By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – As President Benigno S. Aquino III prepares for his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), representatives of cause-oriented and sectoral groups gathered to put together their concrete demands, which they dubbed as the people’s “Agenda for National Survival.”
Led by Bayan (New Patriotic Alliance) and Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change, the groups presented their agenda to Aquino and to the media, with the agenda grouped into issues concerning national sovereignty, social justice, economic development, human rights, protection of the environment and forging of a just and lasting peace.
The consolidated people’s demands were presented at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila last July 20. These, they said, would also be the core demands that the different sectors would bring out on Aquino’s first SONA on July 26, and which they would bring to the proper government agencies. Renato Reyes, Jr., secretary general of Bayan, said addressing these challenges is necessary for the nation’s survival.
The Arroyo regime left the Philippines mired in an economic and political crisis of unparalleled proportions. Our sovereignty is in tatters, the broad masses of the people have been subjected to some of the worst forms of oppression in history, the economy is in shambles, the environment is severely degraded, and the country is torn by intensifying strife. If the policies of the previous government remain, the country would sink deeper into crisis,” Reyes said.
Karapatan chair Marie Hilao-Enriquez (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil / bulatlat.com)
“Economic Relief and Development
All sectors are calling for immediate relief and long term measures to alleviate poverty and hunger. For the working people, these meant legislated wage increases for private sector workers and the implementation of the Salary Standardization Law III (SSL 3) for government employees.
The KMU (May First Movement) asked the Aquino administration to scrap the National Wage Board as well as the wage freeze policy, which only favor the interests of capitalists. They urged the Aquino administration to declare House Bill 375 as urgent. House Bill 375 provides for the creation of training, livelihood, and employment centers in cities and municipalities nationwide.
The Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), for its part, called on the Aquino administration to “completely implement SSL-3 to cover all government employees this year.
Sr. Mary John Mananzan OSB (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil / bulatlat.com)
Migrante International asked the Aquino government to stop the government’s labor export policy, and instead provide local jobs with just and appropriate salaries. “This would put an end to the growing number of broken families because a parent, a son or daughter, a husband or a wife, has to go abroad and work to feed and provide for his or her family,” said Myrna Esguerra, secretary-general of Migrante International.
During Arroyo’s term, nine million Filipinos have been forced to leave the country to work abroad. Also, Ibon Foundation said under the previous Arroyo administration, the country registered the longest period of high unemployment rates in Philippine history. In January 2010, the unemployed reached 4.3 million, an increase of 730,000 from 2001. It was also during the nine years of the Arroyo government that the workers received a mere P5 ($0.107) real wage increase, the smallest increase granted by the government since the Marcos regime.
Bayan also dared President Benigno Aquino III to be true to his promise of taking the correct path for the welfare of the Filipino people, by removing the Reformed Value Added Tax (R-VAT) on oil and electricity. They also asked his government to bar new or additional impositions of taxes on basic necessities.
The drivers’ sector asked Aquino to stop the looming 250 percent increase in toll fees particularly in South Luzon Express Way (SLEX). “Aquino should reverse the privatization of public infrastructures such as the North Luzon Express Way (NLEX) and SLEX to stop the increases of toll fees as well as the eventual increases on commuters’ transportation fare,” said George San Mateo, secretary general of Piston.
The groups also called for an increase in state spending on education to six percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as prescribed by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). They also called on the government to immediately raise the national budget for health to at least P90 billion ($1.9 billion) or five percent of the Gross National Product.