Tag Archives: Focus on the Global South

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

Women and Workers Outraged by SC Decision on Marcos Burial

Marcos not a hero

Women and worker activists held a noise barrage in Quezon City this evening to express their outrage over the Supreme Court’s decision to bury the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

The groups World March of Women (WMW), Sentro ng Progresibo at Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (SENTRO) and Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) have been rallying to oppose President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to bury Marcos in the hero’s cemetery.

“We shall never forget this day. The decision of the SC is a grave insult to the memory of those who died under Marcos rule,” according to Jelen Paclarin, Executive Director of the Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB). “The burial of Marcos in LNB is the death of justice – as the remains of the Dictator shall be laid in the ground, so shall what remained of hope and our faith in the justice system.” The group asserted that Marcos is not a hero, but a dictator who brought upon atrocities and suffering to the country and the Filipino people can never be called a hero.

Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, expressed that the SC decision tramples on the sacrifices of all trade unionists whose lives were taken in fighting the Marcos dictatorship. “This is another nail on the cross of democracy in the country,” added Mata.

“We fought the Marcos dictatorship fiercely and sacrificed our youth so that our children will live free from fascism,” stated Jean Enriquez, Philippine Coordinator of the WMW. “But President Duterte would rather fulfill his campaign promises to the Marcos family, which left the democratic forces with no recourse but to file petitions at the Supreme Court,” she added. They vowed to continue resisting the grave abuse of discretion by the president in ordering the Marcos burial at the heroes’ cemetery, despite the SC failing them.

“This SC decision does not represent the position of the thousands of Filipino people who have lived, experienced and understood the horrors during the Marcos dictatorship, said Judy Pasimio, Executive Director of Lilak (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights). “Our resistance to the burying of truth and that tragic part of our history will continue,” she added. The group noted that indigenous and Moro people have been severely abused during the Marcos regime.

Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Focus on the Global South, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Foundation for Media Alternatives, Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality, iDefend, and the Coalition Against Marcos Burial petitioners were part of the action.

P-Noy’s CARP/ER Legacy: Rural unrest, unfinished agrarian reform, land grabbing and landlord impunity— multisectoral groups

parctopnoy

focusweb.org photo

June 9, Quezon City – On the eve of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program’s 27th anniversary, around 450 farmers, women, labor, youth, and agrarian reform activists converged at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to collectively exact accountability from the Aquino administration mangling of the nationwide agrarian reform program. With chants loud and signs high, protesters from the Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (SARA), Kaisahan ng Maliliit na Magsasaka (KMM), KATARUNGAN, Pambansang Kaisahan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (PKMP), PARAGOS-Pilipinas, Pambansang Kongreso ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), Alliance of Progressive Labor-SENTRO, World March of Women, Ateneans for Agrarian Reform Movement (AFARM), Foodfirst Information and Action Network-Philippines (FIAN), Laban ng mga Iskolar para sa Repormang Agraryo (UP LIKHA), Peoples’ Development Institute, and Focus on the Global South ensured that their critical messages were heard outside the DAR office:

“TULOY ANG LABAN SA REPORMANG AGRARYO, KAHIT PINALPAK NG GOBYERNO!”

“PALAWAKIN ANG MGA LABAN PARA SA HUSTISYA SA LUPA!”

“KAUNLARAN NG SAKA!” “REPORMANG AGRARYO, LABAN NG BAYAN!”

Wearing white as if in a funeral, the group symbolically padlocked the inutile Department of Agrarian Reform while holding a program in front of it. Farmers from Porac and Mabalacat, Pampanga, Bulacan, Bataan, Rizal, and Hacienda Matias, Quezon –considered as agrarian hotspots in the country— lamented the systematic harassments, violations of human rights, and extrajudicial killings of farmers fighting for their lands in the face of the government’s failure to protect the farmers’ rights. With the Philippines’ anti-agriculture and anti-small farm development policies, landlords, agribusiness and corporations in collusion with corrupt DAR and other CARP-implementing agencies’ officials exploited the loopholes in CARP/ER to serve the formers’ interests.

According to the groups, incidences of land grabbing, landlord impunity, and circumventions of the law marked the 27 years of existence of CARP/ER. Wherever and whenever CARP worked, it was because of the incremental efforts, critical engagement and rights-claiming of farmer groups from below in tandem with support from other sectors from above to effectively implement the program, the protestors argued.

