MANILA,  March 2, 2004
 (STAR) By Sammy Santos  - Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. chided Finance Secretary Juanita Amatong and Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin yesterday for invoking the name of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in what he claimed was an obvious bid to push for President Arroyo’s election in May.

Guingona could not conceal his displeasure over the statements of Amatong and Boncodin who warned Friday that the IMF was worried about risks of reversals in the country’s economic policies in the event Mrs. Arroyo will not win in May.

In a prepared statement, Guingona cautioned Cabinet members against making "any self-serving remarks that would tend to influence our people in voting for or against the government of the day."

"It is not the province of political appointees who are alter egos of the incumbent president to say that the IMF is worried about the "feasibility or continuity of economic policies in case President Arroyo does not win a new six-year term," said Guingona, who broke his ties with Mrs. Arroyo when he resigned as president of Lakas-CMD last October, citing policy differences.

"It is for the Filipino electorate, and no one else, to determine who will next hold the reins of government in our country," he added. "Cabinet members are not entitled to make any self-serving remark that would tend to influence our people in voting for or against the government of the day. They also cannot speak for the IMF."

Emerging from a principals’ meeting with a visiting IMF mission on Friday, Amatong said the IMF officials were worried about the degree of risks of economic policy reversals in the event Mrs. Arroyo does not get another six-year term.

For her part, Boncodin said the IMF officials were "concerned about the feasibility and sustainability" of the country’s economic policies and the fiscal reforms initiated by the president. Both, however, said the IMF team was happy with the government’s prudent budget management despite the failure to pass the government budget for 2004.

Guingona said the statements of Amatong and Boncodin were "not only misplaced but ominously sound like warnings to our next leaders not to review or change economic policies favored by the IMF, if and when such may eventually be considered contrary to Filipino interests or needs."

"The matter of setting, and implementing, economic policies, and of running the day-to-day affairs of government, rest with the duly elected and popularly mandated leaders of the country, whoever they may be," Guingona said.

During the meeting with IMF officials, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Amando Tetangco revealed that the Philippine economic managers assured them that not even a change in political leadership could trigger economic policy reversals. The economic managers likewise assured the IMF that they would continue a fiscal consolidation and deficit-reduction program.

Most investors are wary of political uncertainties in the Philippines and prefer that the incumbent president obtain a full six-year term.

Tetangco said the IMF team was seeking updates on "how monetary policy is being implemented given the political uncertainties and the pessimistic sentiment in the financial markets." He said allowing the free float of the local currency was the "right stance of monetary policies."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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