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Sentro echoes call for ‘zero carbon, zero poverty’ ahead of COP21

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ANDRES Bonifacio would have been a staunch environmentalist also if he were alive today, and would surely support the international labor movement’s twin and inseparable goals of “zero carbon, zero poverty” as well as the view that corporate “climate criminals” are the main culprits in the disastrous global warming.

This was aired by the members of the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) as they marched to Mendiola and held a rally near the Malacañang Palace today to celebrate the 152nd birth anniversary of Bonifacio and to air the people’s demands in the ongoing global climate summit in Paris, France.

Dubbed COP21 or the 21st annual meeting of the Conference of the Parties, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, it will be conducted from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 and thousands of delegates from the governments, intergovernmental organizations, United Nations (UN) agencies, civil society and nongovernment organizations (NGOs), and the private sector – read: corporations, including the world’s leading polluters of air, water and land – will attend in the many sessions of this very crucial gathering. President Aquino has already left for Paris yesterday.

Aside from about 25,000 official delegates, thousands more are expected to troop to Paris, especially from the civil society, including environmentalist groups and trade unions from different countries, to press for “climate justice,” which, Sentro said, seeks to really heal and protect the Earth and to effectively stop the unabated environmental abuse primarily perpetrated by global corporations and industrialized nations.

Reputable scientific studies show that while an increase in the natural discharge of carbon dioxide (CO2) – the main gas that causes the greenhouse effect, which traps the gases in the atmosphere and results to devastating climate warming – normally takes thousands of years, its manmade counterpart has caused unprecedented and tremendous increases in just 120 years.

In fact, “about half of human-caused CO2 emissions between 1750 and 2011 happened in the last 40 years” that was largely triggered both by the use of fossil fuel and by industrial processes, which, in turn, “made up of about 78 percent of the total increase in greenhouse gas emissions from 1970 to 2010,” a report revealed.

It added that this climate change has given rise to “the warmest 30-year period (in 1983 to 2012) in at least 1,400 years,” which is no longer surprising since humans – mostly due to their factories, mines, deforestation, cars, and other related activities and equipment – add about 4.3 billion tons or gigatons (GT) of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.

Thus, a Sentro paper stated that the COP21 will again fail, like the past climate summits – amid the intense lobbying and muscling in of corporate interests and the backing of the rich countries’ governments – if a business as usual scenario prevails, which will further surge CO2 emissions “from 30 GT in 2010 to 43.3 GT in 2035, which is consistent with a catastrophic increase in average global temperature of six degrees Celsius, at least.”

This is very alarming since the generally accepted threshold for global warming is 2 degrees Celsius, but has skyrocketed since the 1950s only, the report added.

Global warming, for instance, is causing typhoons that are stronger, more frequent and with longer duration; weather extremes from long dry periods or droughts (El Niño) to seasons of unusual heavy rains (La Niña); dramatic melting of ice glaciers; severe upsurge of sea levels; immense flooding; monstrous hurricanes, and other never before seen natural calamities, which could easily surpass the ferocity and extent of supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) that battered central Philippines in 2013.

Sentro, however, stressed that addressing climate change requires nothing less than radically changing the prevailing socioeconomic system, which enriches and empowers only the few and which disregards the environment amid their greed to wantonly exploit the riches of the planet.

Social activists, including environmentalists and trade unionists, said that aside from getting rid of the capitalist and neoliberal system, the world needs to institute “energy democracy” and “climate jobs” that would substantially lessen the carbon footprint and effectively tackle the worsening climate change.

Energy democracy, Sentro explains, means “an emergency transition to renewable energy by reclaiming public control over energy systems,” while climate jobs pertain to millions of employment opportunities that are both readily available and feasible and “that can be generated by shifting to a low carbon economy,” including using and developing electric public utility vehicles (PUVs), renewable energy generation and distribution (solar, hydro, wind, etc.), reforestation, coastal and riverine area rehabilitation, construction of climate resilient housing, and many others.

The urgency and life and death relevance of truly addressing the climate problem is even acknowledged by Pope Francis himself in his recent “Laudato si” encyclical, Sentro added, and it echoed a statement by a global trade union leader that there are “no jobs on a dead planet.”

Social activists have emphasized that the Paris summit “can be an important moment to say ‘No’ to the corporate agenda and the false solutions it entails,” adding that “setting a global carbon price and leaving it to the ‘market’” is not the answer – as history and experience have proven that the so-called market economy “is not up to the challenge and that what’s needed is less market and more democracy.”

