MANILA, December 12, 2003  (STAR) The Senate has decided to freeze the P10-billion 2004 budget of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) unless its agencies are purged of United States-funded "foreign agents."

Sen. Joker Arroyo, who chairs a finance subcommittee scrutinizing the DOTC outlay, made the decision in the wake of the refusal of Secretary Leandro Mendoza to remove Alberto Lim as a member of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB).

Mendoza was not present in the budget hearing but CAB executive director Tomas Mañalac was.

"Tell Secretary Mendoza that we will not approve his department’s budget unless he heeds calls for the removal of Lim from CAB," Arroyo told Mañalac.

He accused the CAB board member of being in the employ of the US-funded Accelerating Growth, Investment and Liberalization with Equity (Agile) group of Filipino and foreign consultants working to open up the country to foreign companies. Most of Agile’s foreign consultants are Americans.

Arroyo said Lim has been working to promote the so-called "open skies" policy that would allow US airlines unimpeded access to the Philippine market.

He said besides the CAB, there are also Agile agents in other DOTC agencies like the Philippine Ports Authority.

For his part, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said foreign agents and Filipinos working for foreign masters should not be allowed to influence policy-making in government, particularly in sensitive agencies like the DOTC.

Some months back, a furor over alleged Agile meddling in policy-making erupted in the Senate when senators discovered that several laws that they have enacted, including those liberalizing trade and investments, and fighting money laundering, had been crafted by consultants of the US-financed group.

The chamber promptly expressed its outrage over Agile activities and launched an investigation, summoning both foreign and Filipino consultants connected to Agile, but other than loud rhetoric, nothing really came out of the probe.

Some senators told their colleagues that Agile agents have been in their midst influencing policies since the post-Marcos legislature convened. — Jess Diaz

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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