MANILA, April 1, 2008 (STAR) By Paolo Romero Tuesday, April 1, 2008 The Philippines may receive as much as $700 million in grants from the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) if the US government corporation approves the lineup of anti-corruption and socio-economic projects to be proposed by the administration in the coming weeks, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said.

Teves told reporters before joining President Arroyo’s delegation to Hong Kong that he has been meeting with representatives of concerned government agencies to consolidate various projects that would be submitted to the MCC late this month or in May to allow the country to receive grants under the MCC’s “compact” program.

MCC chief executive officer Ambassador John Danilovich announced last March 12 that the Philippines has been “selected as eligible to apply for an MCC compact” which would allow the country to get “large-scale grants” in connection with its efforts to fight corruption.

The MCC was formed in 2004 by US President George W. Bush as an incentive for good governance among poor countries.

Teves said some 17 countries have already received grants from the MCC’s Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). The smallest was $69 million and the biggest, under the compact category, was $700 million for Tanzania.

“So the average is about $344 million. Simplifying it, $300 million times 40 (pesos) is P12 billion. That is the potential and if we’re lucky, we can get close to Tanzania, which is about $700 million,” he said.

In 2006, the Philippines obtained a $21-million grant from the MCC’s Threshold Program to combat corruption.

Danilovich congratulated the government “for its demonstrated commitment to tackling difficult challenges and improving the lives of its people.”

He said “while eligibility is an essential first step towards a poverty reduction grant from the MCC, selection does not guarantee funding.”

He said the MCC has been monitoring the progress of the government in fighting corruption and reducing poverty through the US Embassy in Manila and USAID and MCC officials stationed in the country.

“The Philippines, like all countries eligible for a compact, must maintain its performance on the MCC selection criteria and must now begin a broad-based consultative process with its people to develop a proposal that addresses the country’s barriers to poverty reduction and economic growth,” Danilovich said.

He added, “As partners, we agree that ending corruption and finding long-term ways to reduce poverty are urgent priorities that deserve our full attention.”

Teves, on the other hand, said the MCC is meeting monthly to monitor the countries availing of the MCA.

He said he has been meeting with concerned agencies and members of civil society and NGO representatives for the drafting of a list of programs and their details for submission to the MCC.

He said MCC officials will visit the country in the coming weeks to check on the progress of proposed projects. Mrs. Arroyo earlier directed Teves to include in the grant proposal support for the current initiatives to improve governance and tax administration, “and for the pursuit of greater transparency and accountability in the use of revenues.”

“Of course they (MCC) evaluate, conduct due diligence like checking our capacity to do the projects. Of course there would be refinements and negotiations and they will be submitted to the MCC Board,” Teves said.

He expressed hope that the entire process, including the MCC Board approval, would be finished before the US Congress deliberates on a new budget in October.

Teves said the MCC grant would be given in the form of socio-economic and even infrastructure projects as well as aid for strengthening anti-corruption efforts.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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