Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Litany of Woes for Workers in CL Special Economic Zones

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo claims that growing investments in the industrial enclaves will provide employment and uplift workers’ conditions, but this is belied by union leaders.

Gitnang Luson News Service
Posted by Bulatlat

OLONGAPO CITY – President Arroyo claims that growing investments in the industrial enclaves will provide employment and uplift workers’ conditions, but this is belied by union leaders.

The government said that the country’s special economic zones (SEZ) which form the core of the country’s development plan posted a 41.71-percent increase or P70.175 billion ($142 billion) worth of investments for the first 11 months of 2005.

It cornered a big chunk of the productions of computers and cell phone parts and other of auxiliary products over the rest of the third world.

In Central Luzon , Taiwanese and Koreans are among the biggest investors registered with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) in Olongapo, Zambales and Clark Development Corporation (CDC) in Pampanga.

“It matters little to us workers, if billions make it to the government’s coffers, or even if billions of dollars of investments flood our SEZs (because) workers’ wages remain low and their rights are suppressed,” said Angie Ladera, chairperson of Workers Alliance of Region III (WAR III), regional chapter of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement), in an interview.

“No chance for workers”

Ladera says there is practically no chance for substantial wage increase for workers if the government sticks to its cheap and docile labor policy, and its no-union, no-strike policy in the enclaves.

Statistics released by the Labor Force Survey show that some 2.8 million Filipinos failed to find work in January 2006, up by 15 percent from 2.5 million in the same period last year.

The 95,000 decrease in jobs came from the industry sector, mostly from the manufacturing and construction sub-sector.

Latest figures from the National Statistics Office (NSO) show that 2.93 million Filipinos are unemployed while 8.4 million are underemployed.

These figures do not include those who have given up looking for jobs, housewives and other sectors considered by the government as not in the labor force.

“Sunshine” industries

But the President is sure of creating jobs by encouraging more investments in the country particularly on industrial enclaves such as the CSEZ and SBFEZ where many of what she boasts as significant foreign investments and “sunshine” industries are located.

The CDC (Clark Development Corporation) website www.VisitClark.com listed over 600 companies inside CSEZ. At least 32 firms are engaged in garment productions, about 66 are service-oriented companies.

Many others are restaurants, import-export outlets, hotels and other tourism related firms, companies engaged in auxiliary information technology and call centers.

The SBMA’s www.sbma.com as of August this year listed 674 firms at SBFEZ, 89 of which are into manufacturing light products such as garments and auxiliary products; while 93 are tourism related facilities like hotels, restaurants and other recreations; 72 are into motor trading; 92 are duty free shops, trading and general merchandize, the rest are small to medium service oriented firms.

“Mrs. Arroyo generously pours resources to make these facilities more attractive to foreign investors,” Ladera surmised. “But these are but service-oriented and consumer-led economic activities with no provision for genuine industry that can generate jobs for unemployed Filipinos.”

Basic needs

The daily minimum wage of P224.50 ($4.54) in Central Luzon , plus the P20 ($0.40) ECOLA (Subic Bay Apparel average) is but P244.50 ($4.95) and not enough to meet even the basic food needs of some P284 ($5.75) a day as calculated by independent socio-economic think tank IBON Foundation for the first quarter of 2006.

IBON’s recent Price Monitor conducted in wet markets in many cities in the country including San Fernando City in Pampanga showed prices of basic goods have increased by at least 11 percent after the implementation of the reformed valued added tax or RVAT from December 2005 to March 2006.

The last legislated wage increase was in 1989, followed by the creation of the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Boards which militant workers find very divisive of the labor ranks, created to negate any across the board wage increase.

President Arroyo has yet to make a similar step since she ascended to the presidency in 2001.

Wage demand

Detained Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran and five other militant party-list representatives – Rafael Mariano, also of Anakpawis; Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, and Joel Virador of Bayan Muna (People First) and Liza Maza of Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) pushed for the urgent passage of House Bill No. 0345 for a P125 ($2.53) across-the-board nationwide wage hike for workers in the private sector and HB 1064 for a P3,000 ($60.77) across-the-board salary increase for government workers.

