Tag Archives: House of Representatives

Incoming Philippine President urged to suspend debt payment

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Mimaropa France

MANILA, Philippines- Anti-debt activists belonging to the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Saturday challenged leading presidential candidate Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III to radically overturn the decision of the 14th Congress to allot P 726.63 billion for debt servicing this year.

“We strongly recommend to the incoming Yellow Republic in Malacanang to scrap the P 726 billion budget for debt servicing earmarked by his predecessor President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the inglorious money market bastards and corporate financial gangsters of International Monetary Fund and World Bank,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

The Pamalakaya leader added: “Mr. Aquino and the recycled Hyatt 10 economic managers can do that in their first 100 days in office. That can be done without much fanfare. We hope Noynoy and his self-proclaimed economic experts will face these all time money laundering giants and pursue the collective interest of the Filipino people”.

“Billions of pesos of hard-earned taxes by the 94 million taxpaying Filipinos go to payment of debts incurred by all time financial monopolies, business syndicates, money market gangs and bureaucrat capitalists. Aquino is hereby tasked to stop this modern day financial oligarchy and slavery,” said Hicap.

The Pamalakaya official advised Aquino to issue a marching order to Senate and the House of Representatives suspending debt payment this year. Hicap said Aquino can put to task the 23 senators of the Philippine Senate and the 270 members of the House of Representatives to review the approved 2010 national budget, and in aid of legislation passed a joint resolution suspending debt payment for 2010.

Pamalakaya said the next thing Mr.Aquino should do is to call Congress to amend if not repeal the automatic 40 percent appropriation to debt servicing as enshrined in the General Appropriations Act to empower Congress and the Office of the President to pursue the budget in accordance with public interest and opposed to the financial interest of foreign creditors and big financial groups here and abroad.

The militant group also learned the Philippine government is posed to allocate some P 829.41 B for debt servicing, which is P 102.78 B or 13.7 percent higher from this year budget for debt payment. Pamalakaya said of the P 829-B debt budget set aside for next year’s debt servicing program, P 367.28 B will go to interest payment, P 40.55 billion higher compared to 2010’s P 326.73 B.

The Bureau of Treasury said principal payment will reach P462.13 billion next year, 15.6 percent above the current year’s allocation of P399.9 billion. Of the total debt, treasury officials said P1.954 trillion was loaned from foreign creditors while P2.403 trillion was sourced from domestic creditors.

On the other hand, the Department of Finance (DoF) said the country’s total debt for 2010 would reach P4.83 trillion, higher than the previous forecast of P4.723 trillion. #

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Lawmakers urged to let go salaries, pork barrel for El Nino victims

By Akihira Tatchu and Bb. Joyce Cabral in Manila
and Lollipop delos Reyes, in Antipolo City, Rizal

Leftwing militants belonging to Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Wednesday urged senators and congressmen to donate their salaries and remaining pork barrel from March to June 30, 2010 to victims of El Nino.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya vice-chairperson Salvador France appealed to senators and district representatives to contribute their available funds to subsidize sectors hardly hit by the long dry spell, specifically farmers and fishermen all over the country. The fisherfolk leader lamented that Malacanang, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have yet to identify workable solutions that will provide urgent relief to affected and other vulnerable sectors.

France said the affected sectors could generate P 40,425 each from each district congressman. If there are 220 district congressmen, the fund which could be raised would be P 8,893,500 per month or
P 35.57 million for four months. The Pamalakaya leader said there are 23 senators at present, and each senator also receives P 40,425 per month or P 929,775 for all senators. If they senators decide to donate their salaries to El Nino victims, the amount that can be generated from senators’ salaries for next four months would be P 3,719,100.

Pamalakaya said if the 243 congressmen and senators will donate at least P 20 million of their remaining pork barrel for the year that would amount to P 4.86 billion, excluding their salaries. The militant group said what the executive branch of government did so far was to monitor the impact of El Nino and hyped multi-billion mitigation projects which are subjected to audit free schemes, and are prone to high crimes of corruption.

