MANILA, Philippines?The United States has allocated a total of $667 million in foreign assistance to the Philippines under the proposed government budget submitted by US President Barack Obama to the US Congress last May 7, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo announced on Wednesday.
Citing a report from Philippine Ambassador to Washington Willy Gaa, Romulo said the amount represented a substantial increase from previous years and ?a reflection of the appreciation and value? the Obama Administration gives to the strategic Philippines-US partnership.
?At this difficult time of ongoing economic crisis in the US and the intense pressures on the US budget to support domestic recovery efforts, the increase in foreign assistance is a sure sign of continuing US commitment to support peace and development efforts in the Philippines,? Romulo said in a statement.
?Our partnership is growing stronger and this has benefited not only our country but also the region,? he added.
In his report, Gaa said the total budget proposed for the Philippines included the annually determined US development and security assistance, funds for the Filipino Veterans Equity Fund, and a proposed amount for the proposed Philippine Compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation. "
Gaa said the White House increased its assistance request for the Philippines by $24.1 million?from $94.6 million in 2009 to $118.7 million for 2010.
"We are also very pleased to note that funding for the benefits of Filipino World War II veterans remain intact for 2010," Gaa stressed, adding that $198 million had been allocated to ensure payment of the benefits of Filipino World War II veterans under the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund.
With regard to the MCC, Gaa said the proposed budget included a substantial amount specifically for a possible Compact Agreement with the Philippines.
"The budget request for MCC for FY 2010 is based on an estimate of the funds needed to conclude MCC compacts with three countries that include the Philippines. The 2010 budget proposal is in anticipation of an possible compact agreement in the amount of $350 million," he said.
"We are now at a crucial stage in the compact development process and we are all working hard to conclude an MCC compact agreement."
Gaa also said that the USAID was expected to step up its efforts in such areas as Mindanao, where 60 percent of its assistance has already been directed. The aid agency has been focusing on helping communities in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao and promoting economic growth and business opportunities there. Around US$100 million was requested to fund development assistance.
In terms of Development Assistance, the Philippines is second only to Indonesia globally. However, the Philippines received the highest level of International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds in East Asia and the Pacific and the 12th biggest share of US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) in the world.
The US is the Philippines? only mutual defense treaty partner and is the largest source of foreign military financing. Continued US support to Philippine defense and military establishment is critical considering that as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), Philippine military expenditure is second to the lowest in Southeast Asia.
US Foreign Military Financing to the Philippines, which contributes to the Armed Forces of the Philippines? modernization efforts, is the 12th largest in the world. The Philippines also receives the highest level of International Military and Education Training funds in East Asia and the Pacific.
In maritime security, for instance, the US facilitated the development of the Philippine Navy?s capability in maritime security through Coast Watch South (CWS) and the provision of surveillance, communications, and interdiction equipment.
According to Gaa, the considerable increase in overall assistance requested for the Philippines gained added significance given the intense pressures on the Obama Administration?s budget processes by the challenges posed by the national and global economy.
"We deeply appreciate the increases in the budget request for the Philippines as we fully understand and appreciate the challenges and strains on the American budget process at this time," the ambassador said.
"The Obama Administration?s increased requests to Congress for foreign assistance to the Philippines reflect its appreciation and the value it gives to the strategic partnership between our two countries," he added.
Gaa likewise said the proposed increases, in the face of many other demands on the US budget, ?manifests the continuing commitment of the US to strengthening our partnership and to fully supporting the Philippines in its own efforts behind our common goals of promoting greater peace and development in our country and our region.?
Romulo said the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) had facilitated defense cooperation. The conduct of joint exercises builds the AFP?s capacity to meet traditional and non-traditional security threats and challenges, such as natural disasters, terrorism, piracy and other transnational crimes.
Under the annual Balikatan exercises, civic and humanitarian projects have been implemented. These involved the provision of medical services and the building of infrastructure, roads, schoolhouses and water wells, to improve community life and economic opportunities in Basilan, Sulu, Palawan, Samar and other provinces in the Philippines.
The Obama Administration?s move to provide additional assistance to the Philippines is seen as a clear manifestation of the deep and abiding friendship and mutual support that has characterized RP-US relations through the years,? Romulo said.
?This augurs well for the future of our enlightened partnership,? he added.