Press Statements

#CASERGoalsIcons

#PeoplesSONA2017 / Research group IBON said that the interruption of peace talks between the government and the NDFP also interrupts important discussions on economic reforms. The group said this in the aftermath of the announcement of Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, that the back-channel talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines are being cancelled because due to the absence of the “desired enabling environment for the conduct of the peace negotiations”.

“The majority of Filipinos are poor and face social and economic turmoil daily,” said IBON executive director Sonny Africa.

As a socio-economic research institution, IBON launched a campaign to promote social and economic reforms with or without the peace negotiations. An agreement on social and economic reforms is supposed to be a current substantive agenda of the talks.

“The comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms (CASER) being negotiated will benefit millions of Filipinos, and IBON is concerned that this risks being lost with yet another collapse of peace talks,” concluded Africa.

from SteelAsia
from SteelAsia

Research group IBON said that national industrialization is the way to go in order for the Filipino majority to prosper. It should be made the government’s primary economic strategy, the group said.

IBON co-sponsored last Wednesday a forum titled “The Change We Need” with top earner Steel Asia, science and technology network AGHAM, AGHAM Youth and patriotic formations Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and Bayan Muna Partylist. Attendees included engineers, scientists, key industry figures, people’s organizations and other like-minded groups and individuals open to advancing national industrialization.

The group reiterated that industrial backwardness, underdevelopment, arnand agriculture and manufacturing decline are results of decades-old globalization policies that have plagued the Philippine economy. These policies have aggravated joblessness, proliferated poor quality work, reinforced poverty and systematically kept wages low and social services and utilities run by private firms at prices unaffordable by many Filipinos.

Despite the Philippine economic potential with its rich natural resources and 103 million population, it is facing the worst jobs crisis in history as well as worsening poverty, said IBON. There are 28.7 million unemployed, non-regular, agency-hired, informal sector, and unpaid family workers in the country, and 12 million Filipinos working overseas. Faced with consistently low incomes, about 80% of the population are trying to survive on less than Php120 per day. Meanwhile one-fourth or 26% of Filipinos are in extreme poverty.

IBON said that by taking concrete steps towards national industrialization, joblessness and poverty can also be genuinely resolved. President Duterte can first make the bold step of declaring national industrialization as the major strategy of Philippine development. This can be followed by laying down the key elements of this strategy like implementing genuine agrarian reform and upholding workers’ and the people’s rights and welfare. This can include launching a “Buy Filipino, Build Filipino” campaign and  prioritizing the provision of social services and public utilities.

Other concrete steps that the current government can implement is reclaiming and asserting Philippine economic sovereignty by reviewing all international trade and investment agreements. It can also give immediate relief to Filipino manufacturers.

IBON said that in itself the forum is a welcome and initial step in the direction of the country’s genuine industrialization. The group hopes that the Duterte administration will also put the needs of the Filipino majority first so that meaningful economic change can truly happen.###

Bantay Bigas | Press Release | The gathering was attended by more than 130 participants composed of rice millers, small rice traders and retailers, farmers, consumers, farmers’ cooperatives, irrigators associations, farmers, and… | Reference: Lita Mariano, Spokesperson | Mobile: 09302016879

A rare gathering of rice industry stakeholders was held at the Century Conference hall of the Quezon Memorial Circle last Friday, September 17, 2010. Themed: “ National Rice Industry Consultative Exchange (RICE): Towards Strengthening the Philippine Local Rice Industry,” the gathering was attended by more than 130 participants composed of rice millers, small rice traders and retailers, farmers, consumers, farmers’ cooperatives, irrigators associations, farmers, and advocates from the country’s various sectors.

Initiated by Bantay Bigas, a multisectoral alliance of consumers, farmers, the urban poor, workers, women and government employees advocating sufficient, safe and affordable rice for every Filipino family, this first-of-its-kind gathering aimed to bring into a forum the varying perspectives and interests of the local rice industry sectors, how they are affected by government policies and programs; and to come up with a common platform to protect and strengthen the local rice industry.

Bantay Bigas spokesperson Lita Mariano, said: “This is unprecedented. This is an initial step towards addressing the chronic rice crisis that continuously besets our country. This is the broadest gathering of sectors whose common position is to protect and strengthen the local rice industry.”

IBON Executive Director Rosario Bella Guzman provided an overview of the local rice industry, which she explained is characterized by the crisis of overproduction wrought by globalization that forces the importation of surplus produce into countries that are likewise plagued by the chronic crisis of backward agricultural production.

