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Advocacy group Water for the People Network (WPN) said that the decision by the International Arbitration Court (IAC) requiring the Philippine government to pay Php3.4 billion to Maynilad Water Services, Inc. reflects the corporate bias of international mechanisms for resolving disputes between governments and private corporations. The Philippine government should learn from the public’s negative experience under 20 years of water privatization and rescind onerous and business-biased concession agreements (CAs) that undermine public welfare, said WPN.

The IAC’s recent ruling on the Php3.4 billion compensation to Maynilad is supposedly for the losses the latter incurred between March 11, 2015 to August 16, 2016 after the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System – Regulatory Office (MWSS – RO) denied the water firm’s petition for a rate hike. The IAC also decided that Maynilad may recover from the government its losses from September 1, 2016 onwards. Government could be compelled to pay more should Maynilad further seek the IAC’s ruling to reverse the MWSS’s continued deferment of implementing the IAC’s previous decision favoring Maynilad’s petition for a Php3.06 rate increase. This covers purported monthly losses of Php180 million to 200 million from January 1, 2013 to March 10, 2015.

WPN said that under the CA, rate rebasing or adjustment of basic water rates is determined every five years so that water firms can recover their expenses and ensure their rate of profit. In 2013, Maynilad and Manila Water Service, Inc. sought rate rebasing increases of Php8.58 and Php5.83, respectively, for the 2013-2018 period. However, the MWSS-RO rejected the rate hike petitions due to mounting public pressure after it was revealed that the water firms were passing on questionable charges to consumers, such as corporate income tax recovery, donations, advertising, rest and recreation, the cost of future projects, etc.

According to WPN, corporate income tax recovery comprised 31% and 26% of the rates charged to consumers by Manila Water and Maynilad, respectively, in 2008 and 2012. The group noted however that the CAs with the two firms did not mention corporate income tax as part of the “Philippine business taxes” listed among the recoverable expenses entitled to them. Both corporations should thus give back to consumers the amount of corporate income taxes collected from 2007 to 2012, said WPN.

The IAC decision, said the group, is detrimental to the millions of Filipino consumers who have been increasingly burdened by expensive water rates since water privatization in 1997. Water rates have since gone up by 973% for Manila Water and 583% for Maynilad. Filipino consumers are even made to shoulder millions-of pesos of IAC arbitral costs for the cases filed by the private concessionaires.

WPN stated that the latest decision of the IAC further proves that the CA undermines public welfare and interest, and should be rescinded immediately in line with a strategic reversal of the MWSS’ 20 years of privatization. The group said that instead of paying billions to Maynilad, government should start putting capital into regaining control of water service that is genuinely publicly accessible and affordable.(end)

Photo from GMA News

A network of teachers for transformative education said that the signing of the free tuition bill into law is a welcome major first step in realizing education as a right and should be ensured by government  as a priority. Improving and expanding the public university system is however as important, said the group, as is developing a nationalist, scientific and mass-oriented curriculum.

The Educators Forum for Development (EFD) said that President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of Republic Act 10931 or “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act” is a positive and significant start towards achieving every Filipino’s right to education. The law grants full tuition subsidy for students in State and local universities and colleges as well as state-run technical-vocational schools.

The EFD underscored however that to genuinely ensure education for all and facilitate the schooling of millions of out-of-school youth, government is further challenged to improve the quality of education and increase the number and capacity of public higher education institutions. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) 2016 Annual  Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS), there are almost four million out-of-school children and youth, of which 87% are aged 16-24 or of tertiary education age. As of 2014, a total of 675 government higher education institutions including sattelite campuses nationwide were outnumbered by 2,374 private higher education institutions.

The group also said that improving and expanding the public university system is the best defense against the privatization of education, which commodifies a basic right and marginalizes no and low-income families. It can also help guard against  the unnecessary flow into private profits of people’s money, which should otherwise be allocated precisely to strengthening the public university system. EFD said that strengthening the public university system means increasing teachers’ capacities, employing quality teachers’ materials, publications and teaching methods, and ensuring adequate budget for free tertiary education in SUCs.

EFD said that lastly, but most essential, is the development of a progressive, patriotic and pro-people curriculum. This is contrary to the K-12 framework that aims to build an army of cheap labor for the global market, and instead will harness the Filipino youth’s full potential to become the country’s nation builders. ###
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The Educators Forum for Development is a network of teachers advocating transformative education.

