THE NAGKAISA, the broadest coalition of Philippine trade unions, held a lightning rally near the PICC to denounce the full-scale privatization program of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, dubbed as “Public Private Partnership,” as a complete sell-out of consumer interests and workers’ rights.
NAGKAISA described the ongoing Asian Development Bank conference in PICC, Manila as the final nail on the coffin in which to bury consumers’ protection and workers rights, as Aquino uses the affair as a stage to accelerate the transfer ownership of all remaining power, healthcare and local water assets of the Philippine government to private investors.
Workers belonging to different groups within the coalition waved banners and placards as they attempted to deliver their own messages while Aquino was making his speech before hundreds of foreign delegates.
NAGKAISA linked the ADB privatization agenda and the Administration’s flagship Public Private Partnership to Aquino’s May 1 Labor Day speech, where he practically told workers petitioning for better workers protection, by supporting their security of tenure bill, to drop dead.
He also essentially discredited the pending congressional wage increase proposal by erroneous computation during a Labor Day dialogue that never was.
Aquino even cited cheaper labor in Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand, without comparing the cost of living in those countries with that of the Philippines.
NAGKAISA said that Aquino clearly doesn’t see that increasing the purchasing power of workers thru wage adjustments as a way of raising consumption, as a means of pump priming the economy. Aquino in effect supports a race-to-the-bottom in the name of building Philippine competitiveness by artificially keeping workers salaries’ low.
NAGKAISA likewise noted that during the power summit in Mindanao last month, Aquino had told the audience that they will now have to pay higher power rates from coal and oil plants, and that the government-owned 850mw Agus-Pulangi plants would be privatized.
He seemed to have ignored the warning of local government officials in Mindanao that selling these assets would the electricity industry cartel to invade and cause dramatic increases in rates in the island.
NAGKAISA called on workers and consumers to resist the Aquino government’s initiatives to privatize the healthcare and local water districts in the country. Like the failed privatization of the National Power Corporation in 2001, which was supported by ADB with a $300 million loan, these efforts would not truly benefit the people.
NAGKAISA denounced the failure of the ADB to fulfill its anti-poverty mandate and reason for continued existence.
NAGKAISA reiterated its demand for security of tenure and decent jobs as the best anti-poverty measure and urged the President to favorably act on the workers’ need for increased wages.