MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines on Friday defended its graft-fighting efforts in a bid to convince the United States to continue providing development assistance after an initial five-year grant of $434 million expired in May last year.
The move comes despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s remark that America’s money could be replaced, after the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation last year cited human rights concerns in deferring its vote on aid for Manila.
The Philippines fell short of the “control of corruption” target on the MCC’s scorecard for fiscal 2018, which determines a country’s eligibility for assistance.
However, the rating “may not completely reflect the reform initiatives of the Duterte administration in the area of fighting corruption and good governance,” said Harry Roque, a spokesman for the Philippine president.
Duterte has fired government officials over corruption allegations, ordered agencies to open their records to the public, cut red tape and set up a hotline for people to report graft, Roque said in a statement.
“We are hopeful that the MCC board would take into account these initiatives and see our commitment to further reforms in the areas covered by the compact assistance,” he added.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez also weighed in, saying the president had been “relentless in the campaign against corruption in government”.
Duterte “cleansed the corruption-plagued” Bureau of Corrections, and last month set up an anti-graft panel to investigate cases against presidential appointees, he added.
Duterte took power on a platform of battling crime, drugs and graft, but is himself being investigated by an independent anti-graft body over allegations of non-disclosure of wealth when he was mayor of the southern city of Davao.
He raised the prospect of severing ties with Washington after being infuriated by U.S. criticism of his war on drugs, which has claimed more than 3,900 lives since he took office 16 months ago.
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)