Tag Archives: Focus on the Global South

[From the web] Asian Network pushes stronger TNC regulations at the UN amidst pandemic -Focus on the Global South

#HumanRights #Trade Asian Network pushes stronger TNC regulations at the UN amidst pandemic

Amidst the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the negotiations towards a legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises and human rights commenced Monday, 26th of October in Geneva, with participation from States, business groups and civil society organizations enabled through various online platforms.

Following the mandate of UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Resolution 26/9, States are negotiating at this 6th session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group the 2nd revised draft of the text prepared by Ecuador and released in August 2020. Six Asian States (China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines and Vietnam) supported the resolution in 2014.

Civil society organizations have since 2014 been actively engaged, pushing and intervening in the process. They have put forward concrete proposals towards a robust international legally binding instrument that would address the gaps in international human rights law on holding transnational corporations accountable for human rights abuses. They have highlighted the need to put at the center of the talks, the rights of victims and the importance of strengthening mechanisms to ensure justice for rights holders.

Please click the link below to read more:

Submit your contribution online through HRonlinePH@gmail.com
Include your full name, e-mail address, and contact number.

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos, etc.

[From the web] The Moribund Duterte Presidency: Focus on the Global South’s Post-SONA 2020 Assessment

The Moribund Duterte Presidency
Focus on the Global South’s Post-SONA 2020 Assessment
2020 August 7

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic—a period marked by rising infections, an overwhelmed healthcare system, and an impending economic recession—the state of the nation demanded a show of fortitude and resolve from President Rodrigo Duterte and his government to move the country forward, as well as a show of leadership to rally the people in overcoming the enormous challenges before us. We saw and heard nothing of that in the President’s 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27.

What the President has shown was the opposite: incompetence and a serious and dangerous lack of leadership. Standing before the Congress and the nation was an inutile leader—to use Duterte’s own words—who is unable to comprehend the gravity of the situation we are facing and incapable of laying down a clear and cohesive plan to address this unprecedented crisis.

Nothing was said of the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases, the dismal state of our healthcare system, the massive loss of jobs and livelihoods, or the worsening poverty and hunger among vulnerable our most communities. Instead, Duterte filled his SONA with desperate attempts to rescue the government’s already crumbling legitimacy in the face of growing public anger and discontent. He deployed blatant lies, repetitions of stale populist rhetoric that have consistently contradicted his administration’s policies and actions, and displays of “cariño brutal” leadership, including narratives of “othering” and endorsements of violence.

A Waning Brand of Leadership: Blame Game, Othering, and Violence

Prior to the onslaught of the pandemic and the multiple crises it has facilitated, Duterte’s leadership and legitimacy were derived partly from his charisma, which Focus analyst Walden Bello has aptly described as cariño brutal—“denoting a volatile mix of will to power, a commanding personality, and a gangster charm that fulfills his followers’ deep-seated yearning for a father figure who will finally end the national chaos.” He has projected himself as someone who is willing to “[break] the law,” as it “functions mainly to protect the powerful, the criminals, and the corrupt.” Throughout his speech, Duterte tried to reassert this strongman image and project power.

Duterte’s previous SONAs have consistently sought to lay the blame for the country’s ills on the same predictable lineup of groups: drug users and peddlers, criminals, narco-politicians, corrupt public officials, leftist groups, and government critics. Because these groups are easy for the middle class to detest, using them as scapegoats for all forms of social deterioration have helped his administration appeal to the broad middle class and obtain their support. The 2020 SONA was no different. Again, the oligarchy and the perpetual drug problem are to blame.

At the beginning of his speech, Duterte lambasted a senator from an opposition party who has spoken out on the need to address the issue of political dynasties. The president, exuding an anti-oligarchy persona he has adopted since his presidential campaign in 2016, then segued into a tirade against a few rich families and their corporations. He made scathing statements directed at the oligarchs controlling water provision in Metro Manila, but his rant focused particularly on private telecommunication companies. Supposedly in the name of public interest, he even warned the latter of government takeover if they fail to shape up. In the wake of the government shutdown of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest media network, these threats have a chilling effect on corporations deemed to oppose the whims of this administration.

Duterte has been projecting his upfront criticism of oligarchs as the latest expression of his will to power, commanding personality, and strong leadership. But his selective attacks against the Lopezes and Ayalas are reminiscent of the anti-oligarchy rhetoric of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who attacked certain oligarchs only to prop up his own cronies. It is not difficult to see the similarities in the current scenario under Duterte.

