Roxas slams Palace P1-M deposit move

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — LIBERAL Party President Senator Mar Roxas yesterday ridiculed Malacanang’s proposed P1-million increase in bank deposit insurance as another “photo-op” tactic based not on a real concern for the impact of the global financial crisis on Filipinos, but more on scoring “pogi” points for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Roxas said Malacañang should instead focus on working out a strategy that includes recasting the proposed 2009 national budget so that more funds could be allocated to safety nets for food security, job security and education reform that would blunt the negative effects of the ongoing global financial crisis.

“Gaya ng lagi nating nakikita sa Malacañang, pa-‘pogi points’ lang ang hanap ng Palasyo sa panukalang ito. Imbes na siguraduhing aayusin ng ating mga bangko ang kanilang palakad sa sistemang pampinansiyal ay lalo lang silang mae-engganyong paglaruan ang mga deposito ng taumbayan,” he said.

Roxas stuck with his original proposal that bank deposit insurance coverage be doubled from the current P250,000 to P500,000 to be implemented only for three years when the global economy has stabilized anew.

“Sa tingin ko, sapat na ang P500,000 dahil nubenta’y siyete porsyento ng mga deposito ay sakop na nito,” he said.

He cautioned Malacañang and Congress against rushing head-on to pass the measure without weighing carefully its financial implications, especially in its effects on investing and spending behavior of banks, which may decide to engage in riskier financial transaction due to the increased insurance coverage.

“Increasing the coverage of deposit insurance would naturally encourage banks to engage in riskier behavior than they normally would. Baka imbes na solusyon ang ibibigay natin sa taumbayan ay isa palang mas malaking batong ipupukpok sa ulo nila,” Roxas said.

Protect sugar industry for food

Roxas has also declared his support for the Department of Trade and Industry’s moves to place sugar in the highly sensitive list of the ASEAN Free Trade Area-Common Effective Preferential Tariff (AFTA-CEPT), to protect jobs and to promote growth of the domestic sugar industry.

“Sugar remains one of our most crucial industries, providing jobs for thousands, particularly in Negros Occidental and other Visayan provinces. It is imperative that we provide the protection our countrymen need for sustainable livelihoods and incomes,” he said.

Placing sugar in the AFTA-CEPT list would allow for the retention of the tariff on raw and refined imported sugar at 38% beyond 2010, when, under the international trade agreement, other products’ tariffs will have been eliminated.

The Ilonggo senator noted that the 2007 Biofuels Law mandates a graduated increase of the minimum blend of ethanol, derived from sugar, in petroleum products. By next year, a 5% ethanol blend is required. By 2012, five years after effectivity of the law, a minimum ethanol blend of 10% is required.

“Protecting our sugar industry is essential in ensuring adequate supply of ethanol for our biofuels program, that would help reduce our dependence on imported petroleum,” Roxas said.

“Both our food and fuel requirements must be met, and retention of the tariff on sugar imports ensures a long-term domestic supply for long-term government programs,” he added.

Roxas said the government must continue to provide support to the sugar industry with the worldwide economic downturn.

“Placing sugar in the highly sensitive list should be the first of other measures that would strengthen our sugar industry. I urge more government support in expanding our sugar plantations to produce what our country needs,” he said.