CALL TO ASEAN LEADERS: REJECT RCEP AND OPPOSE UNJUST TRADE DEALS
SENTRO and FDC lead a protest action in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila against RCEP. May 10, 2017.
Trade Justice Pilipinas a broad platform campaigning for just trade and investment policies expresses its opposition to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement or RCEP.
We urge the leaders of the ASEAN members’ states to defend the primacy of human rights, environmental integrity and peoples’ welfare against international economic agreements like RCEP that advance commercial interests and the corporate agenda, and impinge on the ability of the government to advance the greater public interest.
Furthermore, we call on the Philippine government, as Chair of ASEAN for 2017, to demonstrate leadership in raising the peoples’ concerns against RCEP during the 18th round of talks here in Manila.
In the Chairman’s Statement from the 30th ASEAN Summit in Manila, Member States led by the Philippines, reiterated the common vision to build a truly inclusive, people-centered, and people-oriented ASEAN community and stressed the centrality of ASEAN in the RCEP talks.
We assert that RCEP and other new generation free trade and investment agreements ran counter to the vision of a people-centered ASEAN. Contrary to the view expressed by ASEAN leaders that the RCEP talks have progressed considerably, the direction of the talks have in fact moved backwards with the agenda becoming more ambitious therefore demanding deeper commitments from parties. RCEP has become in many respects worse than the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement or TPP.
Our opposition to RCEP is anchored on the following concerns:
RCEP is a threat to public health and peoples’ access to medicines. The proposed agreement with TPP+ provisions on intellectual property rights will make it harder for poor people in the region to access affordable medicines particularly life-saving drugs, and for governments to advance public health policies for the benefit of the poor. The IPR chapter and many other provisions in the proposed agreement could undermine State policies on public health enshrined in Constitutions and national health laws like the Cheaper Medicines law in the Philippines.
RCEP will give corporations–many of which have annual revenues bigger than the GDPs of most countries in ASEAN, the right to sue governments over public policies and regulations in secret, ad-hoc corporate courts.
The investor state dispute settlement provision or ISDS, which has been highly criticized in the context of TPP negotiations, should be strongly rejected as well by ASEAN governments as an instrument that will weakening the right of State to regulate investments in the name of the greater public interest.
RCEP will straight-jacket governments, curtailing their power to use public policies to advance development agenda by putting in place prohibitions on performance requirement such as policies on domestic content and export restrictions, policies that favor employment of locals over foreign workers or even those that push for technology transfer.
Amidst the continuing backlash against globalization policies that have disenfranchised and marginalized the working class, the imperative is really to push back on RCEP and new generation trade and investment agreements that advance the corporate agenda over peoples’ interests.
Women groups urge solons to stop culture of misogyny
Women leaders marched this morning from the Film Center to the Philippine Senate. Wearing purple, the women held a program in front of the Senate Building, strongly condemning the latest degrading remark of Senator Tito Sotto against single mothers.
The group also called on the Senate Ethics Committee to subject the conduct of the senator to an investigation on the basis of the Magna Carta of Women and other laws.
Judy Miranda, Secretary General of Partido Manggagawa (PM), said that workers’ taxes pay for Sotto’s salaries. “He should be taken off Senate’s payroll for his gross disrespect for women’s rights,” according to Miranda.
“Senator Sotto has historically disparaged women, with his anti-Reproductive Health stance, victim-blaming an abused woman in his show Eat Bulaga with “kababae mong tao, pa-shot-shot ka pa,” and most recently by referring to single mothers as “na-ano” lang,” said Jean Enriquez, Philippine Coordinator of the World March of Women. Enriquez added that she herself was a single mother for a long time, forced by the fact that she was a victim of domestic violence.
“Many women are also raising children by themselves because of the patriarchal culture, wherein women are left pregnant by men who do not take responsibility for the consequences of their sexual conduct,” said Mary Jane Labongray, a young woman leader of SENTRO. “One out of 10 teenage girls are already mothers,” added Labongray.
“There are many reasons that push women to a situation of single motherhood, arising from a situation of unequal situation between women and men, including the sexual objectification of women,” said Meth Jimenez of SARILAYA.
“It was the culture of misogyny among our politicians speaking through the Senator’s remark and the ensuing laughter heard from the other senators,” said Clarissa Militante of Focus on the Global South. “This culture of misogyny became worse by the words and practice of the President himself,” added Militante. The apology which was justified as street language by Senator Sotto, was a non-apology, according to the group.
