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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).

Duterte’s TRAIN will Collide with Workers’ Livelihood

Workers belonging to the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) and the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) today picketed the Senate to express their opposition to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Exclusion or TRAIN.

The labor groups, both members of NAGKAISA Labor Coalition, believe that tax reform is long overdue. For years, workers have been demanding a shift from taxing consumption (a regressive tax system) to one that is based on income (progressive taxation). Unfortunately, Duterte’s TRAIN, as it is currently crafted, is taking the wrong way.

“We welcome lower tax on personal income but reject the regressive impact of excise taxes,” Gerry Rivera, president of PALEA said. “With TRAIN, the government intends to ease our tax burden by forgoing P140 billion in personal income tax, only to collect from us P190 billion through VAT-based expansion and excise taxes!,” Rivera added.

This morning, the Senate is holding a public hearing on TRAIN, specifically on the excise taxes it will impose on petroleum products. The Department of Finance (DOF) proposed to earmark 40% of the PHP 73.7 billion incremental revenues from the oil excise tax (for 2018 alone) to fund targeted transfers through Pantawid Pasada program and the Jeepney Modernization Plan.

The Jeepney Modernization program of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) will phase out PUJs that are older than 15 years. The program will forcibly replace 205,000 of the 234,000 registered jeepneys that are currently in use in the country. Initially, the DOTR wanted to extend new franchises only to big operators who able to deploy at least 10 jeepneys. “Had we not launched transport strikes against this policy, the DOTr would have displaced at least 410,000 drivers and small operators by now,” Cruz said.

“The tragic thing is, government wants to take away our livelihood from us by phasing out our jeepneys,” Ernie Cruz, national president of the National Confederation of Transportworkers Unions (NCTU), bemoaned. “Now it is saying that it would tax us to death in order to modernize our jeepneys,” Cruz added.

“The problem is, the government has yet to demonstrate that their Jeepney Modernization Plan is accessible to ordinary jeepney drivers and operators,” Cruz complained. “The DOF, through the TRAIN, in its current form, may just succeed where the DOTr failed – deprive us of our livelihood,” Cruz declared.

The labor groups support NAGKAISA’s position to prioritize tax administration reform and de-link personal income tax from regressive tax measures.

“We call on the Senate to pass the personal income tax (PIT), but derail the rest of the TRAIN for now,” Rivera declared.

Alisin ang lambong ng terorismo. Mamamayan, itulak ang kilusan para sa tunay na kapayapaan.

Takot ang pangunahing nililikha ng terorismo, ng gyera. Kapag takot ang nangibabaw, nakagawiang gustong kapitan ay iyong dagling makakatanggal ng takot. Lakas laban sa lakas. Pwersa laban sa pwersa. Karahasan pantapat sa karahasan ng terorismo. Kung ano ang mas mabilis na makapupuksa ng pinanggagalingan ng takot at kaguluhan, yun ang nakikitang tanging opsyon, tulad ng militarisasyon. Tulad ng pagpataw ng Batas Militar sa Mindanao dahil sa labanan sa pagitan ng pamahalaan ng Pilipinas at grupo ng Maute, itinuturing na Islamic extremists, sa Marawi.

Subali’t kailangang tumingin tayo lagpas sa Batas Militar. Ano pa ang maaaring gawin? Isang mahalagang hakbang ang pag-intindi sa nagaganap sa Marawi; sa pagtuklas ng ugat ng mga kaganapan hindi lang sa Marawi kundi sa likod ng pagkakaroon ng mga grupong tulad ng Maute. Totoong dapat labanan ang terorismo. Subali’t kahit mabuwal ang libong itinuturing na terorista, may iba pang susulpot or marerekrut kapalit nila kung hindi ang ugat ng terorismo ang mapupuksa. Para sa pamahalaan, ang tanging solusyon ay militarisasyon, gyera, batas militar.

Bakit? Dahil mas mahirap para sa pamahalaan na ayusin ang problema ng kahirapan; ang harapin ang kawalan ng trabaho at katiyakan nito, ang makatarungan at mabilis na pamamahagi ng lupa at suportang serbisyo, ang pagsasauli ng coco levy at paggamit nito para sa kapakinabangan ng maliliit na magniniyog, ang moratoryum sa land use conversion, ang sertipikasyon ng Alternative Minerals Management Bill, moratorium sa mga bagong aplikasyon sa pagmimina, pag-aalis ng interes sa mga resettlement ng mga maralita at pagsasaayos ng sistema ng pabahay.

