Source: Inquirer Business, 25 November 2011


Australia’s development cooperation program in the Philippines is set to grow with continued focus on education, disaster risk reduction, peace and human security, and support for public-private partnerships.

“We’re seeing growth in the aid program with the Philippines,” Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Rod Smith said in a roundtable discussion at the Inquirer.

“We’re coming to the end of our current year and we’re finalizing a new development strategy.”

Smith said consultations would likely take place before the end of 2011 or early 2012 with the National Economic and Development Authority and other partner-agencies.

Australia’s 2011-2012 official development assistance to the Philippines is about P5.5 billion.

Education will continue to be the flagship of Australia’s development cooperation program with the Philippines, Smith said. Australia, through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), is the Philippines’ lead bilateral grant donor in basic education, contributing over P1.2 billion yearly, he said.

Australia’s education programs in the Philippines include scholarships, curriculum and teaching materials development for socially disadvantaged groups (including Muslims and indigenous peoples), school management, teacher training, and classroom building.

Other areas of cooperation are financial and technical support for the PPP Center (which helps government agencies and local governments develop public-private partnership projects), disaster risk reduction and management, health, rural and community development, infrastructure such as farm-to-market roads, and support to the Mindanao peace and development process.

Ross Bray, Australia’s senior trade and investment commissioner for the Philippines and Micronesia, said he was seeing “exponential growth” in the education sector, which would have “a follow-on effect” on tourism and trade.

“With more exchanges in education, there will be more understanding of each other’s countries, and there should be more Australian students and Australian tourists—who have been going to Thailand and Vietnam for a while—coming to the Philippines to sample its products. This will provide opportunities for more trade,” Bray said.

Since 2001, Australian assistance to the Philippines has reached about P32 billion, according to information from the Australian Embassy. Significant contributions to Philippine development efforts over this period were in the areas of basic education, training and human resource development, health, rural and community development, governance, assistance to vulnerable groups, infrastructure, and support to the Mindanao peace and development process.

With the significant growth in the aid program in the last five years, Australia is now one of the Philippines’ three largest bilateral grant donors after Japan and the United States, Smith said.

Australia’s official development assistance is administered primarily by AusAID and also by other agencies such as the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Infrastructure and Transport, Geosciences Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Defense Force, and the Australian Federal Police, according to information from the Australian government.

Many activities are jointly funded by both governments, ensuring a strong commitment to their success from both sides. In selected areas, Australia also combines its efforts with other donors such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and United Nations development agencies to maximize the impact of the projects. Australian aid is also delivered directly to Filipino communities through local non-government organizations. Riza T. Olchondra