The women also included leaders from Ina ng Bayan sa Sais and SPELL.
Labor groups raise grave concerns over RCEP
Representatives from major trade unions in both the public and private sectors have raised serious concerns on the possible impacts of the Regional Economic Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (RCEP) which is currently being negotiated in Manila: According to their analysis, prices of medicines may increase, government revenue decrease and the government’s ability to regulate foreign investments, service providers and transnational corporations may be constrained.
The analysis of the labor groups are based on leaked draft texts of the RCEP as no official document has been made public throughout the four years of negotiations. Only negotiators and key business representatives had access to the official documents. Even Congress has been blindsided. This seriously constrains the democratic process.
RCEP is a mega free trade and investment agreement negotiated between 16 countries in the Asian region- the 10 ASEAN countries plus India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
The proposal to have an international private arbitration process that ignores national laws and the Constitution and where investors can make multi-billion claims against governments was another concern raised by the groups.
At a meeting attended by major labor centers like SENTRO and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), affiliates of global union federations such as PSI, IndustriALL and BWI, solidarity support organization like SASK, and the Trade Justice Campaign – Pilipinas, held on May 5 2017 in Quezon City, Dave Diwa, of National Labor Union (NLU) called RCEP a “danger zone that governments should avoid at all costs. “Vicente Camilon, Jr of the TUCP added that “RCEP might constraint our government’s power to regulate, undermine national sovereignty, and limit it ability to pursue national development objectives.” Jullian Roque of Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) further added that the deal could diminish public funds that should be devoted to basic social services.”
In contrast, the labor unions pointed out the corporate-bias of RCEP. Glen Pastorfide of the Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA) said that RCEP could strengthen the power of corporations while weakening policies that seek to protect and conserve our natural resources and ecosystems.”
Alan Tanjusay of Associated Labor Unions (ALU) pointed out that “RCEP has no social dimension. Our government will be prevented from instituting policies and regulations beneficial to working people.”
Wilson Fortaleza of the Partido ng Manggagawa concluded that “RCEP is a global corporate agenda of regional oligarchs.”
“Clearly, the RCEP is as bad as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP),” Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, declared. “If Pres. Duterte rejected TPP, then he should, at the very least, be worried about RCEP as well,” he added.
SENTRO calls on Working People to Sustain the Call to End Contractualization, Stop Authoritarian Policies
Photo by RBanares
MANILA, Philippines (May 1, 2017) – The national labor center Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Center for United and Progressive Workers), or SENTRO, calls on the working people to continue the struggle against contractualization and the precariousness of living, “sustained by the Duterte’s regime biased for the elite.”
In a rally this morning in conjunction with the 130thglobal Labor Day commemoration, the 100,000-strong SENTRO criticized the “fake news” that contractualization is over. According to SENTRO Secretary General Josua Mata, “We gave Pres. Duterte the benefit of the doubt on his promise to end the oppressive policy of labor contractualization, in hoping that Pres. Duterte will dismantle and replace the much-criticized Department Order No. 18-A.” He said their hopes were met with grim disillusionment with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello’s release of DO No. 174 last March 19, 2017.
Mata stated that DO 174 will perpetuate contractualization by: a) allowing businesses to hire workers through agencies; b) allowing cooperatives to engage in labor contracting and subcontracting; c) no longer requiring the principal employer to provide unions a copy of the service contract; and d) allowing contracting agencies to further downplay the price of labor costs—guaranteeing even lower salaries and benefits for workers across industries. “Clearly, DO 174 widely differs from what Pres. Duterte has promised,” said Mata.
SENTRO assailed the President from being only true to its promise to kill, and to bury the late dictator Marcos at the Heroes Cemetery. In a statement, SENTRO noted that in almost 365 days in Malacañang, the President’s hands are bloodied in calling on the police, and later jobless migrant workers to kill drug users. However, it failed to deliver genuine resolution of the drug problem as it allows the escape of drug traffickers like Peter Lim.
SENTRO marched from Welcome Rotonda and converged with the 10,000 marchers of NAGKAISA Coalition to push Pres. Duterte to prioritize the prohibition of all forms of contractualization by supplanting DO 174 with an Executive Order and by certifying as urgent the passage of HB4444.