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Labor groups push for ‘just transition’ in March for Climate Justice

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Echoing the view of global trade unions that a shift to lower carbon economy is not just necessary but inevitable to address the worsening climate crisis, the coalition of labor groups Nagkaisa marched with multisectoral groups in the March for Climate Justice held in Quezon City this morning.

The group denounces corporate greed for spawning both a humanitarian and environmental crisis as manifested in the intensification of exploitative working conditions and the acceleration of climate change.

“When corporations rule under the framework of unlimited greed, workers endure the worst kind of exploitation. And when climate crisis worsened as tons of carbon are emitted into the atmosphere by oil and energy companies, mining and other hard industries, everyone suffers the brunt most particularly the poor people living in most vulnerable countries like the Philippines,” said Nagkaisa in a statement.

The group pointed out that while the country is less in carbon emission, her position of vulnerability can generate a powerful voice for demanding climate justice during negotiations.

“Unfortunately our government tailgated weakly behind the US position of simply having Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) process instead of playing hardball in pressing a return to binding cuts based on science and common but differential responsibility and which will limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” lamented Nagkaisa.

The group said that even with INDC process and actual submissions, the UNEP still anticipates a 4-6 degrees Celsius, rendering the COP ineffective.

Workers were also apprehensive of the fact that while governments are active in climate negotiations, the next one in Paris next week, most of them didn’t have a clear framework on how to fine-tune this transition to lower carbon economy in a manner acceptable to the people.

Nagkaisa is pushing the framework for a ‘just transition’ which promotes social justice and employment, requires active government intervention, and demands proportionate responsibility from all stakeholders, including business.

“The Philippines, for instance, has not explicitly declared a timeline to when fossil-fuelled power plants are finally phased out so that the transition is clearly plotted in favour of renewable energy and the creation of climate jobs,” the group said.

The coalition believes further that thousands of climate jobs can be created in the country in the shift to renewable energy, disaster response and building climate resilient communities that includes resettlement in climate-proof buildings and housing projects, as well as the greening of mass transport system.

“Funding is main requirement for this shift. In climate negotiations, the rich industrial nations must be made responsible in funding the transition of most vulnerable nations,” the group added.

Meanwhile, Nagkaisa said transition policies should not, in any way, transgress into the framework of decent work since regular job and social security help build the resiliency of many people against the wrath of Mother Nature.

Sentro slams gov’t for the hellish traffic, troubles suffered by the public due to Apec

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apec

INDEED, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation will not only further enrich Big Business and the ruling classes, it can also worsen even the everyday struggles of the ordinary people just like the horrendous traffic in Metro Manila’s major thoroughfares last Monday caused by the security overkill and abrupt vehicle rerouting imposed by the government in hosting the ongoing Apec summit.

Thousands of commuters were stranded for long hours in the roads, stressing them out, leaving them hungry, thirsty and weary, and vainly resisting the “call” of nature; obliging them to march for several kilometers in search of transport or series of transports that would take them to their work, school, appointments, and finally to go home. Precious time was lost and wasted; the meager daily transport and food budget was stretched to the limit; the measly wages and benefits were still deducted or vanished altogether when the poor workers failed to reach their workplaces on time. The usual few hours of one-way travel became a combination of almost a half-day walk and multiple rides. A woman was also forced to deliver her baby on the sidewalk because there were no vehicles plying the main streets, even an ambulance; there was a police mobile car but its occupants refused to drive her to the hospital – all because of overzealous “security” blanket.

This is clearly the height of insensitivity, of utter callousness, of total disregard for the welfare of the people, a twisted hospitality to foreign visitors, a security paranoia, an extreme of the extremes – just to please and appease a few!

What the Aquino administration did – along with the police, the military, and other government agencies, including the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which systematically rounded up and hid from Apec delegates’ view the Manila’s beggars and street people – are in fact reminiscent of Marcosian martial law’s “peace and order” as well as the Imeldific obsession for “the good, the true and the beautiful.”

Sacrificing and ignoring the welfare of the ordinary Filipino people just to gratify and entertain the Apec bigwigs and corporate honchos is no different from the heartlessness of the terrorists who have no qualms about inflicting maximum and collateral damage even among the innocent, harmless and helpless civilians.

Which reminds us again that this economic “cooperation” group does not deserve the support of each and every Filipino as it does not deserve the support of each and every citizen of the countries that it purportedly represents. And not only because it has created monstrous traffics and inconveniences; more so because Apec is decisively anti-poor, anti-worker and anti-people.

