Philippines wants ADB to expand loan portfolio for pandemic recovery

The Philippines urged the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to expand its loan portfolio for developing countries in the next 5 years to aid economic recovery.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said during the ADB governors' meeting on Monday, May 3, that the multilateral lender cannot go on with the "business-as-usual approach" as the worst health and economic crisis in recent history creates uneven recovery.

"As I have suggested long before COVID-19 struck, the Asian Development Bank must continue reinventing itself and realigning its programs to meet new realities and to stay relevant amidst the fast-changing landscape," said Dominguez, who is governor for the Philippines in the ADB Board.

"In order to be responsive to critical needs, the ADB must level up. Specifically, there is a need for the bank to seriously consider a substantial expansion in its loan portfolio in the next 5-year period. This will effectively support its member-countries' recovery even if this brings forward the need for a capital increase."

Dominguez emphasized that the funds would be necessary to boost countries' healthcare systems, rebuild affected sectors, and ensure sustainable recovery.

ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa said developing countries must spend for universal health care (UHC).

However, Asakawa noted that countries should implement universal health coverage "without need of partnership." (READ: ADB sees fragile economic recovery for Philippines)

"It is very important for DMCs (developing member countries) not to rely much on external financing in introducing UHC, but by utilizing its own domestic resources to make its whole UHC system financially viable," Asakawa said.

"This pandemic highlighted the significant weakness, the low share of government spending, and lack of significant insurance coverage."

He added that the ADB disbursed $72 billion in 2020, 150% more than in 2019.

The ADB's lending program for the Philippines is expected to reach $3.9 billion (P187.4 billion) in 2021.

The ADB has provided $400 million for the Philippines' vaccination program under the Asia Pacific Vaccine Facility. The amount was the first to be given among member countries, and is the maximum amount a country can get.

Another $300 million is expected to be given by the ADB through a co-financing deal with Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. –

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.