Go easy on debts, Pimentel tells state firms | Inquirer News

Go easy on debts, Pimentel tells state firms

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:40 AM October 17, 2022
Aquilino Pimentel III. STORY: Go easy on debts, Pimentel tells state firms

Senate Minority Floor Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III (Photo from the Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau)

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III on Sunday urged government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) to rein in their borrowings as he lamented that 30 percent of the Marcos administration’s proposed P5.3-trillion budget for 2023 will be for debts.

With the government incurring over P13 trillion in national debt as of August, Pimentel said each of the 109 million Filipinos now owed over P119,000 to local and foreign creditors.

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Debt servicing, he noted, was taking away huge chunks of taxpayer money that should have been set aside for education, public health, and other basic services.

“In 2023, we will be paying P1 trillion to settle our principal loans and P582 billion for the interests of these loans,” Pimentel said in a statement.

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“This means that we will have to work hard and even borrow more to come up with P1.6 trillion [for debt payments],” he said.

According to the senator, the proposed allotment for debt servicing for 2023 was almost 19 percent higher than the approved budget of P1.3 trillion for loan payments this year.

“It is also equivalent to 6.85 percent of the country’s gross domestic product,” he noted.

During the hearing on the budget request of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. and the National Power Corp. (Napocor) on Friday, Pimentel said GOCCs should be transparent in presenting their corporate spending programs, including their borrowings.

Explain your borrowings

“You should be able to explain your financial statements in layman’s terms during our hearings so that anyone can understand them because extravagant spending of GOCCs, if there are any, contribute to the bottom line of our national debt,” Pimentel said.

But Napocor, which has for years been one of the most debt-laden government corporations, even warned that some areas in the country may have to suffer increased power outages if the government does not restore P12.5 billion in its proposed budget for next year.

Meanwhile, the Napocor on Friday warned that nearly 835,000 households nationwide may have to endure power outages in the last five months of 2023 if the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) would not restore P12.5 billion in its proposed budget for next year.

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Restore cut or face outages

At the Senate budget deliberations, Jenalyn Aurea Tinonas, finance head of Napocor, sought the help of Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who presided over the hearing, and the other senators in approving the state-owned utility’s original budget request of P44.7 billion.

The DBM, she said, only allocated P32.2 billion for the Napocor’s operations, nearly 70 percent of which was set aside to purchase fuel for their power plants and other operational expenses. It was not clear if this included the more than P1 billion Napocor owed Petron Corp. for the fuel it uses in its power plants.

The funding that the DBM approved would only allow them to operate Napocor’s diesel-fed plants until July 2023, according to Tinonas.

With the impending shortage of funds, the Napocor official said they may have to shut down 278 power plants, including 200 of such power generators in Luzon alone.

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