People use a boat to travel within Amulung municipality in Cagayan after heavy flooding due to typhoon Ulysses, Nov. 19. — PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

THE WORLD BANK approved two loans worth $900 million (P43.3 billion) for projects aimed at supporting the country’s economic recovery through a wider adoption of digital technology and programs to alleviate poverty in rural communities.

In a statement on Thursday, the multilateral bank said its board of executive directors approved a $600-million (P29-billion) loan that will promote competitiveness and boost resilience to natural disasters, and a $300-million (P14.4-billion) loan to provide additional financing for the National Community Driven Development program.

The World Bank said the first loan will support “reforms to hasten the adoption of digital technologies, promote greater competition, and reduce the costs of doing business to revive more economic activities and jobs in the country.”

Among the reforms to be supported by the loan include the proposed indemnity insurance to protect public assets against natural disasters, the faster rollout of the national ID program, and the shift to digital transactions for Customs procedures.

“Reforms to improve digital infrastructure and speed up adoption of digital technologies will not only help the country’s efforts to recover from the impacts of the pandemic but will also boost its export competitiveness that is vital for creating more and better jobs in the future,” Ndiamé Diop, the country director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand of the World Bank, was quoted as saying in the statement.

Meanwhile, the $300-million loan will provide more funds for the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s existing program that assists local governments in implementing community-based projects in poor municipalities.

“Community-driven development approaches have shown to be effective in accelerating community reconstruction following disaster events and efficiently putting money for priority needs of communities around the world,” said Mr. Diop.

With the community-driven strategy, poor communities will be able to organize themselves, assess their situation, and come up with project proposals to address the issues, which will then be submitted for potential funding if deemed necessary.

Most of the community projects involve the provision of basic facilities such as the construction of roads, water systems, school buildings and day care centers. The program targets poor barangays and municipalities that have limited internal revenue allotment.

Amid a coronavirus pandemic, the communities can obtain funds for their isolation facilities, rehabilitation of water and sanitation facilities, construction or improvement of health stations, as well as the maintenance of these establishments.

The World Bank previously lent $479 million (P23 billion) for the program launched in February 2014.

Between 2014 and 2020, the program supported more than 28,000 completed community-based projects across 19,000 villages in 830 municipalities. The bank estimated this benefited 7.8 million families.

The multilateral bank extended loans to the Philippines worth $1.88 billion (P86.5 billion) as of Dec. 15 to boost the government’s pandemic containment efforts. — Beatrice M. Laforga