Pamalakaya said the combined salaries and donated pork barrel could raise as much as P 5-billion which could be of big help to affected farmers and fishermen.

“There are billions of pesos of unprogrammed funds out there in the secret vault of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. There are billions of pesos of unaccounted presidential pork barrel funds that were kept and are still in the disposal of the ruling syndicate in Malacanang. Where are these funds? Why not mobilize these funds to provide subsidies and other forms of aid to El Nino affected folks?” the group said.

Earlier, leaders of Pamalakaya, Anakpawis party list and Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) submitted a 5-point Omnibus demand to Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) that would cushion the impact of El Nino to small fisherfolk and urban poor communities situated along the lake.

The 5-point Omnibus Demand presented to LLDA General Manager Edgar Manda includes supply of 1 sack of rice per family for free beginning March to July this year.

The proposal submitted to LLDA likewise calls on the lake agency to compel local government units to immediately release the calamity funds intended for their respective constituents and allows fisherfolk and farmers plant crops for their subsistence or alternative livelihood.

The groups also tasked the Department of Health (DoH) to mobilize doctors and health workers to look into the situation of poor folk and be ready to provide the lake people with free checkups and medicines. They also pressed the government to set aside at least P 1,500 worth of groceries package for every family of poor fisherfolk and lake resident in the 90,000 hectare Laguna Lake representing the 9 lake towns of Rizal and 18 lake towns of Laguna, including the cities of Pasig, Taguig and Muntinlupa and the municipality of Pateros- all in National Capital Region.

“Instead of proceeding with demolitions of fishing villages, privatization and conversion of public lands along the lake, we urge the government to provide P 5,000 rehabilitation grant to every fishing family so they could repair their houses wrecked by typhoon Ondoy last year,” said Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya said the LLDA should permanently open if not dismantle the controversial Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure (NCHS) to allow salt water from Manila Bay to penetrate Laguna Lake. Gonzalez said the regular entry of salt water in Laguna Lake will allow the lake to restore its former ecological balance and healthy inland environment. #

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Critics pressed Arroyo to junk allies bid granting her emergency powers

By Sarsi Pimentel and Billy Javier Reyes

Manila, Philippines- Rabid critics of Malacanang on Saturday pressed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to junk the proposal of her allies in the House of Representatives to give her emergency powers to resolve the worsening power situation in Mindanao.

In a press statement, the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) believed the idea of granting the Chief Executive emergency powers to address the looming power crisis did not come from her allies but from Arroyo herself, and if she’s unchecked, Arroyo might use these powers to convince the Filipino public to postpone the May 2010 elections.

“The power crisis is being hyped to justify the cruel intentions of Malacanang and it is now part of Palace’s scenario building to justify the declaration of failure of elections in 2010. That is the clear and present danger of extending emergency powers to President Arroyo. A lame duck and an outgoing President with interest to perpetuate herself to power might exploit this congressional action for her own political interest. Ladies and gentlemen, remember we are talking here of Mrs. Arroyo and we are not dealing with a patriotic leader and decent statesman,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader said Arroyo allies headed by Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Simeon Datumanong, Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Antonio Cerilles. Cebu City Rep. Antonio Cuenco and Bulacan Rep. Reylina Nicolas were courting an extreme political danger in pressing emergency powers for the President.

“The best way to resolve the power crisis is stop the privatization of the power sector, repeal Electric Power Industry Reform Act and disempower the Arroyo presidency,” added Hicap.

Meanwhile, Pamalakaya scored Palace Deputy spokesperson Charito Planas for trivializing the problem of water shortage in the country courtesy of El Nino phenomenon.

“Please allow us to remind Madam Charito Planas that this world and the problem we face is for real. We totally dislike this trivial approach to a serious issue that needs comprehensive planning and strong political will. We cannot subscribe to this product like endorsement approach to a major problem that needs major solutions beyond trivia and cheap tricks,” the group added.

Planas on Friday brought out a pail and a basin during a televised briefing and gave simple conservation tips to address the looming water crisis.

With her household props, the Palace spokesperson demonstrated how the water one uses for washing hands, brushing teeth or bathing could be recycled to flush the toilet.

