The Presidential approval of the P1.227 trillion 2008 General Appropriations Act with minimal direct item vetoes is a reaffirmation of the Executive-Legislative common agenda of providing adequate basic social services and enhancing infrastructure development.
It also signifies the Executive’s guarded concurrence with the congressional thrusts on non-confrontational debt service reduction policy and accelerated impartial stress on reproductive health and population management.
We complement President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for not subjecting to a direct item veto the augmentations which Congress provided for basic social services like education and health as well as for infrastructure development from the P25.9-B cut from debt service payments.
Considering the continuing effectivity of automatic appropriation for debt service, we expected the veto of the special provision prohibiting interest payments for tainted, fraudulent and useless loans pending their renegotiation or condonation.
However, with such veto, the Executive unfortunately forfeited the strong political endorsement from Congress for the renegotiation or condonation of odious and wasteful loans in the improvident league of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) indebtedness which the government has fully paid despite the mothballing of the nuclear facility which was errantly supplied and installed from a tainted loan.
Irrespective of the veto of the special provision on debt service, we still hope the Executive will conduct a thorough audit of all loans which are challenged as fraudulent, tainted and useless before effecting payments for principal amortizations and interest payments.
We are also happy that the P1.8-B increase for reproductive health and all forms of family planning which are medically safe and legally permissible has been spared Presidential rejection.
For the first time, a budget for maternal health, infant survival and population management of a relatively adequate magnitude has been appropriated which is not offensive to the position of the Catholic hierarchy and responsive to the country’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) as prescribed by the United Nations.