Another Philippines is Possible: On with the Struggle: Jobs and Justice, Land and Freedom Now!
1. Poverty and exploitation are deepening the world over on an unimaginable breadth and scale, and hitting the poor harshest, especially women.
2. Economically disadvantaged and disempowered, excluded from the enjoyment of their most basic rights, the majority of Filipino women share a similar situation with their sisters in the developing and least developed countries. They bear some of the most adverse consequences of the phenomenon we know as neoliberal globalization.
3. In increasingly destructive and insidious ways, the world's economies are being integrated -- not in the sense of building an efficiently democratic global economy of the world's peoples -- but in the interest of naked power and greed. Through certain policies characteristic of neoliberal globalization, we are being pushed by industrialized capitalist nations, transnational corporations and international financial institutions into accepting a system of globalized production and “free” markets governed by the rules of savage, capitalist profit-making.
4. What can government, especially the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration, show for its diligent pursuit of neoliberal policies and programs? By government’s own data, a majority of the regions, particularly those in Mindanao, still register poverty rates of more than 40 percent, far above the average of 24.4 percent (2003). More than two million Filipinos are without work while 6.1 Million are underemployed and looking for additional employment (2007). Labor force participation for women has been declining in the last few years, reported in 2006 at 49.8 percent for women vs. 79.8 percent for men. (NSO) With contractual work now the norm rather than the exception, and more firms being drawn to layoff regular workers in favor of hiring “casuals”, the number of women is rising in the informal sector where they suffer below minimum wages, the lack of job security and social protection, unsafe working conditions, and poor access to credit, markets, technology and other support services.
5. The policy of trade liberalization, in pushing for the removal of protective tariffs that protect local economies, has encouraged dumping of cheaply priced goods from the subsidized economies of richer countries. The grossly unfair competition has led to the destruction of local production in many parts of the Philippines, leaving entire communities economically crippled and robbing women of their livelihoods, while ensuring the takings of foreign investors and local partner elites.
6. Production of cash crops for the global market has taken over basic food production and increased our food insecurity. The GMA government has in fact admitted that it will not reach its maternal health targets under the Millennium Development Goals. In its last report, 40 percent of pregnant women were documented as anemic, with some provinces in Mindanao reaching levels higher than 50 percent (2006). Mothers’ diets were found to be grossly inadequate, increasing maternal mortality risk, the delivery of low birth weight infants and early deaths of malnourished children. The proportion of underweight children exceeds the national average in most of the regions.
7. At the same time that foreign capital seeks the cheapest labor in South countries, the flow of cheap human labor to industrialized countries has also become a marked feature of the neoliberal globalization picture. Sending countries like the Philippines vigorously encourage labor migration, exploiting the vulnerabilities of the millions caught in escalating economic difficulties. The level of OFW remittances has been on a continuous uptrend and at more than $7 billion (2003) significantly contributes to propping the Philippine economy and servicing outstanding debts of . The great majority of the estimated eight million Filipinos working abroad are women. While many have economically benefited from work abroad, the bulk of women migrant workers are considered unskilled workers doing “dirty, demeaning, and dangerous” jobs, receiving lower pay than national counterparts and without adequate social protection. Push and pull factors combine to create conditions promotive of prostitution and trafficking; government still cites 60,000 to 100,000 Filipino children and over 100,000 Filipino women trafficked internally and externally annually.
8. Privatization also impacts adversely on poor households and women. As government withdraws from its responsibility to ensure public services and surrenders this to private firms, access to essential services becomes contingent on the capacity to pay and increasingly moves out of the reach of the economically disadvantaged. Women, by default, provide some of these health, water and education-related services through their unpaid labor, and end up more deeply income and time-poor than before. Water rates in Metro Manila have increased several hundred-fold since government surrendered water services to private concessionaires. These have not been translated into expansion of clean, affordable water services. Access to safe drinking water and access to sanitary toilet facilities has hardly improved over the years.
9. Health budgets have also been consistently declining, a condition government seeks to remedy through the privatization directions of the Health Sector Reform Agenda. More public health facilities are being lined up for privatization by 2010. The GMA government admits to being unable to meet its target of decreasing the maternal mortality rate which still remains high at 106 deaths (per 1000 births) compared to other countries in the Southeast Asian region; and infant mortality rates which in most regions are above the national average of 24 deaths per 1000 births. A staggering 75 percent of the poorest sections of the population has no access to skilled birth attendants.
9. We cannot stand by as these conditions gain ground. Our lives, our children’s lives, our future lies on the line. As women, we bear witness to the destruction wrought by neoliberal globalization to our persons, our livelihoods, our basic rights and freedoms, the very stuff of our daily survival as human beings. We are all too familiar with the difficulties and risks that come with opposition and resistance; many of our sisters have sacrificed their lives struggling against both social and systemic oppression and injustices against women and many still are threatened by political repression. But we are also well aware of the gains and strides made by women as a result of vigilance, determination, struggle and resistance, and draw strength from these to address the current conjuncture and to stake our claim for a better Philippines, a Philippines where we hold paramount the enjoyment of our rights and dignity as women.
Freedom from Debt Coalition Women's Committee
Welga ng Kababaihan Laban sa Kahirapan at Globalisasyon
25 January 2008