PHL withdraws bid for second MCC aid package

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THE PHILIPPINES has withdrawn its application for a second aid package from the US-based agency Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Malacañang announced on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

“It was deemed that for the time being, we will withdraw our application for the second cycle and we will focus instead on the rebuilding of Marawi,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr., said, referring to the Mindanao city that was under siege by terrorists for practically half this year.

“Although we have invited the US government’s continued support and assistance for the reconstruction of Marawi,” Mr. Roque also said.

The Philippines’ graft-fighting efforts are also on the spotlight after it fell short of the “control of corruption” target on the MCC’s scorecard.

The MCC, as it describes itself on its Web site, is an independent US foreign aid agency created by the US Congress in 2004.

MCC on its Web site also said it “forms partnerships with poor countries that show they are committed to good governance, economic freedom, and investing in their citizens.”

The first MCC grant to the Philippines, amounting to $434 million, was allotted for infrastructure projects and took effect for the period of May 2011 until May 2016.

In December 2015, the MCC agreed to fund a second five-year development grant for the Philippines, amounting to $433 million, but deferred this in December last year.

Yet last August, the MCC upheld the eligibility of the Philippines to secure a fresh grant, after initially deferring a vote on its re-selection for help amid concern about the staggering death toll in President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s ferocious war on drugs.

Mr. Roque said the Philippines’ withdrawal from the grant is “not at all” connected with these and other issues.

“It was really just that Marawi happened. We did not expect it and it’s going to be very costly rebuilding. This is temporary. We will apply again some other time,” Mr. Roque said.

“We are confident that the US government fully understands the decision to reallocate our funding priority for this year and that this will not, in any way, adversely impact our eligibility for another round of compact assistance in the future because it calls for counterpart financing as well,” he added.

Mr. Duterte has been known to be sensitive to criticisms of his antidrug campaign, particularly by western countries and organizations that also provide assistance to the Philippines.

This year, his government rejected about 250 million euros ($295 million) in European Union grants. — reports by Rosemarie A. Zamora and Reuters