Press Release
February 14, 2006

Arroyo govt needs public transparency to attract foreign investors, says Drilon

Senate President and Liberal Party head Franklin Drilon today underscored anew the need for more transparency in government, saying this was the only way the Arroyo administration can assure prospective foreign investors that anti-corruption measures were in place in the Philippines.

In a meeting with David Katz, Director for Southeast Asia and Pacific Affairs in the Office of US President George W. Bush, Tuesday morning Drilon explained that the Philippine Senate was doing its best to promote transparency under a democratic system of government as its contribution to a better investment climate in the country.

During the meeting, Katz informed Drilon that the Philippine government was now eligible to receive grants amounting to $20 million under the Threshold Program of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), a new US government assistance program designed to promote fiscal reform and anti-corruption initiatives in developing countries.

Public policies promoting transparency as well as anti-corruption initiatives help make a country, such as the Philippines, attractive to foreign investments, explained Katz, who is responsible for promoting US trade policies in Asia Pacific countries.

Katz also thanked Drilon "for your personal efforts" in the enactment of the Optical Media Act and the promulgation of its Implementing Rules and Regulations.

The passage of the Optical Media Act and its implementation would generate investor confidence in the Philippines, because of its government adherence to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), Katz said.

Drilon noted that the issue of IPR protection has been the main focus of RP-US trade negotiations as the Philippines has remained in the international IPR priority watch list.

During the dialogue, Drilon noted that senators were compelled to seek the intervention of the Supreme Court against Malacañang s implementation of Executive Order 464 precisely because of the desire for transparency in government.

Invoking public transparency and the mandate of the Senate to exercise its oversight functions in aid of legislation, Drilon explained that the Senate conducted inquiries on alleged anomalies such as the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, the highly-questionable use of the P35 billion recovered Marcos wealth, the overpriced $500-million Northrail project and anomalous contract entered into by the Commission on Elections to purchase poll counting machines.

These congressional inquiries apparently irked Malacañang that it issued EO 464 to bar executive department officials from having to answer the allegations of graft and corruption in the Arroyo administration, he added.

Drilon told Katz that he agreed with the observation that most small and medium-size businessmen, who provide more direct investments to the Philippines, were concerned over issues of public transparency since they find it difficult to conduct business if there are no clear and consistent business policies.

Drilon had asked Malacañang to withdraw EO 464 in order to avoid a direct confrontation with Congress over the latters powers to scrutinize the national budget and its oversight functions to investigate abuses and excesses of the executive department.

Last Friday, 17 senators led by Drilon petitioned the Supreme Court to stop President Arroyo from enforcing EO 464 barring government officials from appearing at Senate or House hearings without her clearance.

Drilon also dismissed as "an outright lie" the claim of Malacañang that the Senate was using the Senate budget hearings for political grandstanding to destabilize the government.

He said the controversial questions being asked during the hearings were triggered by Commission on Audit (COA) reports indicating questionable, illegal and irregular utilization of public funds by the Arroyo officials during the past years.

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