For instance, despite claiming to be against the oligarchy, Duterte did not criticize the Sys, the Villars, the Gokongweis, and other superrich families who have further entrenched their control over public goods and services, thereby amassing greater wealth and profit. At the same time, it is important to note that throughout Duterte’s term, many families in his hometown in Davao Region have been on the rise economically and politically. The most prominent among them is Dennis Uy, one of Duterte’s top presidential campaign donors. Starting out as the son of provincial traders, Uy has now expanded his oil, shipping, and logistics business and has also suddenly ventured into convenience stores, a digital startup, a casino franchise, a bakery chain, a Ferrari dealership, a water utility, real estate, and telecommunications. The most controversial of these is his entry into telecommunications, given Duterte’s longstanding vendetta against the duopoly running the Philippine telco industry, the lack of transparency in the bidding process for the third telco company, and Uy’s lack of experience in the industry.

Apart from Uy, investigative reports have also shown how families and companies involved in public infrastructure have also disproportionately benefited from the massive inflow of capital to Davao Region to supposedly support the Duterte administration’s flagship infrastructure program “Build Build Build.” Standing out among these companies is CLTG Builders, which is notably owned by Desiderio Go, the father of Duterte’s longtime aide and now-senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

Viewed in conjunction with Duterte’s political agenda of consolidating his own cronies, the selective attacks against certain oligarchs controlling telecommunications during his SONA belie the fact that only individuals and groups that support Duterte may enter and reap profits from the telco market. As such, rather than dismantling a centuries-old system that has only benefited the few, Duterte has simply been ushering in new oligarchs to secure their political support.

Apart from the oligarchs, Duterte also attributed the moral decay in society to the enduring drug problem in the Philippines. During his speech, he devoted significant time, as usual, to explain how the proliferation of illegal drugs destroys families, robs children of proper nurturance and care, and even forces mothers to seek employment in other countries where they are exposed to abusive employers. However, Duterte deliberately left out how his bloody “War on Drugs” has also led to the same outcome of destroying families and how the lack of decent, high-paying jobs coupled with the government’s labor export policy have increased labor migration.

Consistent with his hatred for smalltime drug users and peddlers and his penchant for using violence to address systemic problems, Duterte reiterated his call for the “swift passage of a law reviving the death penalty,” particularly for drug-related crimes. Surprisingly, however, this directive received very little applause from a crowd consisting of his loyal allies. He continued to play up the narrative of capital punishment as a deterrent to crime and as a necessary measure to save the youth from the scourge of illegal drugs. The fact that he included and stressed the agenda to reimpose the death penalty during a health crisis that has already taken over 2,000 lives is again quite telling of this government’s misplaced priorities. It also proves once again how violence and killings are indeed a defining characteristic of Dutertismo.

Contrary to the administration’s claims that capital punishment will bring about justice, peace, and social order, the proposed death penalty will be a death sentence for the poor. There are numerous studies that show the disproportionate impact of death penalty on people living in poverty and its ineffectiveness in crime deterrence. What the government should address and prioritize is the implementation of much needed reforms in our broken criminal justice system that promotes impunity and favors the rich, the elites, and those in positions of power.

Militaristic, Populist, and Incompetent COVID-19 Response

Focus has been examining Duterte’s past SONAs and analyzing the consequences of his regime’s exacerbation of policies and systems that promote violence, hardships, betrayals, and perversions. In particular, Focus has been analyzing from a policy lens the extent to which his rhetoric has been translated into actual policies and action. As in previous addresses, we have noted the destructive, divisive, and despotic character of the Duterte administration and the patent inconsistencies in Duterte’s policy pronouncements in his latest SONA. On the twin concerns of health and the economy, what Duterte chose to highlight in his speech is indicative of his glaring lack of understanding of the gravity of our problems and his consistent policy biases. The statements are always couched in the same pro-masa or pro-people rhetoric.

On health, Duterte chose to highlight the Malasakit Centers—the pet project of his erstwhile assistant and most trusted ally and confidant Senator Cristopher “Bong” Go—as if to present these centers as one-stop shops for all government medical and financial assistance for all Filipinos, particularly poor patients. While supposedly non-partisan, the Malasakit Centers, whose name means “concern” in English, implicitly represent the system of patronage politics, where the delivery of public services is branded as a gift deserving of public gratitude and political support.

