MANILA - The Philippines is withdrawing its application for the next round of aid from a US-based agency that aims to help fight global poverty to focus on rehabilitating war-torn Marawi City, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Tuesday.
Although it has withdrawn from the Millennium Challenge Corp., the Philippine government has invited the US to give support and assistance in the reconstruction of the predominantly Islamic city, which was left in ruins after troopers sought to flush out Islamic State-inspired extremists, said Roque.
"We are confident the US government fully understands the decision to reallocate our funding priority for this year and that this will not in any way adversely impact our eligibility for another round of compact assistance in the future," he told reporters.
Candidate countries listed by the MCC are chosen based on their per capita income levels and their eligibility to receive assistance under US law.
The first MCC grant, amounting to $434 million, came into force in May 2011 and ended in May 2016.
Last December, the MCC said it was deferring a vote on the re-selection of the Philippines for compact development "subject to a further review of concerns around rule of law and civil liberties.”
Roque said the country did not find any specific condition or aspect of the package objectionable, but "we have to earmark funds" for the rehabilitation of the war-torn city.
The withdrawal was also not because of interference by the US government into the country's domestic affairs, he said.
"It was really just that Marawi happened. We did not expect it and it’s going to be very costly rebuilding," said Roque.
The "very specific" guidelines of the MCC "preclude" the Philippines from allocating the aid it could have received to rebuilding Marawi, he said.