THE PHILIPPINES obtained two new grants from the US worth a combined $4.186 million, which will help fund the Health department’s mass vaccination program and support a study aiming to address road congestion in Cebu.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) provided $3.5 million to help the Department of Health with its vaccination rollout, USAID Acting Administrator Gloria D. Steele said at a virtual economic briefing between the two governments Thursday.

This will bring the US government’s total coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) grants to the Philippines to the equivalent of P1.3 billion so far since 2020.

The funds will be used on monitoring the safety of vaccines, information campaigns, and helping local government units (LGUs) plan, track and administer doses.

At the same briefing, the Philippine government and US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) signed a $686,000 technical assistance grant for the master plan of an intelligent transport system in Metropolitan Cebu.

USTDA Acting Director Enoh T. Ebong said the project aims to ease road congestion, improve mobility and cut vehicle emissions by deploying smart mobility and traffic management solutions across the 13 LGUs in Metro Cebu.

“The improvement of the transportation system in Metro Cebu is part of our massive ‘Build, Build, Build’ program. The development of this project shows our commitment to maintain the pace of our infrastructure modernization program to hasten our economic recovery. The technical assistance to be provided by the USTDA under this project will help us transition rapidly into the new digital economy,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said at the briefing.

Ms. Ebong said the USTDA is also hoping to establish a presence at the US Embassy in Manila this year as the agency expands its programs in the Philippines.

“It will also facilitate the financing and implementation of our infrastructure projects through closer engagement with the Asian Development Bank and other regional financial institutions,” she added.

The US was the Philippines’ sixth largest source of external funding, with total grants of $577.7 million as of March 2020. — Beatrice M. Laforga