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WTO: Cheapening Filipino Women’s Labor

December 2013

Even before the country’s accession to WTO in 1995, Philippine labor market has been a source of cheap labor for foreign capitalists here and abroad. However, by entering the globalized trade agreement under WTO, the condition of the majority of population worsen as WTO favors more profits for capitalists over decent livelihhod and rights of the people. The Philippine government even came up with laws like the Amended Foreign Direct Investments Act (1996), Special Economic Zone Act (1995) and Retail Trade Act (2000) that essentially caters to foreign capitalists. Rampant contractualization and low wages were also implemented to cater capitalists’ profit accumulation.

• Without real industries to absorb workers, unemployment and underemployment is a perennial problem in the country. In 2012, unemployed Filipinos reached 3.0 million where 1.19million are women.
• In the National Capital Region where 11% of total employed Filipinos are based, the highest minimum wage is pegged P466.00. In other regions, minimum wage can be as low as P205.00 (Ilocos region, nonplantation). Worse, DoLE reported that only 81% of companies with the minimum wage.
• Already suffering low wages, the new two tiered wage scheme (2TWS) further lowers workers’ wages. With 2TWS, a fixed floor wage is set, while increases will depend on the productivity of the company or factory which essentially depends on the discretion of company owners. This new wage scheme was largely supported by the International Labor Organization and the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines.
• Women employment is increasingly concentrated to servies sector. In 1995, 56% (5.3 million) of women are employed in services, in 2011, 68% of employed women or 9.9 million are in the services sector. Highest concentration of low paid workers are in the services sector.
• Women in wholesale and retail trade (4.4 million) get an average daily wage of P261.00
• There is also an increase in the number of women working in private households (1.6 million) who get an average of P127.00 daily wage
• In 2010, women comprise more than half of the total employment in BPOs industry. Considered as the “sunshine industry”, setting up call centers in the Philippines is lucrative for foreign investors due to government incentives such as tax holidays, subsidies and the low legislated wages for workers.
• Contractualization and other forms of labor flexibilization is rampant especially in export processing zones (EPZs) where there is a very high concentration of foreign direct investment. In Southern Tagalog region, 65% to 70% of the workers are under different types of contractualization schemes such as agency hires, OJTs, interns, casual workers. About half of workers in companies such as Asia Brewery, NXP, EMI Yazaki, Aichi, Takata, Coca-cola, Ebara, Moriroku, URC and Hoya Glassdisk are contractuals, most of them, are located in special economic zones.
• According to BLES, short-term, seasonal or casual women workers reached 1.6 million in 2011 from 836,000 in 1995.
• To further attract foreign investors, labor rights are also undermined in special economic zones where there is an unwritten policy of “no strike, no unions”. Based from BLES’ survey, union membership fell from 692,000 in 1995 to 319,000 in 2010.
• Due to poverty, families try to collectively find other sources of income. With this, even children opt to work to augment their families’ income. In 2011, there was an estimated 5.5 million children workers. Most of them can be found in regions with the highest poverty incidence.
• As no decent jobs can be found in the country, many Filipinos opt to go abroad. Six out of every ten deployed overseas Filipino workers are women. Most of them, 73% are in service work where they are employed as domestic helpers, cooks. Their workplace being private in nature, these Filipino women ar more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by their employers.
• The implementation the Basic Education Curriculum and K+12 program clearly shifts education orientation and policies to serve market interests for cheap and docile labor. One of the objectives of K+12 is to equip secondary school students with employable skills so they can easily get absorbed in technical or vocational employment. The Basic Education Curriculum on the other hand gives focus basic subjects such as Mathemetics and English to make Filipinos globally competitive.

The Perils of WTO on Rural Women

December 2013

The Philippines’ accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and to the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) in 1995 particularly took toll on the plight of the majority of Philippine population, the peasantry. Rural women bear the brunt of the effects of neoliberalized trade and policies in agriculture as they participate both in agricultural production and are tasked to tend to the needs of the family.

