Social and Economic Reforms

From Kilab Multimedia

IBON Features – The Korean-owned Shin Sun Tropical Fruit Corp. in Brgy. San Miguel, Compostella Valley has approximately 287 agency-hired banana workers employed under ECQ Serve Human Resources for different jobs such as harvesting, fruit care, plantation, and delivering services. Most of the workers had been working for the company for two to seven years and should have been regularized already as per the Labor Code. Instead, the banana workers remained contractuals under the aforesaid labor agency. For several years, ECQ has been engaged in various forms of unfair labor practices including non-compliance with mandated benefits and the legislated minimum wage rate in Region XI.

Violation of labor rights

The legislated minimum wage rate in the Davao Region which covers Compostela Valley is Php307 but most Shin Sun workers received lower. The latest basic pay in the agency is pegged at Php291 pesos. This measly compensation diminished further through salary deductions for supplies, work tools, and mandated contributions for welfare benefits. With the total deductions, the workers actually received only Php135 daily.

Even their 13th month pay which is supposed to be given in full as mandated by law was deducted by the agency. Later on, the Shin Sun workers also found out that their agency has never remitted their contributions for SSS, PhilHealth, and Pag-ibig.

Recognizing the urgent need to end the unfair labor practices in Shin Sun, the banana workers unionized and urged the Regional Office XI of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to conduct a joint assessment both in Shin Sun and ECQ to evaluate the compliance of both parties with labor laws. The assessment was conducted on February 23, 2017 and Labor Laws Compliance Officers noted the following:

For Shin Sun:

  • Principal gives instruction to workers through ECQ;
  • Supervisors of the principal work alongside with the supervisor of ECQ
  • Principal has power to transfer assignments of workers through ECQ
  • Principal provides personal protective equipment to workers (apron, hairnet, gloves, boots); and
  • Principal provides work premises including machineries, tools, and chemicals.

For ECQ:

  • Agency workers received instructions from the principal’s supervisor;
  • Agency supervisors give schedules and assignment based on principal’s instruction;
  • Workers use principal’s equipment, tools and machineries;
  • Agency workers work alongside with the principal’s workers;
  • Agency workers are required to comply with principal’s policies, rules and regulations; and
  • Agency workers perform tasks at principal’s work premises.

This assessment exposed the illegal contracting scheme utilized by the principal company to circumvent the law on regularization and remove the venue for the banana workers to demand better wages and assert their rights. The DOLE thus declared that the ECQ Serve Human Resources was engaged in the prohibited practice of Labor-only Contracting (LOC) with respect to the workers deployed in Shin Sun. The labor department ordered the immediate absorption of the 287 workers previously employed under the agency.

On the contrary, however, the management illegally terminated the contract of 81 long-time contractual banana workers, including thirty-four 34 unionized workers who demanded for the inspection. The termination order was issued without due notice to the workers. The management only notified the workers after the retrenchment attributing it to “overmanning”. The workers, however, disproved this claim and argued that the principal actually hired new contractuals through another manpower agency Human Pros to replace the workers who have been retrenched.

Following these events, the Shin Sun farm workers went on strike last month. The retrenched thirty-four workers were organized under Shin Sun Workers’ Union-National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno (SSWU-NAFLU-KMU). It was the first in the country since the implementation of the Labor department’s DO No. 174.

The bane that is DO 174

Workers demand to put an end to the prevalence of jobs that are insecure, low-paying, and lacking in benefits but deliver superprofits for capitalists. President Rodrigo Duterte meanwhile promised to end contractualization in his campaign when he ran for presidency during the national elections in 2016. In one of his speeches, he boldly told employers that he is not open to any compromise with them saying that the said policy is anti-people and must be repealed absolutely.

Prior to his inauguration as head of the Republic, President Duterte gave the incoming Labor secretary a marching order to work on ending contractualization. Instead, however, the department in connivance with the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and the Philippine Association of Local Service Contractors, signed and implemented a “win-win solution” branded as DO No. 174 that is merely an affirmation of the anti-worker practice of contractualization.

Similar to past guidelines issued by DOLE on permissible subcontracting, the order purportedly intends to ban labor-only contracting and ensure the regularization of workers in third-party manpower agencies. History has proven, however, that this ban is hollow as contractual labor arrangements and violation of labor rights as in the case of the banana workers still proliferate across all economic sectors in the country.