Planas said in her home, she use eight pails and basins to recycle water and had started such practice a year ago. “I use a tabo (dipper) when I bathe. That’s probably one of the reasons why I’ve lost weight—from using a dipper. After shampooing, I rinse my hair directly into the pail. We can do this, and should do this,” she added. #

Pamalakaya wonder dog Barrack OCigeNga barks whenever he sees President Arroyo on TV

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Militants urge GMA townmates to treat her a “nuisance” candidate

By TC Concepcion and Chocolate Moose Fernandez

Manila, Philippines- Staunch critics of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Monday appealed to townmates of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to declare her a “nuisance” candidate in case she announces her plans to run for a congressional seat in her hometown in Pampanga and files her certificate of candidacy on Dec.1,the last day of filing of politicians seeking elective posts in May 2010 elections.

“On Dec. 1, it is politically correct to say that President Arroyo becomes a nuisance candidate because nobody wants to be associated with her and that makes her a political nuisance. While legally speaking she can still run for vice-president, senator perhaps or district representative, the political sentiment and atmosphere by that time will regard her as an irritant political entity or an annoying electoral wannabe,” the leftist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said in a press statement.

“The Cabalens will rise above the occasion. They will not give Mrs. Arroyo a chance to continue her political escapades and brutality beyond 2010. That’s the destiny and political fate of Mrs. Arroyo,” the group added.

Citing the Oct. 2-8 survey conducted by independent think tank IBON where only 17 percent of Mrs. Arroyo’s townmates in Pampanga want her to run in Congress in 2010, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the result indicates that Mrs. Arroyo is highly isolated from the people and that she cannot capable even if she runs as barangay captain in La Vista subdivision in Quezon City or in any barangay in Lubao, Pampanga.

Results of the latest IBON nationwide survey revealed that while 77 percent of respondents were very much aware and convinced that President Arroyo will seek a seat in the House of Representatives in 2010, 44.6 percent of those surveyed rebuked GMA’s plan to run for Congress next year.

The same IBON nationwide survey revealed that 61% of the total 1,496 respondents said they are aware Pres. Arroyo will run for Congress. Of this number, 85.8% said they were not in favor for the president to stay in government as a Pampanga representative.

“The Comelec and its commissioners will become the world’s biggest laughing stock if they will allow Mrs. Arroyo to seek seat in the House of Representatives or share stellar billing with national politicians running for vice-president or senators. To the Comelec commissioners we have these two words for you—get real,” the Pamalakaya official added.

Pamalakaya on the other hand denied reports that militant groups have endorsed or gravitated to the presidential candidacy of opposition Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero. The militant group said colleagues in other organizations merely recognized the senator’s progressive position on a number of issues such as the legislative approval of the proposed P 125 across-the-board, across-the-country wage hike and the condonation of the more than P 40-billion incurred by agrarian reform beneficiaries under what it called “bogus” Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

“Senator Escudero earned raves from militant groups and personalities because of his progressive views and position on a number of issues and we see nothing wrong in recognizing political personalities for their positive views on people’s issues,” the group said.

Pamalakaya added: “In fact, we encourage other national candidates to speak out and share their hearts and minds on many issues of national interest to the people and engage in principled debates because we advocate and carry out genuine politics of change that shuns politics of personalities and the traditional patronage politics”.

Pamalakaya said militant groups and progressive party lists like Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kabataan Party, Migrante, the indigenous party list Katribu, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), the government employee group Courage and Makabayan coalition will soon conduct their own electoral forums to present the people’s agenda to politicians running in national elective posts in 2010.

“But as far as the people’s movement is concerned, the endorsement of presidential candidate is not in its political radar as of now and it is still in the process of studying and determining their course of action on whether to endorse or support a presidential candidate in 2010. If there will be endorsements that will depend on the candidates’ track records and positions on major economic and political issues, and we are referring to scores of issues not few issues,” the group said. #

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Satur wants “heart war” between 2 giant drug companies probed

By Cherry Pie Eggpie Sandoval, contributor

Manila, Philippines- Front running Makabayan senatorial candidate and Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo asked the House of Representatives to investigate what he called a brewing war between Philippine drug company United Laboratories, Inc. (Unilab) and transnational pharmaceutical firm Pfizer Inc. over the production of a maintenance drug for patients afflicted with cardiovascular diseases.

