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24/11

Philippines' social movements slam APEC

Apec’s thrust of global economic integration and the economic policies that underpin it—trade and investment liberalization, economic deregulation, and the privatization of public assets and utilities—have caused so much misery among the world’s peoples

While the Philippine government has not failed to continue harping on its pompous hosting of the recently-concluded Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), most Filipinos will remember it not on the way their government lavished its guests with its overeager hospitality but on how it could spend 10 billion pesos (199.6 million euro) on such occasion while it looks helpless in addressing the daily suffering of its people.

"Could that amount better be spent on building more hospitals and schools or giving us decent livelihood?," asked a street vendor who was one of those who were rounded up by government officials to clean the streets of  Manila of its unpleasant sights during the meeting. The preparation included walling-off of slum areas to hide them from the roads and removing of homeless families and street children from the streets where APEC delegates would pass.

TWHA Philippine partner Gabriela tweeted: 10 billion pesos to host the APEC Meeting in a country where 1 in every 4 women live in hunger, utter poverty.

Social movements which include labor and health groups, women and religious organizations, students, farmers, indigenous groups and international activist groups mounted huge demonstrations while the leaders of APEC's 21 member economies, including US President Barack Obama, were meeting to advance economic growth through free trade and investment and services liberalization.

The protesters have condemned the neoliberal globalization being promoted by APEC saying that it only benefits the interests of transnational companies while subjecting people around the world to worsening poverty and income inequality.

For the multisectoral alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance): 

 "Apec’s thrust of global economic integration and the economic policies that underpin it—trade and investment liberalization, economic deregulation, and the privatization of public assets and utilities—have caused so much misery among the world’s peoples. Somehow, opening up the world’s economies to the full vagaries of the mythical free market has accelerated the so-called race to the bottom, with countries trying to outdo each other in providing the lowliest-paid laborers, cheapest raw materials and semi-manufactured goods, and most profitable markets for the benefit of the rich transnational corporations and their local partners that profit highly from such a system."

Another TWHA Philippine partner, Ibon Foundation said that APEC is an exclusive organization that for the last 26 years has been promoting the most exclusionary economic policies the world has ever seen. It highlighted what it believes as the devastating results since the Philippines became an APEC member:  

• Agriculture’s share in the gross domestic product, between 1996 and 2014, shrank by more than half, from 21.1% to 10%; its share in total employment likewise shrank for the same period from 28% to 26.9%.

• Manufacturing's share of the GDP shrank from 25.3% in 1996 to 23.3% in 2014; its share of employment dipped from 9.9% to 8.3%. Over 16 years, 72,777 factories shut down, most of them small. In 1996, 97,841 firms employed 1.25 million workers, by 2012 only 25,064 firms in operation employed 1.19 million.

• The wealth created by APEC only benefits big corporations. The net income of the 1,000 top corporations in the Philippines  increased 4 times from P25 billion in 1996 to P1 trillion in 2013. This year the richest 25 Filipinos are worth $65.4 billion, equivalent to the aggregate incomes of the 26 million poorest Filipinos.

• Ordinary Filipinos continue to suffer from stagnant real wages, unemployment and underemployment, landlessness and the rising costs of education, health care, transport, water and electricity.#

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