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Gov’t travel, car purchases, sports fests are back: Duterte repeals Arroyo’s austerity measures

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President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday repealed an administrative order issued by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo which directed the continued adoption and implementation of austerity measures in the government.

Administrative Order (AO) No. 6, which was signed by Duterte Tuesday, repealed AO No. 103, issued by Arroyo on August 31, 2004.

“With the country’s improved fiscal situation, the government could, among other initiatives, increase infrastructure and social spending, implement public expenditure management reforms with greater intensity, streamline government operations, and make public service delivery more efficient in order to give the Filipino people the best value for their taxes,” AO No. 6 stated.

Thirteen years ago, Arroyo ordered the implementation of austerity measures in government to meet the country’s fiscal targets, maintain its macroeconomic stability and improve investor confidence.

AO 103 directed the national government, its agencies, and instrumentalities to undertake cost-cutting measures to reduce expenses and channel its scarce resources towards the implementation of the Arroyo administration’s 10-Point Legacy Agenda.

The said AO ordered all national government agencies to suspend all foreign travels, except for ministerial meetings, and scholarship/trainings that are grant-funded or undertaken at no cost to the government.

It also ordered the suspension of the following:

-Local travels, unless urgently necessary and allowed by the Secretary or the Head of the SUC, GOCC, GFI, or OGCE; purchase of any type of motor vehicles, except ambulances and those required by the military and police;

-Conduct of training, seminars, and workshops, except if funded by grants, or if the cost may be recovered through exaction of fees;

-Expansion of organizational units and/or creation of positions, except those following “scrap and build” policy or matched by the deactivation of existing units/positions of the same cost;

-Conduct of celebrations and cultural or sports activities not related to the core function of the agency, except athletic competitions conducted by public schools or SUCs; and

-Donations, contributions, grants, and gifts, except if said activities are undertaken pursuant to the mandate of the donor agency.

The order likewise called for the reduction of at least 10 percent in the cost of services of consultants, technical assistants, contractual, and casual employees; and consumption of fuel, water, office supplies, electricity and other utilities.

Likewise, a scheme that would allow employees rendering overtime to be compensated through time/days off work in lieu of overtime pay was implemented.

AO 103 also adopted the provisions of the Attrition Law which prohibited, with certain exceptions, the filling-up of positions that have been vacated by reason of resignation, retirement, dismissal, death or transfer to another office.

In repealing Arroyo’s AO 103, Duterte noted that the country’s fiscal condition has significantly improved since 2004, due to public expenditure management and tax administration reforms, as well as sound and prudent debt management.

AO No. 6 also noted that most of the provisions of AO 103 were already covered or superseded by previous pertinent provisions of the general Appropriations Act and recent issuances of the Office of the President, Department of Budget and Management, Civil Service Commission and other relevant agencies.

“Repealing AO No. 103 is aligned with the strategies of the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, which provides for, among others, the formulation and implementation of public expenditure management reforms that will improve budget utilization and address underspending of government agencies,” AO No. 6 stated. (PNA)