MANILA, Philippines— The Filipino people now have a tool to scrutinize debts acquired under their name. In 2017, the Congressional Oversight Committee on Official Development Assistance (COCODA) will launch an investigation on the legitimacy of at least 20 loans with debt service amounting to P7.6 billion. This came after almost a decade since the first debt audit provision in the national budget was vetoed by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
On December 22, 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the P3.35 trillion budget for 2017 along with a special provision mandating the audit of the 20 national government foreign obligations that are being challenged by the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) as illegitimate for being fraudulent, wasteful, useless, or environmentally and socially destructive.
“These are just 20 of the 481 outstanding regular foreign obligations of the national government, all of which should also undergo thoroughgoing audit and examination. But the presently mandated audit is an important first step towards a critical exhumation of this huge burden that has deprived the country of meeting its obligations on social protection and economic development for the people,” FDC President Eduardo C. Tadem said.
“We call on Congress to ensure transparency and extensive public participation in the debt audit so that we will finally be free from debts that we never benefited from and which effectively misappropriated the people’s resources to the point of social and economic neglect,” Tadem added.
Many of the loans being questioned by FDC were from the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.
FDC’s initial study shows that the borrowed funds were used for large infrastructure projects tainted with corruption, bloated budgets, violations of legal procedures, and used as lender’s conditionality for implementation of policies and programs that damaged our environment and distorted our development.
“We congratulate the Senators, particularly Sen. Risa Hontiveros who relentlessly pursued the inclusion of a debt audit provision in the 2017 budget, Finance Committee Chair Sen. Loren Legarda who supported the amendment, and Senate President Koko Pimentel who also co-introduced a separate resolution for a wider examination of foreign loans contracted in the last 15 years,” Tadem said.
FDC, however, wants to have the debt audit institutionalised so that it will not be constrained by the limitations of the General Appropriations Act.
MANILA, Philippines – The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) urged legislators to be resolute in seeing through the enactment of a policy to free taxpayers from paying fraudulent, wasteful or useless debts. At the same time, FDC commended members of the Senate for agreeing to include a special provision for a debt audit in the proposed 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
“We concur with Sen. Loren Legarda’s statement that it is incumbent upon Congress to know what we are paying for and why we bear such huge obligations,” Dr. Eduardo C. Tadem, FDC President, said.
Tadem was referring to Senator Legarda’s response to Senator Risa Hontiveros’ interpellation that cited FDC’s initial information on 20 questionable loans with interest payments automatically appropriated in the 2017 budget. He added that most of the loans were from the Asian Development Bank, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and the World Bank and were earmarked for large infrastructure projects.
“These projects were littered with corruption, bloated budgets, violations of legal procedures, and used as lender’s conditionality for implementation of policies and programs that damaged our environment and distorted our development,” Tadem added.
FDC lamented, however, that a thorough review of all public debts could have been underway as early as the 13th Congress when a joint resolution for the creation of a Congressional Debt Audit Commission was passed by the House of Representatives.
The Senate, however, failed to act on the resolution as it was caught in the midst of the political crisis besieging then President Gloria Arroyo, who was also involved in the controversial US$329 million loan-funded ZTE National Broadband Network Project. The project was later cancelled.
Tadem stressed, “At that time, we could have already avoided the hemorrhage of public money into payments for debts that never benefited, and even harmed, the people and environment. Instead of satisfying lenders’ interests, we could have used the funds for essential social services that directly address poverty and inequality.”
FDC has been pushing for a debt audit upon finding that onerous loans continued even after the ouster of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos who not only bankrupted public coffers but also buried the country in a $26.4-billion foreign debt.
FDC remains optimistic that the current Congress, and President Duterte himself, will champion the principles of responsible borrowing and lending starting with a comprehensive examination of all obligations of the national government including government-guaranteed loans of the private sector.
“A debt audit is an assurance that loans will be prudently used and that the people and environment won’t again be made sacrificial lambs for unfair loan terms and misuse of funds. This is what real change should be about,” Tadem concluded
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.
