Today, workers belonging to the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) will march in Manila and other key cities to demand wage increase, moratorium on demolitions, decent and productive jobs and the passage of Security of Tenure bill as they bemoan the frustrating snail pace of reforms.
“It took President Aquino 10 months before agreeing to meet with labor leaders today,” Edwin Bustillos, APL Deputy Secretary General, said, referring to the president’s breakfast meeting with labor leaders in Malacañang. “And we are not even sure if there is anything substantial that would come out of it,” he added.
The number one agenda in today’s breakfast meeting in Malacañang is labor’s unanimous demand that P-Noy certify as urgent the passage of the Security of Tenure bill now pending in Congress.
“The passage of the Security of Tenure bill is long overdue,” Bustillos said. “As far as we are concerned, P-Noy’s stand on this bill is one of the litmus tests of his government’s sincerity to lift people from poverty,” Bustillos declared.
Two full months before P-Noy’s first year in office, and it appears that the Aquino government is failing to keep its avowed promises to rid the country of corruption and poverty.
Corruption has deteriorated with the country landing again in third spot in the entire Asia by scoring 8.9 – with 10 being the worst, from a scale of one to 10 – based from a survey called Asian Intelligence Report held from November last year to February this year. In the annual report of Transparency International (TI), the Philippines notched a 2.4 score – with 1 as “highly corrupt” and 10 “very clean” – placing 134th among 178 countries last year.
Likewise, both the perceived and actual poverty has continued unabated to this very day – despite the boasts of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of accomplishing “36 quarters (or nine years, January 2001-June 2010) of uninterrupted economic growth” and P-Noy’s attaining the “highest economic growth in 34 years”.
Even the conservative government statistics acknowledged that the number of poor Filipinos has swelled from 25.5 million people in 2001 to over 30 million last year.
“The persistent jobs crisis and the prevailing poverty wages is derailing P-Noy’s tuwid na landas,” Josua Mata, APL Secretary General, declared. “Unfortunately, we have yet to see a credible plan that would address the country’s jobless growth,” he added.
On the contrary, government’s strategy for development contained in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) merely provides a slightly updated version of the same old neoliberal prescriptions. Its target of generating 1 million jobs per year is woefully inadequate. With new entrants to the labor force outstripping the number of employment generated, the country would end up having more unemployed by the end of P-Noy’s term.
Worst, instead of protecting promoting and protecting decent and productive jobs as it should be doing, it opened the floodgates to massive outsourcing after it upheld PAL’s decision to sack 2,600 regular workers!
As if these are not enough, the costs of basic commodities and services have recently and uncontrollably skyrocketed.
The problem is, aside from the real oil price hikes in the world market, the undue surge of prices of local petroleum products is caused more by “predatory pricing” led by the “Big 3” oil cartel of Petron Corp., Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. and Chevron Philippines Inc. (formerly Caltex).
“Even the Department of Energy (DOE) has grudgingly admitted that at least the fuel price hikes during the Holy Week ‘were more than what was warranted’,” Ernie Cruz, Chairperson of the National Confederation of Transportworkers’ Unions (NCTU), said.
This further diminished the purchasing power or the real amount of the already low salaries of most of the Philippine workers. In one study, it was demonstrated that the real value of the Filipino workers’ already meager wage has been sliced by as much as P7 from the moment Aquino was inaugurated as president on June 30 until as recently as February this year!
In a nutshell, the APL asserted that the Filipino and Filipina workers have not enjoyed any significant gain since P-Noy assumed the presidency. His continued promotion of unfettered neoliberal programs – liberalization, deregulation and privatization – will exacerbate poverty and misery of the vast majority in the Philippines, especially the working people.