Philippines fails to qualify for US agency grant

Published by rudy Date posted on November 11, 2021

by Ramon Royandoyan – Philstar.com, 11 Nov 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines failed to secure a fresh grant from a US poverty reduction agency next year after the country flunked a major criterion that looked into getting a handle on corruption.

Based on new scorecards released by American aid agency Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) on November 9, the Philippines passed 12 out of 20 indicators that measure a country’s policy performance in various areas. This means the Philippines aced the first criterion that requires countries to pass at least half of the 20 indicators.

But apart from clearing 10 indicators, nations applying for an aid package, also known as a “compact”, also need to clear two “hard hurdles” to be fully eligible to receive funding, namely “control of corruption” and “democratic rights”. While the Philippines received a passing mark for democratic rights, it failed the MCC’s test on fighting corruption, thereby joining 53 other countries that were deemed unqualified for a new compact.

The MCC screened a total of 83 countries and only 28 passed. Created in 2004, it provides time-limited grants and assistance to countries that meet rigorous standards for good governance, fighting corruption, and respecting democratic rights.

“MCC’s scorecards are a key component in its competitive selection process that determines which countries are eligible to develop a five-year grant agreement known as a compact,” the agency said.

“Businesses, investors, and the private sector can also use the scorecard indicators to inform investment decisions and better understand the operating environment in a specific country,” it added.

Commenting on the MCC’s assessment, presidential spokesman Harry Roque told a press conference on Thursday that the government is “serious against the campaign on anti-corruption”.

“If foreigners think the effort and attention is still wanting, so be it. The policies we craft in the country are independent of what the countries will say,” Roque said.

Dissecting the Philippines’ scorecard, the country failed to pass eight metrics that include the corruption indicator in the MCC’s scorecard. The country scored 45% in the corruption category, which meant a failing mark based on MCC’s standards.

It also failed to achieve passing marks on the rule of law, freedom of information, health expenditures and immunization rates, among others. But the country got good grades on fiscal policy, inflation, political rights, civil liberties, regulatory quality, trade policy and six more indicators.

As it is, the MCC grant would have helped the government in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic, which battered the economy and threw more Filipinos into poverty.

In late 2017, the Philippines withdrew its application for a second aid package from the MCC. The decision came a month after the MCC deferred a $433-million funding grant to the Philippines over “concerns around rule of law and civil liberties” under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. In response, Duterte at the time threatened to scrap the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement with the US and assailed Washington for supposedly treating Manila like “garbage”.

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