BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
MANILA – Thousands of activists denounced the US for causing the country’s current economic distress in a rally commemorating Labor Day.
Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement chairman Elmer “Bong” Labog said that retrenchments, wage cuts and reduction of working hours, and labor flexibilization have become commonplace amid the global financial crisis.
“It was the big businesses mainly from the US that have created the economic crisis outbreak, and made workers bear the brunt of it to ensure their continued profiteering,” Labog said. “Thus, Labor Day becomes all the more relevant to all because to defend the cause of the workers – for job security, better wages and living conditions – is to champion the interests of the majority…”
Kabataan (Youth) Party’s Rep. Raymond Palatino, who recently acceded to Congress following a Supreme Court ruling junking the so-called Panganiban formula in computing the number of party-list seats, meanwhile criticized the Arroyo administration for its implementation of neoliberal economic policies. “The government’s adherence to globalization policies which…open up the economy to unrestrained entry of foreign goods and capital is slowly killing our own enterprises, leading to mass lay-offs of workers and lost job opportunities,” he said.
“Coupled with the present global economic meltdown, they only exacerbate the dismal conditions that our young workers and fresh graduates are already facing,” Palatino added.
Palatino cited government data showing that 80 percent of unemployed Filipinos fall within the 15-24 and 25-34 age groups.
The protesters also pushed for a legislated P125 across-the-board, nationwide wage increase, which was first put forward in 1999.
The ralliers began the day at 5:30 a.m. with a torch parade at the Welcome Rotunda, the boundary between Manila and Quezon City; followed by a lightning rally at the foot of the Don Chino Roces Bridge, a few steps away from the presidential palace, at 10 a.m. They gathered at various converging points in Manila before marching to Liwasang Bonifacio, where they held the main program.
At around 7 p.m., they staged a torch parade to the US Embassy. (Bulatlat.com)