South Korea helps PHL address growth constraints

Koica President Lee Mi-kyung (left) and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol unveil the Panay Local Food Center, a component of the Panay Island Upland–Sustainable Rural Development Project in San Miguel, Iloilo. This was one of the initiatives submitted by the development-aid agency to the Mission: PHL as its entry for the Project of the Year.

It is said that the “toughest steel is forged in the hottest fire.” The same is true for the strong bilateral relationship between Korea and the Philippines, which fought side by side during the Korean War.

The Philippines was the first Asian country to respond to the call of the United Nations Security Council to deploy forces to the Korean Peninsula during Korea’s hour of need. The government sent the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea composed of five Battalion Combat Teams.

Between 1950 and 1955, some 7,420 Filipino soldiers served in the Korean War. Around 112 men were killed and 299 others were wounded. And to this day, 16 men are still considered missing in action.

The Republic of Korea rose from the ashes left by the Korean War to become one of the world’s highly industrialized countries. It would have been easy for the ROK to move on and let go of the past. But it has honored its friendships and treasured its allies like the Philippines.

For many years now, the ROK, through the Korea International Cooperation Agency (Koica) and Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF), has helped the Philippines address its development constraints.

As of December 2017, data from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), showed that South Korea is regarded as the Philippines’ sixth-largest source of Official Development Assistance (ODA).

It extended a total ODA of $570.60 million. This is composed of $480.74 million worth of concessional loans and $89.86 million worth of grants.

In 2017, the Philippines received a total ODA of $15.45 billion, consisting of $13.03 billion in loans and grants of $2.42 billion.

Project benefits

The projects of the South Korean government were focused on agriculture and fisheries; climate change and disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM); health; education; and social justice projects.

Agriculture and fisheries projects funded by South Korea included the Panay Island Upland Sustainable Rural Development Project; Northern Iloilo Fishery Rehabilitation Development Project; and the Quirino Integrated Agricultural Development Project Phase II.

The Panay Island Upland Sustainable Rural Development Project benefited 2,026 households and 1,033 upland farmers through community development and the creation of income-generating projects in its first two phases of implementation.

These income-generating projects included crop production, livestock and poultry, farm machineries, postharvest facilities and capacity-building activities for farmers were provided.

The project’s third and final phase is currently being implemented in 11 municipalities across Aklan, Antique, Capiz and Iloilo. It involves the establishment of agricultural marketing projects, access to agribusiness credit, construction of farm-to-market road and conduct of capacity building for upland farmers.

Another project, the Northern Iloilo Fishery Rehabilitation Development Project, is currently undergoing procurement for construction works. However, through the project, Koica would develop a port operation and maintenance plan in partnership with the Philippine Ports Authority. This plan would guide the provincial government of Iloilo and municipal government of Concepcion in ensuring the sustainability of the project.

The other project, the Quirino Integrated Agricultural Development Project Phase II, is being implemented in partnership with the province’s local government.

It is currently completing implementation plans for the development of agroforestry, establishment of a cattle breeding center for livestock development and enhancement of value chain for rural development. These project components are expected to start in May.

“The project is expected to replicate the successful poverty reduction models of the first phase implemented from 2013-2016 and the provincial government of Quirino is gearing up to showcase Phase II as a global example/model for integrated rural development,” the Korean government said.

The climate change and DRRM projects of the Korean government include Adapting to Climate Change Impacts through the Construction of Water Impounding Facilities in the Philippines, or the Pasa Small Reservoir Irrigation Project and Automation of Flood Early Warning System for Disaster Mitigation in Greater Metro Manila.

The Pasa Small Reservoir Irrigation System has been turned over to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in July 2018. The irrigation system, which is now operational, provides water to 322 hectares of farms. Reforestation activities in 153 hectares of forest lands were also completed to promote the sustainability of watershed resources.

Around 41 personnel from NIA and other related agencies have been sent to Korea to learn about watershed management as well as dam operation and maintenance. Various local workshops and trainings for farmer beneficiaries were also conducted to inform them of the project benefits and teach proper usage and care of the irrigation system.

The Automation of Flood Early Warning System for Disaster Mitigation in Greater Metro Manila, meanwhile, was turned over to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) last December.

The facility was fitted with Automatic Water Level Gauges (AWLG), Automatic Rain Gauges (ARG), Warning Post, CCTVs, Command Center with state-of-the-art equipment, and newly developed software that are now fully operational. These have improved the responsiveness to natural disasters and mitigated damages to residents in Tullahan and Pasig-Marikina River Basin.

“To ensure the sustainability of the project, Koica specifically designed a multiyear training on Automation of Flood Early Warning System in Korea for Pagasa personnel,” the Korean government said. “Flood drills were also conducted to train local residents. Pagasa also included the project in their annual budget to make sure that enough funds are allocated for its regular maintenance.”

Various local workshops were conducted for local government units, other partner agencies that are mandated to address issues related to disaster risk reduction. The project also involved local residents to inform them of how the project is utilized to minimize casualties and property damages by securing forecast lead time.