Hindi lamang ang pamahalaan ang may tangan ng opsyon. Tayong mga mamamayan ay may obligasyon sa pagkakaroon ng kapayapaan; may responsibilidad sa kapwa natin Pilipino na dumaranas ng hirap dahil sa kaguluhan sa Marawi, dahil sa mas matinding militarisasyon o abuso sa ilalim ng Batas Militar sa Mindanao. Ang unang pinakamahalagang hakbang ay alamin, unawain, suriin ang mga pwersa at mga kadahilanan sa likod ng matagal nang sigwa sa Mindanao; itulak ang pamahalaan na hindi batas militar ang sagot. Di sagot ang machismo o pagtutulak sa panggagahasa at lahat ng porma ng abuso, sa ngalan ng gyera o pagpatay.

Ang aming sama-samang panawagan:
1. Ihinto ang Batas Militar, huwag pahabain, huwag palawigin.
2. Ihinto ang pambobomba at pagsira sa Marawi at mga karatig-bayan.
3. Isama ang mga lokal na pinuno, pati kababaihan, sa lahat ng usapang pang-kapayapaan.
4. Panagutin ang mga responsable sa paglabag sa karapatang pantao.
5. Tugunan ang mga batayang panawagan sa tiyak na trabaho, makatarungan at mabilis na pamamahagi ng lupa at suportang serbisyo, edukasyon at serbisyong pangkalusugan para sa lahat, kasama ang kalusugang pang-reproduktibo, makatarungang sistemang pabahay, at pagtitiyak ng katuparan ng mga batas para sa karapatan ng kababaihan.

KALIPUNAN NG MGA KILUSANG MASA
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
Kilos Maralita (KM)
Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA)
Partido Manggagawa (PM)
Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO)
Union of Students for the Advancement of Democracy – Ateneo de Manila
World March of Women (WMW)

Isang Bigong Taon: A failed one year for Digong – labor groups

Contractualization did not stop; wages remained low and regionalized; the unemployment and underemployment problems continue to weigh down on a large number of Filipino workers. “In sum, it was “Isang B(D)igong Taon” on the labor front for President Duterte’s first year in office,” stated various labor groups in their one year assessment of the President’s performance.

It can be recalled that the President made a campaign pledge that contractualization will stop the moment he becomes the President. He also vowed to raise wages and abolish the system of provincial rates.

“We tried to rate the President’s performance as objective as we can, but the outcomes for labor over his first 365 days have been generally wanting, have given us false expectations and given us many unfulfilled promises,” said the workers groups in a joint statement distributed to media during a demonstration held at the Boy Scout Circle in Timog Quezon City, Friday.

The mass action was organized by the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro), Partido Manggagawa (PM), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), National Federation of Labor Unions (Naflu) and the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (Palea). Members of the World March of Women and Ateneo University’s Union of Students for the Advancement of Democracy (USAD) also joined the rally.

No end yet to endo

In a meeting on Labor Day, President Duterte asked labor groups to draft an Executive Order that would use prohibition of all forms of contractualization as a framework. This was after the unanimous rejection of labor groups of Department Order 174 issued by Labor and Employment Sec. Silvestre Bello III sometime in March. He also instructed the labor department to resolve with dispatch the years of dispute between PAL and PALEA on the issue of contractualization.

In response the labor groups submitted a unified draft together with the formal labor sector of the National Anti-Poverty Commission. But almost two months from its submission, the President has done no executive action to address the rampant contractualization.

“We have always advocated for a prohibition of all forms of contractualization and a stop to the abusive operations of manpower agencies and manpower cooperatives. The President himself at his assumption to power and in his first meeting with labor groups early this year openly expressed disgust over these as they ‘abused workers,’ using his words,” said the groups.

According to labor groups, DO 174 continues to permit contractualization and allows manpower agencies and manpower cooperatives to take a cut from workers’ salaries each payday.

There was also no certification issued by the President on pending anti-endo bills filed before the Congress. The PAL-PALEA dispute is not yet resolved.

