MIGRANTS SAY NO TO THE GLOBAL FORUM ON MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT (GFMD)

As representatives of states meet on October 29-30 for the Second Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), we call on our fellow migrants, migrant advocates and supporters to join the genuine voice of migrants as we say “No to GFMD!”

The GFMD is a device created by First World countries and international financial institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank to corner the remittances, borne by the blood, sweat and tears of migrants, and use it in funding for the “development” of poor countries. It is being used to sell neoliberal anti-poverty financing strategy that relies on the remittances of migrant workers. 

The false notion of “migration for development” that the GFMD peddles further promotes the systematic exploitation of cheap labor. It is meant to capture the remittances of migrants to ensure super profits of bank monopolies and ensure that debt-ridden economies have enough reserves to pay off debts, especially amid the raging financial crisis. The GFMD thrives on the poverty of Third World countries and forces them to institutionalize migration policies. Clearly, the agenda and framework of the GFMD reveals that what is in store is greater commodification of migrant labor, and greater exploitation and miseries of migrant workers.

The GFMD holds more significance this year because it is being hosted by the Arroyo regime in the Philippines. The Arroyo regime is the nightmare ofoverseas Filipino workers (OFWs). No other regime has bled the OFWs dry with enormous exactions from fees to charges to taxes. It has duped OFWs to part with their earnings in collusion with big business, illegal recruiters, traffickers and racketeers, and in utter disregard of the abuses and violations of migrants’ rights. It is currently riding high on the phenomenal increase in dollar remittances even as OFWs continue to reel from the falling value of their dollars.

It is time to expose that the GFMD is a predatory scheme that does not address the root causes of underdevelopment and the massive migration of poor people, much less consider the harsh conditions and legitimate issues of migrant workers. The GFMD does not promote the development of poor countries but pushes them deeper into the quagmire of poverty. 

The GFMD is a sham assembly that talks about migrants but deliberately excludes the migrants themselves. It talks about the protection of migrants but in reality violates our rights. First World countries, IFIs, banks, businesses, and governments of poor countries– which have profited immensely and unscrupulously from our hard labor– are the same institutions that are behind the GFMD. After years of neglect, abuse and exploitation, it is time that the genuine voice of the migrants be heard: No to GFMD! No to labor export policy! No to forced migration! Create jobs at home! End poverty! Defend and advance our rights!

 



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JPEPA RATIFICATION PUTS RP IN MORE DANGER VS GLOBAL CRISIS

Contrary to Pres. Arroyo’s statement that the ratification of Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will protect the country from the global financial crisis, research group IBON Foundation says it will make the country more vulnerable to economic shocks.

JPEPA and similar free trade deals further opens the local economy to more foreign plunder and drags the country to the global crisis worsened by trade and investment liberalization, said IBON research head Sonny Africa. Bilateral deals like JPEPA enables beleaguered countries like Japan to pass their crisis to other economies in the region through more liberalization.

Even as Japan claims that it is on the way to recovery, its economy has grappled with stagnant growth and high unemployment for nearly two decades and is aiming to further open up other economies to cope with its internal problems. The emerging scenario of a US economic slowdown, financial disorder, soaring energy and food prices only make its situation more urgent.

The experience of the country with similar free trade deals such as the GATT-WTO, which the Senate ratified in 1994, has proven that no amount of safety nets could protect the economy and people’s livelihood from the harmful effects of liberalization.

According to Africa, it is ironic that the Senate ratified the JPEPA even as the WTO talks broke down precisely because of questions on the supposed development gains to be achieved from trade and investment liberalization. “When will this government learn from the harmful effects of liberalization on the economy?” he asked.

The approval of JPEPA surrenders Philippine sovereignty and will reinforce the country’s backwardness. The country will be further prevented from implementing economic policies essential for its development and will be obliged to give similar disadvantageous terms in pending deals with the US, European countries and others.

There is no real gain for the Philippines and especially the poorest and most marginalized sectors with JPEPA. In agriculture it is the big corporate plantations that will gain and not the country’s millions of small farmers, Africa added.

To protect and build the domestic economy, the country needs trade protection against imports such as tariff and non-tariff barriers and investment controls, and not free trade deals like JPEPA that only further expose the country and deepen its links to the failing global economy. (end)

IBON is one of the convenors of No Deal! Movement Against Unequal Economic Agreements.



INCREASED BUDGET FOR THE POOR URGED AMID GLOBAL CRISIS

With the worsening crisis of the US and global economy expected to further aggravate poverty in the country, independent think-tank IBON Foundation today said that it has become more crucial for government to ensure enough resources are spent for the poor.