Furthermore, in keeping with the administration’s militaristic and blunt force approach to containing the virus, Duterte threatened to order the killings of individuals who commit crimes during the pandemic. He explicitly stated that if they were to go back to their old, unlawful ways, he would see to it that their dead bodies would pile up.

Instead of heaping praises on the so-called “Bong Go Centers” and sputtering threats of violence, the President could have given the nation a much clearer picture of the state of our public health and the enormous challenge that lay before us. A World Health Organization-commissioned study on the state of the country’s public health system concluded that while there have been improvements in performance owing to health sector reforms implemented over the years, many concerns still need to be tackled. These concerns have to do with “further strengthening and improving the preparation and response capacity to natural and human induced disasters.” It further noted that “access [to health services] remains highly inequitable due to the maldistribution of facilities, health staff and specialists.”

The dire state of our public health amid the pandemic was underscored further in a new United Nations Policy Brief on the impact of COVID-19 on Southeast Asian countries. The document noted the vulnerability of most countries in the sub-region because of weak health systems. However, it singled out Myanmar and the Philippines “as particularly concerning because of pre-existing humanitarian caseload.” There are two indicators of level of preparedness for COVID-19 where the Philippines is lagging behind its neighbors. The first one is the number of nurses and midwives, where we have two per 10,000 people according to 2017-2018 data, the lowest among the 11 Southeast Asian countries (Singapore is highest at 72 nurses per 10,000 people). The second is the number of hospital beds where we registered 10 per 10,000, the third lowest next to Cambodia with eight and Myanmar with nine per 10,000.

Duterte also revealed his detachment from the struggle of healthcare workers when he hit them back for supposedly touting revolution, when they were in fact merely demanding a return to Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) from the more relaxed General Community Quarantine (GCQ) in order to give our overwhelmed health system some breathing space.

The Duterte administration’s indifference to the needs of the healthcare sector, its hollow rhetoric of malasakit or sympathy, and its heavy-handed approach to the pandemic have obviously not done anything to curb the number of cases. As of today, the Philippines now has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, overtaking Indonesia at 119,460 total cases, and the fourth-highest number of cases in Asia after India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. According to the Straits Times, the Philippines has now become Southeast Asia’s coronavirus hotspot after recording spikes in the number of infections, as the country plunges into recession, registering a 16.5% GDP drop in the second quarter of 2020—the deepest contraction in the country’s history.

Enduring Neoliberal Prescription

There were high expectations that Duterte would present a clear plan for the tanking economy. However, the list of recommendations and urgent policies cited by Duterte, which barely constitute a concrete recovery plan, represent the same neoliberal agenda that has only created fragile, unsustainable, and inequitable growth. Duterte pushed for the passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE), which aims to cut the corporate income tax rate from 30% to 25%. The recovery program as per Duterte’s SONA pronouncements is hinged on corporate bailouts couched again in populist rhetoric. Duterte sought to emphasize, and rightly so, the plight of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that make up around 99.5% of all enterprises in the country. Considered the backbone of our economy, MSMEs provide around 5.7 million jobs or 63.19% of the country’s total employment, according to 2018 data from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). But there are serious doubts as to whether the incentives and bailout packages would redound to the benefit of these MSMEs or instead be cornered by big firms. While CREATE is envisioned to serve both as a stimulus and as a means to spur economic growth, special concern should be directed at the impact of the crisis on workers.

Official statistics show that 7.3 million Filipinos are now unemployed, with the unemployment rate jumping to 17.7% in April 2020—a 12.6% increase from last year. Government’s response to support the unemployed has come in the form of social amelioration and a one-time cash dole-out to workers in the formal sector through its COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP). These programs have been mired in problems, as Duterte himself has recognized.

For one, the social amelioration in the form of cash and in-kind support, ranging from PHP5,000 (~USD102) to PHP8,000 (~USD163) per household for each month of lockdown, does not have any clear criteria for recipient selection nor a timeline for distribution. Without clear criteria, the distribution of aid has been based on patronage instead of people’s needs. Furthermore, there have been various reports of delayed distribution both for the first and second tranche of the financial aid. Without any source of income during the first two months of strict lockdown, many poor families had to live on PHP8,000 (~USD163) per month, or about PHP133 (~USD2.71) per day. Even worse, some remote communities have reportedly not received any form of aid at all since March 15.

