Arroyo: Projects didn’t pass through me | Inquirer News

Arroyo: Projects didn’t pass through me

/ 06:29 AM June 27, 2011

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has washed her hands of any responsibility for the allegedly questionable foreign and local public works contracts signed during her term which have been rescinded by the Aquino administration.

In an informal talk with reporters on Friday, the current Pampanga congresswoman stressed that not all the infrastructure projects approved during her term passed through her office.

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She claimed she only intervened when two government agencies were at odds over a project which was settled during a Cabinet meeting, and not when there was a conflict between officials of an implementing agency.

“I felt that it was better to let the Cabinet secretary be responsible (for these contracts). The president’s job is to be a strategic planner. If you don’t have any monetary motivation, why should you want to give yourself a little work?” said Arroyo.

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Arroyo said that when she took over in 2001, she discontinued an executive order issued by her predecessor requiring all government projects worth at least P50 million to be approved by the president.

“I did it for transparency and so that there will be less meddling by Malacañang. The bulk of the projects didn’t pass through me,” she said.

President Aquino has cancelled various foreign and local contracts for allegedly being onerous and overpriced. These projects include the $430-million Laguna Lake dredging contract with a Belgian company and a $276-million roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ports project with a French firm.

On Thursday, the President lauded the Department of Public Works and Highways’ decision to cancel 19 of 86 rehabilitation projects over the last 12 months since they were found to have been awarded due to political connections rather than their viability.

Arroyo said she was proud of the projects she initiated during her term, including the completion of a nautical highway through the establishment of ro-ro ports across the islands.

“The ro-ro helped keep transportation costs down and eased the impact on inflation,” Arroyo said.

Reacting to Arroyo’s scathing criticism of what she called President Aquino’s “nobody home” style of leadership, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad on Sunday said it was “amusing” and “galling” of Arroyo to lecture Mr. Aquino about building on the gains of her administration.

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“The first question that comes to mind is, what gains? The people’s gains, or her gains?” Abad said in a statement. “Prudent expenditure took a back seat to political survival and political patronage during the previous administration,” he said.

Abad cited the case of the National Food Authority, whose loans skyrocketed to a staggering P176.8 billion when Arroyo left in June 2010, from P18 billion when she assumed the presidency in 2001.

Responding to Arroyo’s claim of economic sustainability, Abad said that by the time Mr. Aquino took over the presidency in July last year, more than 60 percent of the P1.541-trillion national budget had been disbursed by the Arroyo administration.

“The previous administration left us with our largest projected fiscal deficit to date of P325 billion or 3.9 percent of the gross domestic product. Is she saying that is sustainable?” he said.

Worse, the previous administration authorized the “obligation of P16.5 billion of P67.98 billion in congressional insertions” in the 2010 budget, he added. With a report from TJ Burgonio

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TAGS: Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Graft and Corruption, nobody-home leadership, public works contracts, Ro-ro
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