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PHILIPPINES: Keeping an eye on Aquino’s commitment to change

by Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) Thursday, Jul. 29, 2010 at 2:14 AM

MANILA - The new administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III begins with an extremely high trust rating of 88 percent – higher than any of the post-dictatorship presidents. This is a measure of people’s belief in the commitment of the Aquino administration to reverse the anti-poor policies implemented during the regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

We in the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) submitted to the President an Agenda outlining demands for changes in the debt and public finance policy, the power industry, the water sector, and government’s stance on climate negotiations and responses to climate crisis. This is in the context of a looming fiscal crisis due to the record-breaking deficit and empty public coffers left by the Arroyo administration, electricity prices soaring past major Asian cities save Tokyo, a water crisis that is pushing Filipinos to desperate extremes, and a looming La Niña that might bring us another devastating Ondoy.

This, for we believe that the Aquino administration should stop Arroyo’s practice of using band-aid solutions to the country’s chronic problems. A business-as-usual approach will only delay the inevitable descent of the economy to oblivion, but it will not change its course. Conditional cash transfers to the extremely marginalized, or emergency employment, or may sound like valid ambulatory actions, but at best, they can only provide breathing space. These measures can never serve as platform in strategically resolving the problem of poverty and under-development.

The Aquino administration should not hesitate to be more strategic in its approaches. It is with this belief that FDC’s Agenda is part of an alternative National Economic Platform or New Economic Policy (NEP), a summary of which we also submitted to Aquino. NEP is a set policy framework statements which outlines a vision towards a sustainable and modern Philippine economy to be achieved by 2020. We hope that the elements of our NEP would be integrated and used in the drafting of the 2011-2016 Medium-term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP). This, for the MTPDP outlines the strategy and governance framework of the Aquino administration for its entire term.

NEP incorporates elements of an alternative paradigm that sharply diverges from the mainstream market fundamentalist framework imposed by International Financial Institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB):

1. Instead of merely a “Strong Republic,” NEP centers on the need to establish a “Strong Developmental State” that mobilizes government’s regulatory and procurement powers to discipline the market and direct resources towards national development and social welfare;

2. Instead of creating “Super-Regions” which has as its prime purpose spurring economic growth in the countryside but ignores equity and environmental issues, NEP pushes for a National Land and Water Use Act taking off from the completion of urban and rural land reform and with a sustainable development perspective;

3. Instead of capital accounts liberalization championed by IMF, NEP insists on the need for controls on capital flow and management of the domestic capital structure;

4. Instead of export-oriented industry focused on exports of raw material and low-value services, NEP advocates for an integrated industry focused on developing local economies and servicing the needs of a strengthened domestic market;

5. Instead of “cheap labor policy”, NEP champions a high-wage, high-income regime in order to build a strong national consumption, savings, and revenue base;

6. Instead of city-centric development that harms the environment through wastage and pollution, NEP takes it as primary advocacy the prioritization of adaptation needs and low-carbon development;

7. Instead of delegating “reproductive” tasks to households, NEP champions the provisioning of free public universal healthcare and valuation of unpaid labor by women;

8. Instead of an import-dependent “food security” approach championed by ADB, NEP recommends a “Food Sovereignty” model which seeks food self-sufficiency not just on the national but up to the community level;

9. Instead of encouraging private sector participation (PSP) in bulk water supply and local water utilities, NEP explores Public-Public Partnerships (PPP) in small-scale water systems that involves local government units and cooperatives; and,

10. Instead of a privatized and deregulated industry outlined by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, NEP insist on strong government intervention that facilitate the strengthening of community-based power systems and rural electric cooperatives.

