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Duterte: CoA must resolve project ‘gridlock’

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Rodrigo R. Duterte
President Rodrigo R. Duterte (center) during a cabinet meeting in Malacañang Palace. -- PHILIPPINE STAR/JOVEN CAGANDE

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte said the Commission on Audit (CoA) has been causing “gridlock” with the implementation of many key projects, and that he would like to speak with the independent commission’s chairman to get spending and investments flowing again.

“I have to talk to CoA… Either I go to his office or he comes to me here. There are so many things that we cannot understand,” the President said in his remarks during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Palace on Monday.

Mr. Duterte added that “there seems to be gridlock” in the implementation of government projects and even in the flow of investments into the country.

He added that an “improved economy” was his “dream” for the Filipino people. “That’s why I said I have to talk to so many people. CoA causes gridlock,” he said.

“The Philippines is known as a country which does not honor contractual obligations. And yet, CoA, if you are listening now, should be reasonable and sane enough to know that in our Constitution, impairment of the obligation of contracts is not allowed. So instead of rendering an opinion that blocks the project, why don’t you just invent (a solution) if you have to?” the President added.

He also said that the agency should find ways “to allow the investments” to move forward “because we need the money.”

Asked for comment during a briefing at the Palace on Tuesday, Palace Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said: “What he means by ‘invent’ is you try to evaluate whether or not your opposition or your auditing is within what the law prescribes. Because you may be misreading the provision of the law.”

As for the specific projects the President was referring to, he said: “I do not know what project he was referring to. What he is saying is that if it is against the interest of this country with respect to investments, then we need to do something about certain regulations that instead of helping, restrict and scare away investments.” — Arjay L. Balinbin