Charter change and further economic liberalization

July 13, 2012. Once again, our politicians and their patrons are peddling the lie that the only path to the economic salvation of the Philippines is through more intensified foreign intervention in the economy and a more intensified liberalization of “key industries”. It is almost like routine, from the administration of President Fidel Ramos, to Joseph Estrada, to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to Benigno Aquino III, every year or two, the leaders of both Houses of Congress peddle the proposal of changing the economic provisions of the Constitution in order to liberalize the remaining sectors of the economy with “nationalist restrictions.” True enough, faithful to tradition, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte comes out today, a few weeks before the State of the Nation Address and the opening of the last session of Congress, to promote “charter change.”

This begs the question, is “free market” liberalization the only path to economic prosperity? A brief look at the economic history of today’s prosperous and developed nations will prove that the path to economic prosperity is paved by national industrialization with strong basis in state intervention through regulation and subsidies, and protectionism–quite the opposite of the neoliberal dogma most of these countries now peddle and force upon the throats of the people of the “third world.”

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The dishrag calling the dust cloth dirty

January 15, 2012. A few days ago, a paper written by ex-President Gloria Arroyo entitled “It’s the economy, student!” was released to the public. In the piece, the ex-President went on great length to champion her economic programs on one hand and to and bash President Aquino for failing to ‘sustain’ the gains she boasts to have accomplished on the other.

What really is the fundamental difference between economic policies of the two? Nothing. President Aquino merely continues the same economic policies of President Arroyo.

Both Presidents’ economic programs adhere to the same dogma of neoliberal globalization. It’s the economy, all right–the economy of big businessmen, foreign investors and their local counterparts. Whether or not ordinary Filipinos benefit from such economic growth is merely incidental. They have a phrase for it–“trickle down” effect. Numbers that proclaim economic growth are rendered meaningless by the fact that poverty has continued to worsen over the decade, so much that the government had to re-define and lower the poverty threshold. The vision of economic prosperity and survival is entirely dependent on foreign investors and all the economic programs of President Aquino and his predecessors are aligned with the agenda of these monopoly capitalists and their local counterparts.

Both Presidents have pushed for the further privatization of public utilities by selling contracts to roads and other public services to private profiteers. Both administrations have strengthened the deregulation of industries imbued with public interest and rejected clamors to repeal the laws that allow such deregulation, from the oil industry (Oil Deregulation Law) to power generation and distribution (EPIRA) to education (Education Act of 1982), which have resulted to public services that are increasingly out of reach to ordinary Filipinos and are increasingly profitable to private corporations.

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We never got the share we deserve

gold mine at Itogon, Benguet

August 26, 2007. The morning of the second day of the KASAMA sa UP assembly was spent with some indigenous peoples’ rights advocates in one of Benguet province’s open pit gold mines.

It took three packed jeepneys almost an hour to transport all of us delegates to Itogon, Benguet from Baguio City. The open pit mine is operated by one of the oldest and most infamous mining corporations in the Philippines, Benguet Corporation, set up by occupying Americans more than a century ago.

You know, it’s really disturbing how we’ve all been lead to believe that mining will help our economy and our people, but all they’ve done for the past century is to plunder our mineral riches out of the country. Of course, to sugarcoat and compensate for these companies’ exploitation of the local’s resources, destruction of its ecology and the plundering of its riches, they build schools, a few houses and roads which in reality only serve as support infrastructure for further plunder, reinforce status quo and make the people dependent on foreign aid, foreign goods and foreign intervention.

We were told that despite the relatively recent enactment of laws that protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples in the Philippines, it serves little use to the people of Itogon because of Benguet Corporation’s insistence on their immunity due to their incorporation in 1903.

gold mine in Itogon, BenguetWe hiked around the area for more than an hour. When we reached a certain height to view the open pit mine itself, we were told that what we hiked was not really a mountain but a heap of mine debris from all the gold extraction. The open pit mine itself was an attractive scene artificially masking a story of a century of exploitation and ecological destruction.