Category Archives: Food Security

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.

The Bitter Truth About Sugar Tax!

“Tax on sugar sweetened beverages is both anti-worker and anti-poor. It is also the wrong solution to our health problems,” declared Alfredo Marañon, national president of the Federation and Cooperation of Cola, Beverage and Allied Industries (FCCU), during a picket in front of the Senate this morning. “Worst, it could do more harm than good to our overall economy,” he added.

Rather than impose excise taxes that could leave workers jobless, the FCCU said that it could be more effective for government to invest on long-term solutions such as education campaign and regulating advertising on sugar-sweetened beverages.

Citing a study carried out by the the University of Asia and the Pacific (UAP) in 2016, the FCCU warned that, if passed, the supposed gains of TRAIN could be offset by its negative impact. According to the UAP, the economic impact of the proposed P10 per liter tax on SSB revealed that it will lead to a PHP 63 billion economy-wide loss due to reduced government revenues, job losses and economic contraction.

It should be noted that the DOF expects to collect PHP 47 billion from excise taxes in SSB.

Tax on sugar sweetened beverages is patently anti-poor,” Marañon said. According to a survey conducted by the DOF itself, the implementation of House Bill 5636 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act could push the prices of sugar-sweetened beverages by two percent to as much as 140 percent.

“While the poor will have to pay an extra PHP 3 for every powdered drink sachet they take, the rich can continue to have their tax-free sugar fix in their expensive coffee shops,” he added.

Tax on sugar sweetened beverages is patently anti-worker,” Marañon reiterated. In its study, the UAP projects that at least 133,750 direct and indirect jobs will be affected. This would include sugar workers, coffee farmers and workers in the beverage manufacturing.

In a workers’ dialogue with the DOF held in Davao City yesterday, 2 major beverage companies announced that they may be forced to layoff thousands of workers. One company said it may have to shut down 9 plants. Another company announced it may have to impose a moratorium on their collective bargaining agreement.

The figure cited by the UAP study could be a low estimate. The Beverage Industry Association of the Philippines (BIAP) claims that “over 1.3 million micro-entrepreneurs operating carinderias and sari-sari stores all over the country” will also be affected. It is said that 40% of revenues of carinderias are derived from beverage sales.

“There are better ways to address the country’s health concerns,” Marañon said. Studies abroad shows that investing on massive public education campaign, regulating advertising on sugar-sweetened beverages, and even implementing simple solutions that could “nudge” consumers to reduce consumption – like promoting use of smaller containers – could be far more effective solutions than what President Duterte’s TRAIN wants.

The FCCU is a nation union of workers in the beverage industry. It is affiliated to the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) and the International Union of Food Workers (IUF).

Conclusions of the Global Campaign on the UNHRC 2nd Session of OEIGWG

Stop Corporate Impunity

Conclusions of the Global Campaign on the UNHRC 2nd Session of the “Open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights” (OEIGWG) concluding on 28th October 2016

Geneva, 28 October 2016

In the context of the Second Session of the Open Ended Inter-Governmental Working Group (OEIGWG) at the Human Rights Council with the mandate to establish a Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, the Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples’ Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and End Impunity expressed its engagement with this process through several activities, actions and statements. The Campaign is committed to the importance of this process as a way to allow people affected by Transnational Corporations (TNCs) around the world access to justice.

The current process began in 2014 and succeeded in inserting the urgent need to create a binding tool to compel TNCs’ to respect Human Rights into the UN agenda. Many years of complicity between governments and TNCs, which has led to an increase of cases of repression, convince us more than ever of our demands. The people affected by TNCs are fed up with being victims and demand justice. Therefore, we reaffirm our resistance to the capture of this process by TNCs and we demand states to safeguard the Treaty negotiations from political interference and conflicts of interest.

Throughout one week, more than 100 activists, representing unions, peasant organizations, environmental organisations, youth, women, indigenous peoples, migrants and the access to medicines movements convened in Geneva to participate in and observe the proceedings within the UN. These activists represented 29 countries and shared their lived experiences in 15 activities both within and outside the formal spaces of the UN. Participants made 40 oral statements in the six panels of the session.

The Global Campaign participated actively in the debate. It presented 6 precise proposals for the binding instrument : on the obligations for TNCs, extraterritorial obligations; the instrument of enforcement, the responsibility of TNCs in the global supply chains; the architecture of the global corporate law (International Financial Institutions, the World Trade Organisation and the investment and trade regime); as well as the rights of the affected communities.

We are aware that during this process we will face important challenges. But we are committed to maintaining a high level of mobilization at both local and international levels. By doing so, we expect to have a concrete and positive Treaty proposal as the result of the work during the 3rd Session of the IGWG. With this objective, we call all movements and organizations – within and outside the Campaign – to join these efforts. We must pressure any governments opposing this process to change their perspective on the Binding Treaty proposal and recognize the urgent need for a legal instrument that puts people before profits, commercial interests and investment deals. This Saturday, concluding our week of mobilization, we will hold a demonstration in Geneva.

