Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero said yesterday that President Arroyo is practically circumnavigating the world in just eight days in her latest overseas trip.
"President Arroyo's on-going Manila-Tokyo-Los Angeles-Cartagena-Recife-Rio-Dubai-Hong Kong-Manila voyage is practically a circumnavigation of the globe. And she will be doing all of these in just eight days," Escudero said.
"We will have to ask for an accounting of the benefits gained from all these trips," he said.
Escudero also said Malacanang's travel expenses in 2007 alone were more than enough to fund the operations of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) or double the budget of the Solicitor General's Office for that year.
The Commission on Audit report shows the travel expenses of the Office of the President in 2007 amounted to P693 million -- P96 million were used for local travel and P594 million for foreign trips, he said.
By comparison, he said the Polytechnic University of the Philippines has a budget of P665 million for this year..
It was also higher than the 2009 budgetary allocation for agencies such as the National Labor Relations Commission (P455 million); the Office of the Solicitor General (P296 million) and the Land Registration Authority (P460 million).
Mrs. Arroyo left Manila for Tokyo on June 17 for a three-day official visit. She proceeded to Brazil by way of Los Angeles, took a side trip to Colombia before heading for Brazil. On her way back, she flew to Dubai and is expected to return to Manila on June 27.
Citing the same COA report, Escudero said the total travel expenses of the national government amounted to P5.91 billion in 2007, with Malacanang accounting for more than 11 percent. From 2002 to 2007, the total travel expenses of the Office of the President exceeded P2 billion.
"It is particularly dismaying at this time that these foreign travels are taking place during difficult times. The money could have been spent for programs that will help create jobs, jobs, and more jobs, said Escudero.
"The times call for judicious use of the government's dwindling resources. If government needs to stimulate the economy, this is not the way to do it," he said.