Debt activists call for measures to address “twin problems” of budget deficit, climate change

MANILA, Philippines – Seeing the unprecedented outpouring of support from internet users in the rescue and relief operations following the Ondoy and Pepeng, groups now turn to the net to raise signatures for an advocacy to address the “growing resource problem” following recovery efforts.

Cause-oriented group Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) announced today the formal launch of an online signature campaign calling on the Philippine government to declare a moratorium on foreign debt payments, seek reparations from rich countries’ governments and lenders for their “historical responsibility” on the climate crisis, and to repudiate all odious and illegitimate loans in order to raise funds for reconstruction and recovery initiatives.

“The growing clamor for the resolution of the Philippine debt problem and the global climate crisis is now being transformed into documented votes for support which the government and lending institutions can see. And we are providing an online venue for it,” FDC secretary general Milo Tanchuling said.

The online petition is available for online signing at bit.ly/debtmoratorium, and can also be viewed via their website at www.fdc.ph.

The group said that they “see the cyberspace, now dubbed as Web 2.0, as a growing arena for social advocacy and building movements for causes,” citing the increasing “interactivity” and “mashability” of web applications. They said, for example, that their online petition can also be viewed by Facebook users.

“We also plan to announce the petition via Twitter, Plurk, Friendster, and a host of other social networking sites. We also hope to tap bloggers to assist us in this worthy endeavor,” Tanchuling added.

FDC hopes to add the online signatures to the close to a million written signatures they gathered for the repeal of the automatic appropriations provision in the 1987 Administrative Code. The group points to the law as the cause of “government’s lack of capacity to address the people’s needs during times of crises.”

Growing Deficit

FDC said that the measures they call the government to adopt would address the growing deficit problem following the added expenditures for relief and recovery, including the P12-billion supplemental budget for the emergency and rehabilitation efforts and items included in the P1.426 trillion spending program for 2009.

From January to June 2009, the government’s budget deficit already soared 852.2 percent year-on-year, ending up with a deficit of P153.413 billion compared to P18 billion in the same period last year. This is already more than half of full-year target deficit ceiling of P250 billion.

“And this is a deficit target that is actually the largest during the Arroyo administration, and even larger than P210.741 billion deficit in 2002 during the fiscal crisis,” Tanchuling revealed.

“Now we ask, is it just to allow this massive fiscal hemorrhage in a time of climate and economic crises? Is it just for the government to prioritize the payments for its international lenders while its people wallow in disaster-caused poverty?” Tanchuling posed.

Tanchuling said the recent climate catastrophes as well as the economic crisis must become “important junctures for the Philippines to bid farewell to debts many of which are challenged as illegitimate.”

The group said the petition is a national and international initiative which they will formally submit to the 14th Congress, the Malacañang Palace, and international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. -30-


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