At the turn of the 21st century, the present global economic crisis is comparable to or worst than the Great Depression of the 1930s. It is the tipping point of the neo-liberal economic model in the 1980s dubbed as globalization, the abandonment of state responsibility through trade liberalization, privatization and deregulation. It gives rise to the phenomenon of development aggression: massive dislocation of communities, destruction of environment, displacement and contractualization of labor and urban demolitions, afflicting great number of poor people in the developing countries. The right to information and due process has been gravely abused to fake consent and fast-track projects. As a consequence, the rights of the people to food, means of subsistence and housing have been compromised. Entitlements have been relinquished to the discretion of the corporate powers, stifling legitimate protest for benefits, security of tenure and reforms in the work place.
Economists warn of years of hard times and there is no immediate relief in the near future. Once again there is a growing concern on the economy and sacrifices to the detriment of human rights. “In the Philippines, this crisis will be extremely severe because it is imposed upon an existing situation…of dependency, lack of sovereignty, crisis of the real economy, and poverty of the large majority of the population” . During a forum on February 10 at the Asian Center of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Michel Chossudovsky, director of the Centre for Research on Globalization, argued that “this crisis is a result of financial manipulation. It is the result of derivative exposure, the use of very complex speculative instruments which have the capacity of moving markets up and down.”
The bankrupt financial institutions do not actually suffer from the crisis because the government cannot allow their demise. “Economic stimulus packages” have been concocted to bail them out of quagmire. They are indispensable sector of development in stirring economic growth, generating taxes and churning out employment. Even corporations, not severely affected by the crisis, are making profits by taking advantage of the situation to rationalize the displacement of workers, adjustment of working hours and reduction of their social benefits. In turn, the government can impose more taxes and stringent measures in the delivery of social services. Government in developing countries have no choice but to slash spending on entitlements and worse transfer public services to the private institutions as foreign aids are curbed to focus on protectionism and nationalism. Certainly, neither the government nor the financial institutions – complementing each other – suffer from the global crisis. It is the poor masses who are already immersed in poverty and can hardly lift their voice to be heard in the economic forums and discussions.
The worsening global economic crisis has repercussions in the domestic economy. Joblessness has taken the center stage of the domestic concerns. Since last quarter of 2008, the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) has already monitored about 50,000 Filipino workers losing their jobs in the semiconductor and manufacturing sectors in the export processing zones wherein transnational corporations reduced production or ceased operations. While 30,000 or more are expected to follow by the end of the second quarter of 2009. The absence of data in the agricultural sector and the non-renewing of contracts in the the big retail stores and local government units may reveal the worse unemployment condition in the country. And the entry of new graduates will further constrict employment opportunities. In the past weeks, overseas Filipino workers have been laid off from work in Hongkong, Taiwan and Middle East. Apart from the trainings on SMEs, they can only avail little financial assistance from OWWA. The government is more predisposed to ensure that the OFWs are assisted first because they have great contribution in keeping the economy afloat rather than making necessary programs for the labor sector. The latter are only offered summer jobs in lieu of loans from SSS. The “economic stimulus” of the government designed to cushion the impact of unemployment in the country, described by many as mere palliative rather than strategic, is highly suspected of mobilizing funds for electoral gains intended primarily for the delivery of basic social services.
