Tuesday, July 22 2008
Taxpayers are spending P22 million a year just to house nearly 2,000
vote counting machines that cannot be used. Taxpayers are also spending
about $20 million a year as "commitment fee" for a 20-year
loan totaling over $1 billion from the Chinese government. This is
on top of P1 million a day in interest for the initial $112 million
of the loan, from which the Philippines is supposed to draw funding
for the Northrail project.
The loan took effect on Sept. 13, 2004, but actual work on the project
did not start until April 12 the next year, with completion targeted
for Oct. 31, 2007. As the nation now knows, the project is already
much delayed, with Chinese contractor China National Machinery and
Equipment Group reportedly threatening to pull out if the government
would not shoulder additional costs. Amid reports that CNMEG is demanding
another $300 million for the project, some quarters suspect that the
amount is to compensate for higher commissions demanded by influential
Filipinos are painfully familiar with such massive costs incurred
due to corruption, inefficiency or plain stupidity. Filipinos are
paying a whopping $175,000 in daily interest for the Bataan Nuclear
Power Plant, for which contractor Westinghouse Corp. reportedly paid
Ferdinand Marcos a commission of over $80 million through his crony
Herminio Disini. The BNPP loan, which will be settled in 2018, accounts
for about five percent of the country's trillions in debt. By the
time Westinghouse stopped construction of the BNPP, its cost had ballooned
to $2.3 billion, and it never produced a single watt of electricity.
And yet no one was ever punished for that atrocity. Disini fled,
and is said to be enjoying the fruits of his labors in a European
castle. Marcos died in exile, but all his heirs are fully rehabilitated
in the eyes of Philippine society. This failure to hold anyone accountable
for saddling Filipinos with crippling debt has surely emboldened a
newer generation of crooks, who are again padding the cost of foreign-funded
projects to line their own pockets.
Several studies have shown that corruption has cost the country billions
in economic losses in the past years. But despite numerous exposés,
extensive news coverage, congressional investigations and actual prosecution,
no big fish has ever really been punished for large-scale corruption.
Until Filipinos start making crooks account for their crimes against
a suffering nation, there will never be an end to thievery.