Due to lack of sufficient employment opportunities in the country, tens of millions of Filipino workers and peasants are left with no option but to enter the country’s reserve army of labor. Swelling unemployment intensifies competition for jobs within the reserve army of labor, hence contractualization thrives. This scheme deprives workers of their rights to bargain for higher wages and better terms of employment, and also forces them to accept unreasonable wages and comply with unfair contractual labor arrangements.

The latest available data from June 2014 indicates that over one out of three (34.5%) rank and file workers are employed under non-regular employment contracts. Based on the 2013/2014 Integrated Survey on Labor and Employment (ISLE), the rate of contractual employment is highest in the construction sector (59%), agriculture, forestry and fishing sector (42%), and in administrative support activities (40%).

This points to the urgency of real measures by the government to address the problem of pro-business yet anti-worker contractualization, and the absence of a long-term plan for national industrialization which is crucial in creating stable jobs for the Filipino people–IBON Features

 

#CASERGoalsIcons

To promote deeper public discussion and greater awareness on needed policy reforms for genuine development and peace in the country, IBON launched its #CASERGoals campaign today.

#CASERGoals is IBON’s attempt to involve and educate the public on these key reforms as the Duterte administration and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) hammer out a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER). The two sides are set to negotiate for the fifth time later this month in The Netherlands to end almost five decades of insurgency in the country.

IBON aims to use #CASERGoals as its public information, education and advocacy campaign to advance progressive, pro-people, and nationalist economics as among the necessary foundations of a CASER that government and the NDFP are trying to forge.

Addressing the chronic lack of sustainable and productive jobs and livelihoods for millions of Filipinos should be one of the primary goals of a CASER, IBON stressed. This could only be achieved through building strategic local industries under national industrialization and free land distribution and state support as part of genuine agrarian reform. Reversing decades of liberalization of foreign trade and investment will also help create a favorable environment to revitalize key sectors like manufacturing and agriculture to generate economic opportunities for the people, the group said,.

Another goal should be to provide the basic economic and social services the people need to ensure their decent living and encourage their productivity, added IBON. The group said that among others, this entails rethinking the privatization of infrastructure development such as under public-private partnership (PPP).

The group also said that recent people’s actions such as the occupation by the urban poor of idle public housing units and the occupation by farmers and farmworkers of lands grabbed from them by haciendas and plantations highlight the urgency and legitimacy of demands to review established economic programs and policies and institute meaningful reforms.

The group said that the ongoing peace talks gives an opportune time to engage policy makers and the public on these urgent and long-term social and economic reforms that will finally address the underdevelopment, poverty, and injustice that feed the armed conflict. But IBON pointed out that the campaign for reforms should also be pursued beyond the peace talks through people’s struggles including constant engagement with government to influence policy making and decisions.

To kickoff its #CASERGoals campaign, IBON organized a media forum today with panels from both the Duterte administration and the NDFP negotiating teams to discuss the current proposals on a CASER. The proposed agreement would be the main agenda in the upcoming fifth round of formal peace talks on May 26 to June 2. ###

#CASERGoals

The fifth round of peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Phililppines (NDFP) is drawing near. As a socio-economic research institution, IBON observes the historic peace talks under the Duterte administration with interest especially with the start of negotiations on a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

IBON believes in the importance of increasing public awareness on the economic and social reforms being discussed in the peace negotiations. The institution intends to help build the constituency for reforms that will benefit millions of Filipinos, especially the poor majority who are denied their economic, social and cultural rights.

In this light, IBON humbly invites media practitioners and campaigners to “#CASERGoals: National Development, Social Justice, and Peace”, a media forum that will tackle the CASER and the nation’s search for true development. Representatives of the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels will be asked to tackle their proposed social and economic reforms which IBON will analyze comparatively.