IBON said that the Arroyo administration must start by increasing the allocation for social services in the 2009 national budget. The group criticized the allocation of 2.5% of the total budget for health; 13% for education; and 0.4% for housing as atrociously low especially in today’s environment of rapidly rising prices and greater economic uncertainty.

IBON said that the perennially low budget allocation for social services will have a deeper repercussion on the poor and vulnerable sectors as the deteriorating global economic crisis destroys more jobs and livelihood and inflates the cost of living.

Experts count slowdown in export demand, tighter flows in foreign investments and increased speculation in food and fuel prices as among the consequences of the US financial crisis and overall slump in the world economy.

With increased poverty, it becomes more urgent for government to provide sufficient social services such as health, education and housing. But the proposed budget levels obviously could not cover the expected increased demand for public schools and hospitals among others.

For the past ten years, government has been spending an amount equivalent to 2.1% of the gross domestic product (GDP) for education, way below the international standards of 5% to 6%. For health, it has been spending only 3.2% of the GDP, lower than the norm set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

IBON said that the government should at least meet these levels to alleviate the present condition in the country seen to worsen with the global crisis. To increase spending for social services, government should put a stop to burdensome payments and cut back on military spending. The proposed budget for 2008 allocates P683 billion for debt principal and interest payment, while it allocates P5 billion for AFP modernization. In contrast, government allots only P30 million for health care asssitance.

The group added the removal of regressive taxes such as the reformed value-added tax (RVAT) on oil is equally urgent to lessen the inflationary impact of the financial crisis.

The Arroyo government should also abandon its proposal for new taxes because these will further burden the Filipinos already suffering from low incomes and spiraling cost of living. IBON also urged the administration not to use the global crisis as an excuse to impose more taxes in its effort to achieve a balanced budget.



RP EXPOSURE TO U.S. FINANCIAL CRISIS TO RESULT IN BUSINESS SLOWDOWN

The exposure of Philippine banks to the global financial crisis will result in the contraction of local businesses and job losses because economic liberalization has made the local banking system vulnerable to external factors. 

According to research group IBON Foundation, Philippine banks are merely a conduit of foreign capital, and being in a liberalized and deregulated environment, are vulnerable to the current volatility of global finance.

Even as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has assured the public that only a few local banks have exposure to cash-strapped US investment banks, the impact on local businesses will be felt since majority of investments in the country are dominated by foreign capital, accounting to around 54% of total flows in the country. Thus though not exposed to the Lehman Brothers, investments in the country are affected by the jitters of foreign capital.

The local banking system, dominated by foreign banks, will likely be prudent in lending to small local businesses and would instead opt to protect large businesses with foreign capital. Unavailable access to lending would result in business slowdown and possibly lead to more establishment closures. As it is, financial losses have led to a significant number of closures among establishments in the past years.

Business slowdown will worsen the country’s unemployment, which is already at its record high, as business owners will be forced to cut down on their labor force or close shop. Job losses will be first felt in all trade and investment enclaves in the country, both manufacturing and business process outsourcing (BPOs), and then by the few Filipino firms exporting to the US and related markets. 

The global crisis will further worsen the Philippines’ own economic crisis as neoliberal reforms have further deepened its links to the US and the global economy. However, the economy would have been less vulnerable if the domestic economy were not overly dependent on trade, foreign loans and capital, and if nationalist economic policies were in place

RP VULNERABLE TO U.S., GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: ECONOMIC RELIEF TO PEOPLE URGENT

Contrary to Pres. Arroyo’s statement that her administration’s economic measures will withstand the current global financial crisis, research group IBON Foundation says it is precisely government’s economic strategies that have made the Philippine economy overly vulnerable to external factors.

The chronic dependence on exports, foreign investment and debt– including official development aid that ends up as foreign debt– is at the heart of the economy’s vulnerability. Economic relief measures are thus urgent as the people will bear the brunt of the effects of the global crisis on the Philippine economy.

The government overplays the so-called “decoupling” effect where the Philippines is supposedly much less dependent on the US market. On the contrary, developments in the US will still have a severe impact on the local economy as the US remains one of the country’s top exports and investments partners. Third-party partners such as South and East Asian markets are also finally linked to the US ambit.

Drops in US consumption and investments will be deeply felt as the largest part of Philippine exports directly or indirectly goes to the US . Around 20% of foreign investment in the country comes from the US . Further, some 20% of exports already directly go to the US but a large part of exports to Japan, China , Hong Kong , South Korea , Taiwan and Malaysia which take up another 50% of exports, are actually components for assembly into products whose final destination is still the US . Slower growth in third party countries that depend on the US and which the Philippines deals with will also have adverse effects on Philippine exports manufacturing.