Allies from human rights groups such as iDEFEND, the World March of Women, and students marched with the workers to call on all “freedom-loving Filipinos to stand up and be counted in the fight for regular and sustainable jobs, to stop the killings, block Duterte’s Death Policies – the reimposition of the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminality – and to resist moves to amend the constitution to institute “constitutional authoritarianism.” The march followed a coffin with a chick on top, a derivation from a Filipino custom, hoping that the deaths will stop immediately.
“Let us assert our basic right to a dignified and genuinely safe society—not the selective security of the privileged that preys on the massacre of the poor,” added Mata.
SENTRO vows to continue the struggle against contractualization
Photo by JTMata
Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa joins the global working peoples in their 130th commemoration of International Labor Day. Filipino workers have been commemorating the International Labor Day and the continuing struggles of the working masses since 1903, inextricably tying it to the anti-colonial struggle. Faced as it is by monumental challenges and massive societal roadblocks, SENTRO remains undaunted and steadfast in its commitment towards organizing, fighting and winning on behalf of the working peoples of the Philippines.
In less than a year, President Rodrigo Duterte has seen his popularity and trust ratings erode by 7% and 11% among the working poor. While a number of the population remains unperturbed by this, this development is an indicator that a significant section of our people is beginning to fear for their lives— and perhaps even regretting their complicity to the election of an unrepentant violator of human rights and democratic institutions.
The working people gave Pres. Duterte the benefit of the doubt on his promise to end the oppressive policy of labor contractualization. We hoped that Pres. Duterte will dismantle and replace the much-criticized Department Order No. 18-A. But our hopes were met with grim disillusionment with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello’s release of Department Order No. 174 last March 19, 2017.
This policy will perpetuate contractualization by: a) allowing businesses to hire workers through agencies; b) allowing cooperatives to engage in labor contracting and subcontracting; c) no longer requiring the principal employer to provide unions a copy of the service contract; and d) allowing contracting agencies to further downplay the price of labor costs—guaranteeing even lower salaries and benefits for workers across industries. Clearly, DO 174 widely differs from what Pres. Duterte has promised.
Truth is, the Duterte regime is only consistent in one thing: it wants to kill, and the freedom to kill who it wants to kill. The spate of extrajudicial killings occurring all over the country—ostensibly sponsored and abetted by the Philippine National Police’s Oplan Tokhang and Oplan Double Barrel—has claimed anywhere between 8,000 to 10,000 lives already. This has worsened the situation of poor women, leaving them in trauma, isolation and greater vulnerability to further abuse such as prostitution. In addition to this,the Philippine Congress reintroduces the death penalty,and was passed by the House of Representatives last March 7, 2017, awaiting advancement in the Philippine Senate—despite the Philippines’ international commitment to treaties not to do so. Another legislative bill intends to lower the minimum age of criminal liability to nine (9) years of age, pushing back the victory in the past of children’s rights groups.
It is probably not without reason that this culture of death has been roundly condemned by the international community. The “War on the Poor,” as it is, has made a mockery of its initial propaganda to rid us of the menace of drug dependence and promote a secure, living society. While the poor is being killed, the drug profiteers like Peter Lim are left scot-free.
As expected, the elites are in no hurry to oppose or even modulate the Duterte regime’s reign of terror and death. Many of these politicians have kowtowed to Malacañang, probably in anticipation of the impending push for charter change, which may see the Philippines parcelled around longstanding political dynasties and the further dismantling of the country’s economic infrastructure through their hard-selling of Federalism.
Once again, it is up to the working people and their labor movement to defend our rights, even as we continue to deepen democracy in the country. It is for this reason that SENTRO, together with its allies amongst the progressive forces, is calling on all freedom-loving Filipinos to stand up and be counted in the fight to stop the killings, block Duterte’s Death Policies – the reimposition of the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminality – and to resist moves to amend the constitution to institute “constitutional authoritharianism.” SENTRO believes that workers’ and trade union rights cannot genuinely exist if human and democratic rights are compromised and thrown to the gutter.
We call on the working people to continue the struggle against contractualization and the precariousness of living sustained by the Duterte regime’s neo-liberal policies. Let us assert our basic right to a dignified and genuinely safe society—not the selective security of the privileged that preys on the massacre of the poor.
Organize! Fight! Win!
– Download FIlipino version of the statement