By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — Filipinos have nothing to applaud but plenty to fear from its new president’s US trip and the bacon it’s supposed to bring home soon, based on statements of workers, migrants, youth and students’ organizations and economic think-tank Ibon Foundation. Various people’s organizations scored the Aquino government’s double-faced tack at presenting itself as “frugal” and supposedly better than its predecessor, when in truth, the Aquino government is “unmasking itself” as no different from the Arroyo government, if not worse.
Migrante and KMU (May First Movement) pointed to the hidden real cost to the people of President Benigno Aquino’s supposed cheap trip to the US. The Aquino government has spent US$15,000 (roughly P657,000) just to hire the services of PR firm Kreab Gavin Anderson on his first trip to the US, said Migrante Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona. But for providing assistance to distressed OFWs, he said the Aquino government has meager or no funds at all. Yet, Monterona said, it is the OFWs’ growing annual remittances of $18-billion that is helping keep the local economy afloat. Compared to OFW remittances, the Aquino government’s $434-million US aid is a mere “token,” said Monterona.
“While the Aquino government proudly proclaims that the president’s first trip to the US would cost less than his predecessor’s overseas trips, we maintain that its effects would cost so much for the Filipino workers and people. It is clear from Noynoy’s statements, entourage, and itinerary that he would be selling cheap Filipino labor and cheap Filipino lives to US corporations in this trip,” said Elmer Labog, chairman of KMU.
Instead of cheering Aquino for theatrically eating hotdogs in a New York roadside and for bagging that $434-million US aid, the progressive peoples’ organizations in the Philippines not only scoffed at the amount but pointed to the dangerous strings attached to it.
“The new $434-M compact grant given to the Philippines by the US government-sponsored Millennium Change Corporation is nothing but a carrot stick to further Washington’s greater inroads into the Philippine economy under President Aquino,” said Terry Ridon, national chairperson of the League of Filipino Students.
In Aid of US Development Aggression
The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) signed during Aquino’s US visit “is biased against Philippine national interest and gives way for more erroneous policies that have eroded the local economy,” said Ibon Philippines in a statement.
The MCA’s US$434-million compact grant agreement of the US government’s Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) requires the Philippines to meet certain indicators such as open trade, economic freedom, good governance, adherence to human rights, etc. to continue receiving the aid.
According to the human rights alliance Karapatan, the $434-million USD compact grant by the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) of the US is a “violation of its own selection criteria” and “encourages governments allied with the US to continue human rights violations as what the US did in the Philippines.”
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of the human rights alliance KARAPATAN and a martial law victim herself, said that the MCC itself stipulated in the selection criteria that, ‘for a country to be selected as eligible for an MCC assistance program, it must demonstrate a commitment to policies that promote political and economic freedom, investments in education and health, the sustainable use of natural resources, control of corruption, and respect for civil liberties and the rule of law.” [http://www.mcc.gov/pages/selection]
“Clearly having more than a thousand victims of extra-judicial killings, with 13 under the new administration in just barely three months, more than 200 victims of enforced disappearances, and 380 political prisoners languishing in jails and detention centers throughout the country with trumped-up charges do not show political freedom and respect for civil liberties and, therefore, a violation of the MCC’s own selection criteria,” Enriquez said.
“US government support to the Philippines, after direct colonization, has always been detrimental to the country. This time, we fear that the funds would only encourage governments allied with the US to continue human rights violations as what is happening in the Philippines,” Enriquez added.
Worse, according to Ibon, “to qualify for support, recipient countries are required to implement neoliberal economic and political policies approved by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), and neoconservative US think-tanks Heritage Foundation and Freedom House.”
The required indicators for trade policy, inflation and fiscal policy are no different from the discredited World Bank structural adjustment programs and IMF stabilization programs of past decades, noted Ibon and many peoples’ organizations. It seeks to “completely open up the economy to foreign capital at the expense of real domestic development, and to promote fiscal austerity to be able to keep repaying debt. These policies are designed to benefit mainly US commercial and strategic interests and not the development or poverty reduction in the country. Moreover, the MCC indicators are inconsistent with real asset and wealth redistribution in the domestic economy,” said Ibon.