“Only through taking steps in building the domestic economy and ensuring social welfare intervention can joblessness and forced migration be truly addressed. Without these, the Philippine economy cannot be a rising tiger, only a mythical beast feasting on the desperation of our Filipino labor force.” – Migrante
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – After president Benigno S. Aquino III delivered his speech at the 2013 Philippine Development Forum, which was held last Tuesday February 5, World Bank country director Motoo Konishi said the Philippines is no longer the “sick man of Asia.” He added: “The administration has demonstrated that good governance is good economics.”
But the Center for Women’s Resources does not agree. It said that while the International Monetary Fund-World Bank (IMF-WB) is pleased with the Aquino government’s economic program, it amounts to nothing for the Filipino people because this only means more public-private partnership (PPP) projects.
“The IMF-WB’s description of the Philippines as a ‘rising tiger’ is an affirmation that all its demands for ‘structural reforms’ are in place through the public-private partnership (PPP) program. If the IMF is satisfied with Aquino’s PPP economic program, does it translate into the improved conditions of women?”
The Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) does not think so. “Regular jobs and decent wages are still wanting. Food is not yet seen on every family’s table. Hunger and violence against women prevail. IMF’s structural reforms, especially PPP, only worsen the conditions of women.”
Migrante Partylist, on the other hand, lambasted Aquino’s statement that jobs are available in the country only that applicants do not fit the job requirements. In a statement, Connie Bragas- Regalado, chairwoman of Migrante Partylist said if decent-paying domestic jobs were really available, OFWs wouldn’t be scurrying to go out of the country. She said the number of OFWs continue to rise under the Aquino administration. “In search of jobs, higher wages and livelihood, the number of Filipinos overseas and those leaving everyday have been on the rise since Aquino took office,” she said.
Regalado also belied claims by the Aquino government of rising employment in the country. “By October 2011, an additional 1.35 million Filipinos have been forced to go abroad by sheer lack of opportunities, decent jobs and wages, livelihood and social services in the country.”
Regaldo said that according to the independent think-tank Ibon Foundation, the number of jobless Filipinos has risen to unprecedented heights since 2010 and continues to reach record-high levels under Aquino. “At least one-fourth of the country’s labor force has gone abroad to find work. So we ask the president, where are the domestic jobs that he claims to have created?”
She also criticized Aquino’s statement that Filipinos lack skills and capabilities. “This cannot be farther from the truth. Our highly skilled OFWs are testament to how capable and competent our workers are,” Regalado added that Aquino is simply attempting to downplay the worsening jobs crisis by claiming a higher job generation rate.
What Aquino failed to mention is, Regalado said, the number of jobs created is disproportionate to the ever-growing labor force (an additional 1.2 million by July 2011) and underemployed (an additional 829,000). Regalado said the number of jobless and underemployed Filipinos increased by over 600,000 during Aquino’s first year in office alone.
Meanwhile, the CWR said jobs available for women are very limited and low-skilled. Their data shows that more than half or 68 percent of employed women could be found in the service sector. Almost 85 percent are contractual workers whose contract expires after three to four months. Four out of the ten unemployed persons are women.
Hunger worsens, rights violated
Despite the so called gains and achievements of the Aquino administration, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reported that in 2012, hunger worsened in the Philippines. According to IFPRI, the Philippines ranked 27th in hunger incidence.
Hunger as result of lack of jobs in the country also drives away Filipinos to find work abroad. Regalado said the continuous rise in unemployment would mean further intensification of the government’s labor export policy.
“This is attested by the yearly increasing growth rate of labor outmigration. Aside from the 4,500 who leave the country daily, through the POEA, millions depart through irregular means. They are those who become victims of trafficking and illegal recruitment, who eventually become undocumented in their countries of transit or destination with the hope of landing jobs despite not having regular documents.” She added the Philippine economy’s dependence on labor export and remittances has become unparalleled under the Aquino administration.
“Only through taking steps in building the domestic economy and ensuring social welfare intervention can joblessness and forced migration be truly addressed. Without these, the Philippine economy cannot be a rising tiger, only a mythical beast feasting on the desperation of our Filipino labor force.”
Favoring businessmen and foreign investors
While Aquino’s righteous path was cited as one of the reasons for the Philippines achieving “rising tiger” status, the CWR said the path has been selectively paved for big businessmen and foreign investors.
“As reported by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, foreign direct investments were down by 60 percent in 2012. The government’s tireless dependence on foreign capital, particularly from the US, has been politically reflected on how it reacted to the destruction being caused by the US warship on the Tubbataha Reef, a national treasure. The tiger could not even growl. It only speaks of compensation.”
The CWR said the Tubbataha reef’s destruction is beyond compensation. “It embodies intrusion, a rape in another form – a rape of the motherland. Yet seemingly, such crime can hardly get a guilty verdict. The reaction of the government on the Tubbataha Reef’s destruction reminds Filipino women of how the government had helped a US soldier-rapist escape from national incarceration in 2006,” the CWR is referring to the case of Nicole who was raped by a US soldier, Daniel Smith who was spirited out of the Makati jail and later on released from his supposed imprisonment inside the US Embassy in Manila and was able to fly back to the US in 2009.