ROSEMARIE G. EDILLON
Undersecretary for Policy and Planning
National Economic and Development Authority
Book launching of
“Together We Deliver. 50 Stories of Partnerships in Asia and the Pacific”
Mr. Takehiko Nakao, President of ADB
Mr Maurizio Ghirga, Executive Director of the Board of Directors of ADB,
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, on behalf of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), I would like to express our appreciation for being included in this significant event of the ADB.
NEDA considers the Asian Development Bank as a strong and dependable partner in development. As I prepared my reflections, I first reviewed the traditional wedding vow. Well, strictly speaking, partners are not really married couples; but since we have been “living together” for 50 years now, we can actually consider ourselves a common-law couple.
The traditional wedding vow reads:
“To have and to hold
For better or for worse
For richer or for poorer
In sickness and in health”
And to prove what a great partner ADB has been to the Philippines, just look at its story title for the Philippines; our story is on pages 184-189, and the title reads: “Listening and Responding”; #relationship goals!
Among the principles underlying ADB’s relationship with the Philippines are (1) Strong Country Ownership and (2) Alignment with Country Systems and the Use of Country Systems, including embedding in the Public Sector Management Cycle. These principles imply an acknowledgement that we know what we need. The priorities emanate from us and these determine their program of assistance. They present flexibility in aligning their systems with ours, making it easier to deal with each other. I call that respect; again #relationship goals.
During the first decade of the country’s relationship with ADB, the focus was on rural infrastructure like farm-to-market roads, irrigation projects. During the second decade, ADB expanded its assistance program to include support for education, particularly on Engineering and TVET. The third decade coincided with our power crisis, and ADB supported the installation of power generation projects. They also provided technical assistance to establish the public-private partnership program for infrastructure and the PPP Center. And during the last decade, ADB focused its assistance on community empowerment, social protection projects and post-disaster recovery projects. So, you see, our needs as a country have been evolving, and ADB has responded accordingly. #relationship_goals!
At the same time, we recognize the expertise of ADB in addressing development challenges. After all, it has been working closely with 66 other countries. Just looking at these 50 stories gives you the breadth of their experience with development work.
I have personally seen this breadth of experience and dependability as a partner demonstrated when we formulated the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda. This was in response to the extensive damage wrought by tropical cyclone Haiyan (Yolanda), the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall. Soon after typhoon Haiyan brought havoc to central Philippines, there were many offers of help from development partners. They were all welcome and we really needed them! But pretty soon, the extent and magnitude of the damage became clear to us, as government was spending more than half a billion pesos per day just for relief.
Now, the usual response protocol after a disaster was to undertake rescue and relief operations immediately; then let things settle, conduct a post-disaster needs assessment, formulate a rehabilitation plan, then implement the rehabilitation plan. With houses and establishments either severely damaged or wiped out, we realized that it would take a long while for things to settle and so it looked like it was gonna be a protracted period of relief. We at the NEDA figured that we should already begin the “early recovery” phase, which could then help other elements to settle.
For your information, NEDA is the Vice-Chair for Recovery and Rehabilitation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. As we were nearing the end of the budget hearings that time, our colleagues at the DBCC kept asking us how much the recovery would cost; if our proposed budget would be enough; if we needed to borrow; if we would breach our programmed deficit. Hence, the need to come up with the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda immediately. And so with the help of development partners, the most effective cooperation practice I have seen, we were able to come up with the framework plan, the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda. There was a second volume, Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda 2 “Build Back Better.” The premise was that the country was on track towards attaining the PDP targets, but Haiyan derailed our efforts. The strategy, therefore, is to recover lost ground and steer development back on its track. ADB provided much needed technical assistance, logistics, plus the offer that they can provide anything that we needed. They even published the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda and Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda 2, in record time, and agreed to our condition that there should be no ADB logo in it. That was very magnanimous of them; again #relationship_goals.
They also established a multi-donor trust fund for the recovery effort. At the same time, they had their own program of assistance and even set up an office in Tacloban, Leyte to be able to respond quickly to whatever the need was.
Just recently, we also requested the help of ADB in our long-term visioning exercise. Aside from faithfully attending the Advisory Council meetings, they have mobilized a group of experts to undertake technical studies which we are now using as reference to finalize our roadmap in implementing our long-term development agenda.
I’d like to refer back to the Philippines-ADB story on “Listening and Responding.” I especially like the first two paragraphs of the writeup; my congratulations to the writer and editor. If I may read:
“Lorna, a 41-year-old mother of four, is proud to have shoveled gravel and sand and carried concrete blocks to build the three- classroom school building and evacuation center in Barangay Tres Maris, Donsol, in the southern province of Sorsogon. As a single parent, her wholehearted focus is on providing for her children.”
This opening paragraph paints a powerful picture of empowerment and hope, even for the very disadvantaged. Here is a woman, not quite young, who has endured a lot in her life, being a single mother of four and living in Donsol, Sorsogon, one of the calamity-prone areas of the country. She provides for her four children, obviously with “blood, sweat and tears,” to borrow an expression.
And what does she do in her spare time? She shovels gravel and sand; she carries concrete blocks; and she is proud to do so! After all, she is helping build a classroom – an investment in human capital, and an evacuation center – an investment in resiliency.
And why does she do that? The answer is in the second paragraph:
“I don’t want my children to experience the poverty I experienced,” she says.
She wants a better future for her children. And that is also what the rest of us want. We aspire for a future where there is shared prosperity and, at the minimum, no one is poor; where we all enjoy a comfortable lifestyle; a future where our peoples live long and healthy lives, are smart and innovative and live in a high trust society.
Going back to our wedding vow…
We look forward to our continued strong partnership with ADB. Hopefully, over the next few years, it will be during better times; that you will continue to support us in addressing the new challenges of a richer Philippines and meeting the more sophisticated demands from a healthy constituency.
My heartfelt thanks to the Asian Development Bank!