Last year on the 9th of December, the non-government organization Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) invited us, their interns, to a mass action in front of Asian Development Bank (ADB). The primary cause of the protest is the 500M dollar loan that ADB was giving to the Philippines in light of the recent Yolanda devastation in the Visayas.
FDC’s main worry was that ADB was taking the recent calamity as an opportunity to earn more profits for themselves through the interest they would be earning from the loan. In FDC’s eyes, if ABD really had the intention of helping the Philippines in its rehabilitation, then they should have given a grant instead.
I honestly fear debt. I was afraid that Philippines would once again be put in a tight spot, subjected to multinational organizations’ demands—cost-cutting on social services, in order to pay its loans. So to a certain extent, I could understand FDC’s sentiment. I didn’t want another big loan.
However, as I look back to the victims of the Typhoon Yolanda, I couldn’t keep a hard heart against ADB. The victims have suffered too much already. They lost too much already. It’s high time that we give them the attention they were deprived of (since even before the super typhoon, a lot of them have been living under the poverty line). If government really finds its funds insufficient, even with foreign aid backing it; if the rehabilitation effort is really in dire need of so much loan, then I will give in (not that my opinion on this matter is of any practical weight).
But even if I give in, I will not turn a blind eye on the issue. It’s still suspicious that even if government has allotted a part of its budget for the rehabilitation, so much cash-out is needed now, as implied by the loans it is acquiring. Then again, maybe they’re just taking the opportunity to be liquid now, than to be short of funds in the near future.
There’s also the great unease for where the money will go to. There’s no denying of the corruption happening in our society. If we become careless in our monitoring, vultures will take the opportunity to grab the money for their own greed. We need to be vigilant.
While observing the protest (I did not want to participate because I arrogantly believed that there are other ways to forward an opinion), I realized that there are still perks in the act. At the very least, the concern over the loan has reached more people, challenging them to be more critical. Furthermore, since the protest has made much noise and commotion as well, ADB should at the very least waver if its intentions really were that of mere profiting.
There’s power in noise and vigilance. I hope that I can always incorporate this lesson at the right time and at the right situation.
By Dianne Christelle S. Argamosa, 2012-03335