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Legislator calls for social services to take priority over debt service

A LEGISLATOR called for the passage of a bill proposing to repeal a Presidential Decree that automatically allocates funds to service the national debt, saying that the government must prioritize spending on social services.

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand R. Gaite called on Malacanang and Congress to back House Bill 4087, or the Repeal the Automatic Appropriation for Debt Service Bill, which is pending at the committee level.

“The automatic appropriation for debt service at the expense of basic services is unjust. It preempts the people’s prerogative by giving absolute and unquestioned priority to debt servicing and placing so much of the national budget outside normal budget processes. It has caused economic policy to systematically favor narrow private creditor and corporate interests over the needs of the people,” he said in a statement.

Mr. Gaite said the passage of the bill would align government priorities with the constitutional obligation to provide adequate social services.

The bill would amend Presidential Decree (PD) 1177, issued during the Marcos years when the President could govern by decree. PD 1177 effectively puts the government’s creditors first in line for payment via automatic appropriations, placing the debt service bill beyond the budgetary process and Congressional oversight.

The Bureau of the Treasury estimates outstanding public debt at the end of September at P11.9 trillion, up 27.2% year on year and up 2.41% from a month earlier.

The bureau attributed the increase in the national debt to the peso’s depreciation and the net issuance of both domestic and external debt.

Some 70.4% of the debt was borrowed from domestic sources.

Some P541.3 billion is allotted for debt service in the 2022 National Expenditure Program. — Russell Louis C. Ku

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