Similarly, the support program designed specifically for displaced workers has also been riddled with problems. On the one hand, the one-time cash aid worth PHP5,000 (~USD102) that was distributed to workers in the formal sector was not enough to meet the month-long needs of their families, even when combined with the financial aid from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Another concern of the labor sector was how the processing of aid depended on employers submitting a list of requirements to the government before their workers could receive aid. Labor groups also lamented that the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) support program for workers is exclusionary, as it only covers workers in the formal sector. Meanwhile, displaced workers and underemployed and seasonal workers could only receive provisional incomes under the department’s emergency employment program that would last between 10 and 30 days.

According to Czar Joseph Castillo of the Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN) Institute, the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified labor rights issues including non-compliance with occupational safety and health standards, wage cuts, contractualization, and union busting.

While millions of poor Filipinos are suffering from worsening hunger due to lack of incomes and the delayed distribution of government aid, some public officials have been fattening their wallets with public funds. In fact, in the middle of an unprecedented health crisis that has exhausted the resources of thousands of COVID-19 victims, it was reported that PHP15 billion (~USD305 million) worth of funds of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) were pocketed by the members of the government corporation’s executive committee. Even prior to this recent exposé, various investigative reports have revealed massive fraud and scams within PhilHealth. It was estimated that the insurance company has lost around PHP154 billion (~USD3.13 billion) to various types of fraud. All these cases have persisted despite Duterte’s strong assertions that he would weed out corruption.

Rhetoric and Contradictions

There are a few other rhetorical statements in Duterte’s SONA that are contradicted by his policies and actions. He said that his administration “[wants] to end the discrimination of persons on the basis of age, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and other character traits.” This is ironic given Duterte’s sexist, misogynistic, and discriminatory statements against women and the LGBTQIA+ community. In one event, he was noted as saying that he “cured” himself of homosexuality “with the help of beautiful women.” Duterte has also blurted out statements before and during his term as president that objectified and sexualized women, encouraged violence against women, normalized and trivialized the otherwise serious matter of rape, and openly admitted to committing rape and other forms of sexual harassment himself.

He also boldly declared: “Rest assured that we will not dodge our obligation to fight for human rights.” This comes after years of extrajudicial killings, human rights violations and abuses, the erosion of democratic institutions, the encroachment of authoritarian rule, demonization of human rights activists and defenders, and the propagation of the divisive false dichotomy between the President’s “concern with human lives” and peoples’ defense of human rights and dignity in resistance to the Duterte regime.

On the issue of environment, he mentioned that “responsible extraction and equitable distribution of natural resources remain non-negotiables” and reiterated once again the need for the passage of the National Land Use Act (NLUA). Yet over the last four years under his administration, land policies have treated land and other natural resources as commodities and sources of profit for private investors. This narrow view of economic efficiency is anchored on the profit-maximizing exploitation of natural resources rather than its equitable distribution, protection, and preservation to advance social and ecological justice.

This is evident, for instance, in the continuing proliferation of mining throughout the country, rising cases of land grabbing and land use conversion in the countryside, the aggressive push for the China-backed Kaliwa Dam—a centerpiece of the Belt and Road Initiative in the Philippines—and many other forms of development aggression that threaten to destroy indigenous peoples’ ancestral domains and livelihoods, plus the reclamation of Manila Bay, which threatens to displace thousands of coastal residents and fisherfolk communities to make way for private businesses to plunder the Commons.

Duterte also stressed that a robust agriculture sector should drive economic growth. In line with this, he cited the “Plant, Plant, Plant” Program, otherwise known as the Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) [literally meaning: All Rise, Adequate Food] program, as the government’s COVID-19 response to help reinvigorate the agriculture sector. However, the ALPAS program’s push for rice self-sufficiency and support for procurement of palay from local farmers contradicts the administration’s strong support and implementation of rice importation.

With the enactment of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) or the Rice Trade Liberalization Law, the Philippines became the largest importer of rice in the world in 2019 with record purchases reaching 2.9 million metric tons (MT), and there were plans in late March to import more than 300,000 MT of rice by way of the government-to-government scheme to ward off possible depletion of our rice buffer stock. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, rice-producing countries have reviewed their rice exports. Vietnam, for example, temporarily suspended rice export contracts as it assesses its own stockpiles. The plans were later shelved when Vietnam lifted their ban on rice exports. Nevertheless, this exposes the Philippines to the dangers of heavy reliance on importation as a means to secure food. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) estimates that the export bans could raise world rice prices anywhere from 19% (Vietnam), 23% (Cambodia), to as much as 51% (India), or $230 per MT. According to IRRI, “in the worst case scenario, rice price could spike well above the maximum level reached during the 2008 crisis.”

