On February 11, 2022, Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhiko represented the Government of Japan (GOJ) in the virtual launch ceremony of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to formally commence the implementation of the $2-million technical assistance (TA) project “Supporting Building Up Universal Health Care (UHC)” in the Philippines as financed by the Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient Asia and the Pacific (JFPR). Also gracing the ceremony with their opening remarks were Finance Under Secretary Mark Joven, Assistant Health Secretary Kenneth Ronquillo, PhilHealth Chief Operating Officer Eli Dino Santos, and ADB Director General for Southeast Asia Ramesh Subramaniam.

The TA aims to support the pilot implementation of UHC policy reforms at select local government units and provide policy recommendations for subsequent UHC-related program/s. Among the expected outputs of the TA by the end of its implementation in October 2024 include the (1) strengthened financing and strategic purchasing for UHC, (2) increased quantity and quality of health facilities and workers, and (3) expanded access to primary care and health promotion services. The TA also serves to support the ADB’s $600-million loan to the Government of the Philippines (GOP) for the “Build Universal Health Care Program.”

In his message during the ceremony, Ambassador Koshikawa expressed his enthusiasm that the Philippines is the first country to receive this newly introduced UHC window project under the JFPR trust fund being administered by the ADB. With the increasing calls on UHC implementation worldwide, the Ambassador cited Japan’s efforts to take the lead in the UHC discourse by using international platforms to highlight the role of UHC in nation-building. He likewise underscored Japan’s achievements in reaching universal health coverage and decreasing infant mortality rate early on, which eventually became the impetus for Japan’s high-growth period.

With the Philippines taking the lead among ASEAN countries in legislating and implementing UHC, Ambassador Koshikawa conveyed his confidence that “the Philippines is now regarded on the same path” [as Japan]. “This achievement and the leadership of the GOP, in particular the finance and health departments, have to be applauded,” he added. While the GOP has tirelessly tackled the pandemic head-on, the Ambassador pointed out that Japan has made sure to complement the GOP’s efforts through the ¥50-billion COVID-19 Crisis Response Emergency Support Loan (CRESL), over three million vaccine provision, and most recently, cold chain system for its vaccination drive, among others.

Formerly known as the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, the JFPR was established in May 2000 after the Asian Financial Crisis and has since been instrumental in extending grant aid to underprivileged and vulnerable groups in developing member countries of the ADB.

For more details, visit https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/project-documents/55105/55105-001-tar-en.pdf.