The Australian government is allocating AUD89.9 million or approximately PHP3.32 billion worth of official development assistance (ODA) to the Philippines for 2023 to 2024, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday. The announcement was made on the sidelines of the bilateral meeting between visiting Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo in Makati City on May 18. The funding will support programs, specifically on inclusive economic growth, education, training and scholarships, disaster and climate resilience, and peace and stability in Mindanao. The DFA said this is in addition to Canberra’s AUD10.95 million or around PHP405 million commitment to help the country establish a new immunization information, and strengthened laboratory network and surveillance systems during health emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic. From 2022 to 2023, the Australian Embassy said the Philippines has received an estimated PHP3.1 billion in ODA, a huge chunk of which went directly to peace-building in Mindanao. Apart from development cooperation, Wong and Manalo took note of ongoing cooperation in the areas of defense, maritime, counter-terrorism, law and justice, science and innovation, disaster risk reduction, education and training cooperation, and people-to-people exchanges, among others. Manalo and Wong also agreed to enhance trade and investment cooperation, including exploring possible cooperation on critical minerals and opportunities to improve two-way tourism. The DFA said both countries are currently negotiating a “work and holiday visa arrangement” but has yet to provide further details regarding its scope. Wong is in Manila for an official visit from May 16 to 18 upon the invitation of Manalo, an addition to the series of high-level visits and engagements between Australia and the Philippines during the Marcos administration. In a press conference in Makati City, Manalo said the possibility of an in-person meeting between President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and his Australian counterpart Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is likely once the ASEAN-Australia Summit takes place in March 2024. He said a bilateral visit is also possible ‘at a mutually agreed’ time.
Source: Philippines News Agency