Joji Co, president of Philcongrains batted for the improvement of technology used for local rice milling to increase the recovery rate of rice mills from the current 58-60% to 65-67%. He lamented the backwardness of technology in agriculture as well as the excessive profits made by private traders cum importers who reap as much as Php300 per sack.

Irrigators’ Association leader Mr. Silver Bontoc stressed that local irrigators must have full control of irrigation projects. He expressed puzzlement over huge funds allocated for irrigation projects by the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) wherein in each irrigation project, only 40% of the project cost reaches provinces and the remaining 60% is unaccounted for.

KADAMAY representative Carlito Badion echoed consumers’ interests by saying that rice prices should be brought back to P18.25 per kilo and criticized government for conditioning the public that the National Food Authority (NFA) is incapable fulfilling its mandate for food stability and security, thus justifying its privatization.

NFA Employees Association Chairperson Roman Sanchez lambasted the drive towards the full privatization of the NFA. He warned that the Philippines might become the next Mozambique where initial attempts to ration food amid shortage led to food riots and chaos. Sanchez also pointed out that not only the NFA but all members of the decisive Inter-Agency Committee on Rice and Corn (IAC-RC) should be investigated regarding the alleged over-importation of rice.

Anakpawis Partylist Representative Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano meanwhile explained inconsistencies in President Aquino’s inaugural speech and Budget Message with regard to the rice industry, which sounds optimism for rice sufficiency in a few years on one hand but remains silent on strengthening local rice production and putting a stop to the massive conversion of agricultural lands to non-agricultural and purely commercial use. He likewise called on the participants to support two bills pertinent to the rice industry: House Bill 3105 or the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA) pushing for the strengthening of the local rice industry as opposed to its privatization; and House Bill 374 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) pushing for genuine land distribution as opposed to the current CARPer which still allows big landlords to retain ownership of vast landholdings.

Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte who graced the event expressed support for the rice sector’s call for self-sufficiency in terms of rice production in particular and food security in general.

The Rice Industry Consultative Exchange ended significantly with all attending sectors signing a unity pact summarizing the rice sector’s demands, to wit:

(1) strengthen the local rice industry by providing adequate budget, subsidies and services towards attaining 100% Rice Self-Sufficiency;

(2) maintain the Php 8 billion subsidy of NFA for 2011 with additional budget of at least Php 15 billion for palay procurement from farmers to ensure availability of affordable rice for the poor without having to rely on artificially cheap imported rice;

(3) increase NFA’s procurement equivalent to at least 25% of rice available at the local market;

(4) provide modern tools and machineries for planting, harvesting, and processing of rice to improve and increase total rice production in the country;

(5) prioritize infrastructure development for irrigation over increased farm areas for palay production;

(6) scrap deregulation, liberalisation and privatization in all its forms such as decoupling, rationalization, re-engineering and restructuring that leads to abandonment of NFA’s mandate of ensuring food security and stabilization of supply of affordable rice (food);

(7) protection of the local rice (grains) industry, from anti-people policies dictated by international financial institutions led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the USAID, and, international and multilateral trade organizations/associations as the World Trade Origanization (WTO) and the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA);

(8) end all land use and crop conversions;

(9) unite for a clean and transparent governance towards attaining fully developed local rice industry and 100% rice self sufficiency and food security;

(10) implement a genuine agrarian reform program towards free land distribution for landless farmers and farmworkers.#eof#

Reference: Lita Mariano, Spokesperson | Mobile: 09302016879

Most of this increase is accounted for by the large PhP80.9 billion increase in interest payments on debt to PhP357.1 billion

Research group IBON calls the proposed 2011 National Government (NG) budget submitted to Congress an austerity budget to be able to keep repaying debt, adding that the proposed budget is not consistent with long-term economic and social development.

The PhP1.645-billion NG budget for 2011 is a PhP104.4-billion or 6.8%-increase from the proposed budget for 2010. However most of this increase is accounted for by the large PhP80.9 billion increase in interest payments on debt to PhP357.1 billion. This is the largest absolute increase in interest payments in the country’s history and, at a 29.2% increase from the year before, is the second largest percentage increase after the 32.6% growth in 2000. The government is proposing to pay for this by retreating from its responsibilities in key areas.

