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Ceremonial Launch of the Philippines Provincial Roads Management Facility in the Provinces of Lanao del Norte, Davao del Norte and Aklan
Remarks by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
16 February 2012
I am privileged to be with you all this morning for the official launch of the Provincial Roads Management Facility, or PRMF, in the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Davao del Norte, and Aklan.
It is my sixth week as the new Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, and I am pleased to have this opportunity to meet the Governors of the PRMF partner provinces.
As all of you know, PRMF is a significant component of Australia’s development assistance to the Philippines: a $100M, five-year project that involves performance-based partnerships with select provinces in Mindanao and the Visayas. PRMF is Australia’s single largest grant aid project in the Philippines to date.
Australia-Philippines development partnership
Allow me to share with you why the Australian government gives development assistance to developing countries like the Philippines.
The fundamental purpose of Australian development assistance is to help people overcome poverty.
To quote our Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Kevin Rudd, “we want to be judged not by how much we spend, but what results we produce – the number of lives we save, the number of children we educate, the number of people we lift out of poverty”.
Of Australia’s 24 nearest neighbours, 22 are developing countries. The Philippines is one of our closest neighbours, where 26.5 per cent or 23.14 million Filipinos currently live below poverty line.
Australia’s development assistance program is working with the Philippine government to reverse this trend. We have achieved some impressive results in recent years.
Australia’s development assistance program has contributed to the achievement of improved access to quality schooling for approximately 6 million Filipino children through AusAID-funded basic education programs. It has also contributed to 92.3 per cent decline in deaths from malaria across 26 provinces as a result of an Australian- supported World Health Organisation program.
We have made a substantial contribution, I am proud to say, to improving human capital in the Philippines – for example, your provinces have benefited from AusAID’s scholarship programs over the years. We expect to continue awarding at least 120 Filipinos scholarships to study in Australia each year, adding to the 2,000 Filipino scholars who have studied in Australia since the 1940s.
Development focus in the Philippines
Our respective governments are currently negotiating a new country strategy to guide the Australian development cooperation program over the next six years. We aim to align our support with the Philippine Development Plan which provides an unprecedented basis for invigorated partnerships between government and civil society, academia, business and donors. The Philippine government has made positive early reforms to deliver against this Plan, and Australia stands ready to assist where we can.
The framework for the new country strategy was endorsed by the Philippines Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs at the Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting held in Canberra last year. Minister Rudd and Secretary del Rosario reaffirmed their commitment to a long-term engagement to reduce poverty in the Philippines through support for basic education; improving local government capacity to deliver basic services; strengthened climate change adaptation and disaster risk management; and improving the prospects for peace and security. The Minister and Secretary affirmed that accountable, transparent and effective governance was essential to reducing poverty in the Philippines.
The new country strategy will underscore both governments’ commitment to achieve concrete development results with Australia’s scarce grant funds.
Improving local government capacity to deliver basic services
Let me now focus on the particular sector most relevant to you: improving local government capacity to deliver basic services.
We have a strong partnership, with not just our provincial partners but also with DILG, led by a former Mayor himself, who is with us today, Secretary Jesse Robredo.
We support the commitment of DILG to drive governance reforms that value the principles of performance, accountability, transparency and inclusivity.
We support the increased use of incentives and performance-based approaches to encourage local government unit reforms.
We expect our provincial PRMF partners to, for example, comply fully with the government’s full disclosure policy; and to have transparent procurement processes; have enduring engagement with civil society.
PRMF support to sub-national governments
PRMF provides funds for road rehabilitation and maintenance to encourage provinces to improve systems of public administration and governance associated with road sector planning and management.
Although a large portion of the $100M will be spent on road rehabilitation and maintenance in partner provinces, it is primarily a governance and capacity building program that puts emphasis on institutional and governance reforms that will strengthen the service delivery capabilities of provincial governments.
I am pleased to know that the initial seven provincial governments have embraced this emphasis on governance reform. I am confident that our three new provincial partners will do the same.
In the past two years, we have invested significant resources in the seven initial provincial partners of PRMF. I am proud to say that we can already demonstrate real achievements on the ground in each province. We thank the Governors of the seven provinces here with us today who have played key roles in realising these achievements.
To illustrate how far we have come:
• at least 14 road rehabilitation projects have been completed, benefitting at least 51,393 men and women and delivering material economic and social benefits to communities served by the roads - there are at least 150.20 kilometres programmed for implementation this year
• all seven provinces have set up internal audit offices as required by law, although issues on the function, usefulness, and some political dimensions continue to challenge the effectiveness of this mandated structure
• there are now demonstrated links between planning and budgeting evidenced by provincial allocations to the road maintenance budget requirements that adhere to national standards and participatory processes – developing local budget advocates will help sustain this process.
These significant improvements in the areas of planning; human resource, revenue, and expenditure management, show that the initial partner provinces are making headway in the governance reforms supported by PRMF. No doubt the three new provincial partners are keen to draw on the help of PRMF to achieve similar results.
But, clearly, there is a long way to go.
While there are many other good outcomes, there are also some emerging lessons.
As a complex demonstration program that combines roads management with governance and institutional reforms, we have encountered challenges in influencing reforms.
Allow me to give one example. Many of you are still suffering from poor human resource planning, including ineffective hiring and job placement practices. Ensuring that the right people are in the right positions at the right time is central to getting things done. We need your leadership in correcting these practices.
We have put in place mechanisms like the regular governor’s meeting that will inform the strategic implementation of the program. I encourage you to provide feedback not just on what works well, but also on areas where we can improve. If anyone knows your province best, it would be you.
In closing, allow me to formally welcome the Provinces of Lanao del Norte, Davao del Norte and Aklan to the PRMF family.
While you are coming in around the middle of this program, one of the reasons why you have been selected is because you have demonstrated a commitment to good governance practices, and great potential to succeed. We have high expectations from you and will support your efforts to accelerate reform and be at par with the initial seven PRMF provinces.
You will also benefit from the many lessons and experiences of the initial provinces. We enjoin the Governors of these provinces to share the lessons and experiences that they have gained from PRMF.
We will continue to build on the gains we have made in reducing poverty in the Philippines, through PRMF, and through the rest of the Australian development assistance program in the Philippines.
Thank you and I look forward to visiting your provinces soon.