This SONA is merely a start of a challenging six-year rule for the Aquino administration, starting with exposing the current national situation after Arroyo. We in FDC hope that the inputs coming from the people itself will be heard and sincerely incorporated by the new government. FDC will be watching the Aquino administration closely as it wields government power towards its promised reforms


Workers March to Press for Labor Agenda, Urges President Aquino to Make Generation of Secure Jobs for All the Centerpiece of Policy Reforms

Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)

On the occasion of the first State of the Nation Address of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” C. Aquino III, workers under the banner of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) would march to Batasan to call on the president to unveil his government’s roadmap towards generating secure jobs for all.

“The unprecedented high trust rating of President Aquino is a clear mandate for change – for good government and pro-poor policies,” Daniel L. Edralin, APL Chairperson said. “As such, today we march with other progressive forces to ensure that the Aquino government would live up to its mandate,” he added.

To lift large sections of the working class from poverty, the APL is urging the president to adopt the Labor Agenda, a set of policy reforms aimed at promoting full employment, increased social services and social protection, labor justice and strengthened protection of labor rights.

“The only way to fight poverty is to end the unemployment crisis,” Daniel L. Edralin, APL Chairperson said. “Government needs to generate jobs, secure and quality jobs, jobs wherein workers’ and trade union rights are full respected,” he added.

According to government statistics, as of April 2010, more than 3 million are unemployed and 6.3 million are underemployed. Addressing the plight of the unemployed and the underemployed – which comprise a quarter of the labor force – requires thoroughgoing reforms in the country’s trade, fiscal, monetary and investment policies.

More importantly, it requires having a clear industrial policy. “To industrialize, we can no longer rely on the export-oriented policies of the past,” Edralin said. “We need to develop the domestic economy,” he added. It is for this reason that APL finds President Aquino’s 22-point marching orders for the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) short of what workers are expecting.

At the same time, we cannot develop the economy without a firm commitment to adhere to basic workers’ and trade union rights. To signal its commitment to workers’ and trade union rights, the APL is calling on President Aquino to fully investigate the trade union killings perpetrated under the previous administration.

“The climate of impunity must stop,” Edralin said. “It will if we put to jail those who are responsible for the assassinations of trade unionist, activists and journalists, including the perpetrators of the Hacienda Luisita massacre,” Edralin added.

The country is a signatory to ILO conventions, specifically Convention 87 or the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention. Pending before the ILO is ILO Case No. 2528, where a total of thirty-nine (39) cases of extrajudicial killings of trade union leaders, members, organizers and union supporters and informal workers are alleged.

The APL will march in the NCR, Cebu, Davao and General Santos. In the NCR, the APL, together with Akbayan, will march towards Batasan in the morning. In the afternoon, APL will link up with the Kowalisyon Kontra Kontraktwalisasyon (KONTRA), Freedom from Debt Coalition, and Kampanya para sa Makataong Pamumuhay (KAMP).


Akbayan to Noy: No Gloria, No Mikey, No Merci

AKBAYAN (Citizens'Action Party)

Progressive party asks new government to fulfill promise of change, weed out political leftovers and obstacles to justice

More than a thousand members of Akbayan party staged on Monday a political rally coinciding with President Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s first State of the Nation Address. However, unlike in the past, the advocates say their rally is “friendly and temperate” as they want the new government to have the “time and space” to prove its sincerity to the people.

Then again, the group was “up in arms” against certain political personalities and public officials it deemed as obstacles to justice and genuine reform.

“While we give the new administration the opportunity to prove its seriousness in curbing corruption, dispensing justice and providing reforms, there must be no let-up against those that continue to act as obstructions in the process of change, acting as if they are still under the mantle of authority of the previous administration,” Akbayan Secretary General Conrad Castillo said.

Castillo stressed that the Aquino administration must weed out “political leftovers of the previous dispensation” saying it must “rectify wrongdoings, strengthen democratic institutions and make accountable those who committed grave transgressions.” Particularly, Akbayan trained its guns against former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, recently proclaimed party-list representative Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo and controversial Ombudsman Merciditas Gutierrez.