Laglag Bala Scam: Time to End Cronyism, Time to Let Go of Abaya and Honrado

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By Former Rep. Walden Bello

The Laglag Bala scandal is one more item in the growing list of DOTC mishaps. Secretary Abaya is well-meaning but he’s just not up to the task of managing this critical arm of government. You need someone who combines good management skills with fearless determination to bust the criminal syndicates in the various agencies. Abaya has neither.

This is the the second controversy in less than a year that NAIA General Manager Angel Jose Honrado has been linked to. He became notorious as the bureaucrat who cooked up the illegal plan to have our OFWs pay the airport tax, a measure from which they are exempted by law. This time he has been clearly negligent in overseeing airport security.

The Laglag Bala scam represents something much bigger. The scandal underlines how cronyism undermines good governance. Both Abaya and Honrado have been encouraged in their mismanagement by their closeness to the president. Like others in the Aquino cabinet, they have so far seen themselves as untouchable. Will President Aquino finally stop his awful practice of coddling his cronies and get rid of this duo before they wreak more damage at the DOTC?

As the former Chair of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Overseas Workers’ Affairs, I am especially concerned about the impact of laglag bala on our OFWs. Many have expressed fear through social media and an online petition about coming home this holiday season, which is a time when they reunite with their families. Instead of anticipating this happy reunion after toiling all year long, they are worried about being victimized by the laglag-bala scam. Many problems have festered at the airport under the Abaya-Honrado watch. Notorious among these other problems is the malignant growth of the taxi and transport cartels that victimize returning OFWs by charging an arm and a leg for short distances. These monopolies must be swept away, along with Abaya, Honrado, and the Laglag Bala syndicate.

Getting rid of Abaya and Honrado, immediately bringing the culprits behind Laglag Bala to justice, and busting the taxi and transport cartels is the least the Aquino administration can do to rectify the its record of neglect of a very important part of our nation.

Unions decry deceptive, vague ‘labor agenda’ of APEC

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ORGANIZED workers sneered at the so-called labor agenda in the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila next month by describing it as deceptive and vague, which merely reaffirms APEC’s ideology based on the primacy of corporate power and profits over labor and trade union rights.

Trade unionists belonging to the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) joined today the broad-based and multisectoral People’s Forum on APEC (PFA 2015) in flocking to the Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang to banner the calls of “APEC kills workers’ and people’s rights.”

Despite finally including “labor concerns” among the four official priority agenda in the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting (AELM) on Nov. 18-19 under “Investing in Human Capital Development,” it remains a lame and ineffective attempt to muddle the plight of the workers and to appease their growing discontent, Josua Mata, Sentro secretary general, said.

“APEC is again using euphemisms and obfuscations – from the widely known business jargon of HRD or human resource development to its more recent clone of HCD or human capital development – to cover up its ulterior aim of levelling up the already rampant labor contractualization, which further swells the ranks of the ‘precariats’ or the impoverished and disempowered workers or proletariats with precarious jobs,” Mata added.

“This corporate mumbo jumbo is part of the neoliberal alphabet soup on how to further enrich the global corporations and the few elites because HCD like HRD is still based on the capitalist or market economy’s twisted concepts on purported efficiency, competitiveness, profitability and workers’ discipline; thus, the need for more non-regular jobs, lower wages and benefits, and the reining in of the unions,” Mata explained.

This thrust was somewhat echoed in the joint statement of the APEC Structural Reform Ministerial Meeting last Sept. 7-8 in Cebu City, when the supposedly “rising labor costs” were again used as a scapegoat or blamed for “restricting (the) ability” of some APEC member economies, including the Philippines, “to graduate out of (their) middle income status.”

PFA 2015 acts as a parallel and alternative assembly to the official APEC gathering and highlights grassroots’ stand on workers’ and trade union rights; trade, investment and finance; climate and environment; social impacts on class, gender and empowerment; peace and security; and democracy and human rights.

The AELM is being hosted by the Philippine government following its hosting of a similar summit in 1996 in Subic Bay Freeport, which was also hounded by protests from local and international anti-APEC and anti-neoliberal globalization groups.

Workers to PNoy: Labor justice needs powerful execution, not endless dialogue

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A big march to Malacanang with simultaneous actions in other cities nationwide marked today’s celebration of Labor Day as workers protested the government’s failure to address their bottom line issues such as jobs and job security, living wage, trade union rights, and decent working and living conditions.

In Manila, thousands of workers from different federations and labor organization comprising the Nagkaisa! coalition marched from Mabuhay Welcome Rotonda to Mendiola under the theme, “Hustisya sa Manggagawa at Sambayanan.”

