President Gloria Arroyo spoke out against her critics in a radio interview on DZXL on September 10, saying that her foreign trips are "necessary for national security as well as the protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)," reports GMANews.tv.
Speaking in a mix of Filipino and English, she added: "I challenge my critics to see what happens if we withdraw our global engagement. Do we want less economic growth, less national security and less protection for OFWs?"
It was reported on August 14 that Pres. Arroyo had spent P1.6 billion over the allotted budget of P1.1 billion for her trips abroad from 2003 to 2007, according to Bukidnon Congressman Teofisto Guingona III. The excess amount was taken from the national contingency fund.
In her interview with DZXL, Pres. Arroyo asserted that under the law, she is allowed to use funds from the maintenance and other operating expenses of the Office of the President as well as the national contingency fund for her official travel expenses, and added that she has used "only" P187 million from the contingent fund since 2001.