In a press statement sent to The Pamalakaya Times, the Deputy Minority Leader said Unilab filed last July 9 a petition with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) for the cancellation of Philippine Patent No. 29149 for Atorvastatin being marketed by Pfizer under the brand name Lipitor. Pfizer’s patent prevents the creation and marketing of any similar drug and essentially gives the company a monopoly hold over the maintenance drug.

Ocampo argued there is basis to say that Pfizer’s application for a patent in the Philippines is exploitative as it tends to abuse the patent system. Pfizer may be unjustly extending its monopoly on the drug by introducing minor modifications just to extend the life of its patent, a practice known as ‘evergreening.

The Makabayan hopeful in 2010 elections said that by seeking to monopolize the production and sale of a maintenance drug that is crucial to the survival of many Filipinos with heart diseases, Pfizer is doing a great disservice to the people.

“It wants its own product Lipitor to be the only product on the market, but Lipitor’s exorbitant price is enough to cause heart attacks,” Ocampo said.

The Bayan Muna solon said Lipitor costs P34.45, P39.13 and P50.50 per 10, 20 and 40 mg tablets, respectively. Since Lipitor is to be taken at least once daily, the average cost to a patient is at least P34.45-P50.50 a day. In the meantime, Unilab is marketing Avamax, its generic version of Atorvastatin at a price 30% cheaper than Lipitor: 10 mg for P25.00; 20 mg. for P30.00; and 40 mg. for P35.00.

The activist lawmaker added that the issue falls under the jurisdiction of the Cheaper Medicines Act which was enacted specifically to bring down prices of medicine and make it more accessible to the public. The law, which Ocampo co-authored, also aims to put an end to patent abuse in the industry.

“This is a case involving a local drug company and a transnational firm: a David vs. Goliath case. It’s a test of the government’s determination to reduce drug prices. It also has serious implications on the country’s economic sovereignty and how our own industries hold out against foreign competition, and how all this impacts on the public,” Ocampo said.

Insiders in the drug industry revealed Lipitor was the largest-selling drug in the world in 2006, earning its producers US$12.9 Billion in sales the same year alone. In the Philippines, it earned more than P850 Million in sales within the period of May 1, 2008 – April 30, 2009. In 2008, Lipitor sales internationally were at US$13 billion, with about US$15 million coming from the Philippines. Since the time it was launched in the country, Lipitor sales have been at US$162 million.

“Congress should also investigate reports that Pfizer and Warner-Lambert have threatened many local drugstores not to carry such medicine other than theirs. This is predatory business practice that without doubt could mean the life and death of many Filipinos suffering heart ailments. If there is truth to these reports, sanctions should be laid down against Pfizer Inc.,” Ocampo said. #

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Satur tells GMA: Prioritize homes for victims of Ondoy and Pepeng

By TC Concepcion, contributor

Manila, Philippines- Makabayan senatorial candidate Satur Ocampo on Friday urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to prioritize the provision of decent homes to the victims of storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng, describing his proposal as practical yet very urgent.

Bayan Muna Rep. Ocampo, also the Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives brought the issue up in response to reports that President Arroyo has given the go-signal for much delayed urban development project supposedly meant to relocate thousands of squatters and rearrange Metro Manila areas on a permanent scope. Part of the planned Metro Manila development project is the relocation of thousands of informal settlers living near rivers and creeks.

The militant lawmaker was referring to the 1977 Metro Manila Transport, Land Use and Development Project, which Malacanang will use as a blue print for the extreme makeover of the National Capital Region that will entail the demolition of not less than 400,000 informal settlers in Manila Bay, Laguna Lake and in Marikina Valley.

At the Legislative and Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) meeting in Malacanang yesterday, administration Senator Edgardo Angara brought the idea fof changing the topography anf geography of parts of Metro Manila in the wake of Ondoy’s devastation.

