Fight for the people’s welfare against Duterte’s anti-poor economic policies

Communist Party of the Philippines, February 10, 2021

The socioeconomic conditions of the Filipino people under the Duterte regime continue to deteriorate alongside the rapid fall of the Philippine economy. Even in the face of the pandemic and severe economic crisis, the Duterte regime insists on applying more extreme measures from the neoliberal toolbox and ignores the demands of the Filipino people.

The pandemic lockdown and restrictions since March 2020 accelerated the downturn of the Philippine economy which has sustained years of destruction of productive capacity in agriculture and manufacturing. The pandemic knocked out the wobbly economy to a -9.5% record-setting collapse of the Philippine 2020 GDP.

The toiling masses of workers, peasants and semiproletariat are mired in deep poverty and hunger. The conditions of the lower and middle pettybourgeoisie are also rapidly deteriorating to lower levels. The broad masses of the Filipino people, especially the downtrodden sectors must, thus, act now to defend their interests and welfare, by uniting and demanding urgent action to address their rapidly worsening conditions.

1. There is a groundswell of urgent people’s demands: for wage and salary increases; monthly economic subsidies for workers who lost their jobs, low-income or no-income families, poor peasant farmers, farmworkers; and production subsidies for small hog raisers, rice and vegetable farmers. These are in addition to outstanding demands for free mass testing, treatment and vaccination against Covid-19. There is also the demand to waive or subsidize utility bills over the past few months and cancel debts especially for the calamity-stricken peasant masses. Teachers, students and parents are demanding reopening of classes in safe schools. People demand allowing jeepneys to return to their routes, stop the phaseout of jeepneys in order to continue serving the public’s transportation needs and allow hundreds of thousands of drivers to earn income.

The broad masses are bestirred to make urgent demands for wage and salary increases, subsidies and others in the face of their rapidly deteriorating socioeconomic conditions. They are doubly agitated and determined to fight for such demands especially after the Duterte regime has acted in favor of big foreign capitalists and their local partners to pocket more profits and enjoy tax reductions and tax holidays. The people are incensed that the Duterte regime continues to ignore their demands.

2. Duterte’s lockdown-centric approach has resulted in massive losses in terms of jobs and income. Distributed government subsidies were very paltry. The living standards of families of workers and toiling people have fallen as the cost of living continues to rise. Unemployment continues to rise as businesses go on temporary or permanent closure or reduced output.

The Duterte regime is still without a proper comprehensive pandemic response system, except for quarantining and social distancing restrictions which it imposes with severity using police and military forces. It failed to put into place a system of mass testing and rapid contact tracing to isolate the Covid-19 virus and prevent its spread.

While the country remains under threat of widespread Covid-19 infections, the Duterte regime is desperate to “open up the economy” even at the risk of failing to manage a surge of infections. It remains to be seen whether a vaccine roll-out will put a stop to continuous rise in the number of cases.

3. Instead of addressing the urgent needs of the people amid its failure to manage the pandemic, Duterte’s congress passed the CREATE Bill which has the declared aim of attracting foreign big capital. Once signed into law, it will benefit foremost big multinational corporations (by as much as ₱251 billion in terms of reduced taxes in the next two years). While reducing taxes for big capitalists, the NEDA and DoF are busy scheming to impose more onerous taxes on ordinary consumers to raise funds to pay for loans being accumulated by Duterte.

The illusion that foreign investments will lead to economic development is being promoted by Duterte’s pro-neoliberal zealots to justify their push to amend the 1987 constitution. Their aim is to pave the way for 100% foreign ownership of local resources and enterprises to the detriment of the national economy and local productive sectors.

4. Getting more foreign investors will not bring any good to the Filipino people. On the contrary, attracting foreign capital through trade and investment liberalization, wage repression and labor flexibilization will only cause greater oppression of workers, further destruction of agricultural production, widespread land grabbing, and further erosion of the country’s economic sovereignty.

Duterte’s economic managers are issuing false assurances of economic recovery claiming baseless estimates of influx of foreign investments. Massive foreign capital infusion is not likely to occur in the coming years as the global capitalist system remains stagnant after a decade of prolonged recession. Global foreign direct investments, in fact, are at lowest levels since 2005.

5. Duterte continues to prioritize spending for foreign-loan driven infrastructure projects which promise huge amounts of profits to foreign capitalists and their local big capitalist partners, but which only generate a trivial number of low-income jobs compared to millions who lost jobs since last year.

The biggest beneficiary of the much-touted Manila Subway project funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is Japan and some of its big corporations, particularly Shimizu Corporation, Fujita Corporation and Takenaka Civil Engineering (JP), and, of course, its local big bourgeois comprador partner EEI Corporation (which is in strategic partnership with Ramon Ang’s Eagle Cement). Contractors brag that they will employ 6,000 laborers, mostly low-paid and low-skilled temporary work.

6. Even amid the pandemic, the regime squandered billions upon billions of pesos of people’s money to go on a counterinsurgency shopping spree for helicopters, fighter planes, guns, missiles, mortars and bombs. It has allotted at least ₱33 billion for the “modernization” of the AFP and ₱19.2 billion for the NTF-ELCAC. The recent arrival of billions of pesos worth of Black Hawk helicopters was grossly obscene in the face of millions of Filipinos wallowing in hunger and poverty.

7. Billions upon billions of pesos of state funds are being diverted to the pockets of Duterte and big bureaucrat capitalists through kickbacks in government contracts, secret negotiations for the purchase of vaccines and medical equipment using emergency powers. There is also widespread corruption in the military in the purchase of helicopters and weapons systems, as well as in the disbursement of funds for military operations. Far worse and widespread corruption will accompany the implementation of the NTF-ELCAC’s Barangay Development Program which is the military’s pork barrel.

8. Not enough resources are mobilized to assist people who lost their jobs and sources of income, provide for free mass vaccination and free Covid-19 testing and treatment. Worse, Duterte reduced funds for spending on public health infrastructure. No funds were allocated to raise the country’s capacity to produce vaccines especially in the face of the pandemic urgency. It did not allot funds to enable schools to safely reopen amid the pandemic subjecting the youth to a prolonged crisis of learning.

9. Rising pork and food prices have pushed inflation to 4.2% last January, a new record high. Except for imposing price ceilings on pork and chicken meat (which will only hit at the small retailers), Duterte has not done enough to comprehensively and timely address the problem of the African Swine Fever and rising prices of pork through production and consumption subsidies. Worse, the Duterte government is taking advantage of the pork crisis to justify its plans to further liberalize the importation of pork and poultry against the interests of local production.

The sharp rise in the prices of food and basic commodities and services has caused the people’s purchasing power to fall. Duterte, however, will have none of the workers demand for raising national minimum wages to allow workers to recover their losses and raise their consumption. Salaries of public health workers and public school teachers remain grossly low, especially when compared to salaries and bonuses of military and police officers and personnel whom Duterte has raised several times in the past years.

10. The Filipino people are bound to rise up to hold the Duterte regime to account for its anti-poor and anti-people economic policies and malpriorities that are causing millions to suffer from rising prices, massive joblessness and severe poverty. In pursuit of imperialist-dictated policies, Duterte has displayed complete lack of concern for the Filipino people.

It is becoming ever so clear to the broad masses of workers and peasants how the Duterte regime tramples on their economic well-being and interests in order to prioritize the interests of multinational corporations and their local big capitalist partners and its military and police forces.#