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Malacanang washes hands of new money errors

Posted at 12/20/2010 3:30 PM | Updated as of 12/20/2010 3:41 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang has kept its distance from the controversy over the supposed errors on the new Philippine peso bills that will be released to the public by Christmas.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the designs of the new bank notes did not go through the Office of the President for approval, but the Monetary Board and the Numismatic Society.

Lacierda made the clarification as he noted that President Aquino's critics were pinning the blame on him.

“They’re nitpicking. It’s very clear even it wasn’t the responsibility of the Executive Branch or at least the Office of the President. They’re trying to gather all that they can to hit the President even if he’s not totally involved in the actions,” Lacierda said.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Monday defended the new peso notes, which it started to allocate among local banks last Friday.

Map makers said the Philippine maps appearing on the 20-, 50-, 100-, 200-, 500-, and 1,000-peso notes excluded the Batanes Islands near Taiwan and misplaced some of the country's top tourist draws, including the Tubbataha Reefs.

But BSP deputy governor Diwa Guinigundo said the designs were just "artistic rendition."

"If we want to make the Philippine map that specific and accurate we would have had to draw all 7,000 islands," he told a radio interview.

Gunigundo also defended the rendering of a rare native bird, the blue-naped parrot, on the 500-peso bill, saying it was patterned after the yellow color scheme of the denomination.

The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, a birdwatchers' organization, has insisted the yellow-beaked parrot on the note does not exist anywhere in the country since in real life, the blue-naped parrot has a red beak.

"It took us 3 years to research [the design]," Gunigundo said, brushing off allegations of slipshod preparation.

This was not the first time the central bank has been left red-faced over currency design. It was forced in 2005 to withdraw bills that misspelled the name of Gloria Arroyo, the predecessor of current President Aquino, whose signature appears on the new legal tender.

The 2005 bill, which called her Gloria Arrovo, became a much sought-after collectors' item.

The BSP said it would still release the new generation of Philippine bills despite the furor over the design errors. - With reports from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News, and AFP