, July 17 , 2004
By Marichu A. Villanueva  -  President Arroyo has issued Executive Order 326 designating the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) as one of the chief implementing bodies of her 10-point socioeconomic program, principally to create up to 10 million jobs in the country by the end of her term.

"In accordance with its expanded role in the government’s program to fight poverty, there is a need to reorganize the governing board of the PITC for greater coordination and supervision to ensure the effective implementation of the government’s commitment to generate employment," President Arroyo stated in EO 326.

The PITC is a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) which handles the government’s procurement trading, chiefly from India, of cheaper medicines under a program being implemented jointly by the Department of Trade and Industry which handles the trading side, and the Department of Health.

Industry estimates place the cost of medicines, especially maintenance drugs for high blood pressure being sold in the Philippines by multinational companies (MNCs) reaching as high as P80 billion a year.

Since these medicines are sold way beyond their actual cost of production, government estimates that true value of medicines sold in the country should only be P5 billion or less.

One of the campaign promises of President Arroyo was to continue the cheap medicine program started by her predecessor deposed President Joseph Estrada, to provide cheap but effective medicines, especially for the poor and make these available through the government hospitals.

The PITC was created by Presidential Decree (PD) 252, issued on July 21, 1973, as amended by PD 1071, issued on Jan. 25, 1977, and EO 756 issued on Dec. 28, 1981.

As originally created during the Marcos era, the PITC used to handle the countertrade arrangements for the Philippine government with the communist countries. With the disintegration of the Soviet bloc countries, the PITC role was refocused to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to find markets for their products to sell abroad.

Under these existing presidential issuance, the DTI secretary sits as the ex officio chairman of the PITC because this GOCC is 95 percent owned by the National Development Co. (NDC), another GOCC attached to the DTI. The remaining five percent at PITC is owned by the state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines.

Under the Executive Order 326, Trade and Industry Secretary CesarPurisima will no longer sit as ex-officio board chairman of PITC but merely as ex-officio member.

The issuance of EO 326 was seen as another move by the President to create a position to which she can appoint a departing Cabinet member or a "Cabinet hopeful" who does not make it to a regular Cabinet post.

The PITC is currently headed by Anthony Abad, a former economics student of President Arroyo in Ateneo. Abad was formerly the administrator of the National Food Authority (NFA) who was publicly dressed down by President Arroyo.

Abad was replaced by Arthur Yap, another former Ateneo economics student of President Arroyo. The President last week promoted Yap to replace outgoing Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Luis Lorenzo effective at the end of the latter’s resignation in August this year.

Prior to Lorenzo’s announcement of his resignation from the Cabinet. President Arroyo issued EOs 322 and 323, to reorganize the governing boards, respectively of Quedan Rural Credit Guarantee Corp. (Quedancor) and the state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), which she signed last July 5 as first reported by The STAR.

The President subsequently appointed Lorenzo to become her new presidential adviser for countryside development. Aside from holding this Cabinet-rank post as a "one-peso-a-year" appointee, President Arroyo appointed Lorenzo to hold in concurrent capacity, as chairman of Land Bank and Quedancor.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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