MENDIOLA, March 6 – Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, some 500 women from various organizations marched to protest the worsening conditions of women in the face of greater economic hardships, public health risks and climate change. They demanded a stop to the Duterte administration’s corporate-coddling tax policies and called for more public spending on social services.
Banging pots and pans, the women held a noise barrage to highlight their call to “make taxes work for women,” pressing the government to reduce unfair tax burdens on women and instead use tax reform as a tool for government to put in place various programs that economically empower the poor and enable women to fully enjoy their rights.
“In solidarity with women and women’s rights activists across the world, we raise the call for tax justice to fulfill women’s rights,” said Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), a leading member of the Tax and Fiscal Justice Asia (TAFJA). “Governments across the world increasingly rely on consumption taxes instead of directly taxing corporations and the wealthy. This means that the poor, especially women, have to spend a bigger share of their income to pay for goods and services, while multinational corporations rake in huge profits from abusing tax breaks and exploiting tax avoidance schemes. Women’s lives can improve through adequate public service delivery, which requires that we put a stop to corporate tax abuse and allocate more for social spending.”
Protesting the tax reforms of the Duterte government, leaders of the national women’s movement Oriang scored the move to cut corporate income tax rates as grossly unfair.
“Babawasan daw ang tax incentives para lumaki ang kita ng gobyerno. Pero babawasan din pala ang buwis ng mga korporasyon! Niloloko nila ang mga tao,” said Flora Santos, Oriang president and coordinator of the Metro Manila Vendors Alliance. “Malinaw na mga korporasyon ang prayoridad nito, hindi ang mga pangkaraniwang kababaihan na naghahanap-buhay at nagbabayad ng buwis sa maraming bilihin at serbisyo, ngunit winawalis na parang basura sa mga lansangan.” (Supposedly tax incentives will be regulated to increase government funds. But the taxes of corporations will also be reduced! They are deceiving the public. Corporations are the priority of this measure, not ordinary working women who pay taxes on many goods and services but are treated like garbage in sidewalk clearing operations.)
Zeena Manglinong of the Freedom from Debt Movement said the proposed Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Reform Act (CITIRA) favors water concessionaires that enjoy sovereign guarantees under the agreement privatizing Metro Manila’s water services.
“Taxpayers’ money ensure their profits even if business fails. They enjoyed many years of income tax holidays, even though they are big, profitable enterprises, and have already claimed close to PhP11 billion from the Philippine government for alleged contractual violations,” said Manglinong.
“Women need water for almost all their household chores, and have a right to access safe, adequate and affordable water services. Constraining this access means more unpaid work-time for women,” she added.
Jinky Esguerra of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice lamented that “Government continues to roll out the red carpet for corporations that inflict damage on the environment and increase the risks from climate change, such as continuing coal mining and open-pit operations.”
“Within poor developing countries, women and girls in mining-affected communities are even more economically impoverished, and face various deprivations in their daily lives – from ill health and low living standards to greater threats of violence and environmental hazards,” she said.
The Philippines ranks among countries facing the highest risk of climate change. Filipino women, similar to other women in Asia, remain among the most food, land and water-insecure globally. Women prioritize feeding their children during times of crisis and typically face higher risks of starvation and malnutrition.
‘Make taxes work for women,’ is one of the demands raised in Women’s Month actions and activities by APMDD member organizations in India, Pakistan and other countries. They join other women’s groups in demanding for increased allocation of tax revenues for social services and for a stop to the bleeding of financial resources due to corporate tax abuses. These activities are part of the Global Days of Action for Tax Justice for Women’s Rights from March 8 to 20. The initiative is led by the Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ), a growing movement of civil society organizations and activists, campaigning for greater transparency, democratic oversight and redistribution of wealth in national and global tax systems. The GATJ network includes the Tax and Fiscal Justice Asia (TAFJA) and other regional alliances in Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America.