Revival of EU-ASEAN trade a wrong move—EU-ASEAN Campaign Network

File photo / 20150417 – Focus on the Global South

The EU-ASEAN FTA Campaign Network, a regional campaign network called the revival of trade negotiations between the European Union and the ASEAN, a “wrong move” that could further exacerbate inequality and erosion of peoples rights in the region.

Reacting to news reports that quoted Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, announcing “exploratory discussions” of an ASEAN-EU working group, EU-ASEAN Network issued the following statement:

It is important to recall why the EU-ASEAN talks were suspended in 2009. The talks were put on the back burner, not simply as news articles report, “to give way to bilateral talks between select ASEAN member states”, but rather because the EU was not satisfied with the level of ambition that ASEAN, negotiating as a block, was willing and able to put on the table. In short, the EU wanted a comprehensive, ambitious new generation free trade agreement with ASEAN, that includes all the problematic provisions like ISDS, which allows corporations to sue governments, and IPR which would undermine public health and peoples access to more affordable medicines.

In reviving the talks, ASEAN should get its act together, and negotiate this with the interest of the poorest members and the poorest and marginalized sectors in mind. A big challenge is seeing to it that the agreement could help resolve the development imbalance within the 10 ASEAN countries.

Another sticky point in the EU-ASEAN talks is the question of human rights. The EU simply could not move forward with the region-to-region talks in 2009, because ASEAN was insisting it would negotiate as one, which means including Myanmar, with its sordid HR record.

Fast-forward to 2017 and we see practically the entire region slipping into authoritarianism, where people are facing enormous challenges to their human rights.
It puzzles us as well why the EU-ASEAN initiative is being revived now when Asean countries are busy with RCEP and TPPA. And what is the value added for Asean countries.

Rather than push for the revival of the EU-ASEAN talks and the conclusion of another ambitious agreement- the RCEP, ASEAN governments should heed the call of the people and instead initiate a comprehensive and participatory process to review these deals from the purview of their impact on peoples lives and human rights.#

EU-ASEAN Network
Focus on the Global South
FTA Watch-Thailand
Indonesia for Global Justice
Monitoring Sustainability of Globalization (MSN)
Trade Justice Pilipinas

Statement on the On-going Rohingya Crisis

Photo by: Reuters

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) joins the peoples of Southeast Asia in mourning and expressing outrage against the virtual genocide of the Rohingya peoples of Myanmar. We also express grave resentment on two things: 1) the inhumane responses conducted by the Myanmar government under the direction of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as 2) the carelessness of the official statement released by the office of the Chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the issue.

The Rohingya, people, it must be remembered, trace their origins from 7th century Arab Muslim settlers in Arakan. Their ancestral domains lie in the Rakhine state, a geographically-isolated area in western Myanmar. Since the 1950s, they have been subjected to systematic discrimination in their home country.

The current crisis, however, could be traced back to 2012, when dubious accusations of criminality against the Rohingyas sparked riots that left dozens of them killed and around 75,000 fleeing. By May 2015, the horrors of their privations were exposed to the world. Mass graves in Thailand and Malaysia reportedly filled with dozens of dead Rohingya kept against their will by human traffickers were discovered. Countries such as Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia denied them asylum. Seven hundred Rohingya and Bangladeshi immigrants testified that their boats where left adrift at sea, half full of sea-water, forcing them to throw off their fellow refugees.

In 2015, the Philippines was among the only few countries who made efforts to accommodate the 3,000 Rohingya refugees who reached our shores and call for humanitarian resolutions to the crisis. This was something which we have been commended by the rest of the world, something we could be proud of. It is thus a source of clear disappointment and frustration that after spearheading the appropriate responses to the crises in the past, the Philippine Chairmanship of the ASEAN, as represented by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, would now choose to paper over the entire crisis. The statement supposedly “strongly urges all the parties involved to avoid actions that will further worsen the situation on the ground,” without acknowledging the atrocities committed by the Myanmar government against its own people—all because they are not members of the Buddhist majority.

SENTRO also joins the rest of the concerned peoples of the world in criticizing the long-standing silence and denials of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi regarding the mass extermination of the Rohingya. In multiple instances, she has waffled and downplayed the severity of the crisis, and even dared justify the responses of the Myanmar government as commensurate response to the “global Muslim terror” situation. It is a clear betrayal of the principles which brought her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

SENTRO is committed towards contributing to expanding the discourse on this crisis, as well as raising awareness and mobilizing actions which may pressure ASEAN member-countries to do action on this end. In the same breadth, we call on the Department of Foreign Affairs (with or without the direction of its Secretary) to revisit its previous responses to the Rohingya crisis, so that it may justly provide succour and relief to those Rohingya communities which continue to hope for a place of refuge in our country.

Finally, the horrifying plight of the Rohingya should serve as a cautionary tale to all organizations and movements about what will happen when our basic and universal human rights are set aside and ignored in the name of state policy. Now, more than ever, we cannot surrender them. Now, more than ever, we have to fight for them—even to the gravest costs.


