People’s Agenda


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. ###



“… 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 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

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. ###


​Noting that seven out of 10 poor Filipinos live in the rural areas where landlessness remains widespread, IBON reiterated today the urgency of doable reforms such as free land distribution. The research group made the statement as various peasant organizations and land reform advocates across the country mark the “Day of the Landless” today.

IBON pointed out that land continues to be heavily concentrated in the hands of big landlords and businesses with less than a third of landowners controlling over 80% of agricultural lands in the country. Meanwhile, half of all farms are under tenancy, lease and other forms of tenurial arrangements.

The group said that government’s past land distribution programs have failed. After almost three decades of implementation, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) reported an 88% accomplishment rate. But 76% of CARP beneficiaries are unable to amortize the land granted to them under CARP and thus are at risk of losing their land.

IBON added that the Philippines can learn from developed countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan that did not require their agrarian reform beneficiaries to amortize and had the lands distributed freely.

Genuine agrarian reform, first and foremost, should involve effectively breaking up land monopolies, the group said. It should be accompanied by support services from government including credit and subsidies as well as agricultural infrastructure such as adequate and accessible farm-to-market roads, irrigation, post-harvest facilities, etc. The program must also be sustained by agricultural science and technology to boost productivity and rural industries.

Despite the many challenges, there are recent developments that are favorable to the prospects of genuine land reform and rural development, IBON said. The ongoing peace negotiations between the Duterte administration and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), for instance, have social and economic reforms that include agrarian reform and rural development as their top agenda.

It is thus crucial for the country’s policy makers and the public to support the peace talks to help address landlessness and chronic poverty that have been long plaguing the country, IBON stressed. ###

Photo from


The COMP recently warned that affected mining companies could file arbitration cases should the government not honor mining contracts. It said that a number of these are foreign mining firms that have bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and they could sue the government for compensation. The DENR previously announced the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs), and plans to close 23 mines and suspend five others.

According to IBON, international arbitration is an instrument of investment liberalization, which corporations use to unhamper and secure their profit-seeking to the detriment of countries’ sovereignty in determining what is in the best interest of its people. The World Bank International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), for example, is known for siding with transnational corporations (TNCs) and strictly enforcing decisions that include expropriation of assets, said the group.

This mechanism is further institutionalized under free trade deals (FTAs), said IBON. Countries negotiating the Regional Cooperation Economic Partnership (RCEP), for instance, can be sued by investors whenever it is perceived that government policy, law or action harms present and future profits.

IBON’s recent mining study shows that extractive companies have a history of suing governments through international arbitration when their profits are compromised. For example, American oil company Occidental Petroleum Corporation cost Ecuador US$1 billion when the government expropriated Occidental’s assets after it illegally sold its rights to another company. Mining company Pacific Rim, a subsidiary of Australian miner OceanaGold since 2013, sued the government of El Salvador for US$301 million for denying the permit for the El Dorado mine due to environmental concerns.

IBON urged the Duterte government to stand firm on DENR’s order to protect the country’s remaining natural and mineral resources. The closure order will give a respite to the massive drain of mineral resources and the destruction of ecosystems. The group also stressed that government should revoke existing bilateral agreements that allow big local and foreign businesses to plunder the nation’s mineral wealth and that secure corporate interests mechanisms such as international arbitration.###


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.


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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