In the study funded by the World Bank used by Malacanang, it was stated that development will be applied in three major areas: in the Marikina Valley, the western shores of Laguna de Bay, and the Manila Bay coastal area to the north of Manila.

“Thousands lost their homes along with almost everything else they owned. In the meantime, thousands more fear returning to the areas where they used to live out of dread that the next big floods can be worse. Already, experts see an increase in the number of slum dwellers disparagingly called squatters”, noted Ocampo.

According to the Bayan Muna solon asserted that poor people deserve safe, secure dwellings, and it is the government’s task to provide these. “We hope that Malacanang’s plans to rehabilitate Metro Manila will not be a cold-blooded and mechanical campaign to simply clear away the poor and drive them off to far-flung areas to build slum communities”, Ocamppo noted.

Random surveys reveal that majority of the victims come from menial and low-paying jobs — many are from the informal sector. The calamities have driven them to even deeper levels of penury. Urban poverty is certain to worsen.

Ocampo said that Malacanang should send a concrete blue-print for the urban development project to Congress. He also said that residents of Metro Manila especially the areas affected by the typhoon should be consulted on the changes.

“The government must not be allowed to add more injury to those already sustained by the victims. A genuine urban renewal and rehabilitation program prioritizes the welfare of residents — ensuring that they have houses and not hovels. Beautification is not merely planting trees, it’s building safe communities with easy access to water, sanitation and electricity services,” he said.

The Bayan Muna solon said that the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) should immediately find means to quantify the possible increase in slum dwellers and provide the government a ball-park figure on the extent of the work it must undertake. #

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Militant senatoriable calls for debt moratorium

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.

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Lawmakers urge to donate pork to flood victims

Lawmakers urge to donate pork to flood victims

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) urged senators and congressmen to donate if not all, at least substantial portions of their respective pork barrels to victims of storm Ondoy yesterday.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya vice-chairperson for Luzon Salvador France said an allocation of P 2 million each from senators and congressmen would mean relief and rehabilitation fund of P 46 million from the Senate and
P 500 million from the House of Representatives for a total of not less than P 550 million.

“We ask our lawmakers from both houses of Congress not to entertain second thoughts of giving up their pork barrels for this purpose. The people are demanding their paid taxes to be spent on proper intention and noble aims, the Pamalakaya leader said.

France urged Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles to sponsor a separate or joint resolution calling all members of the house to automatically allocate at least P 2 million of their pork barrels to victims of typhoon Ondoy.

“It is very doable proposal. An easy one. All the Senate President and the House Speaker have to do is to put this into writing and pass it this week. We hope Enrile and Nograles will do their assignment and accomplish what is being called by national situation and collective interest of the people,” added Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya said the P 550 million should be spent for immediate relief and rehabilitation efforts, while the national government should at least set aside P 20 billion for economic rehabilitation and production subsidies of affected sectors mostly the urban poor and poor workers in the National Capital Region and farmers and fisherfolk in Bulacan, Bataan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Rizal,Cavite, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte.

According to the latest report, 280,000 people were displaced by typhoon Ondoy, were 51 were killed, while 21 are still missing or unaccounted by the national and local disaster management teams.

Meanwhile, Pamalakaya information officer Gerry Albert Corpuz said their group will join the campaign being launched by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)to generate relief goods for the victims of typhoon Ondoy. The relief campaign dubbed as Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan (BALSA) will mobilize Metro Manila based activists to gather relief goods and materials for victims of flood.

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Solon hits GMA-Saudi food hub deal

Solon hits GMA-Saudi food hub deal

Manila, Philippines- Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano today accused the Macapagal-Arroyo government of engaging in real estate business allegedly “in exchange of possible hefty commissions” in the light of Saudi Arabia’s plan to turn the Philippines as a “food hub.”

In a press statement, a copy of which was obtained by The Pamalakaya Times, the activist solon said that a proposed investment was discussed during a meeting between Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and representatives of the Far East Agriculture Company (FEAC) – an umbrella group of 10 Saudi Arabian companies – at the sidelines of Ms Arroyo’s visit to the oil-rich country.

