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PHILIPPINES

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The Freedom from Debt Coalition held a press conference on October 18 in support of government's imposition of taxes on 10-year zero coupon bonds, known as the Poverty Eradication and Alleviation Certificates (PEACe), as current bond holders, mostly banks, filed a petition before the Supreme Court contesting the decision.

The debt watchdog likened the PEACe bonds to the financial scams by huge Wall Street banks, which triggered the 2008 financial crisis that led to the collapse of major world economies, stealing ordinary people's pensions and life savings, putting them out of their homes and schools, and causing them to lose their jobs.

Milo Tanchuling, FDC Secretary-General, said the Wall Street banks want super profit and risk-free and no-tax investments, and expect government to bail them out in case of default, using public money. He said the same is true for the banks that bought the PEACe bonds. They know of the taxes but still bought the bonds due to greed.

The controversy revolved around P10 billion in government securities of PEACeBonds, involving the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyon, the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO) and Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC).

In 2002, FDC did a study that found that the deal reeked with rent-seeking – rules were relaxed and CODE-NGO walked away with P1.8 billion in windfall profit plus a commission of P140 million for designing what it called an "innovative fund-generating mechanism."

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has ruled that the bonds are subject to a 20-percent final witholding tax. But several banks that hold the bonds have obtained from the Supreme Court a temporary restraining order on the BIR ruling.

According to FDC, the deal contributed to the further indebtedness of the people. On Oct. 16, the government was scheduled to pay P35 billion in interest for the matured P10-billion bonds, making Filipinos P35 billion poorer and deeper in debt.

To address this issue, FDC called on President Noynoy Aquino to suspend the principal and interest payments of the PEACe bonds, pending the result of an impartial and independent investigation of the irregularity of the transaction and uncertainty surrounding the projects that were funded.

The group also said that there must be a thorough review of policies such as rulings made by the BIR, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Monetary Board, Securities and Exchange Commission, Insurance Commission and other agencies with regulatory or quasi-regulatory powers to avoid irregular bond transactions and sweetheart deals.

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The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) and JSAPMDD conducted an "Embassy Caravan" on October 13 demanding that the World Bank not be allowed to manage the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

Before riding in a convoy of seven jeepneys, the rallyists were first blessed by Running Priest Fr. Robert Reyes inside the compound of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. The caravan then proceeded to the US embassy before heading to the three other embassies located in Makati City.

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power-off picture-1We are happy to announce that our call for a National Day of Protest on October 11 against the skyrocketing cost of electricity in the Philippines is gathering more and more support from many sectors throughout the country. On this day, from 7:30 pm – 8:00 pm, there will be a Power-Off – communities, offices and households in various parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will switch their lights off and hold noise barrage.

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Around 30 women leaders in Manila gathered for a Trainor's Training on Climate Change at the office of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) on October 5. Organized by JSAPMDD and FDC, the training sought to familiarize women leaders with the international and national discourse on climate justice as well as the gender dimension of issues on climate change. The activity aimed to equip the women with sufficient knowledge so they can undertake climate justice campaigns in their respective localities.

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Labor leaders coming from a range of labor parties, federations and local unions participated in a forum on climate change organized by JSAPMDD on September 21 in Mandaluyong City.

The forum sought to familiarize the leaders of the various labor organizations on the issues and developments concerning climate change and to encourage them to actively participate in the campaign for Annex 1 countries to cut their carbon emissions and pay their climate debts as well as to demand that the World Bank and the private sector not have a role in climate finance.