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PHILIPPINES

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Press Release

MANILA, 23 June 2015 – Calling for the funding for public services and the stopping of tax incentives and dodging, an Asian civil society alliance unites with the world's largest labor, faith and other organizations today in celebration of World Public Services Day.

:Tax policies and systems should be aimed at raising resources for people's basic and development needs, not as instrumental for ensuring more profits for corporations and the wealthy," said Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), in a statement.

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On October 17 we’re raising our fists and our voices to RESIST COAL! RESIST EMERGENCY POWERS! On the National Day of Action Against Coal – under the Reclaim Power Pilipinas banner, our country’s contribution to the Global Week of Action on Energy there will be a concerted mass action nationwide as communities denounce coal as a dirty and harmful energy source.

Locally, we’ll let the President know that COAL IS NOT THE SOLUTION TO THE POWER CRISIS. We’ll let PNOY and Petilla know that we demand RE-al SOLUTIONS FOR THE PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES NOW!

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The Freedom from Debt Coalition(FDC) goes on its third day of its Tatakan/Sulatan ng GANID the MERALCO bills protest activity today at 10 am before the MERALCO Kamuning, Quezon City Branch.

FDC is calling on all consumers to express their outrage over the new power rate hike by writing or stamping on their MERALCO bills the word GANID (Greed to Express Corporate Greed). FDC also joins the initiative to wage a protest online through social media.

FDC welcomes the investigations by both houses of Congress into the highest MERALCO power rate hike so far but also warns of a trend in the ongoing official discussions on the issue to exculpate MERALCO and focus the inquiry only into the possible collusion by the major power plants in Luzon which went on almost simultaneous shutdowns along with the Malampaya maintenance shutdown this November-December period.

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Justice calls for Debt Cancellation, Climate Reparations, Not Loans

Manila, Philippines – The Freedom from Debt Coalition told the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB) to "stop hovering like vultures around a Yolanda-stricken Philippines, taking advantage of this catastrophe to suck blood profits out of our people." This is the response of FDC through its President, Ricardo Reyes, to the ADB and the World Bank loan pledges amounting to one billion dollars following the devastation of Supertyphoon Haiyan (Yolanda).

The ADB and the WB pledged loans amounting to $523M and $500M, respectively, for reconstruction and rehabilitation effort.

FDC said that Filipinos should not forget that these are the same institutions that drove our country, like many other countries of the South, deeper into debt-dependence and mal-development. Their structural adjustment programs (SAPs) – which cut public spending to basic social services – and loan conditionalities of privatization and market liberalization produced in just two decades one of the highly unequal economies of the world beset by jobless growth and massive poverty.

"This inequality and extreme poverty account for the disproportionate vulnerability of the majority population to climate-related crisis and other disasters. The poverty-stricken population and regions are the least resilient. They are the least financially capable of undertaking and sustaining disaster management and adaptation measures, such as building of sea walls, or procuring up-to-date early warning systems, or at the very least fortifying their houses so they can endure a super typhoon. Likewise, the poorest are the least materially capable to recover from the various impact of climate disasters," FDC explained.

The Philippines ranks sixth in the Climate Change Vulnerability Index, and the third most vulnerable country to disaster risks and natural hazards in the World Risk Index 2011. Climate-Change Financers

FDC also scored the IMF-WB and the ADB for their hypocrisy in claiming they have been out to fight climate change. "Far from being concerned about climate change, these IFIs are co-culprits of highly-industrialized countries and their corporate elites, with the ADB and World Bank in axis of financing climate change-inducing projects like coal and other fossil-based energy projects," FDC said.

Experts say that the power industry is a major contributor to climate change with power plants utilizing fossil fuels such as coal and diesel contributing the highest amount of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.

In the 2012 study the World Resource Institute (WRI), the WB and the ADB ranked number two and three among the top IFI funders of coal in the world, with the total funding of US5.3 billion for 29 coal plant and US3.9 billion for 21 coal plants, respectively.

In the case of the Philippines, after the ADB together with other IFIs, successfully pushed for the privatization of the power industry, the ascent of dirty energy hastened. New coal-fired power plants were built, and the capacities of existing power plants expanded. Some of these energy projects were co-financed by the WB and the ADB, like the coal-fired power plants in Masinloc, Zambales, in Calaca, Batangas and in Naga, Cebu, which they heralded as "clean and sustainable."

According to Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) data, 84% of Philippine energy is derived from fossil fuels, and as of August this year, there were 31 coal operating contracts at the development and production stage. An additional 17 coal plant projects using a total of 26 boiler facilities are in the pipeline.

Debt Cancellation, Not New Loans

FDC President Reyes said that justice for the Filipino people demands debt cancellation, especially the illegitimate ones – odious, onerous, patently illegal, violative of human rights, harmful to the people, environment and climate, and bereft of institutional processes of consent of the people.

Climate justice demands reparations to countries like the Philippines in accordance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) principle of common but differentiated responsibility. This responsibility takes the form of grants and aid to enable the Philippines to develop resiliency to climate change and compensation for losses and damages like what it suffered from Yolanda and previous other climate change-induced natural disasters.

