“Cementing this kind of neoliberalism requires repression and we’ve seen that repeatedly.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – A day before the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, progressives criticized the economic policies espoused by APEC and the United States’ agenda of pushing for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.
Speaking at a press conference Nov. 17, Antonio Tujan of Ibon International, said APEC comes at a time of a global economic crisis. He said APEC would push for a new agreement that will further open the borders of Asia-Pacific countries.
“This agreement will push people to hunger and death,” Tujan said, referring to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement led by the United States.
The TPP is a free trade agreement currently being negotiated with 12 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
For Jomorito Goaynon, nominee of Sulong Katribu partylist, “APEC leaders would discuss how to continue exploiting the country’s natural resources, especially in Mindanao.”
Goaynon said such plunder of natural resources in Lumad’s ancestral territories led to extrajudicial killings and other gross human rights violations.
Joining the Manilakbayan or the Lumad’s journey to Manila are some of those affected by Australian mining firm Xstrata’s project and Canada’s TVI Resources and Development. Both corporations have a record of environmental destruction and human rights violations.
Tujan agreed, saying, “corporations want to enjoy the land of Lumad for plantations and mining.”
Tujan said Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman offered relocation for Lumad. “That is what they want to do: Remove the Lumad from their own land so that corporations could take over.”
Kate Lappin, regional coordinator of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), pointed out that “TPP cements corporate power within the region and globally.”
“TPP is about ensuring corporations can take land, resources without any responsibility and ensuring corporations can exploit labor without any responsibility and we cannot have any possible regulations on the power of corporations,” Lappin said.
Lappin noted that the UN independent experts have declared the TPP illegal.
In a statement released in June, UN experts are concerned that the TPP and another agreement the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) “are likely to have a number of retrogressive effects on the protection and promotion of human rights, including lowering the threshold of health protection, food safety, and labour standards, by catering to the business interests of pharmaceutical monopolies and extending intellectual property protection.”
UN experts added that “both bilateral and multilateral investment treaties might aggravate the problem of extreme poverty, jeopardize fair and efficient foreign debt renegotiation, and affect the rights of indigenous peoples, minorities, persons with disabilities, older persons, and other persons leaving in vulnerable situations.”
Lappin said TPP is “illegal because it allows corporations to trample upon national laws and prohibits governments from making any law that might be in the interest of the people.”
Worse than before
The impact of APEC on the Philippine economy would be worse, said Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares.
Colmenares said progressive groups have been proven right in criticizing APEC in 1996. Decades of trade liberalization, deregulation and privatization have not improved the country’s economy, he said.
Colmenares said the country should produce what the people need. “APEC says ‘No.’ You produce what we need. Don’t worry, we will produce what you need.”
This, he said, has made the Philippines suffer from trade deficits and made it dependent on imports.
Colmenares further said, “What is ironic is this. While this government lowers tariffs and provides foreign corporations tax holidays and tax incentives, it is taxing Filipinos to death. It refuses to lower income tax on the ground that it would lose billions in revenues. It refuses to take away value added tax on basic commodities.”
Tujan criticized the Philippine government for “wanting to sell the country’s resources even more” through the TPP. The Philippines has expressed interest in signing the TPP.
Tujan said the US government itself declared that the Philippines is not ready for TPP. The Philippine Constitution, Tujan said, provides restrictions on foreign ownership of resources and utilities.
Progressives are set to hold protest actions against the APEC.
“Since 1996, we have a tradition of fighting APEC as a symbol of neoliberal globalization,” Tujan said.
Goaynon said delegates of Manilakbayan would join the protests.
Goaynon said they are virtually imprisoned inside the compound of the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran. Soldiers and policemen – ordered by Malacanang — prevent them from leaving the premises due to APEC Summit.
Asked about the supposed ban on foreigners from joining protests, Colmenares said
“there is really no reason for foreigners to be disallowed from joining rallies.”
“If the Aquino government wishes to implement such policy, I’m sure many of us will question that policy not only in courts but also in the streets,” he said.
Lappin, an Australian, said, “Cementing this kind of neoliberalism requires repression and we’ve seen that repeatedly. This is not new. Any kind of repression on people’s right to demonstrate against issues that directly affect them is fundamentally part of a repressive neoliberal system.”
“As people, we don’t ask governments to give us the right to demonstrate. It is a fundamental right. And we’ll exercise it.”
Malcolm Guy, secretary general of the Internal League of Peoples’ Struggle and a Canadian, said he is more worried about going to the airport than going out in the streets and marching. “…who knows what I would find in my luggage. How much would it cost me to get out of here?”
Guy said he hopes that the Philippine government will respect their right to demonstrate.
“We have many things to say to the leaders around the globe. APEC claims it is building a better world. We will show that APEC is peddling a lie. That is our message to the people of the world,” Guy said.
In unison, the speakers in the press conference chanted “Stop Trading People for Profits,” in reference to the TransPacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).