Saturday, December 28, 2013

In the Philippines, a vortex of climate change and debt

Samuel Oakford in IPS: Since Typhoon Yolanda made landfall in the Philippines on Nov. 8, the country has sent holders of its debt close to one billion dollars, surpassing, in less than two months, the 800 million dollars the U.N. has asked of international donors to help rebuild the ravaged central region of the archipelago.

Even as the Philippines goes hat in hand to wealthier countries seeking disaster relief, it continues to diligently pay creditors in those same countries millions of dollars every day – much of it interest on debt that can be traced back to the corrupt regime of Ferdinand Marcos (1965-1986) , Cold War ally to the West.

When Philippine President Benigno Aquino III announced last week the staggering cost of rebuilding from the storm, the price tag – 8.17 billion dollars – and a pair of emergency loans to help meet that goal distressed debt reduction campaigners in the country who have for many years called for a cancellation of illegal debts.

“Every dollar of funding assistance will be used in as efficient and as lasting a manner as possible,” Aquino assured reporters. “The task immediately before us lies in ensuring that the communities that rise again do so stronger, better and more resilient than before.”

Yet every 12 months, the Philippines transfers to lenders nearly the same amount Aquino hopes to raise for reconstruction. And because Filipino law privileges the payment of debt over all other expenses, those installments could end up eating into rebuilding funds.

Even before the storm, education and healthcare spending in the country fell well short of global benchmarks; one in five Filipinos live in poverty and over 15 million are malnourished....

Shanties in Manila, photo by Anton Zelenov, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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