Reyes challenged President Aquino to lead the call for debt cancellation and climate reparations to the international community. ###

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President Benigno S. Aquino III or P-Noy got elected on a mandate to correct the unprecedented corruption under the previous administration. However, there is another equally, if not more, compelling problem, the solution to which can no longer wait. This problem is widespread poverty and the failure of the economy to provide the majority of Filipinos a respectable and dignified life.

P-Noy did take some bold steps to deliver on his anti-corruption promise. To the other problem, he adopted, unfortunately, a"business-as-usual" approach. Sad to say, his was no different from that of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

While P-Noy couched his economic program as "inclusive growth" upon the promptings of ADB and IMF-WB and his economic team, it says little that is new aside from more jobs, more infrastructure, more social spending and more safety nets for the "poorest of the poor."

The P-Noy administration's strategy is still anchored on market-oriented and private sector-led economic growth with trickle-down impact on the majority.

In substance and effect, this neo-liberal strategy is about subordinating government and the public sector to private corporate ends and mechanisms in running the economy.

Three years after and midway into P-Noy's term, the consequences of this economic governance have been bad for our country. As NSCB data of 2012 shows, there has been no significant decline in the poverty ratio since 2006 despite claims of moderate to high growth rates during these years. Worse, inequality has worsened which is a clear sign that neo-liberal growth has favored only those at the top. Seventy six percent (76%) of GDP growth for 2011 is equivalent to the income growth of the richest 40 families in the country. In 2009, the Philippines' gini coefficient (WB, 2009) already made it the most unequal country in Southeast Asia (no figures for Burma) and one of the highly unequal countries in the world.

This experience shows that the lack of growth of the economy is not the main, much less the sole reason behind the problem of poverty and failed economy. Rather, it has been the result of historically-entrenched deep inequalities in the control of sources of wealth, access to education, health and housing services and the enjoyment of political power between a small oligarchic elite that enjoys the support and patronage of global powers, particularly the US, and the vast majority.

Monopolies and oligopolies dominate almost all sectors of the economy, allowing them to frustrate, even strangle the growth of micro, small and medium businesses. Big landowning clans and big agribusinesses control and benefit from the main lifelines of agriculture and fishery and frustrate agrarian reform. Full and meaningful participation of the majority in the economy is blocked by the bitter reality that only 10 percent finished tertiary education and 40 percent did not complete secondary education. Malnutrition is significant among children and adults and adequate health services are beyond the reach of many among us. Four million families or roughly 20 million persons live in substandard and unsecured houses and land.

Enlarging the pie through sustained economic growth to increase the share of the majority will not redress this situation. What is needed is redistribution of assets and incomes. However, this is rendered impossible to achieve by the neo-liberal strategy and policies which successive governments since Cory Aquino's have pursued. By allowing corporate-driven markets and global powers to dictate the course of our economy, both industry and agriculture have been consigned to the backburner in favor of externally-oriented services. The commons, our inalienable natural resources, our water, land, minerals, forests are now steadily being privatized and commodified.

Neo-liberal growth has created widespread joblessness, job insecurity and rampant violations of workers' rights. The Filipino diaspora count of 9 million workers is still increasing, depriving the nation of citizens with skills, enterprise, and resources.

Furthermore, the Philippine Government's addiction to debt to finance what it calls development and its own operations has made it a captive of various policy impositions by the international financing institutions, the commercial banks and foreign governments. Turning to bond markets as the primary source of external and domestic loans maintains debt-dependency and makes it vulnerable to global and regional financial instabilities and manipulation. Social debt – the unfulfilled State obligations to to its citizens in the area of food, education, health, housing, and other social needs in compliance with its own laws and programs and international covenants have accumulated in gargantuan terms as a result of putting debt service payments as the topmost priority of government spending.

Economic solutions alone will also not suffice. In fact, they cannot be resorted to without simultaneously democratizing the political and State system of the country. This system adopts democratic ends formally but institutionalizes means which empower the oligarchic dynasties to rule over our country, not the people who should be the master in a democracy. This system also allows foreign, especially US, interference in the internal affairs of our country which they desire to retain as an imperial preserve.

Winning the fight for equality and justice is also essential to winning the fight against climate change. While some forward steps have been taken to adapt the country to climate change and mitigate carbon emissions, the Philippine government must take a really consistent stand for climate justice. It must be more aggressive to demand reparations and more responsibility from rich and industrialized countries which did the most damage to the globe's climate and environment. It must reject global corporate greed to commodify nature and thus turn climate change into another arena for profiteering through loans and other financial instruments.

P-Noy has wasted the opportunity of his first three years to turn the country around towards making a better life for all Filipinos. Those three years were precious for striking out on new directions, rather than having allowed himself to be regaled by hypes coming from international credit agencies and international financial institutions like the ADB and the IMF-World Bank.

There is no alternative to altering the neo-liberal course of the Philippine economy and correcting the systemic economic and political inequality. Our country, especially our young, has suffered so much from repeated lost decades. We cannot afford to have another lost decade and a lost generation that goes with it.

RICARDO B. REYES
President
Freedom from Debt Coalition