Philippine NGOs say poor communities pay the price of "development"under Aquino
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Philippine NGOs say poor communities pay the price of "development"under Aquino

Manila : Philippines | Apr 28, 2012 at 6:29 PM PDT
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Philippine president Benigno Aquino

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, anchor all voices.com

MANILA, Philippines- In the Philippins, urban poor communities facing summary eviction to pave way for development projects are always told to sacrifice and in return, are promised to reap the economic success and dividends in the near future.

This long running story or stories of lies and deceptions has been re- mastered by previous governments and is now given a new twist by the current administration under the banner of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.

The church-backed labor NGO Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) slammed the Aquino administration’s urban development paradigm which it asserted, allows wide scale “development” of land assets in various parts of Metro Manila for property firms like SM Development Corporation (SMDC) while leaving the poor homeless, citing the Silverio Compound as example.

“It is unfortunate that our government’s urban development plan only includes business’ interest, while majority of our urban population, who are workers and dwelling in urban poor communities are excluded to the drafting of these urban development plans.

People living in urban poor communities also have right to the city and be included in any government planning for development,” said Anna Leah Escresa, Executive Director of the advocacy group.

In a statement issued on the even of International Labor Day celebration, Ms Escresa said it is ironic that urban poor communities, currently the target of demolitions for real estate development, are actually homes of construction workers who toil for the same property developers at meager wages.

Violent demolitions

"Since President Aquino assumed office in 2010, the government has been unleashing violent demolitions in urban poor communities, particularly in the communities of Sitio San Roque in North Triangle, Quezon City; Pangarap Village in Caloocan City; Corazon de Jesus in San Juan City; Laperal Compound in Makati City; BIR Road in Quezon City; and Silverio Compound in Parañaque City," the labor NGO noted.

EILER pointed out the number of displaced families in the series of demolitions only goes to show the growing population whose low income and joblessness has never been enough to afford decent homes for their families, thus leaving them no choice but to resort to dwell in shanties.

“The root of the informal settling in urban areas can be traced to the government’s inability to provide decent and affordable housing for the poor,” Escresa added.

Lack of significant wage hike

According to EILER compunding and complicating further the issue of demolitions in urban poor areas is the bizarre and brazen lack of significant wage hike for decade. "It largely contributed to the growing number of workers whose meager income cannot even support their families’ basic needs which includes decent housing. Contractualization also plays a consequential part for workers’ and their families’ impoverished state.

Our workers could not afford decent housing if they do not even have regular and secure jobs and secure source of livelihood. This lack of job security only worsens their condition while big capitalists spoil on profits from their hard labor,” said Escresa.

Far flung

Apart from displacing families, taking them to far-flung relocation sites, if there are any, only adds to their burden – taking them away from their sources of livelihood and the children away from their school. In the midst of rising prices and transport fares, putting these families in relocation sites such as in Montalban and Cavite without the assurance of a decent income will only aggravate their situation.

The recent demolition operations in Silverio Compound only mirrors the irony of how these communities resided in by thousands of urban poor will be displaced by business districts and high-rise condominiums only for the wealthy few. The area occupied by Silverio Compound is said to be the site of another Henry Sy venture.

“The recent incident in Silverio Compound only adds to the accumulated crimes of Henry Sy to the people and the workers. Also known to be the number one employer of contractuals, Sy is still not satisfied and wanted to further intensify his greed,” Escresa expressed. “Establishments like these do not generate real jobs that would last. Instead, it tends to employ contractual workers.”

Modern-day slave fish workers

Two days before the entire world celebrate the May 1 International Labor Day, a left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) urged President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to look into the plight of modern-day slave fish workers in the country.

In a recent study conducted by Pamalakaya, the group said about 600,000 fish workers in the Philippines who work in commercial fishing vessels and aquaculture farms either enlisted in payrolls or not do not receive the prescribed minimum wage prescribed by law or by existing regional wage boards.

The same special report was filed by Pamalakaya during an international conference in Bangkok, Thailand last January 8-15 this year where the group placed emphasis on very low wages and exploitative working conditions suffered by Filipino fish workers in commercial fishing vessels and aquaculture farms across the country.

The consultation conference in Bangkok was sponsored by the International Collective in Support of Fish workers (ICSF) based in India and Belgium. The same report was sent to UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) during a Philippine consultation on UN-FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Small-Scale Fisheries held in Manila on January 27-31. “All previous administrations and the incumbnet presidency of Benigno Simeon Aquino III have failed to arrest this modern-day slavery to the highest order.

The country’s labor department just take this issue for granted,” said Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap.

600K slavelike fish workers

Hicap said pressure politics should be pressed against President Aquino and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to have the 600, 000 fish workers in commercial fishing and aquaculture sectors covered by the existing minimum wage law, saying workers in both sub-sectors of the fishing industry only receive between P 100 to P 250 per day in total compensation for more than 8 hours work a day.

Pamalakaya's Hicap said fish workers in commercial fishing vessels at least work an average of 18 hours a day. Some even extend fishing up to 20 hours without pay nor additional compensation from their employers.

"This is a public knowledge and an open book and not a long running teledrama of exploitation. It is high time the Aquino administration makes a dramatic move to stop this national offshore and inshore exploitation of fish workers by foreign and domestic capital in fisheries," he said.

The Pamalakaya leader lamented that workers in commercial fishing vessels and aquaculture farms are not covered by the existing minimum wage law and deprived of benefits due to them as workers in commercial and aquaculture subsectors.

Fishlords not RWBs

Hicap said fish lords in commercial and fish culture businesses and not the regional wage boards (RWB) determine the daily wage of fish workers in these subsectors of local fisheries. Hicap said as far as fish workers in commercial and aquaculture sectors are concerned, the RWBs do not exist and these wage boards don't really mean a thing to them since wage boards do not recognize fish workers as part of the wage earning population and they just regard fish workers as seasonal workers begging for alms from their employers.

“This modern-day slavery continues under the anti-worker and anti-fisher people regime of President Aquino. We challenge DOLE to investigate this perennial exploitation by foreign and domestic capital. The country’s labor officials should do their work to make sure our poor fish workers will be covered by the existing minimum wage law and are entitled to social benefits,” Hicap stressed.

Studies in 04, 05 and 09

In a study conducted by Pamalakaya in 2004, 2005 and in 2009, the group found out that fish workers in trawl fishing receive a daily pay hike of P100 to P150 for 20 hours work, while the fishworker captain and 2nd fish worker captain receive P150 to P180 daily for 20 hours’work. It said the fishlords in commercial and aquaculture sectors are dictating the take home pay of fishworkers.

The wage boards connived with big fishing operators to impose this low wage policy in the fisheries sector. Pamalakaya also said in aquaculture fishponds, seasonal workers employed in aqua farms measuring 125 hectares to 200 hectares are paid P 200 per day, while those working in fishponds measuring 12 hectares and below are paid P120 per day.@

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Philippines President Benigno Aquino walks past an electronic display board inside the Philippine Stock Exchange in Manila
Philippines President Benigno Aquino walks past an electronic display board inside the Philippine Stock Exchange in Manila
GerryAlbert is based in Manila, National Capital Region, Philippines, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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