Filipinos end up paying more, instead of paying less, for ODAs

Jul. 22, 2008

DAVAO CITY–Filipinos ended up paying more, instead of benefiting from, the Official Development Assistance (ODAs) that rich donor countries pour into the country each year, according to an analyst from the think tank Ibon Philippines.

Sonny Africa, research head of Ibon Philippines, said that six decades of ODAs in the Philippines failed to address poverty and social inequality because they are carried out based on the agenda of donor countries, not on the genuine needs of the poor.

He cited as example the US$3 billion foreign aid for Philippine health sector reforms that the country received from the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank in the last decade.

Africa said that this foreign aid has been tied down with conditions to privatize the health sector, so that Filipinos ended up paying for the higher cost for hospitalization and health benefits now compared to the years before the reforms were implemented.

“As a result (of the health sector reforms), health services have been drastically reduced and government funding for health benefits has been halved,” Africa said. “(The foreign aid) has not improved the Philippine health system,” he said, “It has eroded it. Healthcare and medicine is becoming beyond the reach of ordinary Filipinos.”

He also said that the same case is happening to the power sector, which received some US$2.8 billion to US$3 billion in aid since the 1980s. Power rates have increased six to eight times, hence, Africa pointed out.

Ibon Philippines was among the AidsWatch network that gathered in Davao to review the impact of ODAs in the Philippines, and determine whether or not they’ve been “effective” in addressing poverty and social inequity.

AidsWatch monitors the compliance of the Paris Declaration, signed by big foreign donors in 2005, to improve delivery of foreign aid to the developing world, by encouraging the participation of host communities.

Mindanao civic groups attending the gathering here are batting for an overhaul of the country’s foreign aid system to give affected communities a direct hand and a greater voice in choosing the kind of aids relevant to them.

AidWatch Philippines, a network of non government organizations, pointed out that civil society groups have often been left out in these foreign aid programs, which are usually coursed through traditional government sources that are open for corruption.

“ODA is a public trust that must serve the collective good,” the AidsWatch unity statement read. “Aid will only be developmental if it is consistent with the principle of respect for human rights, democratic ownership of the development process, equity in growth and development, among others.”

The group demanded the removal of policy conditions tied with foreign aid, increase in grant aid and an increase in aid for rural development, social services, gender, human rights and environment.

But the group also demanded for greater transparency and accountability in the negotiation, design and implementation of aid programs and projects, greater public participation and a greater CSO involvement in ODAs.

“They should stop treating CSOs as subcontractors for ODA projects,” said Africa. (Germelina Lacorte/

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