By Macon Araneta

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on November 15 branded as another missed opportunity the country’s ineligibility to access millions worth of grants from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

“We missed a great opportunity to get funding aimed at reducing poverty and strengthening good governance,” stressed Drilon.

The Washington-based Millennium Challenge Corp gave the Philippines a failing mark on corruption, rule of law, freedom of information, health expenditures, immunization rates, and access to credit. Making the country ineligible for a new aid compact in 2021.

In an earlier statement, the MCC explained that “The scorecards are a key component in MCC’s annual competitive selection process that determines which countries are eligible to develop a five-year grant agreement, known as a compact, with the agency.

To be considered for an MCC compact, it said, countries are expected to first pass MCC’s scorecard, passing at least 10 of the 20 indicators, including the Political Rights or Civil Liberties indicator, and the Control of Corruption indicator.” 

The Philippines benefited greatly from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Drilon stressed. 

Drilon said the $434 million aid it last extended to the Philippines during the Aquino administration was used to modernize the Bureau of Internal Revenue to strengthen tax collection, provided community-driven development projects to far-flung and high-poverty communities, and rehabilitated a critical secondary national road on Samar Island.

“It saddens us that the government’s inability to curb corruption has affected our access to critical grants such as the MCC,” said Drilon.

“This underscores the need to combat corruption. Otherwise, we risk losing several funding, grants and incentive programs that can help alleviate poverty in the country,” he emphasized.

The Senate leader said the year 2021 should be a year for recovery from the impact of Covid-19 pandemic and the onslaught of typhoons, adding that access to various funding, grants and incentives such as the MCC could help the country recover faster.

With the country becoming ineligible for MCC grants for next year, however, Drilon said “the country has lost not only grants but a chance to change lives and create impact.”

Citing a previous report by MCC, Drilon said previous projects funded by MCC aid compact helped generate additional domestic tax revenue since 2013, renovated 222 kilometers of a national road “that serve as a lifeline for numerous towns and municipalities in one of the poorest and most typhoon-prone areas of the country” to new climate-resilient standards, and implemented 4,000 small-scale community-driven development projects in rural, high-poverty areas based on needs identified and prioritized by residents across Filipino communities.