ADB backs PH development goals in key sectors

(From left) DBM Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman, Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto, ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa, and NEDA Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan. (DOF photo)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto has successfully garnered support from Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa for the Philippines’ development agenda.

The commitment, secured during a high-level meeting, will bolster the country’s digitalization, human capital and infrastructure development, and disaster preparedness initiatives.

In discussions on April 17, 2024, Asakawa confirmed that these strategic areas will feature prominently in the upcoming Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) for the Philippines, which is in alignment with the priorities of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration.

Secretary Recto, expressing satisfaction with the focus areas, highlighted the government’s push for a more efficient tax collection system through digitalization, noting a shift of a quarter of Filipino consumers to e-commerce platforms. Recto warned of significant potential revenue losses if the adaptation to digital trends does not keep pace.

In response, the ADB has pledged to collaborate with the Philippine government on a Digital Transformation Project for the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). This commitment extends the Bank’s ongoing support for the country’s tax reform and domestic resource mobilization.

Recto also appealed for increased ADB assistance in strengthening the nation’s human capital through education and nutrition initiatives, essential for enhancing Filipino well-being.

With the passage of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Code, the Finance Chief has also pushed for the ADB to aid the country in attracting more investors for vital infrastructure projects, particularly those focused on energy, and physical and digital connectivity, to heighten competitiveness.

Additionally, Recto has sought the ADB’s endorsement for the Philippines’ bid to host the Loss and Damage Fund (LDF), a new global climate fund under the UNFCCC, established in November 2023.

President Asakawa reaffirmed the ADB’s dedication to a robust partnership with the Philippines, which is on track to becoming an upper-middle-income country. The ADB’s current official development assistance (ODA) to the Philippines stands at USD 11.40 billion as of the end of 2023, making it the nation’s second-largest ODA partner.

Since the start of the Marcos Jr. administration, the ADB has provided approximately USD 4.48 billion in ODA loan financing for key programs and projects, supplemented by grants and technical assistance for project studies, preparation, implementation, and capacity building.

The meeting took place in Washington, D.C., alongside the WB-IMF Spring Meetings. Secretary Recto was joined by a cadre of economic and development leaders from the Philippine government, including NEDA Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan and DBM Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman.

The ADB delegation included high-ranking officials such as Vice President of Southeast Asia Operations Scott Morris and others, demonstrating the high level of engagement between the ADB and the Philippine government.