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NGO urges presidential candidates to support cancellation of debt

A NON-GOVERNMENT organization (NGO) urged candidates running for President to reveal their views on how they plan to govern with borrowed money.

Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) Board Member Mae Buenaventura said candidates for the national elections next year need to be asked whether debt cancellation is in their plans.

“If there (are none), their recovery plans are questionable, because (debt payments) eat up a lot of public money,” she said in Filipino at a webinar organized by the FDC Tuesday.

Borrowing more is not necessarily the solution to propel the recovery from the pandemic, she said.

FDC Board Member Raquel Castillo said the group is requesting electoral candidates to pledge that social development will make up a bigger portion of the budget than debt payments.

“Increase social protection allocations to at least 2% of GDP (gross domestic product) and 15% of per capita GDP during normal times, but significantly increase that during pandemics,” she said in her presentation.

Ms. Castillo said that government should generate revenue and savings from the cancellation of “illegitimate debt,” the recovery of plundered wealth, and implement a wealth tax to finance its COVID-19 containment measures.

She called for a revival of the Congressional practice of auditing national debt, and the repeal of an automatic appropriations law committing government funds for debt service.

The debt was at a record P11.63 trillion at the end of August, up 21% from a year earlier.

The government added P1.85 trillion in debt over the first eight months of the year.

The FDC and at least 50 other organizations last year signed a global open letter to governments and international lenders calling for the unconditional cancellation of public external debt by all lenders for “countries in need” for at least four years.

Resources freed by the debt freeze should be used to address universal healthcare and social protections, according to the letter issued by the Global Action for Debt Cancellation.

Of the candidates who responded to queries about their positions on debt Leodegario de Guzman said via Viber: “The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), of which I am chairperson, is a member of the FDC. As a member of the coalition, I agree with its position.”

Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo’s campaign is in the process of consulting various sectors in drafting its platform, her spokesman Ibarra M. Gutierrez III said via WhatsApp.

BusinessWorld queried Senator Emmanuel D. Pacquiao and Senator Panfilo M. Lacson but they had not replied at the deadline. — Jenina P. Ibañez with Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

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