“We expect this impending land-lease deal with Saudi Arabia, courtesy of global land-grabbing’s No. 1 puppet in Asia, to displace thousands of farmers and agricultural workers. Ms Arroyo is selling out the country’s national patrimony under the guise of multi-million dollar investment packages,” Mariano said.

He said that “instead of defending thousands of farmers facing agrarian disputes and struggling to own the lands, Ms Arroyo acts as real estate agent between domestic landlords and foreign agribusiness corporations possibly in exchange of hefty commissions.”

Mariano, who also chairs the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, said “Ms Arroyo’s policy of leasing the country’s vast tracts of agricultural lands always figured in the official agenda of her numerous state visits.”

He recalled that “during Ms Arroyo’s state visit to Qatar in December last year, she announced the possibility of leasing at least 100,000 hectares of agricultural land to the emirate. In June 2008, after her state visit to the US, she boasted of having clinched a 35-year supply contract with Libby’s Fruits worth $500 million in Bicol and Eastern Visayas, and another contract with Abundant Bio-Fuels which intends to invest $200 million in Northern Mindanao.”

The peasant leader also said that with government’s abandonment of agriculture and neo-liberal policies like reducing subsidies in agriculture and food import dependency, the sufferings of Filipino farmers will be worsened by the escalating global land grabbing for food and financial security.

“The stark irony of these land lease deals is that while our country is being dependent on the importation of our food needs, we are leasing our lands to feed the rich countries,” says Mariano adding: “This stupidity by the Arroyo government must be stopped.”

Malacañang said in a press statement that “the group will visit the Philippines in November 2009 to meet with possible counterparts and partners, even as initial ventures in fresh and processed banana products have been sealed.”

The FEAC group is involved in the production and trading of poultry, livestock, fruits, grains and cereals, the statement said.

In a phone interview with Rep. Mariano, the party list lawmaker said is planning to file a House Resolution that will direct the appropriate committees of the House of Representatives to investigate this left and right lease or disposal of lands to foreign agri-business corporations.

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Lawmakers urge to grill GMA on P 2.7 billion foreign trips

Lawmakers urge to grill GMA on P 2.7 billion foreign trips

Leftwing militants identified with the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya)on Saturday lawmakers to cross party lines and place President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo under intense scrutiny for spending P 2.7 B in taxpayers money for her trips abroad since 2001.

“Lawmakers in the name of national interest and public moral are legally and politically obliged to undertake a full-blown inquiry on GMA foreign trips which already ate up nearly three billion pesos in taxpayers money since 2003,” said Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

The Pamalakaya leader put to task Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles to lead their colleagues in both houses to investigating President Arroyo, whom Hicap described as the country’s top frequent flyer at the turn of the millennium.

“Enrile and Nograles should quit acting as if they are lawyers and spokespersons of President Arroyo. Now is the time to prove to the people that they are not lapdogs and puppets of the Frequent Flyer in Malacañang,” said Hicap.

Pamalakaya said public interest calls for the investigation of President Arroyo’s world tour since she assumed the presidency in 2001. The militant group said Enrile and Nograles cannot ignore the rising demand of the people to have Mrs. Arroyo investigated and later punished for her all-out raid of national coffers.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, according to a report made by the Commission on Audit, has racked up P2.7 billion in expenses in her foreign trips since 2003, or more than double the P1.1-billion limit set by Congress from 2003 to 2008.

In a presentation on Aug. 12 by COA Assistant Commissioner Carmela Perez, with additional research by his staff, Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III said the President’s foreign travels cost P332 million in 2003 (from a budget of P72 million), P256 million in 2004 (from P74 million), P325 million in 2005 (from P209 million), P421 million in 2006 (from P261 million), P656 million in 2007 (from P261 million) and P722 million in 2008 (from P244 million).

President Arroyo went on 50 foreign trips from 2003 to 2008, a number of which involved multiple destinations crisscrossing continents that required the charter of an A330 Boeing.

COA records also showed that the President spent some P1.44 billion on her foreign travels from 2002 to 2007.

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