MANILA, Philippines – Doves seemed to flock in Malacañang today as members of activist group Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) carried their demands for debt audit and repeal of automatic debt servicing imprinted on images of the bird symbolizing peace and freedom.
“Freedom from illegitimate debts! We march today to bring our petition to President Duterte. We call on him to include in his priority legislative agenda the repeal of the automatic appropriations law embodied in Presidential Decree 1177 and the immediate comprehensive audit of all public debts,” said FDC Secretary-General Sammy Gamboa.
MANILA, Philippines – While the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) welcomes the Duterte administration’s move to reform the country’s outdated 19-year old tax scheme, it cautions against the regressive effects that the five tax policy packages as they could penalize ordinary wage-earning citizens.
MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte administration’s proposed 2017 national budget has allocated P6.13 billion in foreign debt service for 13 fraudulent, wasteful or useless loans, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) bared in a recent news release.
“For all of the hoopla about having a ‘Budget for Real Change’, billions of public funds remain to be captured and wasted on questionable loans incurred since the time of the late dictator Marcos. FDC has initially identified 13 questionable loans, but more are likely to be uncovered if Congress initiates an official comprehensive audit of all public debts,” FDC Secretary General Sammy Gamboa said.
MANILA, Philippines – While recognizing the need to ensure that the national budget prioritizes social development particularly the people’s welfare, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) yesterday criticized the Duterte administration for using this as a convenient excuse to justify the P80-million allocation for pet projects of each legislator.
“The proposed 2017 national budget, with its provision for lawmakers to identify projects for budgetary funding, reeks of traditional or ‘trapo’ politics that perpetuate patronage relations between public officials and their constituents,” FDC Vice-President James Matthew Miraflor said.
The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) launches an online petition to urge President Rodrigo Duterte and the members of the 17th Congress to repeal the Law on Automatic Appropriations for Debt Servicing and to conduct an Official Comprehensive Audit of all public debts.
“Filipino tax taxpayers'' money and all public funds should be spent for people''s needs and welfare such that provisioning for essential public services and immediate post-disaster rehabilitation for victims of calamities are assured and in place,” FDC stated in its letter through online petition platform Change.org.
MANILA, Philippines – The shameless trumpeting by the Aquino administration of an economic growth that benefits only the rich and propertied segment of society is an outrage, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), the group said in a news release on Thursday.
Reacting to the Aquino administration’s recent claims of leaving a legacy of a strong economy, FDC President Ed Tadem said, “Economic growth as measured by the gross domestic product has indeed grown under Aquino but this pales in comparison to continuing high poverty levels, joblessness and rising income inequality, the P6.4 trillion public debt to be inherited by the next administration and the billions of pesos wasted in payments for fraudulent, wasteful and questionable loans.”
FDC President Ed Tadem speaks on debt and fiscal justice during a press conference at the Philippine Conference on Illicit Financial Flows, Debt and Tax Justice held at Cocoon Boutique Hotel in Quezon City from 14-15 April 2016. With him are (L-R): Rep. Leah Paquiz of Ang Nars Party-list; Prof. Walden Bello, independent Senatorial candidate; Renato Magtubo of Partido Manggagawa, party-list candidate; Benjo Basas of Ating Guro, party-list candidate; and Lidy Nacpil, FDC Vice-President and Regional Coordinator of the Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD). The event was jointly sponsored by FDC and APMDD.
Amidst the global controversy on the Panama Papers on potential illegal financial activities that allegedly implicated Filipino politicians, business moguls and political candidates now running for office, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) reminded candidates of the adverse impact of the continuing debt dependence of the country and weak taxation policy.
“The Panama Papers shows the rampant illicit financial flows which is a global phenomenon that implicates Filipino politicians and may only be the tip of the iceberg since there are many tax havens and the full disclosure of the Panama Papers will only be done in May,” said Prof. Ed Tadem, FDC president.
Freedom From Debt Coalition
The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) – Philippines is a nationwide multi-sectoral, non-sectarian and pluralist coalition conducting policy advocacy work and campaigns to realize a common framework and agenda for economic development.