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A million jobs lost in agri despite Q3 growth – IBON

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Research group IBON said that the economy may have had fast growth in third quarter 2017, but this was exclusionary considering that there were significant job losses during the same period. The group said that as long as economic growth remains dependent on external and unsustainable factors, this would not translate into the stable, decent jobs  and genuine development that the country needs.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) recently released the third quarter performance of the country’s economy. It cited a 6.9% economic growth, which may be the second fastest in the region after Vietnam ‘s 7.1% growth, and faster than China’s 6.8 percent. This was attributed to increases in exports and government spending, which in turn propelled growth in manufacturing (9.4%) and services (7.1%). The industry sector grew by 7.5%, while agriculture only grew by 2.5 percent.

According to IBON, such fast growth is not being felt by many Filipinos, especially the poor, in terms of addressing the country’s job crisis. The group said that latest labor force survey data from July 2017 showed total job losses at 784,000. By sector, agriculture was hit particularly hard with an estimated 1 million job losses, followed by services at 189,000. The industry sector only slightly compensated with an added 434,000 jobs.

The notable drop in agriculture employment could be due to the generally low and irregular growth of the agriculture sector, said the group. Though it registered a welcome 6.3% growth in the previous quarter, this fell to 2.5% in the third quarter, and was slightly lower than the 3.0% growth in the same quarter last year. If there are no major efforts to protect and develop the sector, said IBON, agriculture will remain backward and overly dependent on weather conditions. Rural livelihoods will remain unstable and continue to decline.

IBON also noted that the Philippine economy has relied on external and transitory factors such as overseas remittances and BPO investments, both of which are showing signs of slowing down. Remittance growth has been sliding from its recent peak of 8.2% in 2010 to 5.0% in 2016, and was only 3.8% as of the end of September 2017. According to Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) data, PEZA-registered Information Technology-Business Process Management (IT-BPM) investments dropped by 35% from Php10.9 billion in January-May 2016 to Php7.1 billion for the same period this year.

The fall of remittances and BPO investments is reflected in the decrease of household consumption from 7.2% in the third quarter of 2016 to 4.5% the same period this year. According to IBON, this could mean that as remittances decline and service sector jobs contract due to lack of investments, Filipino families will spend less.​

In the long-term, real development of domestic industries, especially agriculture, is needed to relieve the worsening jobs crisis and poverty in the country, said IBON. Instead of advancing neoliberal policies that make doing business in the Philippines easy and very profitable for big local and foreign corporations, the Duterte administration should build, strengthen and protect the domestic economy. It can start by concentrating much-needed financial and material support to local agricultural and industrial development. ​

Humanitarian missions in Batangas attempt to probe ‘Marawi-style’ military operations – Altermidya


CHECKPOINT. Leaders and Makabayan representatives talk to SWAT members after they were blocked on their way to investigate the situation of communities affected by aerial strikes and military operations in Mt. Banoi, Batangas. Photo by STEX

Humanitarian missions in Batangas attempt to probe ‘Marawi-style’ military operations

Southern Tagalog Exposure


MEMBERS  of Pilgrims for Peace-Southern Tagalog along with party-list representatives from the Makabayan Bloc headed to Barangay Banalo, Lobo town in Batangas on September 30 to conduct a humanitarian mission amid what they call a “Marawi-style” military operations around Mt. Banoi.

Village officials have earlier reported that the series of aerial bombings and intensified military operations since September 24 resulted in the forced evacuations of hundreds of families from communities around Mt. Banoi. At least 400 families were forced to flee their homes while some 15 schools in 12 barangays in Batangas City suspended classes for several days.

The Humanitarian Mission was blocked by the SWAT PNP twice. Photo by STEX

The combined forces of 2nd Infantry Division, 202nd Infantry Brigade and 730th Combat Group of Philippine Air Force are allegedly pursuing fleeing New People’s Army (NPA) forces following an encounter last week.

Gold mining

Previous media reports and studies by environmental groups indicated that foreign mining concessions including the MRL Gold and Egerton Gold Phils are interested in operating the Batangas Gold Project and other mines in the vicinity of Lobo and San Juan towns. According to environment group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, the two Canadian companies are affiliated with Australian miner Red Mountain Mining.

The entry of foreign large-scale mining companies has been met with strong opposition from residents, local officials and environmental groups who cited the possible severe harm to the environment, said Fr. Edwin Egar of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog.

“We fear that, with the new environment secretary who came from the military, it is not far that these mining projects are being worked out without us knowing, and these fascist acts are the dirty works of mining interests,” Egar added.

Human rights groups blocked

According to members of the humanitarian mission, they experienced blockades and harassments on the way by the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Batangas.

The humanitarian groups, which aimed to hold relief tasks, psychosocial activities and conduct of basic rights orientation to aid affected civilians, decried these attempts “to conceal the heightened military operations” by preventing human rights groups to reach the area.

Citing at least two cases of blockade and harassment by the PNP Batangas, Egar sounded the alarm of a possible cover-up by military to give way to large-scale and foreign gold mining operations in the vicinity of Mt. Banoi.

A fact-finding mission team was also blocked by the Regional Public Safety Battalion on its way to Brgy. Banalo, Lobo on Sept. 28. Photo by STEX

“By systematically preventing us from getting near the site only strengthened our belief that they are actually operating in aid of clearing operation to free the area from any possible resistance to mining concessions,” Egar added.

Bombings the ‘new normal’?

“With the AFP’s use of excessive force, it seems that aerial bombings are becoming the ‘new normal’ for AFP troops whenever there are conflicts, regardless of their impacts on civilian communities,” Karapatan-ST said in a statement.

“The way things are going in Batangas and previously in Mindanao, bombings and strafing have become the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) of the AFP in their operations at the expense of civilians. This tactic is similar to that in Marawi, and we fear that this can be used as basis for declaring Martial Law outside of Mindanao,” the group added.

On Thursday, Karapatan along with multisectoral groups trooped to the Department of National Defense to protest the bombings and strafing. Citing the intensified operations against civilian communities, as well as the desecration of an NPA fighter, whose body was left unclaimed for two days, the group reiterated  that these acts constitute a clear violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL) that was agreed by both the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Philippine government.

The group also pressed the Commission on Human Rights to stand behind the civilians and probe the military attacks.

NO TO MARTIAL LAW EXTENSION

Progressive groups in Davao City hold a protest along Roxas Avenue to condemn the extension of martial law in Mindanao for one more year. In a joint session on Wednesday, December 13, the Congress approved the request of the Palace to extend the implementation of martial law until December 31, 2018. (Robby Joy D. Salveron/ davaotoday.com)