Health and education

In terms of health projects, the Korean government is financing the Interoperable Health Information System for Region 4A-Calabarzon; Integrated, Equity Focused Service Delivery for Accelerated Improvement of Maternal and Newborn Health; Rehabilitation and Strengthening of the Felipe Abrigo Memorial Hospital and the Guian Inter-local Health Zone; and Integrated Nutrition and Health Actions in the first 1,000 days.  The Interoperable Health Information System for Region 4A-Calabarzon was turned over to Department of Health (DOH) last October. But efforts to improve and maximize project resources are being undertaken.

A special focus will be given in the province of Laguna as this province has the requisite infrastructure to maintain and sustain the system. However, expansion to other project areas will be done upon the discretion of the DOH.

Meanwhile, the Integrated, Equity Focused Service Delivery for Accelerated Improvement of Maternal and Newborn Health project officially ended in December.

The project has been deemed to be highly successful and has exceeded expectations, leading to a 63-percent decline in maternal deaths, and 45-percent decline in infant deaths in the 10 project sites.

To sustain and replicate the successes of the project, a three-pronged strategy has been used. The project interventions were rolled out through DOH Representatives and project successes were shared at the regional level to generate awareness about the approaches.

The World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, has developed a toolbox that consolidated the various tools developed to promote maternal and newborn health in the Davao Region.

The other project is the Rehabilitation and Strengthening of the Felipe Abrigo Memorial Hospital and the Guian Inter-local Health Zone.

Construction is expected to start within the year. Koica remains committed to finish the construction of a well-equipped hospital that is compliant with Philippine regulations.

Another project, the Integrated Nutrition and Health Actions in the first 1,000 days, aims to directly address malnutrition. Consultations with various stakeholders have been initiated and the Unicef is also preparing the survey that will provide the baseline data in project sites.

To ensure that the initiatives introduced through the project will be sustained, the Korean government is undertaking a careful selection of partners who have the means and inclination to continue project gains, building of strong relationship with stakeholders.

Risks are being identified; capture knowledge; demonstrate impact on subnational and national level; and influence policy-makers and institutionalizing change.

The education projects of ROK in the Philippines included the reconstruction and strengthening of the Visayas State University (VSU) Tolosa Campus which was turned over to the VSU last year and the Better Life for Out-of-School Girls to Fight against Poverty and Injustice in the Philippines.

The construction of two buildings in the VSU’s Tolosa Campus includes equipment and other facilities such as school and dorm furniture are being maintained by the VSU Planning and Infrastructure Management Office and counterpart staff of Koica.

VSU also included the project in their annual budget to make sure that enough funds are allocated for its regular maintenance and for the prudent use of the facility such as power consumption and other utilities. An operations manual was also developed to make sure that rules within the building are properly implemented.

The other project is the Better Life for Out-of-School Girls to Fight against Poverty and Injustice in the Philippines which supports the development and implementation of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) in the Philippines.

Through the project, the documents and learning materials for the ALS Curriculum in Parallel and Equivalent to K to 12 National Curriculum has been revised and enhanced. This includes the Budget of Works, ALS Learners’ Books and ALS Teachers’ Guidebooks.

A series of workshop were also provided for the capacity building of ALS mobile teachers and coordinators. Around 12 Department of Education key officials and teachers were sent to Korea for an international workshop.

To set-up a platform of motivation for out-of-school girls, two capacity building programs for the ALS learners were conducted. The Girls Education Center will be constructed in Tacloban this year and is expected to be operational by 2020.

In terms of social justice, the Korean government financed the project titled, “Enhancing the Criminal Investigation Capability of the Philippine National Police (PNP).” It aimed to provide vehicles and forensic kits to the PNP.

To date, Koica has already turned-over 130 police vehicles and 120 forensic kits to the PNP.  These equipment are currently operational and are being used by police officers in Metro Manila, Baguio, Angeles, Cebu and Davao.

Around 142 motorbikes are also scheduled to be delivered in the middle of this year. All of these would be operated and maintained by the PNP using funds from their regular budget and personnel from their existing manpower.

Koica also aims to ensure the sustainability of the project by enhancing the institutional capability of the PNP. Around 150 police officers would be sent to Korea to participate in various capacity-building programs.

The Korean government has conducted local trainings and workshops to improve the skills of more than 170 police officers.


On top of these projects, the Philippines was also able to obtain a loan from the Korea Eximbank to expand the Puerto Princesa airport. The loan was used to improve and upgrade the Puerto Princesa Airport which is expected to see an influx of tourists.

The air traffic demand of Puerto Princesa Airport has increased with an average growth rate of more than 30 percent since 2010 for the sake of the famous Underground River which has been designated as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“The purpose of this project is to improve the existing facilities of Puerto Princesa Airport by expanding its present capacity to meet the projected passenger and cargo demand, as well as to enhance the airport’s aviation operation, service, security and safety standard in compliance with the international standards,” documents read.

These projects are not the only ones to be financed by the Korean government. There are a number of big-ticket projects that are being discussed by the two countries and the focus will still be on addressing the Philippines’ development constraints.

Indeed, the relationship that was built nearly 70 years ago in the battlefield continues and has made Korea and the Philippines brothers for life.

Image credits: PNA/Perla Lena


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