Photo by Jen Guste/ IBON Foundation 2017

 

We, members of the Educators’ Forum for Development, are alarmed at Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s order to “bomb Lumad schools”. The administration also staunchly defends the extension of Martial Lawin Mindanao which has further disrupted Lumad schools. The safety of the Lumad schoolchildren will only be secured with the immediate withdrawal of the military from community schools and an end to aerial bombardments in the entire island.

The Lumad of Mindanao have overcome the absence of educational facilities in their communities by setting up hundreds of schools with the help of charitable institutions, devoted educators, and missionaries.. Contrary to the President’s misinformed description that they operate illegally, most of these schools have earned official recognition by the Department of Education, while the rest continue to hurdle towards getting the official stamp.

Through volunteers and licensed teachers, some of whom hail from the country’s premiere universities, Lumad schools teach not only Science, Math, English, Filipino and Social Studies, but Culture and Agriculture. They aim to mold Filipino citizens who are not only knowledgeable but also socially conscious and responsible, and who value their indigenous heritage and harness their agricultural empowerment towards nation building.

The government’s militarism is undermining these initiatives . Even prior to the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, Lumad teachers and students have been victimized by counter-insurgency campaigns. They are vilified, forced to evacuate their communities, and their school authorities and community leaders are extrajudicially killed. Since the declaration of Martial Law, government has closed 20 Lumad schools, while instances of military occupation, killings, threats, harassment and intimidation, destruction of property, indiscriminate firing, filing of trumped-up charges, enforced disappearances, and torture have heightened. Last week, three Lumad school teachers who were among the protesters during Congress’ joint session on the extension of Martial Law were illegally detained.

The government has the responsibility to uphold, protect and promote the right to education, particularly of underserved sectors such as indigenous children. We call on the President to order his troops to vacate and stop aiming their guns and bombs at community schools and premises. Ending the militarization of Lumad communities is an immediate doable step that the Duterte government can take to help indigenous groups in Mindanao reclaim their lives and continue their learning.

We also join calls for an end to martial law in Mindanao that has already displaced and disrupted the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands.

 

Ninia Dela Cruz

Secretary General

Educators Forum for Development

 

Educators Forum for Development is a network of educators committed to transformative education.

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In the aftermath of the Fourth Mindanao-Wide Conference of the Save our Schools (SOS) Network, transformative education group Educators Forum for Development (EfD) said that the Duterte administration should stop continuing attacks against indigenous people (IP)’s alternative schools. The EfD echoed calls by the SOS Network for military troops to halt operations in and pull out of indigenous peoples and farmers’ communities as these result in human rights violations including the right to education.

According to a report released by the SOS Campaign of the Lumad in Southern Mindanao, Caraga, Northern Mindanao and Soccsksargen, there have been 168 incidents of military attacks on 47 Lumad schools under the Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan and the Duterte administration’s Oplan Kapayapaan. More than 1,000 families and 5,000 students have been victims of forced evacuation, threat, harassment, intimidation, red-tagging, and surveillance. There have also been cases of extrajudicial killings, filing of trumped-up charges, and schools closure.

These have been perpetrated by 16 battalions and 2 brigades of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with paramilitary troops and even some government agencies. More than half of total AFP troops are deployed in Mindanao, the report noted. State and paramilitary forces are known to secure big business and landlords interests over the resource-rich island.

To date, SOS has recorded 15 cases of military encampment affecting five Lumad schools since the president’s cancellation of the peace talks between government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The EfD lamented that AFP attacks against farmers and indigenous communities have only intensified and involved aerial bombings, shelling and strafing, as in Compostela Valley, Sarangani and even Abra. It was also during this period that Ramon and Leonela Pesadilla, a couple who had donated land for a Lumad school, were murdered in their home.

The EfD said that this rabid miliarization continues to put schools and their supporters in the line of fire and subverts the gains built by the Lumad in establishing educational facilities where government has provided none. The continued attacks against schools also tend to offset Duterte’s pro-Lumad pronouncements especially when he was Davao mayor. The administration should end these attacks and execute its duty to uphold the Lumad and every other Filipino’s right to education, said EfD. The group meanwhile vowed to amplify the call to help and advance indigenous people’s alternative schools and to gather wider support for this advocacy.

sanroque

Ten thousand families in nine barangays inhabited by the Dumagat and Remontado indigenous peoples stand to be affected by the impending revival of the New Centennial Water Source Project (NCWS) in Rizal and Quezon

In forums and activities held around international commemoration of people’s action for rivers and against large dams and in pursuit of the right to water, advocates including the Water for the People Network (WPN) called on the public to support the clamor ‘people’s control over water resources and services.’

