Australian international development minister engages with PHL government officials

Minister Zed Seselja (second from left), with secretaries Carlito G. Galvez (from left), Francisco T. Duque III and Vivencio B. Dizon

AUSTRALIA’S Senator Zed Seselja, who is minister for International Development and the Pacific, highlighted his country’s commitment to support the Philippines’s pandemic response and economic recovery.

The inclusion of the Philippines in the minister’s first visit to the region reflects the importance of the bilateral relationship between the two countries, the Embassy of Australia said.

“I am pleased that my first visit to the Philippines coincides with the celebration of 75 years of diplomatic relations,” stated Seselja in his official trip to Manila last week. “[It] reaffirms our deep and enduring relationship…based on mateship and bayanihan. This is a partnership…responding to the challenges facing the Indo-Pacific—including the pandemic.”

During his visit the minister met with senior officials of the national government led by secretaries Francisco T. Duque III, Carlito G. Galvez and Vivencio B. Dizon. They discussed Australia’s comprehensive assistance to bolster the Philippines’s vaccine procurement and delivery capability, particularly to reach the poorest and most vulnerable regions, in-line with the country’s pandemic action and vaccination plan.

Seselja had the opportunity to impart the importance of the bilateral relationship with Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro L. Locsin Jr., while reaffirming his country’s commitment to partner with the Philippines on development programs and its recovery from the health crisis’ economic impacts.

The senator also had the opportunity to meet with representatives of United Nations agencies and nongovernment organizations, which are key partners in delivering Australia’s local development investments.

Australia has responded to the pandemic with its “Partnerships for Recovery” program, which redirects AU$80-million assistance (equivalent to P2.8 billion) to health security, stability, and economic recovery.

Under its regional Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative, the commonwealth is also providing an additional AU$35.9 million (about P1.26 billion) spread over two years of direct support to the Philippines to procure and deliver vaccines. This initiative includes AU$7.52 million (or some P263 million) in vaccine-delivery support to the Department of Health, as well as the Department of Information and Communications Technology, delivered by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization.

Its embassy said Australia’s support will bolster the country’s vaccine-delivery capability—particularly in the poorest and most vulnerable regions.

Also under the Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative, Australia is providing AU$13.72 million (approximately P480.2 million) through its UNICEF procurement agreement to purchase vaccines for the Philippines. This will be an important contribution to meeting the country’s vaccine needs in 2021.

The vaccine procurement will be accompanied by end-to-end distribution support to help roll-out the Australian-funded jabs in the country.

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