Philippine leader cancels order for presidential jet

Philippine leader Gloria Arroyo has cancelled an order for a presidential jet amid public outrage over her alleged extravagant lifestyle during a financial crisis, her spokesman said Sunday.

The make and price of the aircraft were not disclosed but her spokesman, Cerge Remonde, said Arroyo "does not want more criticism about her spending."

"I am formally announcing the president has ordered the cancellation of the purchase of a presidential jet," Remonde said.

Arroyo came under intense criticism after the New York Post reported this week that she and her officials ran up a 20,000-dollar (almost one million pesos) tab for dinner at a restaurant while on an official visit to the US.

The report triggered public condemnation and street protests in the Philippines, where, according to official data, about one third of the country’s 90 million population lives on one dollar or less a day.

The presidential palace denied public funds had been spent on the dinner at the Le Cirque restaurant last month, saying that a rich Filipino architect whose brother is a political ally of Arroyo had paid the bill.

Remonde said Sunday the purchase of the jet had been cancelled even though this "would have benefited the next presidents."

He said Arroyo’s office was also preparing a report for Congress on expenses incurred during her trip to the US, where she became the first Southeast Asian leader to meet President Barack Obama.

Arroyo was swept to power in 2001 after a military-backed popular revolt ousted her corruption-tainted predecessor, Joseph Estrada.

She served Estrada’s remaining term in office and in 2004 won a highly contested second term amid allegations of cheating.

Her popularity has continued to drop since 2004, with her family accused of using the presidential office to enrich themselves.