workers, the elderly and young children, once health officials approve their vaccination against it. the deadly coronavirus.

The proposed national budget of 5.0 trillion pesos for 2022 had set aside 45 billion pesos of unscheduled funds, which will be spent on additional doses of the vaccine.

The unscheduled credits came either from foreign loans or from excess revenue, the latter of which the government still does not yet have because revenue collection had been severely affected by the economic slump caused by the pandemic.

Also on Friday, Dominguez, on behalf of the Philippine government and the Export-Import Bank of Korea-Economic Development Cooperation Fund (Kexim-EDCF), Jaejeong Moon, Chief Representative of the Philippines on behalf of South Korea , signed a loan of $ 100 million covering the second phase of the Loan Program for the COVID-19 Emergency Response Program-Immunization Program (PLCERP II).

South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Kim Inchul joined the signing ceremony.

This second tranche of the South Korean loan “will help ensure financial sustainability and close the budget gap in the implementation of the DOH’s national COVID-19 immunization program,” the finance ministry’s international finance group said. (DOF) in a press release.

“This financial assistance from Korea will go a long way in helping the Duterte administration to relaunch its COVID-19 mass vaccination program, which is crucial for the strong rebound of our national economy by 2022,” Dominguez said. in a joint statement released by DOF and the Korean Embassy in the Philippines.

For her part, Kim said South Korea will continue to support the Philippine government in its efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am happy to join this meaningful signing ceremony for the loan agreement. With this agreement, Korea is able to make a further contribution to the tireless efforts of the Philippine government to fight the pandemic and ultimately achieve rapid economic recovery, ”the Ambassador said.

READ: 539,430 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine donated by South Korea arrive at PH

As a reminder, the first phase of the loan, amounting to $ 100 million last year, funded “systematic policy measures to address the Philippines’ public health challenges caused by COVID-19,” the DOF noted. .

The two South Korean loan tranches both carried a fixed and concessional interest rate of 1.5%, payable over 30 years and including a 10-year grace period.

The DOF said South Korea, through Kexim-EDCF, had wanted to expand its official development assistance (ODA) to the Philippines up to $ 3 billion over the next five years.

Amidst Typhoon Odette onslaught in the southern Philippines on Thursday, Dominguez also said the government could use the World Bank’s recently approved $ 500 million quick-disbursing line of credit for disaster response.

The Philippines’ Fourth Disaster Risk Management Development Policy Loan with Deferred Disaster Drawdown Option (CAT-DDO 4) approved by the World Bank last month will allow immediate access to emergency funds upon declaration of a state of calamity or a public health emergency.

Last Thursday, Dominguez and the French Ambassador to the Philippines Michèle Boccoz signed the € 250 million credit facility agreement for the program to strengthen disaster risk reduction at the local level (DRREALL).

To be financed by the aid agency Agence Française de Développement (AFD), DRREALL “will support the Ministry of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG) in the delegation of disaster risk reduction and management, and of the mandate and services related to climate change to local government units (LGUs), ”the DOF said in a statement.

As a reminder, the implementation of the Mandanas-Garcia Supreme Court judgment next year will not only give LGUs a larger share of the national budget, but will also give them more responsibilities to delegate from the national government.

Separately, the AfDB said in a statement Friday that the Philippines and neighboring ASEAN countries can tap the $ 1.7 million Southeast Asia sustainable tourism facility to “accelerate [the region’s] recovery of tourism after the COVID-19 pandemic, stimulate the inclusive and sustainable development of the sector and help local tourism entrepreneurs, in particular women and young people, to adopt digital platforms to develop their businesses. “

More specifically, this technical assistance from the AfDB “will help countries to identify and prepare environmentally friendly tourism projects and to catalyze private financing to support them”.

“It will help businesses better exploit tourism facilities and deliver digital tourism services. The facility will also help policymakers design visas, online short-term rentals and other policies to attract visitors and remote workers who stay longer and spend more, allow more small entrepreneurs to operate legitimately provide accommodation services and increase tourism tax revenues, ”AfDB said.

(US $ 1 = Php 49.99 as of December 17, 2021)

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