Friday, December 21, 2007

From Senator Mar Roxas

> Office of Senator Mar Roxas
> Senator Mar Roxas called on the government to
> publish in full the provisions
> of a $50-million six-month contract signed between
> the Philippine Embassy in
> Washington D.C. and a United States lobby firm known
> as Covington & Burling
> LLP.
> “If true, this amount is even bigger than what we
> get from the US in
> military aid. If they can’t defend this in Plaza
> Miranda or any palengke in
> the country, then they should junk it altogether,”
> Roxas said.
> Roxas, chairman of the Senate trade and commerce
> committee, noted that the
> contract is another example of wasteful and
> non-transparent spending of the
> people’s hard-earned money.
> “What can Covington do that our own Philippine
> Embassy cannot accomplish?
> $50-million for a prominent US lobby firm is P2
> billion worth of assistance
> to disadvantaged sectors like farmers, fishermen,
> distressed OFWs,
> malnourished children and many others,” he said.
> “Tama ba na ang mga ganitong kontrata ang
> pinopondohan ng buwis ng bayan?
> Bakit sa ganitong mga transaksyon eh ang bilis
> nilang pumayag, pero sa mga
> panukala katulad ng zero VAT on oil ay ang bilis
> nilang humindi,” he added.
> “Glaring examples of such overpriced and needless
> foreign contracts are
> precisely why it’s better to let the people enjoy
> part of their money by
> suspending the EVAT on oil than let government
> decide on how such revenues
> should be allocated,” he explained.
> He recalled that the failed Venable contract which
> was priced at P50 million
> drew a huge outcry from the people and members of
> Congress.
> “I am familiar with the rates charged for normal
> trade access or information
> access. This amount is for something more, perhaps
> like getting the US
> Defense and Military establishment to soften
> resistance to a new strain of
> Martial Law,” he said.
> “Paulit-ulit na lang ang mga ganitong uri ng
> pagkakamali kaya napakababa ng
> kredibilidad ng ating pamahalaan,” Roxas said.
> The senator said that foreign contracts such as the
> Covington deal must go
> through public bidding and be imbued with
> transparency and accountability.
> “Who is behind this contract and why? Who is ready
> to stand before the
> people and explain what this contract is all about
> and why $50-million of
> the people’s money should be spent on this rather
> than on school-feeding
> programs, better health services, and other
> priorities?” he said.
> Based on news reports, Covington & LLP has been
> engaged to “promote the
> interests of the Republic of the Philippines with
> the US Congress and the US
> Government on a range of political, economic, and
> security issues” and other
> tasks.
> -more-
> The reported contract provides that "the term of the
> individual consultant
> shall be, at most, six months, renewable at the
> option of the appointing
> Head of the Procuring Entity," referring to Gaa. The
> consultant will "work
> closely with the Embassy of the Philippines in
> connection with the following
> tasks:"
> * Promote the interests of the Philippines
> with the US Congress and
> the US government on a range of political, economic,
> and security issues.
> * Support efforts that can result in
> increased US trade opportunities
> for the Philippines.
> * Support efforts that can result in
> increased foreign direct
> investment from US companies.
> * Support efforts to develop new initiatives
> or expand current
> programs that support the ability of the Philippine
> Armed Forces to
> strengthen capabilities in the areas of security and
> anti-terrorism.
> * Work with Philippine government officials
> to promote increased
> levels of US Development Assistance to the
> Philippines.
> * Ensure that members of the US Congress and
> government officials are
> regularly and accurately updated on developments in
> the Philippines to
> promote understanding of the importance and positive
> developments taking
> place in the country.