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Lawmaker seeks full accounting of $4-B foreign loans in Covid response

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A member of the House Committee on Appropriations on Sunday asked the national government to make a full accounting of $4 billion foreign loans for Covid-19 pandemic response.

Citing the National Expenditure Program (NEP) annexes of the proposed P5.024-trillion 2022 budget, BHW Rep. Angelica Natasha Co said the national government secured foreign loans from six international aid bodies covering eight different loan programs for 2020 to 2022.

“We want a full and detailed accounting of these foreign loans, including the terms and conditions, payments made and payments due in the coming years,” Co added.

According to her, $4 billion is roughly P200 billion.

“The national government will eventually have to pay back all those loans, so we want to know until when we will be paying for them and how much,” Co said.

Submit to Congress

THE lawmaker noted that $1.9 billion is from the Asian Development Bank, $500 million from the World Bank, $750 million from the AIIB, about $756 million from JICA, $100 million from the Export-Import Bank of Korea and $50 million from Spain’s AIIDC.

“Now, we here in Congress want to know from the Department of Finance, the Neda [National Economic and Development Authority] and the recipient implementing agencies how much of these foreign loan funds have been spent, whether they were spent as programmed and on time, the implementation programs encountered, and the loans yet to be signed and implemented,” she added.

Likewise, Co asked the national government to submit to Congress its reports containing these foreign loans.

“We want certified copies of the accomplishment reports and implementation updates submitted to the foreign loan agencies, including the audited reports,” she added.

Co said that as a member of the Lower Chamber she also wants a detailed inventory report on all the donated Covid vaccines from all foreign sources.

“We want to know whether those donations are reaching their intended ultimate beneficiaries, the Filipino people prioritized for vaccination,” Co said.

No ordinary measure

MEANWHILE, House Deputy Minority and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate chided the national government for the huge debt service under the proposed 2022 national budget.

According to Zarate, with the country’s national debt record of P11.071 trillion as of May, each of the 109 million Filipino owes P102,440.

Zarate said a big portion of the 2022 NEP goes to debt servicing.

“However, we borrow more than we need [deficit]. We pay for loans. We, the people, are not aware of who or where these are spent. We cannot spend our appropriations properly. We even have billions of unused appropriation, budgetary adjustments also in billions and yet our expenditure program increases every year.”

The lawmaker added that when the administration started, the expenditure program was only at P3.002 trillion.

“But in a matter of just five years, the Duterte administration is proposing a gargantuan budget of P5.024 trillion.”

With this, Zarate said the country’s highest national budget, belatedly submitted to Congress almost a month after the State of the Nation Address (Sona), should be scrutinized and not railroaded.

“This is not an ordinary measure where the process can be short circuited or taken via shortcuts. This is the highest national budget ever and the budget for an election year at that,” Zarate said. “We cannot sacrifice the quality of analyzing it even if they submitted it just yesterday because it will mean surrendering outright Congress’ power of the purse.”

Many issues

THE Lower Chamber is eyeing to finish the deliberations of the 2022 proposed national budget by September 30.

“There are so many issues hounding the national budget today, especially now at the time of the Covid pandemic,” Zarate said.

The Davao-based solon said the Duterte administration has in 2020 an actual unobligated allotment of P200,059,408,000 and unreleased appropriations of P62,181,664,000 totaling to unused appropriations at P262,241,072,000.

“This is scandalous, even anomalous, when many people are in dire need for ayuda or aid while they are forced to stay at home without jobs or income, during different levels of lockdowns” Zarate said.

“In fact, the 2020 and 2021 budgets are still not depleted. So there is no urgency to railroad this to supposedly address pandemic measures,” he added.

Zarate said Congress should conduct full and transparent deliberations of the budget because, if this one passes as is, “then the people would also hold Congress into account for being a rubber stamp of Malacañang.”

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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