By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Representative of the 1st district of Capiz City, secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, and senator are just some of the positions held by Manuel Roxas II, who packaged himself as Mr. Palengke.
For Fr. Joe Dizon, spokesman of Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change, the appointment of Roxas as Presidential chief-of-staff would signal the Aquino government’s firm commitment to neoliberal policies.
“The appointment of Roxas as Presidential chief-of-staff would only worsen our country’s problems. Since Aquino said that he will depend on Roxas, it means that he would be pursuing the same failed globalization policies, the only economic paradigm that Roxas knows and believes in,” Dizon told Bulatlat.com in an interview.
During his term as Congressman, Roxas authored R.A. 8756 or an act providing for the terms, conditions and licensing requirements of regional or area headquarters, regional operating headquarters, and regional warehouses of multinational companies, amending for the purpose certain provisions of executive order no. 226, otherwise known as the omnibus investments code of 1987. The law stipulates not only the process required for establishing regional headquarters of multinational corporations in the country. It provides for tax exemptions and duty-free importation for such companies.
This is to encourage more foreign investments in the country.
Makabayan Coalition President Satur Ocampo noted that Roxas’s stand on national issues is dictated by political considerations. Ocampo said during the 2001 elections, they decided to support Roxas’s senatorial candidacy because of his relatively progressive position concerning the World Trade Organization.
“During the Doha WTO negotiations he took a relatively progressive stand and sided with developing countries,” Ocampo said.
The goodwill Roxas gained by his position in the Doha WTO negotiations was negated by Roxas’s sponsorship of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
Roxas was among the 16 senators who voted for the ratification of JPEPA . Progressive groups branded the treaty as one-sided, anti-Filipino.
The agreement allows Japan to export their toxic waste products and hazardous materials to the Philippines. Under Article 18 of the agreement, both Japan and the Philippines shall either “reduce or eliminate its customs duties, eliminate other duties or charges of any kind imposed on or in connection with the importation and take part in improving market access conditions for originating goods.”
The JPEPA was condemned by progressive groups because the agreement violates the constitution. Under the Article 2 Section 15 of the Constitution, the State promotes the people’s right to health and right to a balanced and healthful ecology.
Ocampo added that during the May 2010 elections, Makabayan coalition did not see any progressive stand in the platform of Benigno S. Aquino III and Roxas. “He has a background of inconsistency. Sometimes he took a progressive stand; sometimes he goes back to being traditional,” Ocampo said.
At the height of the oil price hikes in 2008, Roxas supported the call for the suspension of value-added tax on petroleum products.
Roxas was also called the father of Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) and the call center industry. During his term as Department of Trade and Industry secretary, Roxas launched the program “Make IT Philippines” where he brought the biggest global industry players in BPO to the country.
The BPO industry’s rise in the Philippines, however, is due to the country’s cheap labor and lax labor protection regulations, thereby prompting Kabataan Party-list Representative Raymond V. Palatino to sponsor the BPO Workers Welfare & Protection Act.