By Genalyn Kabiling
SEOUL — The Philippine government has vowed a “corruption-free” use of the $1 billion official development assistance from South Korea, the bulk of which could fund three projects under the government’s infrastructure program.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said they intend to maximize the increased financial aid from South Korea and closely monitor and audit the implementation of covered projects.
Under the $1 billion ODA from Korea, Dominguez said they would tap $172.64 million for new Cebu international container port, $100-million for the new Dumaguete airport development project, and $41 million for the implementation of electronic receipt, invoices and sales reporting system.
The remaining $636 million might be allocated to two or three of flagship infrastructure projects identified in the “Build, Build, Build” program, according to Dominguez.
“I assured (Finance) Deputy Prime Minister Kim (Dong-yeon) our strict monitoring of these projects to make sure that none of the Korean taxpayers’ money is wasted in corruption and that all the ODA-supported projects will bring lasting benefits to the Filipino people,” Dominguez said during a press conference here.
“It’s our duty to make sure that those funds are totally corruption-free when they are used. We are monitoring these projects very carefully. We are getting COA (Commission on Audit) involved in the audit of these projects,” he added.
Dominguez assured that the loan package from South Korea, which increased from $500 million, would be affordable for the Philippine government.
He said the interest rate on the $172 million loan for the Cebu port was 0.15 percent, which is payable for 40 years with a 10-year grace period.
“It is very, very generous of the Korean government. And certainly we can afford this kasi, you know, when they put the port we will be charging port charges and goods will flow more quickly, traffic will be lessened in Cebu. So, it’s really beneficial for us. And the loan is very, very, very cheap,” he said.
Dominguez said he and his South Korean counterpart also tackled ways to expedite the process of financing key development projects in the Philippines. The two countries intend to create a small group and hold more frequent consultations to ensure that priorities remain aligned.
“We hope to get the projects running as soon as possible to support the rapid expansion of our economy,” he said.
He also expressed gratitude to South Korea for its strong support for the Philippines’ economic modernization. “South Korea is firmly committed to the Philippines economic emergence. We are ready to take our place as one of Asia’s tiger economies, and we will forever be grateful for the generous partnership extended by the Korean people,” he said.
Dominguez said he also thanked the Korean government for the $6.6 million grant for enhancing the capabilities of the Philippine National Police, which includes supply of vehicles and training of cops.
He also raised the country’s request for assistance in the protection and preservation of the ecological systems in high-density tourist areas like Siargao to avoid problems similar to Boracay.
“I assured my counterpart of the Duterte government’s strong commitment to ensure environmental sustainability in tourist destinations,” Dominguez said.
He said the two countries also agreed to craft a knowledge sharing and educational exchange program for Filipino and Korean students, as well as young government professionals.
He said the Deputy Prime Minister expressed support for the e-governance project and comprehensive tax reform program. “He hopes to complete the tax reform programs successfully. He understands the importance of the tax reform program to the sustainability of our economic emergence,” he said.