'Corruption scandals won't affect WEF'

By Iris Gonzales, The Philippine Star

Posted at May 16 2014 09:31 AM | Updated as of May 16 2014 05:31 PM

MANILA - The Aquino administration is undeterred by the corruption scandal hounding some key government officials like Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who are included in a list of lawmakers and officials implicated in the pork barrel scam, as the country hosts the World Economic Forum for East Asia next week.

In a roundtable discussion with editors and reporters of The STAR on Wednesday night, National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon said that despite the corruption scandal, the Philippines remains stable and is not caught up in more turbulent unrest like Thailand.

“The Philippines is very, very open. I think this is really more (because we are) a democracy. At the same time, we are very transparent. But beyond that we’re still a very stable nation, compared to what’s happening in Thailand and Indonesia,” De Leon said.

Top officials of the Indonesian government are caught in a high-level corruption scandal while Thailand is facing a deepening political crisis.

De Leon said the credit rating upgrades achieved by the Philippines show that the global community considers the country as stable.

“What are our credit upgrades for if they considered our political conditions as unstable?” De Leon pointed out.

Last week, global debt watcher Standard and Poor’s (S&P) raised the country’s long-term sovereign credit rating to ‘BBB’ with a stable outlook – the highest rating ever given to the country.

Officials considered this a welcome affirmation of the country’s strong economic fundamentals.

The Philippine government will be spending at least P70 million to host the 23rd WEF-EA from May 21 to 23 at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati.

President Aquino will give the keynote address. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Myanmar Vice-President U Nyan Tun would also lead the opening ceremonies, officials announced in a separate press conference yesterday.

More than 600 delegates from over 30 countries are expected to attend the forum.

The event comes amid a corruption scandal involving at least three Cabinet men in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Aside from Abad, also implicated were Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director general Joel Villanueva.

All three have denied any involvement in Napoles’ scam.