People’s Agenda

Photo from skythewolf.wordpress.com

 

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.###

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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.

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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.###

 

 

 

 

 

 

Housing Pandi

As the National Housing Authority serves eviction notices to members of urban poor organization Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY) who have occupied long-vacant and dilapidated relocation units in Pandi, Bulacan, research group IBON said that the so-called socialized housing largely benefits private developers through public-private partnerships (PPPs). These private realty and construction firms garner profits and incentives from public-funded housing while much-needed homes remain inaccessible for poor Filipinos. The group said that the Duterte administration should uphold Filipino people’s right to decent and affordable shelter and reverse housing privatization.

IBON said that the so-called socialized housing has considerable profit potential for private realty and construction firms. The Class D market where informal settlers belong is largely untapped and expanding, providing numerous opportunities for big housing developers. The government estimated a housing backlog of 800,000 units per year or a total of 5.8 million units from 2010-2016. The World Bank also stated that the Philippines has one of the highest rates of urban population growth among poor countries.

The Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 indicates that the Duterte government intends to continue the previous administration’s implementation of a housing program through PPPs, observed IBON. Private developers will continue to amass profits from “socialized” housing through guaranteed payments from the government.  They will also continue to enjoy a number of incentives, including 30% off on taxable income from profit, which is granted when a real estate project is negotiated as part of socialized housing compliance to Republic Act (RA) 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA), said the group.

RA 7279 likewise states that the private sector will be exempted from paying the following: capital gains tax on raw lands used for the project; value-added tax for the project contractor concerned; transfer tax for both raw completed projects, and donor’s tax for lands certified by the local government units to have been donated for socialized housing purposes. IBON said that these incentives make it easier for private companies to do business and profit while monthly housing amortization burdens millions of low-income homeless families.

IBON noted that major players in the development of supposedly low-cost housing units include Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI) which constructed 7,276 units in 2012 and another 14,070 units in 2013. Phinma Property Holdings Corp. is another major player, and was behind government relocation projects such as Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista’s Bistekville, and Mayor Strike B. Revilla’s Grand Strikeville 4 in Bacoor, Cavite.

Despite government and private sector claims, these “socialized” housing units remain unaffordable and unattainable for many informal settlers, said the group. A Bistekville unit, for example, does not require a down payment, but still has an amortization of Php2,273.84 per month over a period of 30 years. Many informal settlers are struggling to meet their families’ daily basic needs, and are also ineligible for housing loans from the Home Mutual Development Fund (HMDF) and Pag-IBIG.

IBON said that shelter is a human right, which government has a responsibility to ensure and uphold. The Duterte administration should prioritize the development of sustainable, decent, as well as free and affordable housing in consultation with urban poor communities. The group said that government should revert the housing program from a profit-making venture to a genuinely government-controlled social service.###

 

 

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“The problematic private sector-led housing program of government further undermines the meager housing budget. So-called low-cost socialized housing, for instance, now has a price ceiling of Php450,000, which was increased from its previous Php400,000 to encourage private developers to participate in the production of socialized housing units as well as reflect higher construction costs. Many informal settler families (ISFs), who are supposed beneficiaries of mass housing, could not afford the amortization of Php300 to Php500 a month, which in some cases even reach Php1,000…

“Supposed beneficiaries are questioning the program in light of the DAP controversy and Malacanang’s claim that it is benefitting the poor. Some of the relocation sites, for example, are reportedly prone to flooding (such as Kasiglahan Village in Rizal which was flooded during the heavy monsoon rains on 2012 and 2013) and thus defeats the purpose of resettling ISFs away from danger areas.” — 2015 National Budget: For patronage, corruption and big business? IBON Facts & Figures Special Release, 15 & 31 August 2014

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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. ###

UsapangIbonYearend2016

“Ano ang direksyon sa ekonomya sa ilalim ng administrasyong Duterte?

I-download dito ang Usapang IBON Praymer Yearend 2016 “Ang Pihit sa Ilalim ng Gubyernong Duterte”

‘Tinangan ng administrasyong Duterte and Ambisyon  Natin 2014 na inumpisahan ng rehimeng Aquino. Gagabayan nito ang mga magiging Philippine Development Plan (PDP) ng mga administrasyon sa loob ng mahigit dalawang dekada. Dala-dala nito ang 10+0 Socioeconomic Agenda ng administrasyong Duterte. Ipinagpapatuloy ng administrasyon ang mga neoliberal na patakaran sa likod ng tabing ng kontrobersyal na digma kontra-droga at retorika ng nasyonalismo at malasakit sa mahirap.

“Pinapatingkad ng neoliberalismo ang papel ng Estado sa pagpapalaganap ng kapitalistang pagkamal ng tubo, gamit ang rekursong publiko, habang inaalisan ang mamamayan ng bahagi sa proseso. Kabilang dito ang paglikha ng mga ligal at institusyonal na istruktura para mamayani ang merkado at mga korporasyon sa panlipunan at pang-ekonomyang aspeto ng buhay ng mamamayan. Hinihiling ng mga dayuhang mamumuhunan ang kalayaan na kumilos nang walang hadlang, hangga’t maaari, mula sa anumang uri ng regulasyon kahit sa mga larangan na nasasangkot ang pangkalahatang kagalingan ng publiko, halimbawa sa mga pampublikong yutilidad at panlipunang serbisyo.”