Signatories:

Articulación internacional de las afectadas y afectados por la VALE, Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) – Southern African Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power, Amigos da Terra Brasil, Amigos de la Tierra América Latina y el Caribe – ATALC,, Amigos de la Tierra España, Amis de la Terre France, ATM/Mining, Attac – España, Attac – Maroc, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) – Friends of the Earth Bangladesh, BDS, CCFD, CED – Friends of the Earth Camerun, CEDIB – Bolivia, Center on Governance and Sustainability, CESTA – Friends of the Earth El Salvador, CETIM, Comunidad de Barillas – Guatemala and CEIBA – Friends of the Earth Guatemala, Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras de las Américas (CSA), Corporate Accountability International (CAI), Ecologistas en Acción, ENTREPUEBLOS, ERA – Friends of the Earth Nigeria, FASE, FIAN International, France Amérique Latine (FAL), Friends of the Earth International (FOEI), Global Forest Coalition, Grup de Treball sobre Empreses i Drets Humans (Catalunya), GTPI – Vigencia, HOMA, Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ) – Sawit Watch – People’s Coalition for the Rights to Water (KruHA-Indonesia), Indonesian Human Rights Committee for Social Justice (IHCS) – WALHI – Solidaritas Perempuan – INDIES Indonesia – Indonesia Focal Point for Legally Binding Treaty Initiative -,Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project, JA! – Friends of the Earth Mozambique, Justiça Global, La Via Campesina (LVC), LAB Euskal Herria, LAFEDE.CAT, Legal Resources Center (LRC), MAB – LVC, NOVACT, Observatorio de Multinacionales en América Latina (OMAL), PACS, PENGON Palestine, “Popular Council for the Protection of the Jordan Valley – FOEI”, PSI, Radio Mundo Real, REDES – Amigos de la Tierra Uruguay, “Red Sombra de Observadores de Glencore”, SENTRO/TU, SUDS, Taula Catalana per la Pau i els Drets Humans a Colòmbia, Tierra Digna, Transnational Migrant Platform Europe, Transform!europe, Transnational Institute (TNI), VIGENCIA, Unión de Afectados/as por las Operaciones Petroleras de Texaco (UDAPT), HOMA, WALHI – Friends of the Earth Indonesia, War on Want, WOMIN, World March of Women.

Aquino’s Sona report: Conveniently selected; eluding realities

FAILED. A grade given by SENTRO workers to Pres Aquino for failing to address the workers' needs

FAILED. A grade given by SENTRO workers to Pres. Aquino for failing to address the workers’ plight

GOODBYE P-Noy. Enjoy your retirement from the presidency.

But how about the workers and the vast majority of citizens you will leave behind who remain excluded from the much vaunted economic growth that your administration has supposedly achieved after almost six years in power? How about the proposed bills for various social programs – especially the Security of Tenure (SOT) and the Freedom of Information (FOI) bills – that would ensure the rights of the underprivileged as well as strengthen government transparency and accountability, but which Malacañang and Congress have continued to ignore?

Your economic team has trumpeted that your government has posted the highest five-year average hike in the gross domestic product during the past four decades, when the mean annual growth rate of 6.3 percent was registered from 2010 to 2014, one of the biggest in Asia. If the economy grows to at least 7 percent this year, it would also be the fastest six-year GDP average since the 1950s. Likewise, under your helm the Philippines has been granted recognitions by local and international pro-business institutions for its rising “growth” and “competitiveness,” including the much coveted global investment ratings.

However, reality from the ground attests that poverty is still pervasive if not worsening despite the “growths” and the cosmetic solutions to it, like the conditional cash transfer (CCT) dole-out under the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program). The enormous wealth of the few top richest Filipinos included in the Forbes’ super rich list as well as the top Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE)-listed firms and the country’s Top 1000 corporations have further soared to hundreds of billions and tens of trillions of pesos – amid the hand-to-mouth existence of many Filipino families and the starvation wages of millions of Filipino workers. In fact, the mandated minimum wages are practically miserable to sustain a decent life; for instance, the NCR’s basic daily pay, the nation’s highest, has actually rose (real value) by a mere P17 or less than 5 percent since the start of Aquino’s term. We’re still not talking here of the yet rampant non-compliance of minimum wages and other labor standards.

Likewise, even the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), an international forecasting and advisory body to business groups, admitted that in spite of the rapid economic growth in the Philippines in the past years, the poverty rate would remain high due to the unabated and sharp income divide between the few rich and the majority poor, thus the country “will remain one of Southeast Asia’s poorest economies, with a lower level of GDP per head (merely $2,843 at market exchange rates) than the majority of the region’s other major economies.”

Your labor, economic and statistics team has boasted that the unemployment rate last year has substantially dropped to 6.8 percent, purportedly the lowest in 10 years. Really? But what’s the real score here? This preposterous claim has to be taken with a grain of salt. In fact, 66 percent of the jobs generated in 2013 to 2014 are either self-employed or own-account workers (38 percent) or working without pay in own family-operated business or farm (28 percent). Underutilized workers, on the other hand, or the unemployed and underemployed have been cut by only by over 149,000 and thus remain a high of 27 percent of the labor force. These are hardly “decent” jobs at all or those with fair wages and benefits and with security of tenure.

