Philippines

As a former Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines (from 1985 to 1987) I was struck by the accuracy of John Cavanagh and Robin Broad's critique of economic "development" programs there ("Aim 'People's Power' to the People," Op-Ed Page, Nov. 7).

In my experience, major development programs in the Philippines are little more than a way for local politicians and government officials to line their pockets--either by awarding contracts to relatives and cronies or by stealing grant funds outright. In fact, one development official I talked to candidly admitted that his country's economic-development grants always included an extra 30% for "administrative costs"--shorthand for the cost of graft.

It is difficult to see how this can be changed. In a country where even government employees can't feed their families on their salaries alone, graft may merely mean survival for some.

The great majority of Filipinos living below the poverty line want little more than a plot of land with which to feed their families. President Corazon Aquino's failure (or perhaps unwillingness) to address this fundamental concern has turned her "people's power" revolution on its head and restored to power the very people who are the causes of inequality in the Philippines--the oligarchic elite.

What should be even more appalling to us as Americans is that our foreign-aid dollars are helping to fund--and, indeed, legitimate--this mess.

DAVID FROSSARD

Irvine

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