IBON noted that there is a large drop in the budget for economic services which falls by 9.5% from PhP398.9 billion in 2010 to PhP361.1 billion in 2011. The budget contractions are particularly large in the sectors of: agriculture and agrarian reform (falling by PhP23.1 billion or 26.0%), communication, roads and other transportation (PhP7.9 billion or 5.2%), water resources development and flood control (PhP4 billion or 21.4%), and power and energy (PhP3.4 billion or 65.5%). This alarmingly creates the justification for the further privatization of critical public infrastructure, even as diminishing government engagement undermines its capacity to regulate.

In social services, the already insufficient health budget falls even further by 3.5% from PhP40 billion to PhP38.6 billion. Government is not even able to approach the same level of real per capita health spending that reached its peak in 1997. The budget for housing meanwhile is barely changed with only a weak PhP273-million increase in its budget to PhP5.7 billion. There is however a welcome PhP31.1-billion or 12.9%-increase in the education budget which supposedly goes to building much-needed new classrooms and hiring of additional teachers.

Yet despite austerity the government still finds the funds to wage war – the budget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which has been accused of serious human rights violations, increases by PhP10 billion or 17.9% to PhP65.8 billion in 2011. It is also possible that part of the likewise large PhP6.6-billion or 13.2%-increase in the budget for the Philippine National Police (PNP) goes to its forces engaged in counter-insurgency.

The government has used its fiscal crisis – invoking revenue constraint – as an excuse to shirk its larger responsibilities to use the national budget, among other policy tools, to direct the country’s social and economic development. Yet it is possible for it to begin putting in place a progressive revenue system that taxes those with the greatest ability to pay and direct spending to those most in need. In the absence of this, its debt will continue to rise and its budgets will fail to meet the people’s real immediate and long-term needs. (end)

IBON urges government to place the burden of adjusting to the fiscal crisis on those that have the greater capacity to pay

The urgent challenge for the new Aquino administration is to increase revenues, but research group IBON urges government to place the burden of adjusting to the fiscal crisis on those that have the greater capacity to pay.

The new Aquino administration is faced with a serious fiscal crisis that could deteriorate rapidly or compel severe austerity if the revenue effort does not quickly improve. The first quarter deficit is already at 8.4% of the gross domestic product (GDP) from 7% of GDP in the first quarter of 2009.

IBON said that being a new administration, the Aquino government enjoys a measure of goodwill, and it can translate this to revenue generation measures that will not burden the public. Among these measures are restoring the import tariffs to their 1993 levels, or at 5.6% of the gross domestic product (GDP). This will create an estimated revenue of P427 billion, instead of the P220 billion generated in 2009 (at 2.9% of GDP).

Another measure is restoring the corporate income tax from 30% to 35 percent, which will generate an estimated revenue of P16 billion for the government. This is possible because top corporations saw a 20%-increase in their 1st quarter 2010 profits. Moreover, the top 1,000 corporations registered a profitability rate of 11.7% in 2007 from 3.2% in 2001.

According to IBON, the supposed 36 straight quarters of GDP growth trumpeted by the past government has not been accompanied by corresponding increases in real jobs and decent wages, further deepening poverty while expanding the wealth of those in the top income deciles. Amid rising poverty and increasing incomes of the corporations and individuals, the Aquino government can therefore look into increasing wealth taxes such as on high value real estate, luxury goods and services, and others.

IBON said that the Aquino government is in a good position to establish democratic instincts including implementing pro-poor measures in managing the fiscal crisis. This would be more productive instead of considering conventional approaches such as removing rice subsidies, increasing taxes, etc. (end)

The income gap in the latest 2006 government data shows that the share of the top 10% families in the income pie was even higher at 36% than the 35% share of the bottom 70% families.

One of the pressing issues that the Aquino administration faces is the widening rich-poor gap in the country, said research group IBON.

The income gap in the latest 2006 government data shows that the share of the top 10% families in the income pie was even higher at 36% than the 35% share of the bottom 70% families. In 2010 according to the Forbes Asia list, the net worth of just the 20 richest Filipinos– including Lucio Tan, Enrique Razon, Jr., Eduardo Cojuangco, Enrique Aboitiz and others– reached $20.4 billion, which is likely equivalent to the combined income of around 12 million Filipino families.

The rich have gotten richer in recent years, the research group said. For instance, Enrique Razon Jr., a known close ally of former Pres. Gloria Arroyo, is worth $975 million in 2010 from $285 million in 2009, highlighting his rapid accumulation of wealth in the past years. The net income of the Top 1,000 corporations in the country rose from P116.4 billion in 2001 to average P416.7 billion annually in the period 2002-2008. On the other hand, workers have seen the smallest increase in their real wages; the minimum wage in NCR increased just P5 in real terms over the almost decade-long Arroyo term.