Exacerbating massive landlessness, eroding livelihood and income

• In the Philippines, peasants remain poor as seven out of every ten of them do not own the land they till because vast areas of land are concentrated on the hands of a few families. With WTO’s thrust for corporate agriculture, landlessness worsens as the government favors concessions of large agricultural lands to multinational agri-businesses such as Dole and Del Monte in the southern Philippines.
• WTOs thrust for export agricultural production affected the country’s staple food production. Farm areas planted with palay only rose 28% from 1994 to 2012. Areas planted with corn even fell by more than 400,000 hectares. On the other hand, areas planted with crops for export dramatically rose, such as rubber (103%), chrysanthemum (167%), orchids (233%).
• Landlessness and land use conversion for export crop production force many farmers including rural women to work in these plantations where they get a meager salary. Women in particular get lower daily wage than men. Women farmworkers get an average of PhP115.54 daily wage, 6.9% lower than what male farmworkers get. In sugar plantations, a major agricultural export of the Philippines, women sugarcane workers get 18% lower pay than male workers. (BAS, 2012)
• In 2011, there were 1.5 million women were reported as unpaid family workers in agriculture
• There is also increasingly low share of women employed in agriculture, from 34% in 1995 to 21% in 2010.
• In 2009, there were an estimated 23.14 million poor Filipinos; largely based in rural areas according to NSCB Poverty Survey.
• Massive poverty in the countryside can be characterized by the widening income gap of families in the rural and urban areas. In 1985, the income gap was recorded 110%. In 2000, the gap of urban to rural family income was at 140%.
• Government support for rural women are mainly in the form of microcredit loans that doesn’t uplift them from poverty but instead burden them to debt. Rural women are also target of government poverty alleviation programs like CCTs.
• As a result of poverty in the countryside, many rural women migrate to urban cities to find other source of income. This led to an increase in the number of laborers, unskilled workers and service workers concentrated in ubran areas. In 2011, 7.2 million Filipino women laborers, unskilled workers and service workers who comprise almost half of the total employed women in the country.
• There were also 1.64 million women woking in private households as helpers, cooks, launderers many of them migrated from rural areas.

Endangering the lives of women

AS WTO shifts agriculture to capital intensive agricultural production, agrochemicals have been introduced to heighten productions. These chemicals (pesticides, GMO seeds, fertilizers), however, pose danger to women’s health since women are usually handling these chemicals in the production chain. In Southeast Asia, the Philippines has so far the highest number of GMO crops approved for human consumption, animal feed, propagation and field trial. Most of these are genetically-altered corn, soybean, potato, canola, cotton, sugarbeet and alfalfa. These approved GMOs are products of big multinational agro-chemical companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Pioneer which own patents to these crops.

Environmental destructions and calamities

Massive flooding drowned entire communities in Mindanao when Typhoon Washi and Bopha hit the region in 2011 and 2012. Most of the thousands victims were women and children. They were victims of the ravages of destructive imperialist industries, such as agri-based multinational corporations like Dole, Del Monte and Sumifru, and large scale mining. These expansive plantations are known to cause massive soil degradation, the poisoning of rivers and streams and other water sources and, worst of all, the massive siltation and flooding of low-lying areas.

Bakit ang mahal ng kuryente mo?

Pebrero 2014

Mahalaga sa kababaihan ang kuryente dahil sa ito ang nagpapatakbo ng mga kasangkapang ginagamit nila at nang sa gayon ay mapadali ang ilang gawain sa bahay. Kuryente rin ang nagbibigay liwanag sa mga pagawaan at opisina. Nakakatulong din sa kaligtasan ng isang pamilya ang maliwanag na kapaligiran lalo na’t sa panahon ng krisis, tumataas ang kriminalidad na nagaganap kapag kumagat na ang dilim. Dahil ang kuryente ay batayang pangangailangan, nararapat lamang na abot-kaya ito ng mga mamamayan.

Ang paghahatid ng serbisyo ng kuryente ay dumadaan sa tatlong mahahalagang sangkap, ang generation, transmission at distribution. Sa generation nalilikha ang kuryente. Pangunahing lumilikha ng kuryente ang National Power Commission (NPC) at kasunod ang mga power producers. Mula sa mga power plants ay kailangan itong i-transmit sa pamamagitan ng mga transmission lines. Para naman makarating sa indibidwal na kabahayan, opisina, pabrika at iba pa, kinakailangan ang isang distribution utility.

WTO's Attack on Filipino Consumers

December 2013

The Philippines’ accession to globalized trade agreement under WTO reinforced further its import dependent, export oriented economy, a trade model that had long sunk the country to trade deficit. This maldevelopment trickles down to every Filipino who work to produce for export and import goods to consume. The liberalization in agriculture trade and encouragement of privatization and deregulation in basic social services effected unbridled increase in the prices of agricultural commodities and services.

