Manila, Feb. 25, 2003 -- Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho yesterday virtually admitted that agents of the US-funded lobby group Agile (Accelerating Growth, Investment and Liberalization with Equity) had a hand in the formulation of policies of government agencies.

But Camacho said the involvement of Agile consultants in crafting economic and financial policies was limited to the provision of "technical expertise."

"They (Agile consultants) are there at our request to provide technical assistance. They will not be here unless we ask them. That is our option," Camacho said during a break in the sponsorship of the proposed 2003 national budget.

He failed to elaborate on what was meant by "technical expertise" because the sessions started. He just said it involved the technical draft of policies.

Camacho said the services of Agile representatives are covered by independent contracts forged with agencies under the economic and technical cooperation agreement of 1951 between the Philippines and the United States.

Because of these independent contracts, Camacho said, the different line agencies found it their obligation to provide office space to Agile representatives who in turn provided them with technical help.

"It's a project-to-project basis. Of course we have to give them space, but otherwise there's no permanent office, at least in DoF," Camacho said.

Camacho's statements seemed to contradict those of Sen. Edgardo Angara who said that when he was agriculture secretary, he "drove them away."

Angara said he found it unacceptable that Agile agents would "interfere" in positions the DA would take over the issue of imposition of tariffs on agricultural products from other countries.

Angara said the "meddling" happened sometime in 1999 when the DA was busy formulating tariff policies in compliance with the requirements of GATT-WTO during the Uruguay round.

"Gusto nila sila ang mag-develop ng position ng DA para sa tariffs for the GATT-WTO. Nagbigay pa sila ng proposal nila," Angara said.

Other senators earlier said Agile agents tried to influence them on the crafting of economic and financial measures, including the Special Purpose Assets Vehicles law, road users tax, electronic commerce law, and the anti-dumping act.

AGILE also purportedly played an active role in lobbying for amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

It was Agile that reportedly gave a raw copy of the bicameral report on the amended AMLA to the Financial Action Task Force, even before it was ratified.

It has been alleged that FATF rejected the amended AMLA because of the continued inclusion of the provision requiring court orders prior to the opening of suspicious accounts.

A Palace official belied the claim of administration Sen. Joker Arroyo that Malacaņang is subverting the Constitution by allowing the Agile to interfere in government affairs.

Gabriel Claudio, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, said the executive branch "would not allow a foreign entity or group to dictate on government on matters of policy."

Arroyo on Sunday questioned the presence of Agile agents at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the National Economic Development Authority. He said that with the presence of Agile agents, these agencies could not be independent as mandated by the Constitution.

Claudio would not comment on the reported existence of Agile agents at the BSP and NEDA. Arroyo has said Bangko Sentral Gov. Rafael Buenaventura confirmed the presence of an Agile office at the BSP.

He also said he does not know whether Agile has an office in Malacaņang, and if there are Agile agents there, they would easily be identified. (Malaya)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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