The groups also condemn the deliberate counter-reform tactics of the Visayan bloc, a group of landlords at the House of Representatives, that inserted anti-farmer and anti-agrarian reform provisions in House Bill 4296, which aims to extend the issuance of notices of coverage or NOCs, the initiatory step for the land acquisition and distribution process. Such provisions include exemptions of rainfed or non-irrigable lands close to national highways, increasing the retention limits for landlords and their heirs, and changing the reckoning date for retention rights of legal heirs of deceased landowners over aggregate individual landholdings from June 10, 1988 to January 1, 2015 instead.

Clearly, the landed elites in the House of Representatives are protecting their own interests—another roadblock in the full implementation of CARP. Another barrier to rural development. Another obstruction of social justice.

Enough is enough!

The future of CARP/ER appears grim: substantial headway towards the full completion of the Philippine agrarian reform program has yet to take place, five years after it was extended and reformed by the CARPER Act. This fact has been firmly borne out by how the CARP record of the Aquino government’s DAR and other CARP-implementing agencies has remained at dismal and depressing levels. That reality, as has been the outgrowth of a sustained neglect and incompetence of the current administration, an indecisive and technicality-oriented DAR leadership, an inhospitable neoliberal policy environment, and a President who cannot go beyond his class interests.

But the groups vowed to continue and intensify the fight for agrarian reform and social justice.

The movement for agrarian reform and rural development will continue to grow – as farmers, workers, women, and the youth look for other alternative avenues in the fight for equity and justice. Among them include:

  • a CARPER Audit that would assess the performance of DAR and other CARP-implementing agencies in the last five years and would validate it on the ground
  • sustained struggles to secure of land tenure for small, landless farmers, farmworkers and rural women amid land grabbing, cancellation of land titles or Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA), illegal reclassification and land use conversions;
  • promotion of alternative models of agricultural production for small farmers and food producers, of food sovereignty and sustainability of the environment;
  • protection of the rights of workers in the food industry, commercial farms, and plantations;
  • campaigns for social protection, rural development, and rural industrialization; and
  • national youth alliance for agrarian reform and rural development and “balik-farm programs”.

The groups stressed that defending and protecting agricultural lands will not only secure the land rights and lives of farmers and food producers, it will secure the nation’s food needs. Agrarian reform is everyone’s fight.

The Philippines Should Stop Being US’s Pawn and Warfront

iwd2015

Statement on International Women’s Day:

Today, over five hundred (500) women gathered early in front of the University of Sto. Tomas to mark the International Women’s Day. This was the starting point of their march towards Mendiola where women affiliated with the World March of Women (WMW)-Pilipinas demanded accountability of the highest in command of the recent tragedy in Mamasapano.

The women’s march was joined by human rights groups Amnesty International, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), labor groups such as SENTRO and Partido ng Manggagawa, all calling for peace and self-determination in Mindanao and an end to the intervention in national affairs by the United States.

“The death of transwoman Jennifer Laude in the hands of a US soldier and the death of the child Sarah Panangulon in Mamasapano, are in the same context of US wars,” stated Jean Enriquez, Philippine Coordinator of the WMW. “Olongapo murder suspect Joseph Scott Pemberton’s ship USS Peleliu ensures amphibious US presence in the Western Pacific, while the PNP SAF operation responsible for Sarah’s murder was clearly sponsored by the US war on terror,” she added.

The group underscored the economic interest of the US in Mindanao in particular, the Philippines and the region in general, as the US “pivot to Asia” strategy started in 2011, or the transfer of military resources to the region, coinciding with a Trans-Pacific Partnership Economic agreement. As a result, “women, children, the environment are considered collateral damages,” according to the WMW statement.

“Jennifer’s murder is a hate crime committed by a US soldier who enjoys the protection of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” declared the group. “Even in court, the unequal relations manifest in allowing the attendance of several US military personnel while limiting Jennifer’s side to only her immediate family and her lawyers,” said their statement.

Carrying roses to symbolize their call for peace, the women also wore pink shirts with the slogan “Pagkain, hindi Bala.” They were demanding that President Benigno Aquino III be also held accountable for his role in the tragedy, as reports clearly pointed to his direct knowledge of the operation, beginning with the appointment of suspended PNP Chief Alan Purisima and strengthened by their correspondence. “Evidently, the only consideration of this operation was the US’s desire to get Marwan and show a positive development in its war on terror, without regard for the Muslim communities that would suffer as well as the peace process that would be compromised,” stated Virgie Suarez, Chairperson, of KAISA KA.

