“A HISTORIC first in the history of the Philippine budget system.”
This is how Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros described the passage of the 2017 national government budget that contains a special provision mandating Congress to conduct a comprehensive audit of the country’s debt.
The provision tasked the Congressional Oversight Committee on Overseas Development Assistance to conduct a debt audit to determine the legitimacy of a list of loan agreements challenged as illegitimate.
The debt audit will be conducted in the 2017 fiscal year.
Hontiveros, who introduced the general provision, said the process of a debt audit, was an important policy tool to unburden the Filipino people from paying onerous and illegitimate debts and beef up funding for social service spending.
“This is truly a historic first. With this provision, we commit to diligently scrutinize the country’s debts if they are indeed in accordance with the principles on promoting responsible sovereign lending and borrowing by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and repudiate the illegitimate part of our overall debt,” Hontiveros said.
“I would like to commend the Senate Finance Committee chaired by Sen. Loren Legarda, my fellow senators, the Executive branch and the Freedom from Debt Coalition for supporting the inclusion of this provision in our national budget,” Hontiveros added.
Hontiveros, however, reminded the public that much remained to be done to fully reform the government’s budget process.
She particularly noted the issues on savings, augmentation, impoundment and budget control that must be fully addressed to achieve the desirable balance between fiscal flexibility and accountability.
The FDC reported that P 3.78 billion in the 2016 national government budget went to interest and principal payments in connection with a number of questionable loan-funded projects, including the Power Sector Development Program, Sixth Road (Tullahan), Pampanga Development Flood Control, Bohol Irrigation II, and Angat Water Supply Optimization.