A MEMBER of the World Bank Group has invested $399 million in private sector-led projects in the Philippines, with most of the investments aimed at helping businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Finance Corp. (IFC) in a statement on Wednesday said that its investments in the Philippines accounted for 10.5% of its overall commitments in the East Asia and the Pacific region worth $3.8 billion from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

“The Philippines has been deeply affected by COVID-19, which has reversed many of the development gains the country has achieved. This has created an even greater sense of urgency to foster a more inclusive recovery, and IFC is committed to remaining a steadfast partner to the Philippines through the challenges that lie ahead,” said Jean-Marc Arbogast, IFC’s country manager for the Philippines.

Among the IFC’s investments in the country included extending $15 million in debt financing to CARD Bank, Inc. and CARD SME Bank, Inc., which would benefit over 60,000 companies.

It also invested in Cebu Air, Inc.’s convertible bonds “to help maintain trade and the competitiveness required to provide affordable transportation” in the country. IFC, along with IFC Emerging Asia Fund and Indigo Partners LLC, poured in $250 million in Cebu Air in May. 

IFC also invested $150 million in seven-year social bonds issued by UnionBank of the Philippines meant to finance over 2,000 loans for micro, small and medium enterprises.

The World Bank member also invested in local startups such as Growsari to help grow their business.

Since 1962, IFC has invested over $5.5 billion to 160 local companies in the Philippines to projects that mitigate the impacts of climate change; promote financial inclusion; improve the capacity of private sector and those supporting sustainable infrastructure.

Across the region, IFC recorded an all-time high of $3.8 billion in total commitments in the past year: $2.8 billion in long-term funding from its own account and $956 million from external investors. On top of this, IFC also granted $1.5 billion worth of short-term investments in the region to boost trade.

Meanwhile, the IFC announced the appointment of Kim-See Lim as the new regional director for East Asia and the Pacific.

A Malaysian national, Ms. Lim will lead investment and advisory operations in the 18 countries in the region. She replaced Vivek Pathak, who has been named IFC director and global head for climate business.

“Given the devastating impacts of the global pandemic, IFC will continue to focus on leveraging the private sector to foster a green, resilient, and inclusive recovery in East Asia and the Pacific,” she said in a statement.

“In alignment with the World Bank Group’s new Climate Change Action Plan, a climate-smart roadmap will be critical to achieve the goals of job creation and shared prosperity in the region. Building back better is the only way to spur the region’s recovery out of this crisis while prioritizing renewable energy, energy efficiency, green and blue bonds, and smart cities,” she added. — Beatrice M. Laforga