Government and private sector proponents, including international financial institutions, promote large dams allegedly as a means of providing cheap energy and water supply to poor countries like the Philippines. But many Filipinos still lack access to basic utilities, said WPN. Millions of people in Metro Manila – with or without water connections – have insufficient yet expensive water supply. Some areas in the country especially Mindanao continue to experience intermittent power services while increasing power rates constantly loom, noted the group.

WPN observed that many large hydropower dams such as Ambuklao, Binga and Magat are in fact underused largely due to heavy siltation brought about by the dams’ enormity. For the same reason, the Pantabangan power plant and the San Roque Multipurpose Dam also produce only 6% and 27% of their rated capacities, respectively. These dams range from over 200-1,000 meters in length and are 100 to over 200 meters high, occupying sizeable areas of land.

Aside from failing to provide cheap and accessible utilities, WPN said, large dams have been destructive to communities, particularly those of farmers and indigenous peoples.

For instance, due to heavy rains from Typhoons Lando and Nona in 2015, water was released from the San Roque, Binga, Ambuklao, Ipo, Angat and Magat dams. This led to wide-scale flooding and wrought approximately Php13.8 billion in damages to livelihoods and properties.

Megadams displace human settlements and drive communities away from livelihood and income sources, WPN said. The construction of Pantabangan Dam, for example, displaced an entire town with 13,000 people, seven villages, and 8,100 hectares of land of which 4,000 were residential. The 500-hectare Ambuklao Dam that was constructed from 1952-1956 in Itogon, Benguet dislocated some 200 families. Binga Dam engulfed 150 hectares of ancestral lands of the Bugkalot and Ibaloi. The San Roque Dam submerged 4,000 hectares also of Ibaloi and Bugkalot ancestral domains and physically displaced 600-741 families. The Pulangi IV HEP meanwhile submerged 1,400 hectares of agricultural lands and displaced four barangays in the municipality of Maramag, Bukidnon.

Meanwhile, ten thousand families in nine barangays inhabited by the Dumagat and Remontado indigenous peoples stand to be affected by the impending revival of the New Centennial Water Source Project (NCWS) in Rizal and Quezon, which pertains to the Laiban Dam (that includes Kaliwa Dam), according to the Bigkis at Lakas ng mga Katutubo ng Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK). On the other hand, the 500-megawatt Wawa Pumped-Storage Hydro Power Project by Olympia Violago Water and Power Inc. threatens to displace six communities of indigenous peoples and settlers in Rodriguez and Antipolo, Rizal.

According to WPN, megadams have only served and profited international financial institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank, big foreign and local construction and power companies, and their government cohorts. It is high time for government to heed the call of the indigenous peoples, farmers and people’s rights advocates to suspend the construction of large dams, and to take hold of the energy and water sectors primarily for public rather than commercial benefit, the group said.

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Advocacy group Water for the People Network (WPN) said that looming water rate hikes are unwarranted since consumers have long been over-charged to ensure profits for the two water concessionaires. On World Water Day, the group said that the Duterte administration should rescind the onerous concession agreements (CA) with the Pangilinan-Salim group’s Maynilad Water Services, Inc. and the Ayalas’ Manila Water Co., and take initial steps to reverse the privatization of the country’s water utilities.

The Regulatory Office (RO) of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) announced in early this year that it has submitted its recommendation to raise water rates by Php0.70 per cubic meter for Maynilad and Php0.37 per cubic meter for Manila Water.  However, the proposed increases are pending the approval of the MWSS board, which has yet to be appointed.

According to the MWSS, reasons for the hikes are changes to the basic charge due to inflation and fluctuation in forex rates. Under the CA, water concessionaires can adjust the basic charge every January 1 to account for inflation as measured by the consumer price index (CPI) in July the previous year.  Meanwhile, the basic charge is also adjusted every quarter to reflect foreign currency changes which is listed in the water bill as FCDA or foreign currency differential adjustment.

WPN states that the CA is designed to unnecessarily adjust tariffs to ensure the water firms of profits. Water consumers are hit twofold at the beginning of each year since they have to bear the burden of both the rise in prices of basic goods and services, as well as the increase in water rates due to inflation. Consumers are also being double-charged for currency fluctuations through the FCDA and the fixed Php1 currency exchange rate adjustment (CERA).

Instead of the affordable water rates promised by the privatization of MWSS, consumers have been forced to pay for continuously rising onerous charges. WPN estimates that since 1997, water concessionaires have raised their basic charge by 973% for Manila Water and 583% for Maynilad.