The cry for justice, according to Nagkaisa!, is labor’s summation of failed engagement with President Aquino, whom the group insisted, “never stood on the side of labor since the PAL dispute in 2011” despite the rhetoric of ‘tuwid na daan’.

“President Aquino should have learned a valuable lesson from his last minute intervention on Mary Jane’s case. That in order to move a quixotic boulder up the mountaintop, a firm decision and solid determination is needed — a resolve he never had in addressing labor problems during the last five years in office,” said Partido Manggagawa (PM) chair Renato Magtubo and one of Nagkaisa! convenors.

The group disclosed earlier that none of labor’s bottom line issues such as contractualization, low wages and power rates reduction have been addressed by Malacanang after four years of dialogues.

“During the last five years we didn’t ask President Aquino to produce miracles. Yet a simple certification of pro-labor measure such as the Security of Tenure bill to regulate contractualization did not even warrant his attention,” said Frank Mero, President of Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (Sentro), another convenor of Nagkaisa!

Labor justice, he added, needs a powerful execution not an endless dialogue.

Another convenor, Annie Geron of the Public Services Labor Confederation (PSLINK), public sector unions are disappointed that the President was not even aware of the fact that the government bureaucracy itself is implementing a widespread and worst kind of contractualization called ‘job orders’.

However, Nagkaisa! conceded that President Aquino has earned credits for saving the life of Mary Jane Veloso. But the group said that won’t change the fact that beyond his buzzer beater intervention on Mary Jane’s behalf, many labor issues that translate into social problems like human trafficking and the exodus of Filipinos to foreign lands persist.

“Filipino are hopelessly enmeshed in an unchanging political system serving the affluent elite and betraying the destitute millions. They sense that no one is fighting for them,” said Gerard Seno, Vice President of Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP)-Nagkaisa!

Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) President accused the Aquino administration of perpetuating the old system of elite rule.

“PNoy has resolutely protected controversial allies and lifted no fingers on political dynasties. But never had he shown a grain of disposition for the working class,” said De Guzman.

Other than Manila, labor marches were also held in the cities of Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Davao, General Santos, and in Cavite and Laguna provinces.

Aquino no longer deserves any support from workers and trade unions

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General Santos City

THE workers and the trade unions throughout the world mark today the International Labor Day – 125th anniversary globally and 112th celebration here in the Philippines. This historic and revered day has been an enduring and stirring symbol for the working class despite serious setbacks caused by multipronged and systematic neoliberal attacks against the workers, the masses and their organizations, which have seriously threatened to dilute if not totally wipe out the hard-fought sociopolitical gains achieved by the labor movement in the past hundred years or so.

Our observance of May Day this year coincides with the Aquino government’s remaining one year in office highlighted by its legacies of an illusion of prosperity; selective anti-corruption drive; lackluster support if not outright rejection of many progressive proposals like the FOI (freedom of information) bill, deprivatization of public utilities, fast-tracking agrarian reform program, refusing neoliberal economic programs being imposed by multilateral institutions, among others; consenting to US interference in the country’s internal security policy; and rebuffing the trade unions and the civil society.

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Manila

Mass poverty is deteriorating despite the overhyped economic “growths” or successive GDP (gross domestic product) increases since Benigno Aquino III assumed the presidency in 2010. Ironically, the only thing constant in wealth issue here is that the majority poor are becoming poorer while the few rich are getting richer – the top 20-percent richest Filipinos own and control almost 50% percent (and counting) of the country’s wealth. What Aquino has attained is clearly not an inclusive growth as the GDP hikes are primarily translated into bigger profits for the country’s top corporations and increased assets for a handful of wealthy families every year.

FURTHER demonstrating this sham growth, the national economy has been unable to create sufficient, secure and decent jobs. Much of the employments claimed by the government in 2014 only are of poor quality. Hence, about 90 percent or 918,000 of the 1.02 million additional jobs last year were merely part-time work or those who worked for less than 40 hours. Still included here are self-employed workers (407,000) and those who worked without pay or unpaid family workers (292,000). No wonder millions of Filipinos seek better jobs and pays abroad despite the risks; thus, there would be many other Mary Jane Velosos to emerge.

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Manila

The acclaims for Aquino’s so-called “tuwid na daan” anticorruption campaign and “reform agenda” will come to naught because of his stubborn loyalty to and tolerance of corrupt and incompetent subordinates. His efforts will be reduced to nothing but a “grand double standard show.”

