Thousands Marched to Celebrate the Labor Centennial and to demand the country’s withdrawal from the WTO!

GMA hounded by protesters in Cebu and Davao!
Workers vow to fight water and power rate increases, oil price hikes and added taxes!

Tens of thousands of workers belonging to the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) today poured into the streets of Manila, Cebu, Bacolod, Davao and Cagayan de Oro to commemorate the 100th year anniversary of the Philippine labor movement, press for the strengthening of workers’ and trade union rights and called for the country’s withdrawal from the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“Massive unemployment, contractualization, low wages, skyrocketing water and electricity rates, oil price hikes and added taxes… is this the government’s nasty way of thanking the labor movement after a 100 years of struggles?,” Daniel L. Edralin, APL chairperson, sarcastically said.

Ironically, while the government is bent on fast tracking trade liberalization in the country, countries of the North have increasingly resorted to protectionist measures in violation of WTO rules just so they can save their workers’ jobs. For the first quarter of 2002, 500 local firms were forced to shut down displacing more than 10,000 workers. “This situation is a complete reversal of what the government promised us before joining the WTO in 1995,” Edralin said. “The WTO benefits the rich countries, while leaving the poor countries devastated. Thus we see no reason for us to stay in the WTO any minute longer,” he added.

In Manila alone, 15,000 workers converged in Welcome Rotonda and marched to Mehan Garden. Representatives Etta Rosales (Akbayan party list) and Del de Guzman (Marikina, lone district) and a number of activist delegates from the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) from Asia and Pacific joined the marchers in protesting the evils of capitalist globalization.

Similar mobilizations were simultaneously held in other key cities. In Cebu, UP President Francisco Nemenzo joined 3,000 workers who marched from Fuente Osmeña to Gaisano South. In Davao, 5,000 workers marched around the city. The Cebu and Davao marchers also picketed President Arroyo’s visit in the two cities. At least 2,000 marchers joined the APL-led rally in Cagayan de Oro.

The Confederation of Independent Unions in the Public Sector (CIU), the Philippine Cement Workers’ Council (PCWC), the National Alliance of Broadcast Unions (NABU), Postal Employees Union of the Philippines (PEUP) and other workers’ organizations joined APL in these mobilizations. Akbayan and BISIG also mobilized their own members in support of the APL.

In its Labor Day Manifesto, the APL vowed to fight the anti-worker and anti-people policies of the Arroyo administration and to work for the strengthening of workers’ and trade union rights by reforming the labor relations framework in the country through a set of legislative measures dubbed as “Labor Centennial Bills.”

The APL is a social movement center composed of trade union federations, national unions, workers’ associations in the informal sector and workers’ community organization. It has chapters in all the major cities around the country.

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