Increase in prices of agricultural commodities

• Rice, a staple food in the country, increased its retail price by 273%, from P9.44 per kilo in 1990 to P35.30 per kilo in 2012. On the other hand, farm gate prices of domestically produced palay only rose by 180% from 1990 to 2012. Two things can be gleaned from this, first, rice millers buy palay from farmers at low prices and sell them at high prices. Second, rice imports which has been inevitable since Philippines’ commitment to WTO, is also sold at much higher price.
• Rice importation figures show an increasing volume of rice importation from 100,000 metric tons (MT) to more than 2 million MT of rice from 1984 to 1998. In 2007, the government increased its importation to 1.8 million MT. At the end of 2007, the country had an end stock of 2.17 million MT, but the government further boosted imports by 34.74 percent reaching 2.4 million MT in 2008. In 2010 the government ordered 2.45 million MT of rice.
• Price of chicken increase by 138%
• From 0 importation to increased import dependency on basic agricultural products such as coffee, potato, chicken and carabeef.
• Despite the low cost of some food items due to massive import of cheap products from big agricultural exporters, such as United States and China, in the long term, the collapse of the domestic agricultural economy that cannot compete with these imports consequently cause loss of livelihood of the majority of the population, the farmers. Prices of some imported foods may be lower, but without livelihood even the domestic food producers cannot buy food.
• Increasing hunger and poverty incidence as impact of soaring prices of food and agricultural products. According to the 2011 Annual Povery Survey, 1.2 million families experienced hunger. Highest incidence was recorded in rural areas.

Privatization of basic services and utilities
• WTO, with its sister agencies the IMF and World Bank is well known to push privatization and deregulation in basic social services. In Metro Manila, water consumers have already experienced this process with the privitization of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS). Water concessions was then given to private corporations --Maynilad and Manila Water. These two companies, with their foreign partners benefited from the unbridled water rate hikes since then. From 1997, average water tariff charged by Maynilad increased from P4.96 to P32.92 (564%) while Manila Water charged P2.32 in 1997 to P27.44 in 2012 (1083%).

Philippines: A Country of Expensive Drugs
• In 2006, out of pocket expenditure comprises 63% of the total health expenditures in the Philippines. For poor families, more than half or 53% of their total health expense are spent on drugs and medicines.
• Drugs and medicine in the country are expensive compared with other countries in Asia. Despite efforts to lower the price of medicines such as the Cheaper Medicine Law, prices remain high as the pharma industry is dominated by large MNCs.
• Out of the 20 top pharma companies, 16 are MNCs which includes GlaxoSmithkline, Pfizer-Wyeth, Abbott Laboratories, Novartis, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-Aventis, Johnson & Johnson, Roche and Bayer which are also among the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.
• These 16 companies make up 65% of the total sales of the top 20 companies in the country.
• During the WTO-DOHA round, large US-based pharma companies lobbied to influence the agreement process. For example, Pfizer encouraged US politicians to threaten trade sanctions against poor countries producing or importing ‘cheap’ generic drugs, and the company pushed for a strict patent law within the WTO.

Ang Epekto ng WTO sa Kababaihang Pilipino

Disyembre 2013

Ang World Trade Organization o WTO ay isang organisasyong pangkalakalan na binubuo ng iba’t ibang bansa sa buong daigdig. Layunin ng WTO ang malayang kalakalan, ibig sabihin ay ang pagtatanggal ng mga restriksyon sa ekonomya at pagbubukas nito para sa pagpasok at paglabas ng produkto mula sa iba’t ibang bansa.

Violence Against Women and Children

November 2013

Violence is experienced by the Filipino people due to the worsening condition of landlessness, unemployment, and development aggression. Communities are devastated due to mining projects in rural areas, housing demolitions in urban centers. Pushed to the wall, the Filipino people assert their rights for food and free-dom, jobs and justice. Such assertion is answered with state violence, which greatly affects women and children

ASSAULT on WOMEN and CHILDREN

BONDOC PENINSULA, QUEZON – Bondoc Peninsula and the rest of the south of Quezon serve as the center of agricultural production in the region due to its large productive tracts of land. These areas are also rich in minerals. Aside from being part of the “hacienda belt”, the south of Quezon is a target area for various projects such as the biodiesel plant in Gumaca, power plant in Pagbilao, Ogdel Bechtel Coal Fire Thermal Powerplant Extension in Atimonan, and a dam project in Macalelon.

As clearing operations for these projects intensifies, people face widespread poverty and dislocation. As a re-sult, people assert their right to life and livelihood. Sadly, the government perceives such assertion as rebellion and it has applied its counter-insurgency program, the Oplan Bayanihan program. Massive military operations occur in the re-gion where eight battalions of the Philippine military are presently deployed in 22 towns of Bondoc Peninsula and south of Quezon.