In two separate petitions, Akbayan stalwarts Risa Hontiveros and Representative Walden Bello lodged legal complaints against Ombudsman Merciditas Gutierrez and recently proclaimed party-list representative Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo. Both complaints are calling for the removal of Gutierrez and Arroyo from their respective posts stating that their mere occupation of their respective offices is a direct attack against the people’s efforts to purge corruption and in guaranteeing the people’s right to suffrage.

“If we want justice to be swiftly delivered to those who hunger for it and if we want to make Ms. Arroyo accountable for her crimes against the people, then the first logical and necessary step is to tear down the line of defense in the ombudsman insulating erring and corrupt public officials from being prosecuted,” said Hontiveros who filed a fifteen-page impeachment complaint against Gutierrez at the House of Representatives.

On the other hand, Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello filed before the Supreme Court an urgent motion to decide whether the young Arroyo is eligible to become a member of the 15th congress as a party-list representative. Bello said Arroyo failed to comply with certain requirements mandated by the Commission on Elections. He also said Arroyo’s ascension to Congress as a representative of security guards is a mockery of the electoral process and the party-list system. “As such, while this government says ‘no to corruption’, it must join the people in saying ‘no to Gloria, Mikey and Merci. It must met out the necessary course of action to deal with this fraudulent personalities masquerading as public officials,” Castillo said.

Meanwhile, Akbayan’s partner labor group asks the Aquino government to provide a policy framework to its anti-corruption and change platform. The Alliance of Progressive Labor says “the campaign must not only remain in the realm of the political but must also have a deep and genuine social dimension.”

“We challenge the Aquino government to unveil a roadmap towards full employment. We hope for a living and dynamic labor agenda under Pres. Aquino revolving around labor rights, housing and social services,” APL said.

The groups marched from Toyota Commonwealth to Ever Gotesco where they conducted their program. Part of their program included 100 Akbayan advocates donned in Noynoy masks taking their oath to “realize the promise of change.” The marchers also unfolded giant streamers and creative placards screaming with “No Mikey, No Merci”, and “Jail Gloria now.”


PAL workers to join SONA march to ask P-Noy to defend regular jobs

Partido ng Manggagawa (PM - Worker's Party)

Rank and file workers of Philippine Airlines are joining labor groups’ State of the Nation Address (SONA) march tomorrow to ask President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to save their jobs and put an end to the labor contractualization policy.

Some 500 members of Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) will join the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) contingent along the Tandang Sora and Commonwealth Avenues around 10:00 am tomorrow before marching with the multisectoral groups Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and the Kampanya para sa Makataong Pamunuhay (KAMP) towards the Batasan Complex.

PALEA members have prepared a replica of a PAL plane where they wrote a message for P-Noy asking the President to stop the planned layoff of some 2,600 PAL employees. The PALEANs have been demanding in particular that a ‘midnignt decision’ issued by DOLE on June 15, 2010 be reversed.

PALEA President Gerry Rivera, said the Order is in gross violation of the Labor Code and their existing collective bargaining agreement against labor contracting.

“The DOLE decision, if sustained by the present administration, will make labor contracting in the form of spin-off legal and therefore the contractualization of regular jobs. Hindi po ito matuwid na landas, Pangulong Noy,” stated Rivera.

Rivera, who is also Partido ng Manggagawa vice chair, warned further that once sustained labor contractualization will be abused to the max, job security will be dead, and all benefits due to regular workers will disappear.

The June 15 decision held that, “the intended closure of the Philippine Airlines In-Flight Catering operations, Airport Services Operations and Call Center Reservation Operations and the consequent severance from employment of all affected employees as reported to the DOLE Regional Offices, as well as the contracting out of these operations to the named service providers, are based on lawful ground and all in a valid exercise of managerial prerogative and as such valid and lawful in all respects.”

The Partido ng Manggagawa meanwhile challenged the new administration to formulate a “labor-first policy” if it wants to depart from age-old cheap labor policy and the foreign investment-led job creation strategy.

