PH, US strengthen ties in climate finance, health security, and digitalization

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno met with the Ambassador of the United States (US) to the Philippines Marykay Loss Carlson on Monday (August 1) to strengthen Philippine-US development cooperation, especially in the areas of climate finance, health security, and digitalization.

“I am very pleased to hear of Ambassador Marykay Carlson’s willingness to increase our cooperation in health security, climate finance, and the digitalization of our tax system,” said Secretary Diokno in a tweet, following his meeting with the US Ambassador.

Ambassador Carlson said that the US government felt very reassured with the appointment of Secretary Diokno and the other members of the economic team.

She added that the economic team’s appointment sends a positive signal to US companies who want stability, predictability, and transparency.

During the meeting, Ambassador Carlson expressed willingness to scale up climate financing support to the Philippines, recognizing the threat of climate change as the most existential problem the world is facing today.

The Philippines, for instance, has been named by several reports and studies as one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., in his inaugural speech, identified climate change as among critical issues his administration will address.

The Philippine government previously set an ambitious commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2030, despite contributing only 0.3 percent of the total global emissions.

In terms of health security, the two sides discussed efforts to increase the COVID-19 vaccination rate.

Ambassador Carlson’s team also stressed the need for awareness for a possible next pandemic or any global issue that could affect economic and human development.

Meanwhile, Secretary Diokno acknowledged the US’ assistance in improving the Philippines’ tax system.

The USAID previously supported the Department of Finance (DOF) in crafting the comprehensive tax reform program through technical assistance, while the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) provided a grant worth USD 809,450 for the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) Information Communication Technology Modernization Strategy and Data Center.

“The long lines during the tax payment period [are] gone. I think almost 99 percent paid electronically. That’s good,” said Secretary Diokno.

As of December 2021, the US was the Philippines’ largest source of grants reaching USD 628.20 million. The amount accounts for 33.23 percent of total grant assistance received by the country from all its bilateral and multilateral development partners.

Overall, the US ranked as the Philippines 7th biggest provider of official development assistance (ODA).