The only token victory they got on this respect, the groups said, is the planned deputization of trade unionists as labor inspectors, the first batch of which are now undergoing training at the labor department.

Freedom of Association is also one of the areas where the President has a failing mark from the groups as organizing remains extremely difficult particularly in Economic Zones as workers get harassed and get fired for trying to organize unions.

Wages, power, employment, OFW fees, new taxes

With the regional wage setting mechanism still in place, discrimination in terms of wages still persists across the country. The President said he was for a national minimum wage, but such policy pronouncement has not translated even to a working paper from DOLE that they can discuss with workers.

“In the meantime the real value of wages continues to drop, power rates and prices of basic goods and services continue to climb, making it more burdensome for the working class. Meanwhile, the collection of exorbitant placement and other fees for OFW have not been addressed sufficiently if at all,” added the group.

In addition, the planned imposition of excise taxes on oil and the expansion of VAT coverage on goods and services under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), the group feared, will lead to further erosion of workers purchasing power especially those earning the minimum wage and below.

ILO Convention 151 ratification, the saving grace

The President, however, got a passing mark for being the first chief executive to endorse for Senate concurrence International Labor Convention 151 on Labor Relations in the Public Sector. The treaty, once ratified by the Senate, would guarantee the right to organize of public sector workers and allow them to bargain for better working conditions, among others.

Wrong war

Asked why the President failed to satisfy workers’ clamor for change during the last 365 days, the labor groups said, “It is expected when a leader quickly descends into a wrong war that only resulted to thousands of unsolved killings. While surveys have consistently showed that inflation, wages, and employment remain the top concerns of every Filipino.”

SENTRO calls on Working People to Sustain the Call to End Contractualization, Stop Authoritarian Policies

Photo by RBanares

MANILA, Philippines (May 1, 2017) – The national labor center Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Center for United and Progressive Workers), or SENTRO, calls on the working people to continue the struggle against contractualization and the precariousness of living, “sustained by the Duterte’s regime biased for the elite.”

In a rally this morning in conjunction with the 130thglobal Labor Day commemoration, the 100,000-strong SENTRO criticized the “fake news” that contractualization is over. According to SENTRO Secretary General Josua Mata, “We gave Pres. Duterte the benefit of the doubt on his promise to end the oppressive policy of labor contractualization, in hoping that Pres. Duterte will dismantle and replace the much-criticized Department Order No. 18-A.” He said their hopes were met with grim disillusionment with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello’s release of DO No. 174 last March 19, 2017.

Mata stated that DO 174 will perpetuate contractualization by: a) allowing businesses to hire workers through agencies; b) allowing cooperatives to engage in labor contracting and subcontracting; c) no longer requiring the principal employer to provide unions a copy of the service contract; and d) allowing contracting agencies to further downplay the price of labor costs—guaranteeing even lower salaries and benefits for workers across industries. “Clearly, DO 174 widely differs from what Pres. Duterte has promised,” said Mata.

SENTRO assailed the President from being only true to its promise to kill, and to bury the late dictator Marcos at the Heroes Cemetery. In a statement, SENTRO noted that in almost 365 days in Malacañang, the President’s hands are bloodied in calling on the police, and later jobless migrant workers to kill drug users. However, it failed to deliver genuine resolution of the drug problem as it allows the escape of drug traffickers like Peter Lim.

SENTRO marched from Welcome Rotonda and converged with the 10,000 marchers of NAGKAISA Coalition to push Pres. Duterte to prioritize the prohibition of all forms of contractualization by supplanting DO 174 with an Executive Order and by certifying as urgent the passage of HB4444.

Allies from human rights groups such as iDEFEND, the World March of Women, and students marched with the workers to call on all “freedom-loving Filipinos to stand up and be counted in the fight for regular and sustainable jobs, to stop the killings, block Duterte’s Death Policies – the reimposition of the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminality – and to resist moves to amend the constitution to institute “constitutional authoritarianism.” The march followed a coffin with a chick on top, a derivation from a Filipino custom, hoping that the deaths will stop immediately.

“Let us assert our basic right to a dignified and genuinely safe society—not the selective security of the privileged that preys on the massacre of the poor,” added Mata.