The #CASERGoals media forum will be on May 22, 2017 at 10 o’clock in the morning at the Coconut House located at the QC  Memorial Circle. 

finalNMW

finalNMW

“… Raising wages – for instance, initially with a Php125 across-the-board increase in the minimum wage and then working towards a Php750 national minimum wage – and ensuring that workers receive this has a wide range of gains. This will improve the welfare of some 10 million families with main income from wages, have spillover effects where the families spend their increased purchasing power such as in the informal sector, expand domestic demand, and drive economic growth. This needs to be complemented by ensuring that workers receive all their due benefits aside from putting an end to contractualization. Wages are unfortunately seen as just a necessary evil that should be kept as low as possible in the name of competitiveness.” Change Underway? 2016 Yearend Birdtalk

From Arkibong Bayan

The land-to-the-tiller clamour mounts. This, amid the recent spate of farmers’ killings and other forms of military attacks against peasant communities nationwide. These human rights violations have escalated even after both panels of the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have acknowledged in the on-going peace talks the country’s agrarian problem and the imperative of free land distribution.

Indeed, breaking land monopolies remains to be a grim challenge. The fierce opposition from powers-that-be to putting a stop to land use conversion regardless of its negative impact on production and food security is a case in point.

Failed land reform. A moratorium on land use conversion can provide not only respite to farmers who have either been already displaced or whose livelihoods stand to be interrupted. It can also be a first step in securing arable land that should be used to produce crops for the nation’s food and industry needs.

Land monopoly persists. Many of the largest haciendas remain intact because land reform programs and laws such as the Presidential Decree No. 27, Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), National Tourism Act of 2009 and Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act, have allowed landowners to skirt land distribution, expand their land ownership and even convert lands to non-agricultural use.

Government has not ascertained the real extent of success of the land reform program that concluded in 2014. Land acquisition distribution (LAD) has been reported to be 88% accomplished with 4.9 million hectares supposedly distributed to 2.4 million farmer beneficiaries. Yet former agrarian reform secretary Virgilio delos Reyes himself admitted that the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)’s data “has no base”, thus it lacks basis to verify how much of the land are now actually in the hands of farmer beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, thousands of hectares of lands are reported to have been reconcentrated to their original owners – old-rich families controlling large haciendas who have diversified into real estate development, energy, mining and telecommunications, among other businesses. Philippine oligarchs led by the country’s billionaires such as Henry Sy, the Zobel-Ayalas, the Roxases, the Lopezes, the Yulos, Cojuangco of Negros Islands, the Cojuangco-Aquinos of Central Luzon, the Floirendos, and the Consunjis, among others, have taken advantage of various land laws to gain or regain control over vast tracts of land.

Rampant LUC. DAR records show that 98,939 hectares of land were approved for conversion from 1988 to 2016, while 120,381 hectares were approved for exemption from land reform coverage for the same period. Yet according to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), an average of 165,000 hectares of irrigated prime agricultural lands are converted to other uses annually.

Varying data and evidence from the ground show that there have been illegal conversions and correspondingly, violations of social and economic rights of farming and fishing communities affected by such conversions. DAR consultant Atty. Jobert Pahilga disclosed that one such case of illegally converted land is the sprawling 8,650 hectares Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas which extends to Bgy. Patungan (now Bgy Sta. Mercedes) in Maragondon, Cavite.

Prior to conversion, some 10,000 Hacienda Looc farmers made productive coconut, mango and various fruit-bearing trees alongside farms planted to rice and corn. Maragondon folk, numbering more than 600 families mostly in fishing, also planted rice and banana in nearby kaingin farms.

In 1994, the Philippine government through its Asset Privatization Trust (APT) sold the entire 8,650 hectares of Hacienda Looc to billionaire Henry Sy’s Manila Southcoast Development Corporation (MSDC), which covered the 5,303 hectares already distributed to farmers and fishermen under CARP. To make way for the conversion, armed state and private security forces displaced the tillers and put their livelihoods in uncertainty. But farmers stood their ground and sought the Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA) to aid them in their legal battle.

In 2013, farmer beneficiaries that continued to assert their rights to the hacienda filed a case at the DAR against the SM Investment Corporation, SM Land Corporation, and Costa de Hamilo Inc. of Sy for the unauthorized conversion of some 5,800 hectares in the said hacienda. Pahilga said that DAR only ordered conversion for 94 hectares of land while the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) gave environmental clearance certificate for the development of only 411 hectares.

The 5,800 hectares that the farmers alleged to have been illegally converted by Henry Sy’s corporations cover the famous tourist destination in Hamilo Coast, which includes 13 natural coves inside the contested Hacienda Looc. Hamilo Coast is being marketed as a seaside residential and leisure property.