WPN said that the Duterte administration should renege the dubious CAs with Maynilad and Manila Water. Government should instead protect and ensure the public’s right and access to water by reversing water privatizaiton, said the group.###

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Prior to #WorldConsumerRightsDay, Filipino consumers including those for a #BetterDigitalWorld converged in a forum, expressed their woes and aspirations and vowed to continue working for #SocialEconomicChange

Various consumer groups gathered in a conference last Monday in Quezon City to tackle the social and economic reforms needed to promote consumer welfare. The event participants recognized the need to pursue real social and economic reforms in order to resolve current consumer issues and uphold consumer rights.

The forum dubbed “CASER: What Is In It For Consumers? A Conference on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms and Consumer Welfare” was attended by representatives from Alerta Mamimili (Gabriela), Bantay Bigas (Rice Monitor), Green Action PH, organic advocates group CHIMES, Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY), National Consumer Affairs Council (NCAC), People Opposed to Warrantless Electricity Rates (POWER), transport group PISTON, digital rights watchdog Text Power, and Water for the People Network (WPN). The event  was organized by IBON in partnership with Pilgrims for Peace and Kapayapaan Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace.

IBON research head Rosario Bella Guzman kicked off the conference with a discussion of the adverse impact of neoliberal globalization policies that have led to worsening social inequalities, widespread poverty and hunger and thus increasing consumers’ woes.  This was followed by consumer testimonies from the above consumer groups. Raymond Palatino, Pilgrims for Peace convenor and former member of the Philippine House of Representatives then discussed the significance of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) in promoting and ensuring consumer rights and welfare.

The event culminated in the conference participants’ affirmation that continued peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) can lead to genuine and people-centered development.   In this light, the conference echoed the following calls:

–          People-centered reforms to replace the neoliberal economic policies that the Duterte administration continues to pursue;

–          The assertion and promotion of people’s right to effective participation at all levels of social, political and economic decision-making towards nation building;

–          Participation in activities towards advancing consumer rights and welfare such as public forums, media briefings, legislation and lobbying, mobilizations, and research and education campaigns, among others; and

–          urging government to resume peace negotiations with the NDFP.

The participants concluded the conference with the commitment to work together under a unified national network of consumers that will promote people-centered development as the basis of protecting and advancing consumer rights. ###

apaw dam

In commemoration of the International Day of Action for Rivers and Against Large Dams, Filipino groups opposed to large dams said that while megadams are supposed to supply cheap water and electricity to urban and rural communities nationwide, Philippine experience has proven otherwise.

Indigenous peoples and support groups Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KATRIBU), Bigkas at Lakas ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK), Task Force for Indigenous People’s Rights (TFIP) and water rights advocate Water for the People Network (WPN) conducted a forum titled “Privatized Water: Profit over welfare” on Monday at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

In the forum, it was explained that Philippine megadams have been constructed in compliance with World Bank and other international financial institutions’ loan conditionalities under the structural adjustment program (SAP), also known as neoliberal policies. In the Philippines, transnational corporations (TNCs) such as those from the United States, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Italy have reportedly amassed profits from their roles in constructing the country’s largest dams.

According to the WPN, the SAP also saw the passage of the Energy and Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) and the privatization of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) during the Fidel Ramos administration. These policy decisions made it easier for the country’s richest including the Sy, Consunji, Ongpin, Cojuangco, Coyiuto, Aboitiz, Lopez and Alcantara families and Pangilinan group to diversify into the energy and water sectors as additional business opportunities.

Consumers present in the forum attested that consequently power and water rates have increased manifold while farmers have to pay exorbitant fees for irrigation. For instance, basic water rates in Metro Manila served by the Angat Dam have increased by more than 500 times. In Caloocan, more than 100,000 residents are obliged by the Maynilad Water Systems Inc. (MWSI) to pay even while water supply remains unsteady. Power rates in the Philippines are among the highest in Asia, claimed the groups.

Additionally, farmers lamented that contrary to a Water Code provision, irrigation often takes second priority to power generation as in the experience of Cagayan Valley and Pangasinan. Worse, they could hardly afford existing irrigation services as the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) charges as high as eight cavans per hectare during the wet season and private irrigation systems charge even higher.

There are 410 hydropower projects currently approved by the Department of Energy and NIA that are situated in rivers within indigenous people’s territories. Farmers and indigenous peoples’ communities have been adversely affected by megadams which have caused massive flooding, large-scale dislocation and environmental destruction. In light of this, the event participants vowed to heighten their campaign not only against large dams but the Duterte administration’s continued implementation of neoliberal policies that includes the privatization of water resources and services.

apaw dam

 

Prior to #WorldConsumerRightsDay, Filipino consumer rights groups including those for a #BetterDigitalWorld converged in a forum to discuss their woes and aspirations.