“Walang boss na busabos (there is no such thing as a “deprived boss”),” concludes Magtubo, taking from P-Noy’s “kayo ang boss ko” declaration in his June 30 inaugural speech.


Multitudes of actions, agenda challenged by various sectors greeted P-Noy SONA

BMP - Union of Filipino Workers

As early as 7am to 10am, various sectors converged in various points as a prelude to P-Noy SONA in the afternoon. Thousands of urban poor belonging to Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod (KPML) and allied organizations trooped in front of NHA along elliptical road and delegations to the house of P-Noy at times street in Quezon City. In the same mode, workers belonging to the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP - Union of Filipino Workers) prominently displayed their slogans and streamers along Philcoa leading to Commonwealth avenue.

These groups later joined the converging point of the multisectoral group Sanlakas and its allied organizations in front of the office of Commission on Human Rights along Commonwealth Avenue at around 11am. The groups were also joined by other sectors and organizations to which their number swelled to thousands. They were carrying dialogue cum slogans imprinted in their placards as a way of ventilating their issues and agenda to the 1st SONA of the P-noy administration. A short program was held and around past 12:00 noon, the group marched to Tandang Sora where a huge contingent of Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), KONTRA (Koalisyon Kontra Kontraktwalisasyon) members converged. At around 1:00 pm, the rallyists pursued marching down to Ever Gotesco but were joined by members of KAMP, a multisectoral alliance along the stretch of Pure Gold in Commonwealth.

The Sanlakas bloc presented a 10 pt. agenda where they articulated that these issues were the embodiment of the program to compliment Noynoy’s assertion of serving to his Boss, the Filipino people.

“P-Noy should pursue a program that would essentially address the issue of poverty and joblessness. If he is sincere in solving these concrete problems he must not use the former administration as a scapegoat but instead come up with a real solution to alleviate people’s misery. He has to touch the debt servicing issue in order to find ways for more funds for his pro-poor programs and services. He has to enhance the domestic economy to ensure jobs for the Filipinos. If he can do this, then he is not another Gloria in the making whose regime was attributed with politicking, corruption and heavy taxation.” Leody De Guzman, BMP President elaborated in an interview.


EcoWaste Coalition Asks P-Noy: What about the Environment?

Quezon City. This is one very important question that P-Noy failed to answer at his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), environmental advocates said.

“While we share and support P-Noy’s drive for a clean government, we could not help but wonder if environmental protection is in any way central to his crusade for change,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We find his SONA ignoring the most basic environmental challenges facing our nation, especially the poor and most vulnerable communities. Honestly speaking, we were dismayed by the lack of focus on environment as if Mother Nature does not matter,” he added.

“We were hoping, for instance, that P-Noy would at least present his plan of action to address the water crisis and announce an ambitious plan to save the Sierra Madre and other watershed and biodiversity areas from logging, mining and dumping activities on top of implementing rainwater impounding systems for farmers and communities,” he explained.

Aside from the water problem, the EcoWaste Coalition enumerated other fundamental environmental issues that P-Noy should have tackled in his report before the joint session of the 15th Congress: climate change, forest and biodiversity demolition, marine pollution, toxic chemicals, municipal solid waste and hazardous waste, to cite a few.

“If P-Noy fails to prioritize environmental protection, he will continue the mistakes of the past regime and allow the relentless destruction of the country’s remaining forests and ecosystems, proliferation of more dirty technologies and the ensuing pollution of air, land and water bodies,” said Rei Panaligan, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier proposed to P-Noy to prioritize in his first 100 days in office several interventions in the field of Zero Waste and chemical safety.

This will include the implementation of ecological solid waste management, the recognition of the informal waste sector in resource recovery and conservation , the ban on plastic bags, the elimination of lead in paint, the adoption of pollution prevention and control measures against mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other toxic substances, the ban on aerial spraying of chemicals in agriculture, and the adoption of genuine climate-friendly adaptation and mitigation strategies, including “Zero Waste for Zero Warming.”

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