MANILA, Philippines – Alarmed over President Duterte’s $9-billion new loans from China and intent to avail more Official Development Assistance (ODA) for its deficit financing, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) raised the urgency of conducting a comprehensive audit of all public debts along with the government’s fiscal policies.

“A debt audit is the public’s assurance of the prudent and proper use of loans and that there is a policy environment that guarantees this. This is long overdue being a casualty of previous administrations that have been either involved in unscrupulous loan-funded projects or too obsessed with boosting the country’s creditworthiness,” FDC Secretary-General, Sammy Gamboa, said.

FDC warned of the current burden forced on the people by the continued and automatic servicing for debts that were wasted on projects littered with corruption, bloated budgets, violations of legal procedures, lack or insufficient public consultations and used as lender’s conditionality for privatization of public utilities such as power, water and transportation services.

The group cited its initial study on 13 questionable loans which will cost the government P755.86 million and P5.45 billion in interest payments and principal amortization, respectively, for 2017.

“These are just 13 out of 481 ODA-funded projects, excluding government debt securities, which are religiously being repaid without anyone, borrower or lender or both, being held accountable for the unfair terms of the loans and misuse of the funds. We still receive reports of fraudulent projects, particularly in the agriculture sector and in post-disaster reconstruction, which are in this list and need to be investigated,” Gamboa said.

Tagged by FDC as questionable programs and projects were the Philippine Rural Development Project, Pampanga Development Flood Control, Bohol Irrigation Phase II, Angat Water Supply Optimization, Sixth Road Project, Power Sector Development Program, Help for Catubig Agricultural Advancement, Agrarian Reform Communities Project, Global Maritime Safety, Small Water Impounding Management, Third Elementary Education Project, Emergency Network Project and Southern Philippines Irrigation Sector.

“We have to arrest the further bleeding of public coffers on these fraudulent, wasteful or useless debts and rechannel funds to finance much-needed programs to address poverty and inequality, the speedy recovery of disaster-stricken areas, and the creation of jobs. We need to take the first step of examining, comprehensively, all public debts, immediately,” Gamboa said.

According to FDC, resolving the issue of these fraudulent loans would not only address centuries-old of oppressive practice in borrowing and lending, but also free up funds that could be used to reduce the current administration’s need for deficit spending for its plan to ensure that economic growth is felt by people living in poverty. ###


24 October 2016

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