Sep 192016

President Rodrigo Duterte shows a document listing the names of government officials and law enforcers allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade during his speech at Camp Melchor F. Dela Cruz in Isabela on Sept. 17, 2016. PPD/Toto Lozano

MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration will pitch for the first time for assistance and support from development partners in November, looking at securing funding, while providing avenue to assure investors rule of law is being followed in its anti-drug war.

A Philippine Development Forum (PDF) is in the works and is “tentatively” scheduled two months from now, said Editha Martin, executive director of the central bank’s Investor Relations Office.

The annual event is held to secure commitments from the country’s official development assistance (ODA) providers, who will have a chance to dialogue with the government’s economic team.

At this early though, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has moved to get support for the new government’s first spending plan, which included more than 80 percent of foreign borrowings sourced from ODA.

After meeting with Japan and China, the finance chief met with representatives from the World Bank last September 14, led by Victoria Kwakwa, the agency’s vice-president for East Asia and the Pacific.

“It was a very productive meeting with the World Bank officials,” Dominguez was quoted as saying in a statement on Monday.

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Among others, the Department of Finance (DOF) secured the lender’s commitment for a technical assistance for tax reform, including “sharing best practices and experiences” abroad as well as strengthening the Bureau of Customs’ revenue collection capacity.

Included also in the agenda was an assurance from Dominguez that the Duterte government “prioritizes” rule of law and order as well as “strengthening peaceful and cordial relations with Philippines’ neighbors.”

This came as President Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs program has raised concerns on human rights violations, his canceled meeting with US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting and tirades against US forces in the country.

By country, the US is the third largest provider of ODA to the Philippines, government data showed.

Meanwhile, Washington-based World Bank has a net commitment of more than $3 billion comprising of 15 projects. Around $600 million proposals are also in the pipeline.

For 2017, 80 percent or P102.26 billion of the P126.26-billion in gross foreign borrowings will be sourced through ODA.

This marked a change from the previous administration’s focus on commercial borrowings or through bond issuances for its funding needs.

“It is possible for the donors to raise these concerns, it depends on them, although it may not be the correct forum for it,” said Ramon Casiple, executive director of Institute for Political and Economic Reforms.

Similar to previous PDFs, Casiple explained the government would be the one to set the tone of the meeting, which will likely focus on economic priorities.

“It will all depend on the donors’ particular concerns. Of course, they may withhold funding, but as I said, it may not be the right forum for (human rights issues),” he said in a phone interview.

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