• Lawmakers: Govt should ask for debt relief


    Two party-list lawmakers urged the the Aquino administration to ask for a foreign debt relief amid the havoc brought by recent deadly calamities to the central and southern Philippines.

    Bayan Muna Party-list Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate urged the government to ask local and foreign banks for a debt moratorium for the principal amortization and a debt write off for the interest payment to give the country ample funds and time to rehabilitate the areas hit by super typhoon Yolanda and the 7.2-magnitude Bohol quake last October.

    “We ask foreign and local banks to write off the interest payment of P333.9 billion for the year and to declare a moratorium on the principal payments,” Colmenares said.

    “The international community should understand that we need all the funds we have to help our countrymen rise up as soon as possible and we hope that other countries would support our call,” he added.

    However, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. is against the move and said that such move is not needed as the country never asked for a debt relief even during the fall of Marcos dictatorship in 1986.

    “I myself I’m against it,” Belmonte said. “Although this is a big blow, the macroeconomy is still doing good and many generous helpers from abroad are [donating]so I don’t see the necessity.”

    In the 2014 General Appropriations Bill passed by the House of Representatives on October, P352.65 billion is automatically appropriated for debt servicing-interest payment.

    Meanwhile, Colmenares also urged the Congress to review the proposed 2014 budget to see if there are funds that can be freed intended for debt-servicing.

    Last week, Belmonte said that the Congress is eyeing P10 to 20 billion for the rehabilitation fund for the calamity stricken areas. It would be proposed as an amendment at the bicameral committee meeting on December, once the Senate passes its version of the budget.

    Colmenares, however, pointed out that there are at least P125 billion that can be freed in the proposed budget. These include: P85.18-billion debt management fund, P30 billion risk management fund, P4.8 billion international commitments fund, and P5.492 billion for the payment of the ARC II project loaned from the Asian Development Bank.

    Zarate, meanwhile, said that the proposed rehabilitation fund is good as long as it will not become as another form of pork barrel to ensure that the fund would go where it is intended to.

    “The people must be vigilant though and we must ensure that the proposed rehabilitation fund should go straight to its intended purposes and solons would not have entitlement on these projects. The auditing for the fund should also be very strict,” Zarate said.

    Zarate said that at least P100 billion for the complete rehabilitation of the affected areas. JHOANNA BALLARAN


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