Many Special Economic Zones (SEZs) were also former haciendas. For example, large portions of the 7,100-hectare disputed Hacienda Yulo have been converted to the existing Laguna Technopark, Greenfield Estates and Nuvali of the Ayala-Zobel clan and the First Philippine Industrial Park of the Lopezes. Meanwhile, the Luisita Industrial Estate is part of the disputed 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita, which was converted by the Cojuangco-Aquino family. The Angara family in Aurora and Quezon established the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (Apeco) through Republic Act (RA) 10083, which covers about 13,000 hectares of agricultural lands, forested areas in public domain, and thriving coastal areas.

The Ayalas through their real estate development arm Ayala Land, Inc. lead the business of real estate development. Aside from their vast haciendas, they have an accumulated land bank of 8,453 hectares across the country. On the other hand, SM Prime Holdings of Henry Sy has a land bank of about 5,900 hectares of prime lands. These big family corporations dominated the top 50 Philippine corporations in 2012, also indicating that real estate development is the lucrative business in an economy still characterized by land monopoly despite four decades of land reform implementation.

Blocked. Late last year, the DAR led by peasant leader and former Anakpawis party list representative Secretary Rafael Mariano proposed a two-year moratorium on land use conversions and applications for exemption from coverage and processing thereof.

The move met strong opposition from the socioeconomic planning, finance, trade and budget secretaries and the Vice President no less. According to them, a moratorium on land use conversion will hinder jobs creation and poverty alleviation.

Consequently, exemptions were inserted in the fourth draft of the executive order (EO). To be exempted now from the LUC moratorium are energy development projects under the Department of Energy; housing projects under the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council; economic zone development projects under the Philippine Economic Zone Authority; and tourism development projects under the Department of Tourism. However, these huge, business-driven projects are exactly the purposes for which many of the applications for LUC have been approved.

The rabid business-biased defense of the administration’s key officials affirms the continuing domination of profit-oriented neoliberal thinking in the country’s economy and politics.

The DAR has also reportedly revoked the reclassification of and marked for distribution some 700 has of the iconic Hacienda Luisita’s Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) and 384 has sold to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC). Upholding this and starting free land distribution in the controversial Cojuangco-Aquino landholding can signal the breaking of land monopolies on a nationwide scale. But Hacienda Luisita Incorporated (HLI) and its partners have appealed against the revocation, partly showing how large private landholdings could comprise a huge percent of the LAD.

Genuine land reform challenge. The ongoing peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the NDFP is set to tackle the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Rights (CASER), which includes the implementation of genuine agrarian reform as a necessary first step in addressing the root causes of pervasive poverty especially in the rural areas.

During the third round of the peace talks, both the Philippine government and the NDFP agreed that land monopoly shall be broken up and that safeguards against the reconcentration of lands and recurrence of exploitative relations between farmers and corporate agribusiness or landowners shall be instituted. Agricultural lands under the NDFP CASER refer to lands that are devoted to agricultural production and such other uses connected with agriculture such as cattle and livestock farms, aquaculture, including foreshore, pasture farms, and lands that are suitable for agriculture.

Meanwhile, farmers’ groups have vowed to sustain their concerted action pressing for genuine agrarian reform.

The Duterte government, which strives to uphold its pro-poor stance, is faced with the choice of either heeding Filipino peasants’ call or turning its back in favor of powerful landlord and comprador interests.

 

Photo from Reuters

By Glenis Balangue

A day before Earth Day, technology giant Apple made a bold claim. Blamed time and again for its role in sustaining the highly destructive mining industry, Apple said it plans to stop using minerals and metals for its famed iPhones and Macs. In its 2017 Environmental Responsibility Report, Apple said that to stop mining the Earth, the firm is looking at just using recycled materials from its older products.

There’s only one problem. Apple admits it still does not know how to go about it. The statement is thus nothing more than a feel-good PR from a global firm that has a controversial supply chain – from blacklisted military-controlled mining sites in Myanmar to sweatshops in China – just in time for Earth Day.

While some global giants that profit from mining resort to publicity stunt, dealing with the awful ill effects to the people and environment of a massive industry that digs up lands and forests for precious minerals, and dumps toxic wastes, is an urgent issue for many local communities.

