PH to withdraw application for U.S. aid to focus on rebuilding Marawi

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President Rodrigo Duterte (R) and U.S. President Donald Trump (L). FILE PHOTO

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 19) — The Philippines will withdraw its application for a second grant from an independent U.S. government aid group, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the government's economic managers, along with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, chose to cancel the country's application to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in order to focus all "our resources, attention, and energies," to the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi.

"We have opted to withdraw from the second Millennium Challenge… The decision to withdraw was because of the urgent priority of the administration to rebuild Marawi," Roque said in a Malacañang press briefing.

He added, the decision has nothing to do with the country's failure this year to meet the MCC's standards on rule of law and curbing corruption.

Read more: PH fails on rule of law, curbing corruption in U.S. group scorecard for aid

It was the first time in four years that the country failed to meet the rule of law and control of corruption standards required for its income group, data from the MCC show.

The MCC selects countries eligible for aid based primarily on their scorecards, as it requires aid recipients to commit to good governance, economic freedom, and investments in their citizens. The MCC is an independent agency of the United States government.

This year, out of 20 indicators, the Philippines failed in eight, the others being health expenditures, primary education expenditures, and ease of doing business.

Roque, however, clarified the MCC has not released a final decision on whether or not to give aid to the Philippines. He also did not say how much in funding the country had applied for and in which project areas.

"Before any decision we have opted to withdraw because we really cannot give any other priority other than to the rebuilding of Marawi at this point," Roque said.

In December 2016, the MCC deferred a vote on giving a second aid to the Philippines, citing concerns over reports of human rights violations in the government's bloody war on drugs.

President Rodrigo Duterte has made it clear he does not want any aid with conditions, as he repeatedly lashed out at the European Union for alleged criticisms on the drug war.

When asked about this directive from the President, Roque said there is no other reason for the withdrawal, specifically not any interference from the U.S.

Philippines received US$434 million from MCC

Roque said any aid the country could possibly receive from the MCC would not be used for rebuilding Marawi, because the group does not cover such projects.

"MCC exists for other objectives. They do not exist for rebuilding because of natural or man-made calamities," he said.

The MCC supports a wide range of country-led projects, including the building of transportation infrastructure, it said on its website.

The MCC was created by the U.S. Congress in 2004 and has since provided more than $10 billion worth of aid for developing countries, including the Philippines.

In 2010, the Philippines received $434 million worth of investments from the MCC, which funded the modernization of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the upgrade of a major highway in Samar, as well as community development projects in some of the poorest areas in the country.

The grant expired in May 2016.