Various human rights violations were experienced by the people of Quezon, particularly affecting women and children. Mothers express fear every time the soldiers search their houses. Children are frightened since the soldiers use their schools and village halls as detachments.

TAMPAKAN, SOUTH COTABATO, 18 October 2012 - indigenous woman leader Juvy Capion was killed allegedly by state agents. Juvy, 28 years old, was a B’laan woman leader from Tampakan, South Cotabato. She was killed together with her two children – John Mark and Jordan. Juvy was a member of KALGAD, an organization of Lumad who are keenly oppos-ing and campaigning against the SMI-Xtrata’s mining of gold and copper in the quadri-boundary of South Cotabato, Da-vao del Sur, Saranggani, and Sultan Kudarat in Mindanao. Around 30,000 B’laan were driven out of their ancestral lands as a result of SMI’s Tampakan project.

WHAT is OPLAN BAYANIHAN?

Oplan Bayanihan is a program of the Aquino administration that aims to curb elements that oppose the government. It is a copied version of the 2009 Counter-Insurgency Guide (COIN) of the US. Different from the pre-vious operational plans, Oplan Bayanihan puts emphasis on noncombat strategies such as alleged delivery of social services in places where there is increased resistance from the people. This of course, is apart from the usual military tactics that they employ.

The VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT

Under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) signed under Joseph Estrada’s administration, the launching of Balikatan exercises has been possible since 2002. In these Balikatan exercises, the whole country becomes accessible to US troops. For women, the increased presence of US soldiers are indicative of further sexual abuses and exploitation. They be-come vulnerable to prostitution, trafficking, and sexual violence such as the case of “Nicole”, a young woman who was raped by US soldiers in 2005.

NEOLIBERAL ECONOMIC POLICIES of Liberalization, Privatization and Deregulation

Neoliberal economic policies such as liberalization, privatization and deregulation worsened landlessness, dislocation, demolitions, unemployment, low wages, contractualization and price hikes that further push women and children to poverty.

Under the worsening crisis of poverty that beset the people, women and children experience increasing violence. According to the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey, 55% of poor women have experienced violence, compared to 12% of women in the upper income decile. This means that poor women are more susceptible to violence.

RAPE and DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

In 2012, there were 5,180 recorded rape cases in the Philippines. This translates to 14 women or children victims daily, or one victim every one hour and 42 minutes. Seven out of 10 victims were children.

What compounds the problem is that those who are supposed to be “protecting” women and children are the ones who are violating them – the military, the police, and the paramilitary units of the government or the CAFGU (Citizen’s Auxilliary Force Geographical Unit).

The Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) was able to monitor 12 cases of rape involving soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and police from the Philippine National Police (PNP) as perpetrators in 2012. One of the rape cases involved two 16-year-old girls in Mankayan, Benguet who were raped by military elements.

In 2012, there were 15,181 recorded cases of domestic violence and physical abuse of children, according to the PNP-WCPC. This means that every day, there are 41 cases of violence against women and children or one case every 34 minutes and 37 seconds.

Sex trafficking, prostitution

Poverty is the main reason why women and even children engage in prostitution. This also puts them in a situation open to other forms of abuse such as trafficking.

In February 2012, eight women victims of trafficking were rescued from a Korean bar in Baguio City. Three of them were minors and three were pregnant. According to GABRIELA, the victims were recruited from Mindanao where each of the women were assured PhP10,000 for their families. But when they were transported to the bar in Baguio, the recruiter reneged on the promised PhP10,000 and instead only gave PhP100 each for their food. The victims were forced to work from 8PM till 4AM; and from 4AM till 6PM, they were locked inside their quarters and were only allowed to go outside to buy their food.

In Davao City, Talikala, an organization that upholds the rights of prostituted women reported that there is an estimated 4,000 women and children who are victims of prostitution wherein the youngest is 9 years old while the oldest is 60 years old. The different forms of prostitution continue. In Iloilo, there were reported cases of “sex for rice” or prostitution in exchange for a kilo of rice. In Navotas and Davao, cases of “akyat-barko” or prostitution in ships are still rampant. There were also reported cases of prostitution in ex-change for a bag of grocery or any food. In young students, there were also reported cases of “prosti-tuition” or prostitution in exchange for payment for tuition – which usually happen every start of the semester in June or October.

Despite the increasing violence, women and children do not remain victims. They are actively participating in the struggle of the people to oppose the programs and policies that reduce and further expose them to poverty and violence. That is why it is a challenge for women to study and to mobilize more women to collectively fight for their democratic rights.

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