Thursday, November 17, 2016

Senator Risa Hontiveros Pushes for Debt Audit in 2017 Budget

Wazzup Pilipinas!

An audit of loan agreements challenged as illegitimate, fraudulent and/or wasteful was pushed in the proposed P1.9 trillion 2017 national government budget by Senator Risa Hontiveros.

In her maiden budget interpellation on Tuesday, Hontiveros proposed the inclusion in the said budget of a special provision to “hold in trust” interest payments for at least 20 loan agreements pending a thorough review through a congressional debt audit.

Hontiveros assured that debts validated to be aboveboard will continue to be serviced. However, those proven to be illegitimate or riddled with questionable processes, contractual obligations, purposes and use will be subjected to renegotiation and/or repudiation. Subsequently, funds allotted for their payments will be re-channeled to augment the government’s spending for important social services.

“It is only apt that the Duterte government’s first proposed appropriation law dubbed as ‘a budget for real change,' has a specific policy language to safeguard the nation’s coffers from illegitimate loan agreements. It is only common sense that we should not pay what we don’t owe. A congressional debt audit is a step in the right direction to scrutinize these debts and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past,” Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros explained that the country endured paying for illegitimate debts in the past like the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) and the defunct Austrian Medical Waste Incinerator Project. She cited a study by the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) which has identified 20 questionable loan agreements amounting to P 900 million (please see attached) in the proposed 2017 budget. The debt watchdog said that many of the loans came from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the World Bank (WB).

Senator Loren Legarda, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance, and principal sponsor of the proposed budget, agreed to a congressional debt audit.


“BNPP revival a public health risk”

Meanwhile, Hontiveros opposed the government’s plan to revive BNNP, saying it poses a serious risk to public health. She said that one of the primary consequences of radiation exposure is DNA damage while long term risks include an increased probability of contracting thyroid cancer and leukemia. The senator also argued that nuclear experts couldn’t provide a fail-safe measure to dispose of nuclear waste.

Hontiveros added that the proposed revival of the BNPP runs contrary to the prevailing attitudes of more experienced nations regarding the future of nuclear energy.

“In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Germany, through its Energiewnede program, has pledged to fully close all of its nuclear energy plants by 2022. The risks to human health and the environment cannot be overstated. We live in an age where our actions directly shape the natural world. Our existing laws such as the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 represents our commitment to renewable energy and increase its share in our energy mix.”

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