Press Release
July 7, 2008


Senator Mar Roxas warned the government that sticking to economic policies drawn up "way before the prices of oil and food hit the roof" would only send the poor spiraling deeper into poverty.

"Only a fool doesn't change tack when circumstances change," he said.

"By saying that it won't change or even review its policies, the government seems to be throwing its arms up in surrender and telling us na magtiis na lang tayong lahat (let's just bear with it), which is a mockery of what public service and good governance are all about," he added.

The Chairman of the Senate committee on trade said circumstances have changed substantially since last year or even only in the last six months. For instance, the price of regular rice at the start of the year was P24 per kilo, compared to today's P38. The price of diesel was only P29 per liter when the EVAT law was passed in 2005 and as of today, it costs P54.44 per liter.

"We must adjust to this painful reality that drives the poor deeper into destitution, with the chance to climb out of it becoming slimmer everyday," he said, adding that the government must put priority on labor-intensive projects to give employment and not just one-time dole-outs," he said.

The Liberal Party President said there must be a continuing review of the national budget to redirect spending in favor of projects that directly create jobs in the countryside. He said as a start, the government could:

  • Suspend big-ticket capital expenditures, especially as most of the funds spent here go to right-of way purchases which do not filter back to the local economy "and instead go to foreign banks or luxury cars;" "Forget Kilos-Asenso and other pork barrel projects - let's focus on giving our people food to eat at affordable prices and jobs that would make them productive, self-sufficient and hopeful amid this crisis."

  • Embark on an Agrarian Renaissance Program by prioritizing agriculture and food security. "Let's help out our own farmers instead of those from Thailand, Vietnam or the US benefitting from our importations of rice; this way, our money circulates within the economy;"

  • Accelerate maintenance spending for those which have a high labor component, "especially fixing up irrigation canals and classrooms;"

  • Suspend the expenditures using the road users' tax--"where there is little accountability and benefit"--and realign it to food-for-work or for-school programs.

"Fiscal discipline means being up-front. Pretending that things are normal and the economic solutions before the oil crisis hit should still remain as is, is not only foolish but patently unfair and a great disservice to our people. We need to reassess priorities and ensure that resources are spent for optimal results. We must also put money back in the people's pockets when they need it most, through suspending the 12% oil VAT," he said.

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