US grants RP $135M – more aid than Obama asked for

MANILA, Philippines — The US Congress has increased Washington’s development and security assistance to the Philippines for fiscal year 2010 to $135.1 million, up 13 percent from last year’s $119.7 million, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo announced Thursday.

Romulo said the amount was higher than the $118.7 million the Obama administration had requested.
The significant increase, he said, was an indication of the US government’s confidence in and the value it places on its partnership with the Philippines.

“The US Congress has always played a key role in ensuring that the alliance between the Philippines and the United States remains strong and is supportive of peace and development efforts in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao,” he said.
Romulo said two-thirds of the aid amount would go to Mindanao for basic services, livelihood projects and the reintegration of ex-combatants.

The increase was part of the Fiscal Year 2010 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that was approved by the US House of Representatives on Dec. 8 and the US Senate on Dec. 13. The legislation will now go to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Romulo cited the meeting between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Obama in the Oval Office in July this year as a factor that led to the positive outlook in the US toward the Philippines.

During the meeting, President Obama said: “We are very appreciative of the concrete ways in which her administration has pursued in strengthening ties with the United States. President Arroyo has done outstanding work on a whole range of issues.”

Specifically, the combined Development Assistance and Economic Support Fund was increased to $70.3 million in 2010 from $60 million in 2009. ForeignMilitary Financing was raised to $32 million from $15 million.

Included in the appropriations package was $198 million for the Filipino Veterans Equity Fund, the long overdue payment for services rendered as part of US forces by Filipino soldiers during World War II.

As of Dec. 1, over $128 million has been awarded to Filipino veterans.

Additionally, the Philippines stands to receive up to $450 million from the US Millennium Challenge Corporation, whose board led by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently re-selected the Philippines as being compact eligible for fiscal year 2010.

Romulo said full funding of the Philippines-MCC agreement is possible due to a rider in the 2010 appropriations bill that waives the statutory 25-percent funding cap on the Philippines arising from its recent World Bank upgrade to a higher income category.

In terms of Development Assistance, the Philippines is second only to Indonesia globally.