An independent research institution also disclosed that last year the ranks of jobless Filipinos have likely risen by at least 100,000, the underemployed by at least a million, and part-time workers by at least 1.5 million. In 2014 there were no less than 4.3 million unemployed and 7.9 million underemployed or a total of 12.2 million people without jobs or with precarious jobs, which mirrors the deteriorating job insecurity and contractualization.

These facts and figures revolve only in the income and employment areas that were heavily tampered with by Aquino and his speechwriters in his last State of the Nation Address (Sona) yesterday. But these areas effectively spell the present adversities and the bleak future being faced by the Filipino people – as long as neoliberal economic programs remain imposed in the country, and as long as the elites and their minions continue to rule and rob us.

Solidarity Message to Kilus Magniniyog

Mga kasama naming magbubukid at aktibista sa Kilus Magniniyog:

Ang pamunuan at kasapian ng Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) – isang pambansang sentrong unyon ng mga manggagawa sa pribado, publiko, impormal at migranteng sektor, na inilunsad noong isang taon lang – ay mahigpit na kumakapit-bisig sa mga magsasaka’t manggagawa sa niyugan, sa pamumuno ng Kilusan para sa Ugnayan ng mga Samahang Magniniyog (Kilus Magniniyog). Sumasaludo kami at pumapalakpak sa inyong pambihirang pambansang martsa mula Davao at magwawakas dito sa Maynila sa Nobyembre 26 o tatagal ng 71 araw at sa layong 1,750 kilometro.

Sa partikular, buo ang paniniwala at suporta ng Sentro sa posisyon ng Kilus Magniniyog ukol sa Coconut Levy Fund – ang bilyun-bilyong pisong pondo mula sa kontribusyon sa loob ng ilang taon ng maliliit na mga magniniyog, ngunit kinamkam ng pangkating Marcos at patuloy pa ngayong pinagpapasasaan ng iilan. May nabawing P71 bilyon ang gobyerno noong 2012, matapos manalo ang ilang dekada nang kaso laban sa San Miguel Corp. (SMC), ang isa sa mga pinaglagakan ng kroni ni Marcos na si Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. ng mga pinaghirapang pera ng milyun-milyong magniniyog. Nagmula ang P71 bilyon ito sa 24% na sosyo sa Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) ng SMC, na idineklara ng Korte Suprema na “pag-aari ng pamahalaan na gagamitin para lamang sa kapakinabangan ng lahat ng mga magniniyog at para sa pagpapaunlad ng industriya ng niyugan.” Subalit nakatengga pa ang pondong ito, kung saan kaliwa’t kanang inaangkin ng mga may makasariling interes at nanganganib ding ilaan sa ibang programa ng gobyerno na hindi talaga para sa mga magniniyog o may sarili namang pondo. 

Sa gayon, kaisa ang Sentro sa matibay na panawagan ng Kilus para sa agaran, epektibo at bukas na paggamit ng nasabing pondo na direktang papakinabangan ng 3.5 milyong magniniyog sa Pilipinas. Panahon na upang tamasahin ng maliliit na magniniyog at ng kanilang mga pamilya at komunidad ang perang matiyaga nilang iniambag at masusing inipon at pinalago para sana makatulong sa pagtugon sa kanilang pangangailangan at sa kanilang kinabukasan – ngunit nanakawin lang pala at matagal pang maitatago’t pinakinabangan ng iilan.

Itataguyod din ng Sentro ang mga kampanya ng Kilus para presyurin ang paglalabas ng Malakanyang ng isang Executive Order na lilikha ng Perpetual Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund mula sa coco levy fund, at ang pagpapasa ng dalawang kapulungan ng Kongreso sa mga panukalang batas na magbubuo ng mas pangmatagalang Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund.

Nananawagan din ang Sentro sa iba pang samahan sa kilusang paggawa ng bansa na sumuporta sa labang ito ng mga magniniyog at ng Kilus – laluna dahil ang adhika nating ecologically sustainable agro-industrial development ay nakadepende sa pag-unlad ng kanayunan, na maaabot kung may tunay na asset reform. Matibay na katiyakan sa direksiyong ito ang kombersyon ng coco levy fund sa pangmatagalang coco farmers’ trust fund, na kontrolado at pinatatakbo ng mga magniniyog o kanilang mga samahan. Subalit dapat pangunahing kaagapay nito ang tunay na repormang agraryo para tuluyang matiyak ang “kalayaan” at kaunlaran ng mga magsasaka at manggagawang bukid sa kanayunan, kaalinsabay ng “kalayaan” at kaunlaran din ng mga manggagawa sa kalunsuran.

 

 

Bawiin, ibalik ng buo ang ninakaw na Coconut Levy Fund!

Itatag at isabatas ang Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund!

Tunay – hindi patse-patse – na Repormang Agraryo ipatupad!

Mabuhay ang mga magniniyog at mga magsasaka’t manggagawang bukid!

Mabuhay ang kilusang magsasaka!

Mabuhay ang kilusang paggawa!