“The HB 0345 made it to third reading at Congress,” Ladera said. “But all efforts by well-meaning legislators grounded to a halt right after the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) protested against it and lobbied in Malacanang.”

Ladera added the WAR III and the KMU had been campaigning for the P125 wage increase in the wake of increasing prices of basic commodities.

But the Arroyo government refused to expedite it and the wage demand has been overtaken by the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities notwithstanding the much drummed-up strong performance of peso, she said.

IBON studies show the real value of wages has been further devalued.

The actual amount of goods and services P1.00 ($0.02) can buy has fallen to P0.74 ($0.015) in January 2006 from P0.79 ($0.0016) in the same month last year.

These pushed the estimated daily cost of living for a family of six up by 22 percent to P519.23 ($10.51) in the first quarter of the year from P427.03 ($8.65) in the first quarter of last year.

Poverty threshold

By government’s estimate 24.7 percent of the country’s families fell under its annual per capita poverty threshold of P12,267 ($248.50).

This is a rather ludicrous figure compared even to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s 2001 estimate of the country’s poverty line at 40 percent published in their World Fact Book.

Using the international poverty threshold of $2 a day, over 87 percent of the country’s families are poor.

But the IMF-WB (International Monetary Fund-World Bank)’s poverty line of $1a day reduced the country’s poverty level to 10.8 percent of the country’s population, a mere juggling of figures with no meaning for impoverished workers, Ladera said.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is optimistic that the unemployment rate would go down as more jobs would be created by the country’s “sunrise” industries, including call centers, tourism and the real estate industry.

IBON’s job scarcity estimates are significantly higher at 17 million workers or 40 percent of the labor force including migrant workers than government’s official figure of 2.7 million jobless Filipinos.

This is so because government data do not include figures on overseas Filipino workers who left the country to find work and visibly underemployed workers – not to mention productive sectors that have been discouraged to look for work, thus counted as “not in the labor force.”

Continuing workers’ repression

Roman Polintan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance)-Central Luzon chairperson, noted that Arroyo earmarked P725 billion ($14,686,518,788) for debt servicing and P52.4 billion ($1,061,480,806) for military expenditure from the trillion- peso budget for 2006 and passed non-wage economic relief measures for workers who can be removed anytime. Non-wage measures do not have an effect on other benefits such as retirement pay.

“We expect nothing less than a wage increase from Mrs. Arroyo whether the proposed budget for 2007 is approved or the old one is reenacted,” he said before the 2007 budget was passed in Congress.

A KML leader said that in a Labor and Management Conference sponsored by the Management and Labor Center of SBMA in September 2004, held at the Building B of the former Ship Repair Facilities – now its Labor Center – a certain Pastor, a lawyer and acting chief of the SBMA Labor Center announced that in no uncertain terms President Arroyo wants no strike and unionism in any of the country’s economic zones.

“It’s no wonder that workers are prevented from exercising their constitutionally-mandated freedoms. This means escalating police and military intervention and brutality against legitimate protests and the picket lines, and intensified intelligence gathering and anti-worker campaigns at the factory level,” Ladera said.

The spate of political killings nationwide has so far claimed more than 50 labor leaders, trade union and urban poor organizers and advocates, based on data from Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights). In Central Luzon , five labor leaders were killed from January to April this year. Gitnang Luson News Service / Posted by Bulatlat


Post a Comment

<< Home


This is a joint private blog of volunteers from Subic Bay. It is being maintained primarily to collate articles that may be of importance to decision making related to the future of Subic Bay and as a source of reference material to construct the history of Subic Bay.

The articles herein posted remains the sole property of original authors and publications which has full credits to the articles.

Disclaimer: Readers should conduct their own research and due diligence before using any article herein posted for whatever intended purpose it may be. This private web log will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by a reader's reliance on information obtained from volunteers of this private blog.

www.subicbay.ph, http://olongapo-subic.com, http://sangunian.com, http://olongapo-ph.com, http://oictv.com, http://brgy-ph.com, http://subicbay-news.com, http://batanggapo.com 16 January 2012