The WMW and supporting organizations lamented that the ongoing military offensive already displaced 8,130 families, with women bearing the most of the hardships and dangers that go with the need to evacuate. Young women and children become more prone to trafficking and prostitution.

They called for a political and economic solution, not war, to resolve the problems in the area. WMW also called for an end to the VFA and all agreements that “tie the country to an unequal defense relation with the US and make the government an accomplice to the US war crimes in its unending quest for world dominance.”

The program in Mendiola ended with the women’s movement’s emblematic song “Bread and Roses” as the women leaders demanded justice for all victims of US militarism. Similar marches were conducted by WMW members in Cavite, Cebu, Davao, and Gen. Santos City.

Participating organizations included Focus on the Global South, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), LBT groups, anti-trafficking groups Action against Violence and Exploitation, Inc. (ACTVE) and CATW-AP, prostitution survivor groups Bagong Kamalayan and Buklod, migrant groups such as Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA).

Women’s organizations present were Kababaihan-Pilipinas, KAISA-KA, KAMP, the indigenous women’s group LILAK, Piglas Kababaihan, Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK),SARILAYA, Transform Asia, WomanHealth Phils., Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB), Welga ng Kababaihan, Women’s Crisis Center, Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE), and World March of Women – Pilipinas.

Women and Labor call for “Justice for ALL Fallen in Mamasapano”

fallen64

#TruthandJusticefortheFallen64+ #MoroLivesMatter

Noting the invisibility of fallen Muslims in the President’s speech last Friday, labor and women’s groups, progressive parties, other anti-war advocates, and ordinary Filipinos held a candle-lighting action at 6 this evening, at the Boy Scout Circle, Timog cor. Tomas Morato. They demanded for truth and justice for all. “This also means accountability of those in command,” according to Jean Enriquez, Philippine Coordinator of the World March of Women.

Enriquez added that “It is critical that investigations of integrity (especially by the International Monitoring Team) are made public, because whoever were at the helm of this reckless operation should account for the lost lives, not only of the elite police force but for the Moro people, including a 5-year-old child.” She added that to date, media reports of more than 500 who evacuated for fear, with the female and the young among them rendered vulnerable to trafficking.

Labor groups were at the forefront also of the call for peace in Mindanao, as politicians fan the flamesMuslim hatred and wholesale MILF condemnation. “With the President focusing on the 44 PNP-SAF as victims, the Moros are immediately relegated to perpetrators, preemptive of an independent investigation,” according to Josua Mata, Secretary-General of SENTRO.“In the same manner, politicians such as former Pres. Joseph Estrada, former Interior Sec. Rafael Alunan, Sen. Alan Cayetano, Sen. Bongbong Marcos, former Cong. Teddy Locsin, are fanning the flames of Muslim-hatred, wholesale anti-MILF sentiment, driving netizens to call for all-out war. It is critical to turn the country’s rage and grieving to greater understanding, and not back down in the peace process.”

Herbert Docena, one of the organizers and member of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) reminded the public of the context of this fragile peace,carelessly broken by the operation: “It was the Philippine state that immorally, if not illegally, effectively annexed Morolandia without the Moros’ consent in the early 20th century, backed foreign and local corporations in taking over thousands of hectares of Mindanao lands for their plantations or mining projects, drove hundreds of thousands of landless families from Luzon and the Visayan to settle in the ‘uninhabited’ lands of Mindanao to quell agrarian unrest in the North, and unleashed terror when the displaced people began fighting back.”

The group reminded the public that the ruling oligarchs who dominate the Philippine state – “they who have benefited the most from plundering Mindanao’s resources and subjugating both Moros and Christian landless peoples” – have succeeded in depicting the history of Mindanao as anything else but a history of settler-colonialism, in portraying themselves as other than colonizers, and in casting the Moros and other indigenous peoples as other than anti-colonial movements fighting for self-determination.

Holding a tarpaulin of 69+ faces, with names of the slain Moros after the faces of the 44 PNP-SAF members, the group demanded that the long road to peace be continued.

Organizers: Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), Bukluran Ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), World March of Women (WMW) – Pilipinas, Stop the War Coalition, PLM – PartidoLakasngMasa, Friends of the Bangsamoro, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Focus on the Global South, Philwomen on the ASEAN, and other orgs and individuals