Unions urge Noynoy to prioritize ‘full employment,’ not to renege on his ‘people’s mandate’

Philippine President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III gestures as he announces the members of his Cabinet during a news conference in Quezon City, Metro Manila June 29, 2010. REUTERS/Erik de Castro

NOYNOY Aquino’s overwhelming electoral victory is a testimony of a widespread clamor and a clear mandate for change, especially for good governance and pro-poor policies, after the nation endured more than nine years of endless and large-scale corruption, worsening poverty, blatant violations of human and democratic rights, and systematic duplicity under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime.

This makes Aquino’s responsibility bigger and the masses’ expectations of him higher, the Alliance of Progressive Labor said, as he begins his presidency following his inauguration today as the 15th Philippine president.

Vowing this early to press Aquino to live up to his “people’s mandate,” the APL and other progressive forces in the labor and social movements are urging the new president to make “full employment” one of the centerpiece programs of his administration.

“The only way to fight poverty is to lift large sections of the working class from poverty by providing them jobs,” Daniel Edralin, APL chair, said, adding: “But we are not just for any jobs, we want secure and quality jobs. Of equal importance, we want jobs where labor and trade union rights are fully respected and implemented.”

Despite the much ballyhooed “36 quarters of uninterrupted growth” allegedly initiated by Arroyo, the number of poor Filipinos or those five-person families living on a little over P1,200 a month has risen to 27.60 million in 2006 from 25.47 million in 2001, the year when Arroyo assumed the presidency after the ouster of the similarly corrupt government of Joseph Estrada.

Government data also revealed that underemployment rate has declined in April to 17.8 percent of the labor force or about 6.3 million workers, but the number of those without jobs has posted a two-year high and thus could further aggravate poverty incidence, when unemployment rate swelled to 8 percent or comprising of 3.1 million jobless Filipinos.

The APL stressed that addressing the plight of the unemployed and underemployed – their numbers are still conservative, but they already represent at least a quarter of the 38.8 million labor force in January – requires comprehensive reforms in the country’s trade, fiscal, monetary and investment policies.

“More importantly, it requires having a clear industrial policy that strengthens domestic economy which no longer relies on the export-oriented strategy of the past and aims to reverse the current neoliberal programs that have killed the Philippine agriculture and industry,” Edralin explained.

Amid these economic restructurings, however, the APL underscored the need for the Aquino administration to ensure basic human, labor and trade union rights, including a stop to the climate of impunity which intensified during Arroyo’s rule as well as the prompt punishment of the perpetrators.

“Noynoy should guarantee that within his six-year term, those involved in big-time corruption and other anomalies – for example, the ZTE broadband deal and the fertilizer scam – as well as in the killings, abductions and harassment of trade unionists, activists and journalists – including the gruesome Maguindanao massacre – are without delay sent to jails,” the APL added.

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