The Philippines is a lower middle-income country that comprises over 7 000 islands and has a population of 106 million. The Philippines does relatively well on education, life expectancy and GNI per capita. However, economic progress over the past decades has had only a limited impact on poverty reduction mainly owing to high population growth, unemployment, corruption, patrimonial politics and local conflicts. Despite gender equality regulations, the Philippines still face high gender inequality in the labour force participation and limitations in the reproductive health sector.
The main challenge for the Philippines to accomplish its Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 (PDP), a medium term strategy for poverty reduction and achievement of the SDGs, is to make growth more inclusive and to accelerate job creation by increasing investments particularly in infrastructure, better governance and by improving the business environment including better business services.
The EU's support to the Philippines currently focuses on governance, job creation, renewable energy, and assistance to vulnerable populations, specifically in Mindanao which is the poorest region of the Philippines and has been affected by conflicts and population displacement. The EU remains one the biggest foreign development partners in support to Mindanao and the Peace Processes through a comprehensive approach targeting directly the political settlement with the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace and longer term development mainly through the Development Cooperation Instrument.
The EU-Philippines relationship has deepened further after the EU-Philippines Partnership and Cooperation Agreement entered into force on 1 March 2018. EU development assistance is closely aligned with the PDP. The Plan provides a framework that allows the EU to align its development cooperation programmes with Government policies and programmes with clear leadership and ownership on the part of the Philippine authorities.
The EU support strategy for the period 2014-2020 doubles EU grant assistance to the Philippines compared with the period 2007-2013, from EUR 130 million (PHP 7 billion) to the current amount of EUR 260 million (PHP 17 billion). Most of the EU funds are given as grants making the EU jointly with EU Member States the largest grant donor in the Philippines. The Multiannual Indicative Programme 2014-2020 focuses on:
Rule of law: the EU supports the rule of law and the needed governance reforms in justice sector institutions as mentioned in the PDP 2017-2022 which envisions the following outcomes: (i) Criminal, commercial and administrative justice systems enhanced; (ii) improved sector efficiency and accountability. Specific assistance will also be provided to the new political entity of the "Bangsamoro" to ensure that the new institutions link appropriately to the national system and respect internationally recognized laws and norms. Ensuring that the rule of law situation improves significantly after the signing of the Peace Agreement not only at the regional but also and perhaps more importantly at the local level will be key to preserving peace and stability and promoting economic and social development.
Inclusive growth through access to sustainable energy and job creation: the EU works with the Philippines to make growth more inclusive and more sustainable by connecting more poor people to the electricity grid and by promoting decent work including the strengthening of women's employment opportunities. Job growth is targeted at the poorest areas of the Philippines including conflict-affected areas, Mindanao and the Visayas which were devastated by typhoons. It is proposed that the EU intervention focuses on increasing energy efficiency gains and promoting renewable energy both on- and off-grid. The EU intervention is aligned with the Philippines Government objectives of bringing energy to the poor and reducing the reliance of the economy on imported (carbon-intensive) fuels, of making growth more inclusive by promoting sustainable development in remote areas and of using sustainable energy as part of the National Climate Change Action Plan. EU interventions will ultimately contribute moving the Philippines towards the path of a Green Economy. Promotion of renewable energy in the Philippines is also crucial to jointly address the global challenge of climate change.
In addition to the initial Multiannual Indicative Programme 2014-2020:
Peacebuilding in Mindanao: in view of the renewed interest of the Philippine Government for the peace processes in Mindanao, the EU decided to develop a more sustained approach in supporting the Mindanao peace road map and governance framework and in contributing to the delivery of peace dividends at a grass root level. The EU will focus on contributing to achieving lasting peace and community resilience through early recovery, relief and rehabilitation, the implementation of peace settlements, civilian protection, ceasefire and monitoring mechanisms, promotion of inclusive participation of stakeholders, including women, in peace-building and providing platforms for dialogue and mediation including expansion of networks that will promote the culture of peace, prevent radicalisation and counter violent extremism in the whole Mindanao.
Bilateral EU-Philippines development cooperation is complemented by projects financed through regional and thematic programmes and instruments that are often implemented by civil society organisations addressing social issues, environment, indigenous people rights, human rights, local governance, peace building, and migration.
In addition, the EU is one of the most important donors to support the Philippines in cases of serious natural disasters which require emergency aid, such as after super-typhoon Haiyan.
The impact of EU’s development cooperation in the Philippines:
- EU’s support to the Health Sector through budget support programmes (closed in 2018) significantly contributed to the country's goal of achieving Universal Health Care and to strengthening confidential, voluntary and evidence-based treatment of drug dependent persons.
- The EU contributes to the national electrification policy through the electrification of 100,000 households with innovative renewable energy solutions coupled with livelihood activities.
- In the justice sector, EU’s support contributes to the curtail of backlog in courts, the reduction of prosecution services and the improvement of case management with focus on “justice zones”
- EU's comprehensive support to the Bangsamoro peace process facilitated the passing of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and its ratification by the population.