Widening poverty is also a pressing issue that requires comprehensive solutions beyond the ‘good governance’ approach. Using the approximate Php86 a day for the assumed international standard for moderate poverty would show that 79 out of 100 Filipinos were poor in 2006, and half of the population actually struggled on Php18-54 a day. This would have likely increased in the last four years especially with the fuel crisis in 2008, food crisis in 2009, and the climate disasters last year.

The regional disparity of Philippine poverty is also glaring. More than half of the families in ARMM (55%), 45.5% in Caraga, and 43.7% in Region IV-B were poor. In contrast, the National Capital Region (NCR) had 7.1% poor families, followed far behind by Region IV-B (16.8%) and Region III (16.7%). Meanwhile, Regions VI and V had the biggest share (18.1%) in the total number of poor families. An urban-rural differentiation of the official poverty statistics also shows that 14 out of 100 urban dwellers and 45 out of 100 rural people were poor in 2006. The rural areas accounted for 75% of Philippine poverty.

According to the research group, which presented its study today at the IBON Midyear Birdtalk in UP, the past administration’s failed economic policies have caused the country’s broad income inequalities and poverty to grow even wider. The Aquino government should take steps to reverse these policies and arrest the unparalleled decline in the people’s welfare and escalation of widespread poverty in the country. (end)

IBON FEATURES | Upholding the people’s right to information is both urgent and necessary especially under a worsening climate of impunity, human rights violations and massive corruption.

Marginalized sectors who have been continuously denied of their right to participate in policymaking are the biggest sufferers in the failure of Congress to pass the freedom of information legislation.

Filipinos are deprived of their full right to information despite a constitutional guarantee, as denial of access to public records remains widespread in government bureaucracy. The absence of a decisive mechanism to ensure transparency in government procedures and transactions has not only promoted corruption and a culture of impunity but also further disempowered people from participating in policy development.

As it is, the lack of democratic processes in policymaking already denies affected sectors of their right to know and be consulted in many important government laws, transactions and projects. The lack of access to information makes this situation worse because it denies them of their right to scrutinize and express their views on these policies. Likewise, research and publication outfits like IBON that are committed to bringing information on socioeconomic issues to the grassroots face continued difficulty in gaining access to government records on far-reaching laws, agreements, and so-called development projects.

Access to information makes the process of policymaking more democratic because it facilitates understanding among the public and enables the people to take a stand on laws and policies that affect them. When the Right to Information Act for instance was passed by parliament in Delhi, India in 2001, it paved the way for grassroots organizations to investigate a proposed water project—revealing alleged maneuverings by the World Bank in the bidding process to favor a US-based firm, as well as onerous provisions that would worsen water supply inequities.

Upholding the people’s right to information is both urgent and necessary especially under a worsening climate of impunity, human rights violations and massive corruption. A true democracy not only requires full participation of the most affected sectors in governance but also demands transparency and accountability from those in public office—and one of the key steps in advancing these is the people’s full realization of their right to information.

President-elect Noynoy Aquino has promised to put an end on corruption and investigate Pres. Gloria Arroyo on her alleged corruption cases, and thus the challenge for his administration is to ensure that the right to information becomes legislated immediately. (end)

The Philippine government should assert its right to implement the development policies that it needs.

The just-concluded EU-ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Madrid ended with apparent agreement on economic integration mechanisms and the EU calling the ASEAN countries not to implement protectionist measures. But according to research group IBON, the Philippine government should assert its right to implement the development policies that it needs.

The EU, which is on the brink of a renewed bout of financial and economic turmoil, is seeking open markets, flexibility in its production locations and freedom in its investment decisions in Third World countries. According to IBON, these aim to create profitable opportunities for EU corporations.

Giving such benefits to already advanced European producers means putting relatively underdeveloped Filipino agriculture and industry at a disadvantage, and foregoes real gains being made from allowing foreign investment into the country, said the group. Foreign trade and investment will only give development gains if the country is able to give judicious protection and support to local producers, as well as regulate the operations of foreign capital in the country.

A report commissioned by the European Commission in 2009 for instance noted that the Philippines will see a “decline of the cereals and grains (mainly rice) sectors” and “reduced real income levels in rural areas” from an EU-ASEAN FTA. The same report also observed how “increased trade and growth [have] benefited only parts of society [thus] widening the gap between poor and rich”.