The deplorable neglect of the Filipino small-scale food providers and Philippine agriculture by the Duterte administration—exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19 on food and the economy, as well as the government technocrats’ yielding to the dictates of neoliberal free-trade proponents—is a clear manifestation of the disconnect between the government and the people.

A Turning Point

The incompetence and poor leadership of the Duterte administration, as attested to by the recent SONA, along with the people’s indignation and demands for accountability, open opportunities for a progressive turning point, away from the Dutertismo style of governance and toward genuine political, economic, social, and cultural change. Now more than ever, there is a stronger need for us to organize communities, strengthen grassroots solidarities from the ground up, and collectively build alternatives for recovery, renewal, and systemic transformation.

The annual SONA has always been a political event ripe with contrasts. It is an occasion for the President to present the achievements of the administration and frame the policies and the political narrative moving forward. On the other hand, out on the streets, the united actions under the banner of SONAgKAISA (“nagkaisa” means united in Filipino) and the various sectoral and thematic actions articulate a counter-narrative focusing on the perspectives of the marginalized and the unheard and offer a different agenda of social transformation that challenges the status quo, questions government policies and priorities, and condemns the actions or inactions of the State.

There is also a sharp contrast in the optics of power and privilege: the politicians, the generals, the diplomats, and those in the corridors of power in their elegant barongs and filipinianas, comfortably seated inside the air-conditioned halls of Congress—though this time with COVID-19 we saw a much-reduced audience and a less-packed Congress. Meanwhile, the masses march outside under the scorching heat of the sun or sometimes the heavy downpour of rain, the people out in the streets shouting their demands and slogans, demanding to be heard. There is a typical ending to a SONA day: the President, after delivering his or her speech to the aplomb and applause of the crowd, leaves the halls rejuvenated with his or her political muscles flexed and mandate reaffirmed; meanwhile, the protestors finish their own programs, pack their flags, streamers, and placards, and disperse amidst the embers of the burned effigy.

SONA 2020 will be remembered as the day when Duterte’s failed leadership, in the face of an unprecedented health and economic crisis, was fully exposed to the public. The challenge now lies in seizing this opportunity to rise from the ashes of this moribund presidency, build stronger unities to advance the progressive agenda and find the strength to continue the long struggle ahead.

Joseph Purugganan
Head of Office


Submit your contribution online through HRonlinePH@gmail.com
Include your full name, e-mail address, and contact number.

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos, etc


[Announcement] Focus on the Global South is hiring! Regional Program Coordinator & Content Creator and Outreach Coordinator

Focus on the Global South is a non-governmental organization with offices in Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, and India. Focus combines policy research, advocacy, activism, and grassroots capacity building in order to generate critical analysis and debates among social movements, civil society organizations, elected officials, government functionaries, and the general public on national and international policies related to corporate-led globalization, neoliberalism, and democratisation. Focus works at multiple levels (local to international) and with a wide array of partners.

Focus is currently seeking to fill the positions of Regional Program Coordinator (RPC) and Content Creator and Outreach Coordinator (CCOC).

The RPC will work closely with Focus’ Executive Director and Management Team. The main areas of work of the RPC are: 1) anchor the preparation of reports and proposals to funders, and; 2) oversee the financial and administrative operations of the organization.

The CCOC will report directly to the Executive Director and will work closely with the Focus Management Team at various country offices. The main areas of work of the CCOC are: 1) work with other program staff and coordinate their initiatives for content design and creation, and; 2) design and lead the execution of plans for disseminating Focus’ knowledge and communication outputs.

For the complete job description and application process, please go to the following links:

RPC: https://focusweb.org/job-post-regional-program-coordinator/

CCOC: https://focusweb.org/job-post-content-creator-and-outreach-coordinato

Submit your contribution online through HRonlinePH@gmail.com
Include your full name, e-mail address and contact number.

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.

[From the web] People’s resistance to RCEP intensifies, amplifying #NotoRCEP call! -Focus on the Global South

As governments scramble to save the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement , peoples from Southeast Asia have consolidated their strong opposition to this ambitious and unjust trade and investment agreement

Meeting at the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN Peoples Forum held recently in Thailand under the Convergence Space on Trade, Investment and Corporate Power, peoples’ movements and trade activists spoke out strongly against the Mega FTA saying the deal will be detrimental to peoples’ rights.

