Farmers, workers, youth groups want APEC ‘shut down’
MANILA, Philippines – Days before world leaders converge in Manila for the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, farmer, labor, and youth groups denounced the regional grouping as something that brings more damage than benefits to the Filipino masses.
On Friday, November 13, the Solidarity of Labor and Movements (SLM), which represents various labor groups in the Philippines, want APEC to be shut down.
“The P10 billion ($212.36 million) spent by the Aquino regime for an elitist forum that represents the interests of the affluent few in the global economy is nothing but a waste of the nation’s coffers. Furthermore, it is an added insult to millions of already injured taxpayers,” SLM said.
APEC is the highest-level, most influential economic forum in the Asia-Pacific. With 21 member economies, it accounts for nearly half of world trade, and about 57% of global gross domestic product (GDP). (READ: APEC what? An explainer of Manila’s high-profile week)
The biggest critique against the organization is that it allegedly only furthers the interest of rich and powerful countries like the United States, China, Russia, Australia, Canada, and Japan.
SLM added: “The main motive of APEC is not to alleviate the poverty of the millions of workers and the poor but to regain the falling profit margins of billionaires who are still recovering from the 2008 global financial crisis. The road to capitalist recovery would be paved by starvation wages and by cheaper supply of natural and raw materials.”
Lumad communities are also holding a protest in Manila against government abuses and APEC.
Bad for agriculture?
Ahead of the APEC Leaders’ Meeting on November 18 and 19, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), along with farmers’ groups across Asia, organized a forum at the University of the Philippines-Diliman on Friday to show solidarity against APEC.
The farmers groups believe APEC will “hurt local agriculture and Filipino farmers” through its policies.
"After APEC, we expect the influx of more investments in agriculture, majority are financial in nature, including portfolio and speculative investments in land and agricultural commodities. Such investments will result to the further devastation of the local agriculture and producers due to massive land grabbing and land conversions," KMP leader Rafael Mariano said.
The US, for example, is among the country’s top trading partners, and largest foreign investor. It exported some $2.7 billion worth of agricultural products to the Philippines in 2013, making the country the 9th largest US agricultural export market.
"As if the removal of economic barriers and decades of unfair competition and trade liberalization are not enough, APEC will ensure non-border measures that will assure more benefits and incentives for foreign investors at the expense of the people," Mariano added.
Hundreds of university students across Metro Manila walked out of their classes and marched to Mendiola in Manila on Friday to protest against APEC.
The students were set to mass in Mendiola at around 1:30 pm. They program was to include burning logos of APEC and the effigy of leaders like Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, US President Barack Obama, and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
They will also march in front of the US Embassy to protest US moves attempting to "liberalize the economy."
“We believe that this summit will be a battleground between US and Chinese domination in the region – and the Philippines is left stuck in the crossfire, with its territorial interests sidelined by the encroaching economic expansionism of these two powerful nations,” said Kabataan party list Representative Terry Ridon.
Youth groups said they will have more intensified protests next week when world leaders arrive in Manila.
“We will defy all odds to ensure that the youth’s voice of opposition is heard in the upcoming APEC Leaders Summit,” Ridon said.
The Philippine government has already swept 20,000 homeless from the streets. and declared public holidays in Manila to ensure a safe and efficient summit of 21 world leaders next week. Private airlines have cancelled hundreds of flights, heeding the advisory of aviation officials on the use of airports by visiting leaders.
Philippine authorities have admitted that their biggest concern us securing the world leaders. Chinese officials already expressed concerns over anti-China protests that will happen next week, due to the West Philippine Sea dispute.
Aside from this, the government also wants to project a positive image as the eyes of the world will be on Manila next week, prompting allegations that it has cleared the streets of Manila of homeless families in preparation for the event.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) already the denied allegations, which it was accused of doing during Pope Francis’ visit in January. – Rappler.com
US$1 = P47