This is the story of mining communities researched by IBON in the towns of Sipalay in Negros Occidental, Sta. Cruz in Zambales, Macarthur in Leyte, and Kasibu in Nueva Vizcaya.

Forests, farmlands destroyed

 Barangay San Jose in Sipalay City in Negros Occidental has been dubbed as a mining town because it hosts one of the biggest mining operations, mainly copper, in the country since the 1950s. The barangay stands as a testament to the irreversible environmental damage that wanton mining brings. Hectares of productive farmlands were lost when these were turned into the mine tailings pond of the Maricalum Mining Corp. The firm had three tailings dam failures from1982-1996 that displaced more than a thousand farmers and fisherfolk. Some of them eventually came back and tried to eke out a living through swidden (kaingin) farming on the mountainside and charcoal making. Many also migrated to urban areas to find work as domestic help or as construction workers.

In Sta. Cruz, Zambales, some 20 hectares of farmlands in Barangay Lomboy were entirely covered in red mud from nickel mining operations at the height of Typhoon Labuyo in August 2013. Residents also reported that 30 more farm lots in other barangays were affected by siltation from mining operations in the mountains. But even during non-typhoon season, the rice fields are regularly covered with a layer of red silt. In Barangay Bolitoc, around 10 hectares of farms, fishponds and saltponds were converted into a stockpile of the mining companies.

Some 500 hectares of land planted with citrus trees in Barangay Didipio, Kasibu in Nueva Vizcaya were destroyed as Australian mining giant OceanaGold Philippines built its open pit gold mine. Farms suffer from lack of water for irrigation. More than 30 hectares of farmland are affected by the declining water level of the Surong-Camgat river system while around five hectares have totally dried up. Harvest has also gone down.

In Barangay Pongon in Macarthur, Leyte, Chinese firm Nicua Corporation mined some 70 hectares previously planted to rice, aside from another nine hectares in two other villages. Due to the loss of the nutrient-rich topsoil, waterlogging, as well as oil and fuel spills on the rice farms, affected crops did not grow well in the areas near the mining sites.

Aside from destroying farmlands, mining firms also denude forests to make way for their operations. In Sta. Cruz, for instance, the mountains are now bare from the timber cutting of mining companies. Bamboo thickets, a source of bamboo shoots sold for additional income or used for food, are covered in reddish mud. In Didipio as well as Sta. Cruz, mining companies are prohibiting the locals from gathering firewood, food, medicines, and other forest-based products from the forests within their concession areas.

Water resources poisoned

Meanwhile, bodies of water have compromised fishery-based livelihood and residents’ access to clean and safe water such as in Barangay San Jose in Sipalay. Residents there could no longer catch tilapia from streams near their farms and houses due to contamination that has already resulted in several cases of fishkill. Incidents of fishkills as a result of contamination from magnetite mining were also reported in Macarthur, Leyte. In Barangay Didipio, locals no longer catch any fish when they use to get 10 to 20 kilograms of fish everyday. Fishing used to provide extra income and food for these communities.

Communities blame mining operations for the changes in the bodies of water in their town. Those living near the riverbanks have observed that the river has become shallower due to heavy siltation from soil, which flows downstream especially during the rainy season. Those living in the coastal areas are not free from siltation either. Fisher folk who live along the coastline of Barangay Pagatpat in Sta. Cruz, for example, suffer from a thick layer of reddish mud that has settled in the coral reef. Heavy siltation destroys the areas where fish lay eggs and hatch.

People’s health harmed

 Aside from water and soil pollution and contamination, air pollution is also a major concern for mining-affected communities. In Barangay San Jose, a high percentage of households reported upper respiratory illnesses or symptoms such as colds and coughs, which may have been aggravated by dust from the mining’s waste dump. This may also be the result of their livelihood, charcoal-making, which entails workers to work day and night while being exposed to soot, fumes and heat for several days.

In Sta. Cruz, Zambales, dust from the hauling trucks has also posed a big health problem to residents located close to the roads that mining companies use and those residing near the stockpiles. Those who live close to the road inhale dusts from the hauling trucks. People who wade or bathe in the silted rivers and streams experience rashes and itchiness.