Photo by: Clydie Pasia

We are one with the nation in remembering the 45th anniversary of Dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of the Martial Law in the country.

Words must not be minced: The Marcos Dictatorship is the darkest period of our nation’s collective history. He syphoned our national coffers and built a wealth empire for his family, brought our economy down and close to bankruptcy – his debts still paid for by the current generation, disregarded democracy and the rule of law, weakened and corrupted institutions to perpetuate the dictatorship, and persecuted anyone who dared to stand up against his tyranny.

Tens of thousands of Filipinos suffered under his military rule; they were imprisoned, murdered, and up to this very day – missing. They were political activists, student and community leaders, members of the opposition, and ordinary Filipinos who saw the ire of power-hungry state forces.

To remember the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos is of great importance this year, as the Philippines is sliding back to how it was during the Martial Law: An economy in shambles, democratic institutions eroded, dissenters silenced, police abuses normalized massive human rights violations, and accountability from the government absent.

The brutal “war on drugs” is a war against the poor. Oplan Tokhang has already claimed the lives of more than 12, 000 Filipinos, most of whom are only alleged small time offenders, belonging to various impoverished communities, and unable to defend themselves in a court of law, while big-time smugglers of shabu remain free. To date, more than 50 children and teenagers have been tagged as “collateral damage” to the war, with overwhelming evidence of abuse from the police.

Photo by: Clydie Pasia

While the whole country is still under a state of national emergency for a year now, Congress has allowed the declaration of Martial Law in the entirety of Mindanao until the end of the year. It has regularly undermined democratic institutions like the Office of the Ombudsman, the Commission on Human Rights, and the Supreme Court, among others.

Free speech is stifled by the administration, enabling the rise of fake journalists and propagandists in the country which routinely attack and erode the media, human rights defenders and the church.

Worst, favors were given to the Marcos family by giving the Dictator a hero’s burial and declaring his birth anniversary a holiday.

With the Philippines’ imminent return to autocracy, it is not only necessary, but a moral obligation for all Filipinos to stand up, unite, and shout for transparency and accountability. The fight for human rights should be a universal pursuit, and all roads taken by different movements lead to the same goals: to call for justice, defend our freedoms and liberties, and safeguard every Filipino from abuses perpetrated by the government.

Together, we must show our national leaders and the entire world that we have not forgotten the pursuit of justice for the victims of Martial Law.

Together, we must demand to put an end to the culture of tyranny and impunity, and to resist and reject any move to return to military and one-man-rule.

Together, we will protect our hard-won freedoms, rights, and liberties.

Tinatawag na tayo ng bansa upang sama-samang manindigan. Kailangan na nating manlaban para sa ating mga karapatan!


All Roads Lead to Human Rights

Rising above differences, the Coalition Against the Marcos Burial (CAMB), In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDefend), and Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa, in collaboration with Tindig Pilipinas, represented by Youth Resist, will be marking the declaration of Martial Law on September 21, 2017 in joint activities.

With the theme, “Manlaban Para sa Karapatan”, the activities aim to remind the public of the ills of dictatorship, and push for people’s human rights, in the face of the onslaught against democratic institutions and rights.

Revoke the “El-Khomri Labour Law” and the “extra-large labour law”

12 September 2017

Mr. Emmanuel Macron

President of the Republic
Palais de L’Élysée
55 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008 Paris

Dear Mr. Macron,

In behalf of the 100,000 members of SENTRO, I write to protest the so-called “extra-large labour law,” which is a follow-up to, and an amplification of the so-called “El-Khomri Labour Law” that would lead to further deterioration of working life and conditions in France.

We were informed by the CGT that the new “labour reform” would grant more room to company level bargaining on all aspects of work, thereby turning upside down the current standards that regulate labour relations. These company agreements would even take precedence over the contract of employment, which would lead to different work regulations in different companies and thereby ratchet up competition between workers. This would also promote the employment of casual contracts (short-term or temporary), further encourage the development of operations contracts (or assignment contracts of limited duration) and allow employers to unfairly and illegally dismiss workers as legal claims of workers would now be capped.

To make matters worst, the government aims to allow employers to bargain even without representative unions by holding a referendum that they could organize.

At the same time, the government will undermine workers’ representation by merging three existing bodies where workers participate – staff representative, works’ council and health and safety committee – into one. It is feared that such a move will marginalize health and safety issues as second-rank matters.

We were also informed that your government denied unions their right to be consulted in a meaningful manner by merely providing them with oral information abut the proposed changes and were given only 6 hours per union for “consultation.”

We believe that these “labour reforms” would only give employers more freedom to intensify workers’ vulnerability, increase casualization, undermine workers’ rights and leave the unions with less room for participation in decision-making.

We call on your government to heed the demands of the CGT and the French working people – revoke the “El-Khomri Labour Law” and the “extra-large labour law.”


Josua Mata
Secretary General