Even the vaunted local information technology (IT)-enabled industry will be likely hit hard because of its considerable dependence on the US market, further aggravated by the continued peso appreciation. The US is an overwhelming presence in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector and accounted for nearly 90% of total BPO exports revenue and over two-thirds of foreign equity in 2005. The impact will be most felt in the National Capital Region (NCR) where an estimated 80% of BPO employees are located.

Slow global growth could restrain OFW deployments and slow down remittances which will reduce domestic consumption. The global financial crunch could also result in further cuts in the salary and benefits of OFWs as employers react to the crisis. All this highlights the folly of government economic strategies which unduly rely on external factors instead of creating jobs and producing goods by building domestic agriculture and industry.

Immediate economic relief measures have to be taken to arrest the inflationary impact of the financial crisis starting with the removal of the regressive RVAT on oil. Other urgent measures include implementing a nationwide across-the-board wage hike, increasing the budget for social services, and suspending debt payments because of the people’s urgent need for resources and support.

It is becoming all the more urgent for the government to put a stop to failed policies of globalization. Beyond the immediate economic relief, much more meaningful over the longer term is to focus all efforts to build a genuinely self-reliant domestic economy.

INDONESIA EXPERIENCE DEBUNKS CLAIMS OF JPEPA ADVOCATES OF INCREASED ECONOMIC GAINS

As proponents of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) continue to warn against the possibility of being left out if the pact is not ratified, the experience of Indonesia shows that its own bilateral deal with Japan has not resulted in increased economic gains. 
  
The recently-implemented Indonesia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (IJEPA) promised increased exports to Japan . But as the IJEPA went into effect in July, Indonesian Industry Minister Fahmi Idris said that Indonesia ’s main exports, such as agricultural products and timber, will continue to face high non-tariff barriers in the form of quality standards, while Japanese high-tech imports will be able to enter the Indonesian market with lower import taxes. The same situation is expected if the JPEPA is ratified, as Philippine pineapples and bananas would face strict phytosanitary standards before being allowed to enter the Japanese market. 
  
Moreover, major Japanese investors in Indonesia threatened to pull out of the country unless issues such as sufficient power supply were resolved. This discredits claims by JPEPA advocates that the trade pact with Japan would guarantee a flood of Japanese investments as Japanese investors would still have to consider factors other than the JPEPA before they decide to invest in the Philippines , such as labor costs and infrastructure. 
  
Some Indonesian analysts believe that Japan may be the bigger winner in the IJEPA, as the pact could help ensure for Japan a steady supply of Indonesian liquefied natural gas through increased Japanese investments in Indonesia ’s energy sector. According to an official of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry , Indonesia will likely become more dependent on Japan , to the detriment of local industry. 
  
The IJEPA demonstrates how Japan ’s bilateral trade agreements are not about genuine economic partnership or development but rather a tool it uses to advance Japanese corporate interests. Senators should heed this lesson and reject the JPEPA lest the country be trapped in a bad deal that compromises the Philippines ’ future economic prospects. 

The forum “JPEPA: Deal or No Deal? The People’s Issues”

“JPEPA: Deal or No Deal? The People’s Issues”, originally set for Sept. 4, has been moved to September 12, 2008, 9 am-12 noon. It will be held at Bro. Andrew Gonzales Hall, De La Salle University, Taft Ave. Manila

The 
forum is organized by No Deal! Movement, St. Scholastica’s College, Benedictines for Peace, Institute of Women Studies and in cooperation with the DLSU.

For details on the forum, please contact the NO DEAL! Movement Secretariat at 435-6930 or Benedictines for Peace Secretariat c/o Rose Buyucan at 526-8075 loc. 107. 
 
Thank you and our apologies for the inconvenience.

  
 
NO DEAL CONVENORS Former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Lead Convenor    Anakpawis Representative Rafael Mariano  Nitz Gonzaga, Kilusang Mayo Uno   Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya   Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan   Jossel Ebesate, R.N., Alliance of Health Workers   Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante   Clemente Bautista Jr. Kalikasan People’s Network   Rechielda Extremadura, Lila Filipina   Arman Albarillo, Bayan-Southern Tagalog   Roy Velez, Bayan-NCR   Ed Cubelo, Toyota workers union   Sonny Africa, Ibon Foundation   Arnold Padilla , spokesperson