Urgent reforms

 These are some of the pressing environmental, economic and health issues that communities with large-scale mining operations face. The country does not have to wait for Apple to find a way on how to recycle for its iPhone to undertake urgent reforms that will protect the communities and will stop further damage from the mining of the country’s mineral resources.

President Duterte’s appointment of staunch anti-mining advocate Gina Lopez as Environment Secretary has been a positive development overall. But her efforts to ban destructive mining have been relentlessly countered by a strong pro-mining lobby, with apparent backing from Cabinet officials with ties to the controversial industry.

Despite this challenge, Duterte’s stated commitment to regulate mining, a strong Environment chief, plus an ongoing peace talks with revolutionary groups that include among others a deal, i.e. Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) that intend to address a host of key social and economic issues including mining, all give an extraordinary opportunity to push for meaningful policy reforms.

The industry needs to be developed it within the framework of national industrialization and anchored on the principles of social justice, respect for people’s rights and welfare, environmental conservation and defense of national sovereignty and patrimony.

There is a necessity for the government to function as a genuine regulatory body for mining operations to protect the environment and to ensure proper compensation for damages. The government has a key role in drawing up a national industrialization program wherein mineral resources are processed in the country and become the raw materials for the building of strategic domestic industries such as steel and petrochemicals.

The prohibition of mining operations in critical areas such as small island ecosystem, coastal, primary forests and watersheds should also be ensured. Likewise, rules that govern the proper disposition of mine waste and its implementation should be included. There should be a practice of democratic consultation among the communities and stakeholders in all mining activities to be undertaken. ###

From Bicol Today

​As the debate on contractualization continues towards Labor Day,​ research group IBON stated that the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE)’s Department Order (DO) 174 is only an affirmation of the anti-worker practice of contractualization. Despite workers’ demand and President Duterte’s marching order to end all forms of contractualization, the DOLE’s promotion of the “win-win solution” proposed by the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), which simply aims to regulate contractualization, will not stop violations of workers’ rights.

DO 174 lists prohibitions of various employers’ schemes that undermine workers’ right to security of tenure. These include farming out work to a “cabo” or non-regular proxy, contracting through agencies, repeating short-term hiring, and requiring workers to sign labor rights waiver documents. DO 174 also supposedly stresses on workers’ right to labor standards, self -organization, collective bargaining, and security of tenure thereby prohibiting labor only-contracting.

The new DO, however, simply updates the implementation of Article 106 of the Labor Code and rehashes most of the provisions stipulated in DO 18-A of 2011 which both merely seek to regulate contractualization. The amendments merely aim to increase contractors’ registration fee from Php25,000 to Php100,000; shorten the validity of the certificate of registration of contractors and subcontractors from three to two years; and increase substantial capital (needed capitalization) from Php3 million to Php5 million.

The DO also purportedly intends to ensure the regularization of workers upon hiring by third-party manpower agencies and granting them the same rights and benefits as regular employees, including the right to unionize. But rather than repealing existing laws on contracting and subcontracting, the DOLE ordered the strict implementation of these laws thereby affirming the practice of contractualizaton. To ensure this, it will create additional plantilla positions to fortify the existing pool of Labor Laws Compliance Officers, create regional inspection teams and review the enforcement framework of labor law standards.

IBON said that these measures only legitimize the removal of employer-employee relationship between outsourced employees and principal companies. The order absolves principal companies from directly giving the workers their due and leaves the task of respecting labor rights to the agencies. Workers’ rights to just wages and earned benefits and to form unions, negotiate for better work conditions, and to strike are also removed, observed IBON.

Workers seek an end to the prevalence of jobs that are insecure, low-paying, and lacking in benefits, through which capitalists reap profit. According to IBON, however, latest available data from June 2014 shows that one of three (34.5%) rank and file workers are non-regular. IBON also estimates that 63% or 24.4 million Filipinos are non-regular, agency-hired, informal sector or unpaid family workers who are in low-paying and insecure work with poor or no benefits as of 2016. This the new DO as well as the law that it extends do not address, IBON noted. The group underscored the need for more comprehensive economic reforms to end not only contractualization but the country’s cheap labor and anti-union policy that attract investors to do business at the expense of workers and their rights.

