Militant senatoriable calls for debt moratorium
By Bb. Joyce Cabral
Manila, Philippines- Makabayan party senatorial candidate and Bayan Muna party list Rep. Satur Ocampo urged the Philippine government to suspend payments, both interest and principal, on the Philippines’ foreign debt and instead use the funds for disaster response measures.
In a press statement sent to the Pamalakaya Times, Ocampo asked his colleagues in the House of Representatives to support mounting calls for a moratorium on debt servicing for the next three to six years or until the country recovers from the series of disasters that have befallen it.
“It would be the height of insensitivity and callousness if the government continues to allocate billions towards debt servicing when the Filipino people are in desperate need for relief. It will take years to rehabilitate the damaged areas, and it is certain that it will take much longer for the Filipinos severely affected by the calamities to get back on their feet and recover physically, emotionally and psychologically. It is also the state’s duty to ensure that the welfare of the victims is looked after, and their homes and communities are rebuilt and improved,” Ocampo said.
Ocampo, also the Deputy Minority Leader of the Lower Chamber of Congress, said that now is not the time for the government to prioritize foreign debt servicing.
The activist party list lawmaker asserted that now, more than ever, it is necessary to scrutinize and then overhaul the government’s budgetary priorities as it puts more importance to debt payments over social and productive spending.
The Makabayan senatorial candidate noted that as of October 2007, the country’s foreign debt was P1.589 trillion, or US$39 billion, according to the Bureau of the Treasury. More than 30 percent of the national budget for 2008 was allocated to interest payments.
“Pres. Arroyo should do all that is in her power as executive to seek help for the Philippines and the victims of Pepeng and Ondoy; and she can start by notifying the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other international finance institutions that the Philippines will be suspending debt payments immediately,” Ocampo said.
The Bayan Muna lawmaker noted that from 2003 to 2007, for instance, the Philippines’ foreign debt repayments amounted to some 1000 billion pesos. Do the math and consider how that money could have been used to improve the country’s disaster response capabilities. Funds being earmarked for dept payments for 2010 until 2016 should be utilized now for the relief operations and rehabilitation campaigns.
He said the victims in the evacuation centers and in the devastated areas can be given much more than instant noodles and canned good; soup kitchens can be put up and the victims can be served nourishing meals. Medicine and vitamin supplements can also be brought and distributed free, and sanitation facilities can be built,” Ocampo pointed out.
Ocampo said that an immediate moratorium on debt servicing will also allow the purchase of necessary technologically up-to-date weather forecasting equipment.
” Scientific, efficient and reliable weather forecasting and broadcasting equipment is an important service that will save lives and help reduce the potential damage to infrastructure,” he said.