Senators raise concern about Philippine’s ballooning debt

By end of next year, the country’s debt is projected to climb to P15.8 trillion, National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon told the Senate committee on finance.

Maila Ager

Maila Ager

Philippine Daily Inquirer


A file photo of National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon. PHOTO: PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

August 16, 2023

MANILA, Philippines — Should Filipinos worry or panic over the country’s ballooning debt?

Senators raised this question on Tuesday as they scrutinized the proposed P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024.

By end of next year, the country’s debt is projected to climb to P15.8 trillion, National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon told the Senate committee on finance.

For 2024 alone, De Leon said the government needs to allot P1.9 trillion for debt service.

“How come the position is we should not worry about debts yet?” Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III then asked.

“How come Filipinos should not worry about their ballooning debt na ballooning na rin yung principal and debt payments, and yet ballooning pa rin si total amount to be paid?” Pimentel asked again.

De Leon assured that the country’s debt is “very manageable” and “sustainable.”

Still, Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa sought to assuage fears that it would take generations to pay for huge debt.

“May nagsasabi na mas maganda siguro kung mas manganak tayo ng maraming anak para lumaki ang population natin at pag lumaki ang population, mas maraming maghahati-hati ng utang, mas bababa ang per capita ng utang natin,” he said.

(Some are saying we should have more children to grow the population so that more people will share the debt burden, which would result in lower debt per capita.)

Dela Rosa then asked the economic team: “Tama ba sir sabihin natin sa mga Filipino nanood ngayon na pagdating sa national debt natin, don’t panic walang problema, kayang-kaya natin ito?”

(Is it okay to tell the Filipinos watching now that when it comes to our national debt, “Don’t panic, there’s no problem. We can handle this?)

As in the past, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno assured the lawmakers that the country’s debt is manageable.

Diokno also pointed out that the composition of the national budget is mostly investment and is pro-poor.

“So don’t panic mga Filipino. Utang lang yan, kayang kaya,” Dela Rosa said.

(So don’t panic, fellow Filipinos. It’s just debt, we can definitely handle it.)

Like Pimentel, opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said she is also worried about the ballooning budget of the country.

“Madali po sigurong sabihin wag tayong mag-aalala sa utang, pero tulad ni Sen. Koko nag-aalala po ako and sa totoo lang, di po tayo dapat mag-overpromise kung nag-a-underdeliver pa…” Hontiveros said.

(It’s probably easy to say that we shouldn’t worry about debt, but like Sen. Koko, I’m concerned. And honestly, we shouldn’t overpromise if we’re still underdelivering…)

“Normal lang po talaga mag-alala sa utang kasi nga people don’t feel protected and I think we need to stay in touch with that,” she added.

(It’s really normal to worry about debt because people don’t feel secure, and I think we need to be in touch with that.)

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