Below is the article we submitted to and published by The Manila Times on 20 January 2008

Is the debt problem over?
By The Freedom from Debt Coalition

This is what Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her economic managers want us to believe. In a show of absolute technocratic certainty, the administration declared that it has solved the economic and fiscal woes of the country. We, at the Freedom from Debt Coalition are completely baffled as to what she means by this claim.

Has there been any significant reduction in the country's outstanding debt?

As of end-August 2007, the National Government (NG) Outstanding debt was pegged at P3.871 trillion pesos or US$81.91 billion. The bigger part of this debt was acquired domestically (55.98 per cent), with Treasury Bonds debt pegged at P1.55 trillion. This is worse when Mrs. Arroyo acknowledged that the country was suffering from a fiscal crisis. In 2004, National Government debt was P 3.81 trillion.

As of mid-2007, the total National Government debt per Filipino is P 43,649.57 with each individual coughing P 7, 012.12 just to service the debt.

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The recent ruckus on the 2008 National Government Budget involving the Executive Department, lawmakers and other stakeholders must go beyond deceptive rhetoric and deadbeat legalism. The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) believes former Senator Franklin Drilon is raising an important issue regarding pork barrel insertions in the Appropriations Bill. However, the Executive Department is using the issue to derail progressive reforms in the budget concerning debt and development.

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PAID!’s 1st General Assembly

QUEZON CITY, Philippines—Expressing alarm over the extent of public debt that this administration and its predecessors have contracted through the years, around 1,000 campaigners from more than a hundred local and national organizations have gathered here Saturday and launched a people’s petition calling for the immediate constitution of an Independent Citizens’ Debt Audit Commission.

Citing the “stampede of white elephants” that rocked the administration last year, members of People Against Illegitimate Debt (PAID!) stressed it is high time the people themselves initiated a bold move to address the perennial debt problem.

Lidy Nacpil, PAID! convener and Freedom from Debt Coalition vice president, said that while their group has been campaigning for an official Congressional Audit of Public Debt and Contingent Liabilities in the House of Representatives, they believe that an independent citizen’s audit is also crucial. Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has re-filed a joint resolution pushing for the official debt audit.

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MANILA, Philippines—Campaigners from more than a hundred local and national organizations here will gather on Saturday, January 12, at the St. Joseph College Mater Dei Auditorium, E. Rodriguez St. in Quezon City for the public launch of People's Petition calling for the creation of an Independent Citizens' Debt Audit Commission whose members will include civil society leaders, political analysts and respected economists.

In a press briefing, leaders of People Against Illegitimate Debt (PAID!)* movement said the event marks the first General Assembly of its member and affiliate organizations and individuals. The event will also feature speakers from the debt campaigns of other countries who will share their experiences and recent major developments in the international debt movement.

Lidy Nacpil, vice president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), said that it has been more than five years since they sounded the alarm of a full-blown fiscal and debt crisis and still the government failed to what is right for the country. She said that among the indicators of the debt and fiscal crisis include: the government's huge deficit since 1999; interest payments on the National Government (NG) debt has skyrocketed; and, government borrowings have reached unprecedented levels.

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