MANILA - The Canadian government has designated the Philippines as a "Country of Focus" of its international development assistance program, a move seen to boost its support for the country’s poverty eradication campaign, among others.
The move drew swift praise from Manila’s Department of Foreign Affairs, which said in a statement the Philippines’ selection as Country of Focus will enhance already satisfactory bilateral relations.
The DFA noted Canada’s quick and generous response in the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in November 2013; and its sustained involvement in peace and development programs in Mindanao.
In a statement, the Canadian Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development said that the Philippines as Country of Focus would receive Canada's yearly development assistance fund – along with Burma, Mongolia, Burkina Faso, Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Jordan were chosen based on "their real needs, their capacity to benefit from aid, and their alignment with Canadian foreign policy priorities".
According to Canadian Minister of International Development and La Francophonie Christian Paradis, his government has also increased the proportion of Canada's bilateral assistance from 80 to 90 percent to ensure the greatest results for those countries in need.
"With the launch of the Aid Effectiveness Agenda in 2009, our government made Canada's international assistance more focused, more effective, and more accountable," Paradis said.
This approach allowed Canada to deliver “concrete results for those in need around the world,” he added.
“Canada is continuing down this successful path, enhancing our focus, and strengthening our commitment to accountability and results. Canadians can be proud to be making a difference and saving lives.”
The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs welcomed this development, citing the "excellent" bilateral relations of both Manila and Ottawa.
"The Department of Foreign Affairs welcomes the announcement from Canada designating the Philippines as a Country of Focus and a priority recipient of development assistance under its international development assistance program," the DFA said on Saturday in a statement.
"The special designation as a Country of Focus also holds the promise of greater two-way bilateral trade and investment flows, and the designation also manifests an alignment in foreign policy, extending to various security, economic, socio-cultural and people-to-people interests," it added.
"The Filipino people will always remember how Canada came swiftly to the aid of those affected by Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda, and how the federal government facilitated a special typhoon matching fund that has grown to over CAD 170 million," the DFA said.
Through its development assistance, Canada, which has also played a key role in the Mindanao peace process, would help ensure the success of the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
"The announcement further illuminates the excellent bilateral relations between the Philippines and Canada, which is bolstered by strong people-to-people linkages, and highlights a strong affinity for principles and pursuits to promote prosperity and productivity, as well as freedom, peace, justice, human rights, gender empowerment, security, and the rule of law across the globe," the DFA further said.
"The Department of Foreign Affairs looks forward to furthering our goals for inclusive and sustainable growth and development with the help of Canada," it added.
To further increase transparency and accoutability for results, Canada said that it will also establish mutual accountability frameworks with partner countries.
These frameworks will establish mutual expectations; stress the importance of Canadian principles and values; establish greater transparency and predictability in how investments are spent; and set clear targets for the results Canada and its partners want to achieve.
"An unwavering commitment to accountability underpins all of Canada’s development programming,” Paradis noted.
“Our government is committed to delivering real and accountable results to those in need, and transparency for Canadian taxpayers. Canada is already ranked among the most transparent donors in the world.
Mutual Accountability Agreements will not only increase predictability for our implementing partners, but also set clear targets for both Canada and partner countries," he then assured.
Paradis also confirmed that Canada will maintain a number of smaller bilateral programs in countries known as development partners.
He affirmed that Canada will continue to provide humanitarian assistance on an as-needed basis-not limited to the list of development countries of focus, but guided by the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and political.
In 2009, Canada undertook to review the development countries of focus every five years to ensure countries of focus reflect evolving Canadian priorities and changing country circumstances.
Canada's five priorities for the international assistance includes, increasing food security; securing the future of children and youth; stimulating sustainable economic growth; advancing democracy; and promoting stability and security.
In addition to these priority themes, three cross-cutting themes are integrated into all of Canada's international development programs and policies, this includes; Increasing environmental sustainability; Advancing gender equality; Helping to strengthen governance institutions and practices.
"With this approach, Canada can focus on key development challenges, and ensure that its aid investments lead to concrete results for the world's poorest," Canada said.