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13/05/2009: Secretary Romulo Welcomes Proposed Increase in U.S. Assistance to RP

13 May 2009 - Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo welcomed the report from Ambassador Willy Gaa in Washington DC on increased amounts to be dedicated to the Philippines in the proposed FY 2010 US government budget. President Obama submitted the budget to the U.S. Congress last May 7.

In the proposed budget, an estimated total amount of US$667 million is to be allocated to the Philippines. The amount represents a substantial increase from previous years and can be taken as a reflection of the appreciation and value the Obama Administration gives to the strategic Philippines-US partnership.

“At this difficult time of ongoing economic crisis in the U.S. and the intense pressures on the U.S. budget to support domestic recovery efforts, the increase in foreign assistance is a sure sign of continuing U.S. commitment to support peace and development efforts in the Philippines. Our partnership is growing stronger and this has benefited not only our country but also the region,” Secretary Romulo stated.

Development assistance, defense and military support programs, poverty alleviation programs, as well as the Filipino Veterans Equity Fund will benefit from the increases in the budget proposal.

In terms of development assistance, funds will be allocated for the child survival and health program. USAID is also expected to step up its efforts in such areas as Mindanao, where 60 percent of its assistance has already been directed.

The aid agency has been focusing on helping communities in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao and promoting economic growth and business opportunities there. Around US$100 million was requested to fund development assistance.

The Philippines has also been engaged with the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and expects to conclude talks this year on at least US$350 million worth of grants for poverty alleviation and development projects. The FY 2010 budget proposal is in anticipation of such an agreement.

Filipino World War II veterans have also been assured of U.S. budget support in the amount of US$198 million for the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund.

The U.S. is the Philippines’ only mutual defense treaty partner and is the largest source of foreign military financing. Continued U.S. support to Philippine defense and military establishment is critical considering that as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), Philippine military expenditure is second to the lowest in Southeast Asia.

U.S. Foreign Military Financing to the Philippines, which contributes to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization efforts, is the 12th largest in the world. The Philippines also receives the highest level of International Military and Education Training funds in East Asia and the Pacific.

In maritime security, for instance, the U.S. facilitated the development of the Philippine Navy’s capability in maritime security through Coast Watch South (CWS) and the provision of surveillance, communications, and interdiction equipment.

The RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) has facilitated defense cooperation. The conduct of joint exercises builds the AFP’s capacity to meet traditional and non-traditional security threats and challenges, such as natural disasters, terrorism, piracy and other transnational crimes.

Under the annual Balikatan exercises, civic and humanitarian projects have been implemented. These involved the provision of medical services and the building of infrastructure, roads, schoolhouses and water wells, to improve community life and economic opportunities in Basilan, Sulu, Palawan, Samar and other provinces in the Philippines.

The Obama Administration’s move to provide additional assistance to the Philippines is seen as a clear manifestation of the deep and abiding friendship and mutual support that has characterized RP-U.S. relations through the years.

According to Secretary Romulo, “this augurs well for the future of our enlightened partnership.” END.