FISCAL WOES: ARROYO RALLIES NATION, LEADERS TO MOVE ON IN ONE DIRECTION

MANILA, August 26, 2004 (STAR) Let’s all pitch in! President Arroyo called yesterday on Filipinos and national leaders to "move forward in one direction" so the country can hurdle its fiscal woes.

In a statement, Mrs. Arroyo said a looming fiscal crisis could set in unless new taxes and cost-cutting measures are imposed by the government immediately.

"The Filipino can do it if we think as a nation," she said in a statement from Malacañang.

"The government will lead the way in terms of restraint as well as in service. But this is a two-way street in which our combined sacrifices should meet and carry us through."

Mrs. Arroyo said she was happy that senators and barangay officials have agreed to cut their pork barrel and internal revenue allotments to help reduce the country’s economic burdens.

"I am glad at the response of the Senate and barangays in sharing the burden, and I am confident that this attitude of patriotism and statesmanship will infuse all our institutions and sectors," she said.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo does not need emergency powers to solve the country’s economic problems.

"We don’t think (emergency powers) are called for," he said.

"We believe the President has sufficient powers to deal with the situation and that is what she is doing. We need tough solutions to these extraordinary problems that must be equitably settled across sectors and institutions."

Bunye said the Development and Budget Coordinating Council has yet to submit to Mrs. Arroyo its recommendations on the proposal of Albay Rep. Joey Salceda for the government to declare a fiscal crisis.

"This cut in (internal revenue allotment) is one of the solutions which was proposed," he said.

"But this is something that still has to be vetted. There are conditions for this to be adjusted, and these are being studied by the economic managers."

Salceda has proposed a fiscal crisis be declared before Congress cuts the internal revenue allotments of local governments in next year’s proposed national budget.

Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo had used the technical term "fiscal crisis" loosely in her speech at Camp Crame, and there was no need for the government to explain it to international creditors.

"The international financial creditors are very much aware of this situation that we are in," he said.

"They have been monitoring our condition, and I believe they appreciate the fact that we are doing something about it.

"I believe it is taken positively that we are doing something about our problem. I think for as long as we work together, as long as we are united in our effort, we will be able to move forward."

On the other hand, two pro-administration congressmen asked Malacañang yesterday not to sacrifice people, particularly government employees in the delivery of basic services in trying to solve the country’s deficit.

Pasig City Rep. Robert Jaworski Jr. said thousands of government workers are in danger of losing their jobs, when executives of government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCC) are being overpaid.

"Our government employees have dutifully paid their taxes and have served the government with utmost industry and sincerity," he said.

"They should be the last people in this country who should be sacrificed for the sake of saving money and raising revenues."

Jaworski said overpaid executives should instead be removed from GOCCs if the administration wants to save money.

It is "patently immoral" for the government to sacrifice the welfare of ordinary citizens to save money and raise revenues, he added. — Marichu Villanueva, Paolo Romero


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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