Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Nr0921:Solon demands audit of DFA budget for exec's houses

Mula sa Tanggapan ni Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran
News Release September 21, 2005
House of Representatives, South Wing Rm 602
931-6615 Ina Alleco R. Silverio, Chief of Staff

Solon questions Foreign Affairs 2005 budget proposal allowing exorbitant allowances for consul generals and ambassadors’ housing needs

Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran today said that he will question the proposal of the Department of Foreign Affairs for the 2006 fiscal year, saying that the budget was mostly concentrated in the Office of the Secretary. The DFA’s budget is pegged at P5.29B, and 80% of the said amount or P4.13B is directed for spending for consular and diplomatic services. Included in these funds are the expenses of embassies and offices of the consulates general.

“It’s shocking how much money the Philippine government spends for the board and lodging of DFA officials,’ he said, saying that the Office of the secretary’s allocations for the repair and or purchase of land for the residencies of Philippine consuls and ambassadors increased by 33.16% (2005: P188.53M, 2006: 251.06M). He compared this to the P16 M allocation for the housing projects of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).

“I am well aware how our consuls and generals need to have apartments or even houses in the countries where they are deployed – but is it really necessary that they leave in virtual palaces or 5-star hotel – like apartments?,” he asserted. He shared reports made by Migrante International that Consul General to New York Cecilia Rebong receives US$10,000 or roughly P550,000 for the monthly rent of her flat in the high-end Trump Plaza building in Manhattan. He also said that RP Ambassador to the Italy, Philippe Lhuillier who reportedly spends US$10,000 to $12,000 for a rented house in Rome, while RP Consul general in Hong Kong Corazon Belmonte is allowed to spend $1.5M (Hong Kong dollars) for her house.

Beltran said that apart from questioning them in the budget hearings, he is filing a resolution questioning these expenses of foreign affairs officials for their living quarters. He said that the DFA’s informal policy that certain diplomats are given latitude and allowed an allowance for living quarters that are slightly higher than the limit set for each diplomatic post. There is a policy in the DFA regarding housing allowances stated in the Overseas and Living Quarters Allowance Indices. He said that the Commission on Audit should also look into these expenses.

Finally, Beltran said that even as the DFA is allowed to spend millions on the housing needs of its officials living abroad, the department’s funds for legal services remain measly, pegged at only P14.95M. “Hundreds of overseas Filipino workers get tangled in various legal difficulties in the course of their work abroad because of the unfair and inhumane treatment of their employers and discrimination of migrant labor offices in the host countries. The Philippine government is mostly ill-equipped to rescue our kababayans because of the low allocations for migrant support in the form of counseling, legal help, and even assistance for stranded Filipinos to enable them to return home to the Philippines,” he said. #


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