PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has spent P1.45 billion for her travel in the past two years, more than the travel budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Makati Mayor and United Opposition (UNO) president Jejomar Binay said official documents showed that the President has breached her own travel budget annually.

In 2008, he said, Arroyo spent P762.3 million for her local and foreign journeys, up from the P693 million that she paid the previous year.

Arroyo has become notorious for breaching the budgetary limit for her local and foreign excursions. “She inflicts forced savings and orders the realignment of the budgets of the different departments but she throws caution to the wind as far as travel for her, her hairdresser, security detail, doctor and other aides is concerned,” he said.

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The local executive said Arroyo even beat all the country’s diplomats as far as travel is concerned citing the fact that the DFA only spent P407 million for the travel expenses of ambassadors, consuls general and other diplomatic personnel in 2008.

“In fact, she spent more for travel than all the firemen, policemen, jailguards combined,” Binay said, referring to the P153 million that the Department of Interior and Local Government spent for travel in 2008.

“And what the Department of Health (DOH) spent in moving its doctors, nurses, dentists and midwives around was only a fourth of what our peripatetic leader spent in 2008,” he added.

Binay noted that in 2007, Arroyo requested only P300.2 million for travel expenses but the final expense was more than double the legally appropriated sum.

“Since she can dip her fingers into the public till so easily, she ended up spending more than twice that amount, or P693 million,” he said.

Not content with having crisscrossed the country dozens of times, Arroyo spent P762.3 million the following year, breaching the P420.6 million travel budget she had requested from Congress.

“Now, we can say in all candor that Mrs. Arroyo is an extravagant traveler. She exceeded her travel budget to the tune of P1 million a day,” Binay pointed out. “For that amount, you can build a classroom and equip it with books, desks and some computers every 24 hours.”

Binay said the Palace cornered the bulk of the foreign travel budget in 2007 and 2008.

Last year, Bukidnon Representative Teofisto Guingona III said the President used up the government’s P800-million contingency fund for emergencies like calamities for her frequent foreign trips.

The opposition lawmaker also said the President overspent for her foreign travels in a four year period from 2003 to 2007 by P1.6 billion, adding that she has only P1.1 billion budget under the annual appropriations but spent over P2.7 billion in that period. (AH/Sunnex)