An EU-ASEAN deal also creates another problem where the underdeveloped countries of Southeast Asia are inadvertently put in a self-destructive race-to-the-bottom with each other in a misguided scramble to attract European foreign trade and investment through ever more liberalized policies. Only the EU will benefit from this and, in effect, it will be passing on the burden of adjusting to its persisting crisis to the Philippines and other poor countries of the region.

The post-global crisis period has notably changed the world economy, IBON said. Among others, the export-led growth model is no longer possible– including the debt- and bubble-driven consumption and investment in the EU. The traditional industrial powers can no longer be engines of growth for the world economy and the need for real domestic development is greater than ever. (end)

Water for the People Network | Among the interested buyers of the Angat HEPP are some of the most politically influential business groups in the country and perceived backers of some presidentiables

Advocacy group Water for the People Network (WPN) today challenged presidential candidates to prove that they are not beholden to big business interests and issue a categorical statement that they will not allow the privatization of the Angat Dam and undermine people’s access to water.

The group issued the statement as the deadline for the submission of bids for the 246-megawatt (MW) Angat Hydroelectric Power Plant (HEPP) ends today.

The WPN noted that among the interested buyers of the Angat HEPP are some of the most politically influential business groups in the country and perceived backers of some presidentiables including Danding Cojuangco’s San Miguel Corp., the Lopez family’s First Gen Corp., the Ayala Group, Manny Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific Corp., Aboitiz Power Corp., and the Consunjis’s DMCI Power Corp.

“We need an assurance, especially from the leading presidential contenders, that they will protect the human right to water and not the private business interests wanting to control Angat Dam’s hydropower facilities. Whoever controls the hydropower facilities controls the flow and allocation of water from the dam,” the WPN said.

According to the WPN, the issue of people’s access to water for basic uses will be a recurring problem that the next administration will face. The group said that droughts, such as the current El Niño, will be more intense due to climate change and will further limit available freshwater supply for domestic use and irrigation.

The group added that the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), the body tasked to privatize Angat Dam, should not rush its privatization and at least wait until a new president takes over.

“Aside from its serious impact on people’s access to water, the privatization will also be conducted in the thick of the elections. It is for the interest of everyone that the PSALM exercises due prudence and allow the next administration to decide on the fate of Angat Dam,” said the group.

In an earlier statement, the WPN said that the privatization of the Angat HEPP will undermine the access to water for basic domestic use of some 14 million consumers in Metro Manila and several towns in the provinces of Rizal and Cavite. It will also threaten the use of water from Angat Dam for the irrigation needs of some 28,000 farmers in the provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga.

As an alternative, the WPN proposes that government’s water agencies take the lead in managing the facilities of the Angat Dam with sufficient mechanisms that will allow multi-stakeholder participation (including consumers, farmers, non-government organizations, and concerned local government units) in the management of the dam. (end)

There may be enough supply if consumption is regulated among wasteful users such as golf courses.

* Correction-In Metro Manila including in Antipolo… “around 18,576 cubic meters of water per hectare per day is spent for golf courses” SHOULD HAVE READ “around 18,576 cubic meters of water per day is spent for golf courses. “

As the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) warns against cutting water supply for irrigation because of the El Nino, independent research group IBON said that there may be enough supply if consumption is regulated among wasteful users such as golf courses.

A study made by the group reveals that the water consumption of 18-hole golf courses nationwide consumes 194,400 cubic meters of water per day— enough to supply the water needs of 1,500 hectares of paddy rice. This amount is computed based on an NWRB estimate that an 18-hole golf course consumes 51.84 cubic meters of water per hectare per day. There are 75 major golf courses in the country covering a conservative estimate of 3,750 hectares of land.

Moreover, water consumed by golf courses can supply the crucial water needs of 516,085 households nationwide.

In Metro Manila including in Antipolo (a total of 13 golf courses with an estimate of 650 hectares), around 18,576 cubic meters of water per hectare per day is spent for golf courses. This volume is enough to meet the water needs of 12,355 households in Metro Manila, where some 53,300 households in areas covered by private concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water are denied of water service.

When dams reach a critical level, water allocation for irrigation is usually among the first to be reduced. In the case of the Angat Dam, this would mean cutting irrigation and threatening the rice production of around 31,000 hectares of agricultural land.

IBON, a member of the water advocacy network Water for the People, said that amid the tightening water supply, the NWRB should further lower the allocation for excessive water users such as golf courses. Authorities should also strictly monitor and regulate water use by large commercial establishments like malls, hotels, private parks, and others. Water needed by agricultural land and domestic use should be prioritized it will help ensure food security as well as the health, sanitation and important water needs of the people. (end)

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