Photo by Bulatlat

IBON today urged the Duterte administration to ensure the distribution of the Hacienda Luisita and provide support services to farmers to show its resolve in firming up free land distribution as the basic principle of genuine agrarian reform during the last round of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The group said that effectively dismantling the Hacienda Luisita land monopoly should be a top priority and could be implemented even prior to the signing of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), one of the key agreements being negotiated by the government and the NDFP as they seek to end almost five decades of armed conflict mainly caused by widespread rural landlessness.

 

The group stressed that such urgency is justified considering the long delay in and attempts under the previous Aquino administration to undermine the distribution of Hacienda Luisita, which have unjustly deprived its tillers of effective control over the vast sugarcane estate even after the Supreme Court (SC) has already ruled in their favor. IBON cited the controversial “tambiolo” (raffle) system that resulted in the displacement of long-time tillers in Hacienda Luisita from the land distribution ordered by the SC in 2012 and the disqualification of farmers as beneficiaries of land distribution for refusing to sign the contract on amortization. The group also pointed out that portions of Hacienda Luisita have been exempted from land acquisition and distribution in favor of the Cojuangco family that has controlled the estate for decades even when these have not been really developed for their stated industrial use.

 

The problematic land reform program of past administrations and the need for a sustained state support for the beneficiaries are further highlighted by reports being verified by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) that as much as 95% of the 6,212 farmer beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita have leased their lands for Php7,000 to 10,000 a year while settling for meager wages, IBON said.

 

Breaking up large landholdings for free distribution to farmers and providing sufficient and reliable support services to ensure that they keep and make the lands productive is seen as among the necessary first steps towards achieving peace. IBON pointed out that the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita has become the symbol of peasant landlessness and of monopoly control by powerful landlords over land and resources in the country.

 

IBON also reminded President Duterte that land reform and agricultural support services are among his campaign promises. Fulfilling this will not just address the urgent needs of Filipino farmers but could also boost the CASER discussion and overall peace negotiations with the NDFP.

 

The group added that since there is already the SC decision as well as ongoing efforts by the DAR to reverse anti-farmer policies previously carried out in the sugarcane estate, the actual transfer of effective control over the Hacienda Luisita to the farmers could be already implemented with strong support from the President even as the CASER has not been finalized yet. But IBON stressed that finalizing a CASER and its provisions for a genuine agrarian reform and rural development program is important to ensure that the distribution of Hacienda Luisita and other large landholdings in the country will be sustained and will truly benefit the farmers. ###

 

 

From Top5

https://www.facebook.com/IbonFoundation/videos/10158456926535162/

Concrete steps to social and economic reforms become ever more urgent amid raging, widespread landlessness, poverty, joblessness and inequality. It is free land distribution, a strong domestic industry and expanded social services that will certainly benefit millions of Filipinos.

Poor Farmersa

 

Research group IBON today said that the “firmed up” agreement of government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on distribution of land for free as the basic principle of genuine agrarian reform is a positive step towards the forging of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and ending the decades-old civil war in the countryside that is mainly fueled by landlessness.

In the Joint Statement released today by the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) as they closed their fourth round of formal peace talks in Noordwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands, both parties also agreed to accelerate the process of concluding a CASER.

IBON said that the two sides concurring on free land distribution as the basic principle of genuine agrarian reform is encouraging because it directly goes to the crux of the armed conflict. The group added that agrarian reform and rural development, together with national industrialization and economic development, is the foundation of a CASER that the GRP and NDFP panels are trying to hammer out through the peace talks.

Land amortization is one of the major problems that confront most agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) under government’s flawed land distribution program, IBON stressed. Citing data from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), the research group pointed out that 75% of ARBs are not able to pay land amortization and only 9.7% are already fully-paid.

IBON added that the issue of land amortization is aggravated by government’s continuing failure to actually distribute lands to the farmers. Based on data from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) balance under government’s land reform program is pegged at 621,085 hectares (has.) of which 93% are private agricultural lands, as of January 2016.

This as many large haciendas and other land monopolies of powerful landlords and big oligarchs remain intact. In an earlier statement, the group said that 80% of agricultural lands are controlled by just one third of all landowners.

IBON urged the GRP and NDFP to build on the momentum of the fourth round of peace talks to finalize a CASER that will pave the way for the implementation of free land distribution under a genuine agrarian reform and rural development program. ###

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