– Some 35,000 workers of electronics and automotive parts export companies at the Laguna Technopark have lost their jobs as direct result of the global financial crisis. This means a job loss of 43.75 percent at the economic zone since last yearm when the 94 companies located there reported a workforce of some 80,000. (inquirer.net, January 21, 2009 by Veronica Uy)
– Ford Motors Company has cut its office staff in the Philippines by 15 percent in a restructuring program. Some 29 employees, including six managers, out of total of 200 office-based staff accepted separation packages under a redundancy program that took effect November 30. (lay-offtracker.blogspot.com, December 8,2008)
– Texas Instruments, one of the world’s biggest semiconductor manufacturers, has laid off 400 workers from its factory in the Northern Philippines due to the global financial crisis. It employs about 2, 300 people in its plant in the Baguio where it makes semiconductors – conductive elements used in electronic circuits – mostly for phone maker Nokia. (lay-offtracker.blogspot.com, December 23, 2008)
– The management of Giardini del Sole allowed only 100 (none of them a union member) out of 400 workers to return to work after the holiday break. Around 300 workers hold an impromptu protest at the factory gate. After several days of protest, an agreement was reached between union and management included in the agreement, no worker will be terminated and only voluntary resignations will be accepted. (partidongmanggagawa2001.blogspot.com)
-Intel Corp., one of the biggest foreign operations in the Philippines has told employees that it will close down its over 20-year-old testing and assembly plan in Cavite. It has about 1,800 workers, down from about 3,000 in November. (layofftracker.blogspot.com, January 21, 2009)
– Mitsumi Philippines Inc., the country’s 10th-largest contract manufacturer and exporter of computers, computer peripheral equipment and accessories dismissed 2,400 workers in Bataan and 2,000 in Cebu. (Inquirer.net, Jan.27, 2009-article by Veronica Uy)
-Japanese electronic maker NEC Tokin announced Tuesday that it would axe 9,450 worldwide due to the economic crisis. The company currently makes electronic materials and devices with some 3,000 employees in Japan and 16,000 in China, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. The electronic component manufacturer, said it would shed about 450 domestic post and 9,000 jobs overseas. (www.abs.cbnnews.com, January 27, 2009)
– The country’s embattled garments industry is expecting 10, 000 more workers to lose their jobs in the months to come. Boy Arpafo, vice chairman and full-time officer of clothing textile and footwear industry, said in an interview that out of 150, 00 workers there have been 5,000 workers displaced since October 2008. (businessmirror.com.ph, February 2, 2009 by Sara Fabunan)
– Accenture Philippines, a US-based outsourcing firm has filed a notice of retrenchment for about 500 workers at its facilities in Manila.
– SUMIFRU, one of the companies that deals on banana production believed to be owned by a conglomerate of Japanese and Filipino investors, announced in 2009 the termination of 300 regular employees. The displaced farm workers will be turned over to a contracting agency which will manage their contractual employment. (interview with Brgy. Chair Paul Barrete, Sr.)
Women are the ones severely affected by the crisis as home managers and being the majority workers in factories and domiciles abroad. “We explore all means to keep both ends meet after our husbands lost their job. We have to demonstrate to our children that we can overcome the hardship so that when they become parents themselves, they can look after our example,” Haydee Amigable of the urban poor in Barangay Mactan, Lapu-lapu city aired this predicament during a forum on women in celebration of the women’s month held at the San Carlos University in Cebu city. After she lost a husband, her son was retrenched from work. Her small lending business is losing due to non-payment of loans from borrowers who are also not earning as well. The rest of the women in the forum could no less agree with Haydee that they are facing economic hardship more than before. Many can hardly eat thrice a day, sustain their kids to school and pay their electricity and water bills. On top of these, is the threat that their community of urban poor along the seashore will be displaced by the ongoing reclamation venture of the city of Lapu lapu. About 1,000 families will be affected and there is no viable site identified for their relocation. Disappointed over the administration of Gloria Arroyo, one said that the President should feel like a woman to be able to find solutions to the crisis.
Apart from the temptation of crime, the poor masses are trying hard to maintain dignity. But what is human dignity – if one could only maintain life – in the absence of sufficient food, work and housing? The right to food and means of subsistence and housing form the foundation where other human rights can be nurtured and developed. Under the various international declarations and covenants, the government cannot renege its social responsibility over these rights. It is urgently required and dutifully bound to enhance role in ensuring these entitlements while regulating corporations. Intervention into the capitalist “excesses and inadequacies” is imperative as to inject social responsibility and accountability to the corporate powers which dictate supply and demand, thereby driving economic growth. Reliance on the influx of investment from transnational corporations as an assumption to solve the problem on unemployment and plough capital into the economy has been proven a mistake. The problem on unemployment and food security cannot be addressed by this solution which only put prime importance to market demands and profit. The government should protect our resources under the access and control of the people to spur local economy of self-sufficiency not tied up on the benefit of employment and dictates of the global market. Rather than pushing the Filipinos to sell their land and borrow money to acquire a job in a foreign land and become “Bayani ng Bayan”, the government should recognize that the welfare of the Filipinos abroad cannot be well protected because most of these foreign countries are the ones directly hit by the global crisis.
In an honest and closer look, the entire economic fiasco is consumerism: a greed for yield and over-borrowing beyond one’s capacity to pay, in other words, spending and debt. The civil society and the Church could play an important role on how to address the crisis by example of prudent and frugal spending, expose of false development paradigms and representation to enact laws and policies truly responsive to the fulfilment of the rights of the people. But the greater challenge is for the government not to sit idle and lacking the political will to fulfil its obligation to the entitlements of the displaced workers. It should enact laws that protect the welfare of the workers and impose stricter regulation on our resources from foreign control and utilization. We have the reason to anticipate the increase of human rights violations from legitimate protest actions if it fails to do so.
– dan conejar