Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP100907 PACAP National Forum

PACAP National Forum
Opening Remarks by Ambassador Rod Smith
7 September 2010

Members of the media, Ladies and Gentlemen, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat.

It is a pleasure to be here this morning for the Philippines-Australia Community Assistance Program National Forum. Celebrating the PACAP Story—of empowering communities for close to a quarter of a century—is a good reason to come together. Thank you and welcome to all of you—especially those who had to travel far.

As you may know Australia and the Philippines have a strong relationship, underpinned by close people to people links and over 50 years of development cooperation. The aid partnership with the Philippines is one of Australia’s largest. As a neighbour, Australia has invested over Php20 billion in official development assistance to the Philippines over last five years alone. In 2010-11, Australia will invest about Php 4.7 billion in development assistance to the Philippines—placing it amongst the three largest grant donors to the Philippines.

Australia’s longest running aid intervention over the last 50 years is PACAP. It has run continuously for 24 years. Allow me to take you back to when the PACAP story started.

The 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution ushered in major social and political reforms in the Philippines, which amongst other led to the institutionalisation of civil society organisations in community-level governance.

The government of former President Corazon Aquino was able to open this democratic space, and provide a legal and policy environment, that enabled civil society to flourish. Former NGO leaders from cause-oriented groups were appointed to high-level positions in her administration, and they spoke of a new partnership between government and community-based groups. NGOs were called on to revitalise under-resourced government services recovering from two decades of inactivity.

At that time, Australia recognised the significant role that NGOs—or more broadly civil society organisations—play in socio-economic development. Therefore, channelling official development assistance directly to communities through civil society partners was an important approach to delivering aid. Thus in 1986, with the endorsement of the Philippine Government, Australia set up PACAP, the Philippines-Australia Community Assistance Program..

Established as a small grants facility, PACAP enabled the Australian aid program to reach out directly to Philippine NGOs and strengthen their capacities to directly respond to the development needs of the poor, the marginalised and the disadvantaged.

PACAP was made available for projects in all sectors of society identified by the Philippine Government as priorities for development assistance. These sectors included farmers, landless agricultural labourers, fishing communities, industrial workers, urban poor, women, youth, tribal minorities, the disabled, and the Moro people.

PACAP projects needed to be consistent with the development plans of the Philippine Government. From the beginning, the Australian Government’s main partner in the implementation of PACAP has been the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

PACAP has evolved since, developing new mechanisms that have led to more effective and efficient forms of assistance. This included the integrated area approach for more holistic interventions. But over its 24 years, PACAP’s main purpose has remained the same: to empower poor communities to pursue their own economic growth and achieve better standards of living.

Over 24 years, PACAP has achieved significant milestones in its partnerships with local civil society groups. PACAP has provided over 2,100 grants to more than 1,250 partner organisations that have benefited approximately 1.5 million people from poor communities.

In its current phase from January 2005 to September 2010, PACAP managed the delivery of 488 projects worth close to PhP800 million in 60 out of the country’s 81 provinces.

We have heard impressive success stories:

• of farmers who have improved their agricultural practices for more sustainable year-round production, even maintaining adequate supply in times of drought; 

• of elderly women from indigenous tribes who learned how to read and write, enabling them for example to vote for the first time;

• of remote communities that finally have ready access to safe and clean water, reducing the time required to collect and transport water to their households, and reducing the incidence of water-borne diseases;

• of street children once found guilty of minor crimes undergoing rehabilitation and mentorship, and in turn helping other misguided youth remain in school and respect law and order;

• of children and adults with disabilities—including the blind, the deaf, and the physically disabled—who had the opportunity to take special classes and learning activities to restore their confidence and improve their capability to support themselves and their families;

• of former combatants who chose to help their community to preserve and protect the marine sanctuaries that are also their source of livelihood;

• of community groups who restored and preserved their cultural heritage for the future generations to appreciate and learn from.

The key strategy underpinning these achievements is that PACAP leverages its contribution by partnering with reformers and groups skilled in bringing about positive change.

Finding the right partners over the years has been one of PACAP’s key strengths.

PACAP has been instrumental in forging partnerships between a wide range of stakeholders—government, non-government organisations, the private sector and the communities themselves—and enabling them to work together to build a platform for community participation.

And it is this, Community participation that is the key to PACAP’s success. Strong participation at the outset establishes the pre-conditions for sustainable communities. In essence this has been PACAP’s mandate—to empower communities and assist them so that they are able to realize their stake and contribute to their own development.

From the words of its beneficiaries:

“PACAP is a partnership that brings hope, inspires, and transforms lives. It forges relations between experts, organisations and beneficiaries; creates jobs for the jobless; educates the poor, the minority and underprivileged; respects, cares for and protects the environment; bridges gaps between cultures; links people from different backgrounds and interests; promotes gender equity; and strengthens bonds for a sustaining partnership.”

While this current phase of PACAP may be coming to an end, Australia remains a committed partner of the Philippines in supporting communities and civil society groups, and in helping the country face future development challenges.

Australia would like to continue its long and well-regarded history of engagement with civil society in this country. We are developing a new program to succeed the current PACAP, with improvements based on lessons learned to date and elements that would complement the Aquino Administration’s emphasis on government-civil society partnerships. It will continue PACAP’s successful approaches, including its small grants assistance.

Until the new program is ready, the Australian Government will ensure that PACAP continues to strengthen Australia’s engagement with civil society and communities in the country. PACAP will continue to foster opportunities for stronger community and civil society engagement with government in the development process. It will continue to enhance the capacities of non-government organisations. It will continue to deliver better services to poor communities such as new, clean water systems and access to schooling for marginalised communities.

On behalf of the Australian Government, I am pleased to acknowledge with all of you present today the successful completion of PACAP’s 2005 to 2010 phase. Congratulations for a job well done to:

• the PACAP Team,
• the PACAP stakeholders and governance bodies—including the PACAP Advisory Committee, the Provincial Stakeholders Committees, the FOCAS Management Committees and Secretariats,
• the PACAP partner organisations, and
• all the communities that allowed PACAP to help them help themselves.

With your hard work, vision and commitment, I am confident that PACAP and its successor program will continue to make a difference in peoples lives well into the future.

Thank you and good morning.