Greens, Debt activists urge solons to push for cancellation of defunct incinerator loan from AustriaMANILA, Philippines
03 February 2009
Debt & Public Finance
--A string quartet today serenaded the members of the House of Representatives, calling on solons to sign a Parliamentarians’ Petition urging the Austrian government to cancel the P503-million loan used to fund for the defunct Austrian Medical Waste Incinerator Project.
Playing Mozart music and wearing hazmat suits and gas masks, the group actively solicited the signatures of the legislators in its effort to continue the signature drive it started last year.
The group also called on Congress to do concrete actions on the said loan agreement, such as the launching of a Congressional audit and investigation on the loan project, saying that the debt list should be “detoxified."
The Stop Toxic Debt!, a campaign group composed of the Ecowaste Coalition, Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives(GAIA), Greenpeace-Southeast Asia, and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), said that the government is shelling out an average of $2 million a year to pay for the said Austrian loan.
“It is not enough for our solons to merely make political statements to refuse payment for the Austrian Waste Incinerators, more importantly, they should put their money where their mouths are by calling the Austrian government to cancel the debt themselves,” Ecowaste Coalition Chairperson Manny Calonzo said.
The groups launched a signature drive last year urging legislators to sign the Parliamentarians' Petition which is scheduled to be delivered by a contingent of Filipino campaigners and Legislators to the government of Austria this April 2009.
Calonzo said the choice of Mozart’s music for their string-quartet/ creative action is significant as the musical genius was an Austrian national who was said to have died impoverished and debt-ridden. He added that unless the Austrian incinerator debt is cancelled, it would surely contribute in the further impoverishment and debt burden of the Filipino people.
Meanwhile, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Spokesperson Mercy Ferrer said that the fund channelled for the debt service funds is better spent for procuring “environmentally-safe medical waste disposal facilities.”
“We should compel governments to take action to end illegitimate debts, especially those which harm the environment and people’s health while eating up our resources supposedly for environmental protection and healthcare,” Ferrer said.Housekeeping
The group recalled that the 14th Congress, in a special provision, refused allocation for interest payments of the incinerators in the 2008 budget and of other debts challenged as “fraudulent, wasteful, and/or useless”.
The Stop Toxic Debt! Campaign is said to be instrumental in the suspension of interest and principal payments of the said Austrian loan in the 2008 budget. However, the President eventually vetoed the said provision, citing the need to protect the country’s credit rating.
For the 2009 budget, the 14th Congress again slashed P50 billion from interest payments proposed by the Department of Budget and Management. Committee on Appropriations Vice Chair Rep. Edcel Lagman, in his sponsorship speech, called on the lower house to suspend not just the interest payments, but also the principal amortization for the said loan.
“As the World Bank begins to uncover irregularities in its loan projects, we have here an illegitimate Austrian loan project sitting on the laps of the government for more than a decade, but without concrete action,” FDC Secretary General Milo Tanchuling said.
“Clearly, in a time of a world economic crisis and financial turndown, Congress must avoid unnecessary expenditures by conducting good housekeeping and getting rid of illegitimate debts in their lists of expenses,” Tanchuling said.-30-