In commemoration of the International Day of Action for Rivers and Against Large Dams, Filipino groups opposed to large dams said that while megadams are supposed to supply cheap water and electricity to urban and rural communities nationwide, Philippine experience has proven otherwise.

Indigenous peoples and support groups Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KATRIBU), Bigkas at Lakas ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK), Task Force for Indigenous People’s Rights (TFIP) and water rights advocate Water for the People Network (WPN) conducted a forum titled “Privatized Water: Profit over welfare” on Monday at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

In the forum, it was explained that Philippine megadams have been constructed in compliance with World Bank and other international financial institutions’ loan conditionalities under the structural adjustment program (SAP), also known as neoliberal policies. In the Philippines, transnational corporations (TNCs) such as those from the United States, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Italy have reportedly amassed profits from their roles in constructing the country’s largest dams.

According to the WPN, the SAP also saw the passage of the Energy and Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) and the privatization of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) during the Fidel Ramos administration. These policy decisions made it easier for the country’s richest including the Sy, Consunji, Ongpin, Cojuangco, Coyiuto, Aboitiz, Lopez and Alcantara families and Pangilinan group to diversify into the energy and water sectors as additional business opportunities.

Consumers present in the forum attested that consequently power and water rates have increased manifold while farmers have to pay exorbitant fees for irrigation. For instance, basic water rates in Metro Manila served by the Angat Dam have increased by more than 500 times. In Caloocan, more than 100,000 residents are obliged by the Maynilad Water Systems Inc. (MWSI) to pay even while water supply remains unsteady. Power rates in the Philippines are among the highest in Asia, claimed the groups.

Additionally, farmers lamented that contrary to a Water Code provision, irrigation often takes second priority to power generation as in the experience of Cagayan Valley and Pangasinan. Worse, they could hardly afford existing irrigation services as the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) charges as high as eight cavans per hectare during the wet season and private irrigation systems charge even higher.

There are 410 hydropower projects currently approved by the Department of Energy and NIA that are situated in rivers within indigenous people’s territories. Farmers and indigenous peoples’ communities have been adversely affected by megadams which have caused massive flooding, large-scale dislocation and environmental destruction. In light of this, the event participants vowed to heighten their campaign not only against large dams but the Duterte administration’s continued implementation of neoliberal policies that includes the privatization of water resources and services.

eflyer

A Forum on Water Privatization, Large Dams, and Indigenous Peoples

In commemoration of International Day of Action Rivers against Large Dams

 

Water is very essential to support peoples’ basic needs and should be free, safe, and accessible to the people. It has a vital role in the country’s agricultural development and national industrialization. To ensure these, the government should take full control and responsibility over utilizing and developing water resources for the benefit of the majority.

Water privatization and exploitation of the country’s water resources through national policies such as the National Water Resources Act and the National Renewable Energy Act facilitates the entry and domination of private businesses in the water sector. International Financial Institutions such as the Korean Export Import Bank, Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and World Bank through Official Development Aid (ODA) and big foreign and local corporations are encouraged to invest in water and energy. This paved the way to the influx of hydropower projects that privatize water resources.

In the country, one of the concrete manifestations of monopoly and control of water resources are hydropower projects and large dams owned and controlled by few companies owned by Aboitiz, Ayala, Lopez, and others. Former state-owned large dams are now in the hands of these corporations. These companies were also key players in the building of new dams, mainly for the purpose of producing electricity.

Indigenous peoples, peasants and other sectors in the countryside have suffered the effects of the construction and operation of large dams. Existing large dam projects such as those in Pantabangan, Binga, Ambuclao, Casecnan, San Roque and Pulangi, have resulted in displacement and loss of land and livelihood of indigenous peoples’ communities. It disrupted or destroyed the cultural practices of communities, including communal fishing, which is a traditional ritual for several indigenous peoples groups. At present, there are more than 410 hydropower projects approved by the Department of Energy and National Irrigation Administration situated in rivers within indigenous peoples’ territories.

The Duterte’s administration continuous to implement neoliberal policies that include the privatization of water resources and related services.

In the forum, indigenous peoples, advocates and other stakeholders will discuss issues concerning the water privatization policy and large dams, express their concerns, issues and aspirations, and strive to come up with a unified position regarding large dams.

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