CaserAndConsumers

Filipino consumers are reportedly optimistic.

Hear consumer groups discuss their plight from utilities to food, transport and more and where these stand in supposed peace talks’ substantive agenda on social and economic reforms.

What: A Conference on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms and Consumers’ Welfare

When: February 27, 2016 1pm

Where: Sikat Events Studios Place #305 Tomas Morato near Popular Bookstore

Request for coverage. Interviews and photo opportunities will be available.

THANK YOU.

 

From Mindanao Interfaith Institute for Lumad Studies

Contrary to claims that closing down mining operations will worsen poverty, research group IBON said that large-scale mining activities impact heavily on marginalized sectors and intensify poverty. The group also said that the mining sector’s export-oriented character further deprives communities by taking away potential resources for local development.

The Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) said that the crackdown on mining would lead to ‘expansive poverty’ and hurt economic growth. This was in response to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) head Regina Lopez’s recent orders to close and suspend some mining operations and cancel 75 mining contracts.

According to a study by IBON, however, mineral extraction and production often incur significant social and environmental costs which in fact fall disproportionately on the poor. In 2009, mining had the highest poverty incidence among industry groups at 48.71%. This was the highest poverty incidence since 1988, even surpassing the agriculture sector, which has historically topped poverty incidence across industries.

Among the biggest mining operations in the country are the Taganito Mining Corp in Surigao; Nickel Asia in Eastern Samar; Sagittarius Mines Incorporated in South Cotabato, Filminera Resources Corp. in Masbate and TVI Pacific Inc in Zamboanga del Sur. Yet, IBON noted that official 2015 poverty statistics show that regions hosting these mining activities are the poorest, next only to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Poverty incidence among individuals in Caraga (Region XIII) is the second highest in the country at 39.1 percent. The Eastern Visayas (Region VIII) posted the third highest poverty incidence at 38.7% followed by Soccsksargen (Region XII) at 37.3%, Bicol (Region V) at 36.0% and Zamboanga Peninsula (Region IX) at 33.9 percent.

Mining industry statistics also indicate that most of Philippine mineral production goes to exports, IBON observed. Total production value in mining in 2015, for instance, was at Php179.7 billion. Meanwhile, the amount of total exports of minerals and mineral products was at Php131 billion in the same year, or 73% of total production value. The exodus of minerals from the country leaves very little or nothing for local industry to benefit from. This means a lack of raw materials for potential industries such as steel, cement, rubber, paper, chemical and pharmaceutical.

IBON said that for allowing the extraction and export of most of the country’s mineral wealth while poverty remains stark in regions with mining activities, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 should be repealed. The group said that government should not heed the mounting pro-big-business mining hype and instead focus on saving and utilizing what is left of the country’s resources to genuinely benefit the nation, especially the poorest regions.

 

 

Siltation

Research group IBON said that despite strong opposition from mining companies, the Duterte government should stand firm on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) head’s order on mines closure. The group also belied mining companies’ claims that large scale mining has brought development to the country.

President Duterte has expressed support for DENR secretary Gina Lopez’ order to close down 23 mining firms and suspend five more due to grave violations against the environment. Ordered closed were Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc., Ore Asia Mining and Development Corporation and Benguet Corporation and four other mining companies in Luzon, 10 in Vizayas and seven in Mindanao.

​Lopez has also ordered the cancellation of 75 mining contracts. ​

The Chamber of Mines of the Philipines (COMP), meanwhile, composed of the country’s mining firms, has questioned the closure and warned of the massive jobs and revenue losses that it will entail. Finance secretary and Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) co-chairperson Carlos Dominguez also cautioned that the DENR orders would cost affected local governments millions in foregone revenues.

IBON however refuted that large-scale mining has been beneficial to the economy. It said that for instance, while mineral exports hit a high US$3.4 billion in 2013,  mining contributed a measly 0.7% to gross domestic product (GDP) in the same year. The sector’s contribution grew to this level only from 0.5% after more than a decade of operations. The annual average share of mining revenues to total government revenues in 2009-2012 was only 1.18 percent, the group added. The contribution of the mining and quarrying sector to employment was also negligible at 0.7% of total employment.

IBON also noted the string of mining disasters since the enactment of the Philippine Mining Act in 1995. Aside from human deaths, large-scale mining has caused damaged dams, soil and water pollution due to excessive tailings, siltation, contamination and damage to agricultural lands, fish kill and other damages to marine life, buried or damaged houses in tailings and flash floods, isolated villages, dust fallout and air pollution, massive evacuation and various illnesses. Moreover, said the group, more than 90% of Philippine mineral production is exported for use by other countries’ steel industries while the country has none. This, despite the Philippines being one of the world’s top producers of gold, copper and nickel.

Government should uphold the mining ban, IBON said, and be wary of opposition coming from certain members of the cabinet involved in the mining sector, which could derail efforts to advance the people’s interests.

The closure and suspension orders is a positive step for the protection of the Philippine environment and towards ensuring that the country’s natural resources benefit the Filipino people, the group added. Various groups are pushing for the resumption of the peace talks as these principles are represented in the negotiations’ social and economic reforms agenda. ​###

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