Friday, September 14, 2007

Protest Greets Budget Hearing on Education - No funds for anomalous textbook loan, youth group demands

A protest rally organized by the Youth Against Debt (YAD) greeted the House of Representatives' scheduled budget hearing on basic education today, demanding the striking out of payments of the controversial World Bank textbook loan project from the 2008 National Government Budget.

The youth group carried placards fashioned as books with slogans like “librong nakakabobo,
utang na lumolobo” (Ballooning debts, stupefying books) and “strike out payments of textbook loan from the 2008 budget” to highlight their calls and demands. They also mounted book effigies in front of the main gate of the lower house, to dramatize what they described as “the current educational system's debt creating policy”.

“While everybody is busy with the National Broadband Network issue, an anomalous loan is also plaguing the education sector. This time, it has successfully invaded the educational textbooks of our young people,” Bianca Lapuz YAD spokesperson said.

Lapuz is referring to the $100 million World Bank loan meant to fund 17.5 million textbooks and teachers' manuals for public elementary and high schools. However, high-profile fraud and power play issues involving the World Bank, Inter-Agency Bids and Awards Committee (IABAC) and the Vibal Publishing Group reportedly marred the project. It was also reported that at least 60,000 textbooks were found to have inverted and erroneous pages. The proposed repayment for 2008 of the said loan is $ 5.6 million.

“Now we ask, why must we, together with our parents who are already burdened with huge amounts of debts incurred by our government be made to shoulder additional loans that have only managed to give us erroneous books? Lapuz quipped.

The youth group together with the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) is a vocal critique of illegitimate debts--debts that were incurred by governments to fund flawed development projects or loans that were entered under fraudulent contracts and corrupt practices.
“Truly, this is a clear case of an 'illegitimate debt' due to the fact that it is riddled with so many irregularities from the lack of competitive bidding, blatant creditor meddling up to the production of defective books,” Lapuz said.

“We demand our legislators to strike out payments of the said loan from the 2008 budget and to re-channel the said funds to augment the miniscule budget of state colleges and universities. We also urge the 14th Congress to conduct a legislative inquiry on the issue to untangle the web of controversies surrounding it and to punish all persons and establishments involved in the deal,” Lapuz said.

Transforming the Youth Struggle

Transforming the Youth Struggle
YAD 2nd General Assembly

YAD Press Conference on First Day Strike

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV