Sizing up the $434-million MCC grant

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At the posh Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York last week, the US ceremonially sweetened its relations with the Philippines with a USD434-million grant to the Philippines for the implementation of a road project and other anti-poverty programs. Widely perceived as a vote of confidence for the new administration, the compact also spells out the reaffirmed geo-political and economic interests of the US in the country.

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed the strong RP-US ties in their remarks over the signing of the five-year compact under the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US-run development agency. MCC was created by the US Congress in 2004, forming partnerships with some of the world’s poorest countries.

“We want to assist the people of the Philippines to be able to do more for themselves, and we also want to see results from our investment. This was a negotiated agreement,” Secretary Clinton said. For his part, President Aquino said the projects under the compact “demonstrates the country’s ‘high capacity’ as an MCC partner.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the MCC grant proves the trust of the US in the reforms being pushed by the Aquino administration against corruption and towards poverty alleviation.

Nearly half of the grant will be used to fund the Secondary National Road Development Project (US214.4 million) which focuses on the repair of roads and bridges in Eastern and Western Samar, a prioritization lauded by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone.

Ironically, Samar was the crime scene of the infamous Balangiga massacre in 1901, wherein the heavy-handed retaliation of American troops following a surprise guerrilla attack resulted in the death of around 3,000 Filipinos.

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