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Italy extends debt swap development program with PHL for two more years - DFA.

The Italian government has found 'notable' the forest cover project implemented at the Xavier Science Foundation in Bukidnon as it also extended for another two years the debt swap development program it had sealed with the Philippine government signed in 2012.

A Department of Foreign Affairs news dispatch on Monday said the Xavier project in Bukidnon was among the nine major projects granted to the Philippines under Italy's debt conversion program.

The Xavier Science Foundation, Inc. implemented the program called Enhancing Communities' Capacity for Inclusive Ecosystem Management and Rural Economic Sustainability (Eco-Cares). The project aims to increase forest cover by at least 200 hectares.

The same project has included a program to improve economic opportunities within the Cagayan de Oro (CDO) river basin, particularly in the upland municipalities of Talakag, Libona, and Baungon in the province of Bukidnon, the DOF dispatch said.

It said that the Xavier project 'has been notable in terms of project implementation'.

The debt swap program involved nine projects, including the Bukidnon forest cover project. Of the nine projects, two have been completed: the Tabuk Eco-Spirituality Center Project in Kalinga province, and the Sustainable Eco-Tourism Project in the Puerto Princesa underground river area.

The Tabuk Eco-Spirituality Center Project in Kalinga was implemented by the Mother Consuelo Development Foundation in Tabuk City, Kalinga to reforest 15 hectares, and provide livelihood activities to indigenous communities.

The Puerto Princesa project was implemented by TagBalay Foundation to preserve the underground river area 'towards developing new tourism sites as well as training members.'

The debt swap program was aimed to support projects on environmental protection and poverty reduction and are to be implemented by Philippine/Italian nongovernment organizations, national government agencies, and local government units.

The DOF said the projects were implemented in the provinces or districts in the Philippines with the highest poverty rates and must be carried out 'in a context of effective participation of the local communities.'

The program has supported nine projects - two small (maximum of P10 million each), five medium (maximum of P25 million each), and two large (maximum of P35 million each).

The remaining seven projects were being considered to receive continued support with the two year extension of the program, the DOF said.

It said the two-year extension was expected 'to yield additional alternative livelihood for about 17,000 beneficiaries, including farmers and fisherfolks through forest conservation and reforestation activities, sustainable and integrated agricultural practices, better coastal resource management, and more eco-tourism opportunities.'

The DOF said the governments of Italy and the Philippines have agreed on the extension of the Philippines-Italy Debt for Development Program for two years in an exchange of letters between Italian Ambassador Giorgio Guglielmino and the Philippine Department of Finance-International Finance Group headed by Undersecretary Mark Dennis Y.C. Joven.

The Philippines was identified as one of the beneficiaries of the debt conversion program by Italy under its 2011-2013 Programming Guidelines and Directions. A Debt for Development Swap Agreement between the Philippines and Italy was signed on May 29, 2012 through the Department of Finance and the Italian Embassy in Manila. This program allows the conversion of the Philippines' debt obligation amounting to EUR2,916,919.45 (about $3.75 million or P160 million).

The DOF said both the governments 'are greatly satisfied with the accomplishments of the program and find these as motivation for sustaining and enhancing development cooperation.'
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Feb 20, 2019
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