News / Economy

    UN Rights Expert Urges Debt Relief for Philippines

    FILE - Typhoon survivors living in temporary shelters are seen near ships that ran aground, nearly 100 days after super Typhoon Haiyan devastated Tacloban city in central Philippines, Feb. 14, 2014.
    FILE - Typhoon survivors living in temporary shelters are seen near ships that ran aground, nearly 100 days after super Typhoon Haiyan devastated Tacloban city in central Philippines, Feb. 14, 2014.
    Reuters
    A United Nations human rights expert on Tuesday urged international creditors to cancel the Philippines' debt and give it unconditional grant aid instead of new loans to fund massive post-typhoon reconstruction.
     
    The Southeast Asian country, hit hard five months ago by Typhoon Haiyan -- one of the strongest storms to make landfall anywhere -- estimated the total cost of a four-year reconstruction effort could surpass the current estimate of 361 billion pesos ($8 billion).
     
    The Philippines' outstanding external debt was $58.5 billion at the end of 2013, according to the central bank.
     
    “I welcome the international support provided to the Philippines in the aftermath of the cyclone, but am concerned that more than $22 million leaves the country everyday, paying off overseas debts,” Cephas Lumina said.
     
    Lumina is an independent expert charged by the U.N. Human Rights Council to monitor the effects of foreign debt on the enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights.
     
    Haiyan, which swept ashore in the central Philippines on Nov. 8, displaced around four million people from their homes, and destroyed 500,000 houses, the United Nations estimates. Damages to infrastructure, hospitals, schools and public services were estimated at $12 billion.
     
    “While around $3 billion has left the country to serve its debt since the typhoon struck, the country has received so far only $417 million for its strategic response plan by international and private donors, about half of the total relief requested,” Lumina said in a statement.
     
    The Philippines, excluded as a lower middle-income country from international debt relief initiatives, is expected to pay $8.8 billion to service debt this year alone, the United Nations said.
     
    “By definition, loans for reconstruction cannot generate returns to enable the debt to be paid,” Lumina said. “International lenders should rather consider canceling debt, to ensure that the country can recover.”
     
    About a fifth of the Philippines' external debt as of end-2013 was owed to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, according to the United Nations.
     
    The country's top bilateral lenders are Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, the agency said.
     
    Odious Debts
     
    There was no immediate comment from Philippine Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima on the United Nations statement.
     
    Manila has set aside funding of 54 billion pesos for the rebuilding effort. At least 80 billion pesos more would come from concessional loans offered by the World Bank, the ADB and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
     
    Once one of the world's most prolific global bond issuers, the Philippines has been relying less on foreign borrowing to plug its budget gap, and has been pursuing more debt buybacks and swaps and innovative deals such as local-denominated global bonds, prompting debt ratings agencies last year to lift the country to investment-grade status.
     
    Lumina, however, said “the disaster should rather serve as an opportunity for lenders to acknowledge that odious debts emanating from the rule under Ferdinand Marcos should be canceled.”
     
    Marcos, the late dictator who ruled the heavily indebted and impoverished Philippines for two decades, was toppled in an army-backed popular uprising in 1986.

    You May Like

    Greenpeace Leak: US-EU Trade Deal Would Favor Corporations

    Activist group leaks classified documents to 'shine a light' on talks that could create the world's largest bilateral trade and investment pact

    Video Ethiopia's Drought Takes Toll on Children

    East African country’s crops failed in 2015, creating food shortages for 10 million – including 6 million children whose development may be compromised

    What Your First Name Reveals About Who You Vote For

    People named Chad are more likely to be Republicans and Jonathans are usually Democrats

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8769
    JPY
    USD
    107.28
    GBP
    USD
    0.6842
    CAD
    USD
    1.2528
    INR
    USD
    66.384

    Rates may not be current.