The Philippines’ second-largest bilateral donor, the U.S. Agency for International Development has pumped upward of $500 million in development aid to Mindanao over the past decade — a massive assistance effort that has been part and parcel of the U.S. government’s counterterrorism and stabilization strategy in the Philippines’ conflict-ridden southern region.
Against the backdrop of the recent signing of a historic peace agreement between the Philippine government and Mindanao’s largest Muslim insurgency group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, USAID Philippines Mission Director Gloria Steele confirmed in a video interview with Devex that the U.S. aid agency has set in motion plans to aggressively scale back its Mindanao program.
USAID will now direct only 10 percent of its Philippine budget to Mindanao — a drastic decline from the 60 percent share in previous years. The U.S. aid agency’s decision was first spelled out, but little noticed, in its 2012-2016 country development cooperation strategy for the Philippines.
In explaining USAID’s decision to downsize its Mindanao program, Steele stressed that her mission needs more flexibility to align its resources with the Philippine government’s ambitious development agenda. The Aquino administration’s pro-growth and anti-corruption reforms are widely credited with reviving the Philippines’ development prospects.