What Aquino is saying is increasingly becoming contradictory to what he is actually doing. For instance, while declaring “war” against corruption and other anomalies, he miserably failed to actively back the passage of the FOI bill – it could have greatly assisted in prosecuting or even preventing graft and corruption – which has been languishing for years in Congress. Likewise, he kept on parroting the worn out “free market” mantra in rejecting government intervention in inept public utility firms run by private companies (MRT-LRT, for example), which, for their bungling services, wanted the consumers to pay more! As expected, he has been abiding by the key neoliberal economic programs dictated by the likes of the World Trade Organization (WTO). And remember the land distribution under the agrarian reform program? Decades after it was launched by his mother in the late ’80s and a little one year left in his term, tens of thousands of hectares of lands are yet to be given to beneficiaries.

The Mamasapano incident has exposed the very obvious direct role of and cover-up attempts by Aquino in this tragedy, which resulted to the tragic and needless deaths of dozens of police troopers, Moro fighters and innocent civilians. It also utterly disregarded all the ceasefire mechanisms with the MILF and thus gravely jeopardizing the hard earned peace process. In fact, it enabled rightwing hawks and demagogues to fan the flames of Islamophobia and knee-jerk call to arms, and to demand the scrapping of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Finally, it confirmed – although still downplayed – the undue influence or even unconstitutional engagements of the US on our foreign policy and internal security policy.

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Davao City

MOREOVER, SENTRO and its allied organizations in the labor movement, especially the NAGKAISA labor coalition, have through the years been dismayed by Aquino’s penchant to easily rebuff, if not show contempt for, our key labor, trade union and social demands.

From the very outset, Aquino practically ridiculed the SOT (security of tenure) bill in Congress, which could have significantly arrested the worsening contractualization that in turn perpetrates precarious work, cheap wages, measly benefits, and rampant violations of a long list of labor and trade union rights. He even claimed – and copied the wild theory devoid of empirical data – that 10 million workers would lose their jobs if the SOT bill is enacted into law! As a result, the predominantly pro-capitalist and pro-Aquino legislators have sat on the bill and thus it remains pending.

Unlike Aquino’s absurd theory on SOT, there is a study – ironically by the IMF or the International Monetary Fund no less – with empirical data to boot, which links rising inequality to the declining trade union membership. Falling number of union members is one of the principal effects of the absence of security of tenure since only regular workers (not contractuals) are allowed to join unions. The research’s (“Power from the People,” Finance and Development, March 2015, Vol. 52, No. 1) apparently simple but highly logical explanation is that with less union members, less workers are covered by CBAs (collective bargaining agreements). With less CBA coverage, fewer workers enjoy the benefits of supposed economic growth resulting to greater inequality. Likewise, fewer workers benefiting from this growth means fewer workers are effectively participating in the economy, which ultimately means a weaker economy.

THEREFORE, by persistently repudiating the SOT bill – as well as other pro-worker and pro-union policies – Aquino has actually exacerbated the inequality in the country!

Aquino has also openly reneged on his promise – during the elections and upon occupying Malacañang – that he would regularly sit down with labor representatives to prove that his “tuwid na daan” governance truly addresses the issues and concerns of the workers. In particular, Aquino vowed that there would be at least one labor-government meeting every quarter of each year. As it turned out, Aquino’s “dialogue” with labor leaders in April 2014 (preceded by a May 2012 meeting) was only their third and last meeting – with just a little over a year left in his term!

This could have likely prompted the eventual failure of labor’s key legislative and social demands to be certified as urgent measures by Malacañang and Congress: the SOT and FOI bills (as already cited); reasonable not almost worthless wage increases; substantial tax breaks for minimum wage earners; lowering the costs of electricity, transportation fares and other basic services and commodities; firm resolve to end the rising extrajudicial killings (EJKs), especially of trade union and social activists, journalists, etc.

ON THIS HALLOWED DAY for all workers and the organized labor, SENTRO, together with the NAGKAISA, will reassert our final break with the government of Aquino for his dismal record on promoting and protecting labor and trade union rights, and for turning his back on us by breaking his promises to us during his presidential campaign and early into his term when he needed us most. The workers and other basic sectors of society and their organizations hereby end any cooperation to his administration.

Let us take control again of the streets of Manila, Lipa, Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Cotabato and elsewhere to project working class unity and reaffirm our commitment to the historic mission of the working class to build a better world.

Mabuhay ang SENTRO!
Mabuhay ang NAGKAISA!
Mabuhay ang pagdiriwang ng Mayo Uno, ang Pandaigdigang Araw ng Paggawa!
Mabuhay ang kilusang paggawa sa Pilipinas at sa buong mundo!
Mabuhay ang uring manggagawa!
Uring manggagawa, hukbong mapagpalaya!