Afgan Fadilla of Serikat Petani Indonesia (Indonesian Peasant Union), a member of the global peasant movement La Via Campesina, spoke against the assault on farmers’ rights to seeds. “ In East Java and Aceh, peasants are forcefully arrested by the police for breeding their own seeds.” Fadilla decried UPOV 91, the international convention that seeks to protect breeder’s rights, but would undermine peasants right to seeds. Accession and compliance to UPOV 91 is one of the contentious issues being discussed under the intellectual property rights chapter of RCEP. Fadilla also stated that implementation of UPOV 91 will violate United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP) which guarantees the right to seed of peasants.

Aside from undermining farmer’s right to seeds, the IPR chapter also threatens people’s access to medicines and right to health.

Chalermsak Kittitrakul of health advocacy group AIDS Access Foundation in Thailand: There is Universal health coverage in Thailand, supposedly guaranteeing treatment for all. That is why the public health budget is very important. We fear that RCEP’s impact pushing upward the cost of medicines, which accounts for 50 percent of the total expenditures under the health subsidy program of the government, will lead to reduction of coverage or worse a halt to the subsidies all together.”

While some contentious issues like data exclusivity and other TRIPs + provisions seem to have been put off the table for now, advocates like Kittitrakul are still concerned that IPR rules and strong enforcement mechanisms are very much still a part of the negotiations. “RCEP is also pushing for establishing high standards for patent examination, which would favor Big Pharma who could easily comply with these standards over smaller generic companies.”

RCEP would also have severe impact on women. Reasey Seng of local Cambodian organization SILAKA: “Women are concerned over the privatization of public services and limited access for women to land and natural resources. RCEP will push a policy environment that favors more privatization of services, contractual and precarious work, and corporate control over land and resources, which would further burden women and reinforce the patriarchal system. “

Ana Maria Nemenzo of WomanHealth, a women’s group focusing on health issues in the Philippines lambasted RCEP for “privileging corporate interest, and limiting the capacity of government to support public health.”

Read more @focusweb.org

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos, etc.

[Press Release] Small fishers call for pro-people rehabilitation of Manila bay -Focus on the Global South

Small fishers call for pro-people rehabilitation of Manila bay

The Duterte administration’s rehabilitation of Manila Bay is set to begin on 27 January but a group of municipal fishers around the bay are decrying the lack of community involvement in the P47 billion clean up, and are demanding a more pro-people rehabilitation plan.

“The government’s plan is anchored on restoring the bay’s waters to pristine quality, in order to make it safe for swimming again. It wants to employ a Boracay-style clean up in a body of water that is facing much more complex challenges” lamented Pablo Rosales, Chairperson of Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Mangingisda o PANGISDA, a national federation of fishers and fishworkers.

“For one compared to Boracay that has an area of 1,000 hectares, the entire coastline of Manila Bay measures around 190 kilometers from Cavite to Bataan. And more importantly, around 5 million people are living in the coastal areas around the bay, their livelihoods dependent on the bay’s resources,” Rosales added.

“Instead of consulting us and employing our assistance in the rehabilitation efforts as key stakeholders, the communities are being threatened of evictions and demolitions,” said Gilbert Reyes, of PANGISDA-Paranaque.

Environment Secretary, Roy Cimatu announced recently the government’s plans to relocate around 200 thousand informal settlers along the coast of the bay.

“What will happen to the small fishers in Manila Bay who are dependent on fishing for their livelihoods? How will the government address the economic displacement that will result from its rehabilitation plan?” asked Reyes.

“ Ironically, even if they sweep away the residents, including the fisher communities found around the Bay, the waters will remain unclean as long as they allow businesses and buildings around the Bay to discharge their wastes indiscriminately,” added Reyes.

The Supreme Court recognized the importance of the Bay’s fisheries in its decision for ‘continuing mandamus’ ordering key government agencies led by the DENR to clean up, rehabilitate and preserve Manila Bay in their different capacities. The Supreme Court, recognizing the importance of fisheries, ordered the Agriculture Department through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource or BFAR to improve and restore the marine life of Manila Bay. It is also directed the DA and BFAR to assist the LGUs in Metro Manila, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, Pampanga, and Bataan in developing, using recognized methods, the fisheries and aquatic resources in the Manila Bay.

“Fishers and people living along the coastline support the rehabilitation of Manila Bay. But it has to be about reviving and sustaining the life of the Bay and reviving and sustaining the livelihoods of fishers dependent on its resources,” said Reyes.

“Whose interests are really being advanced by Duterte’s Manila Bay rehabilitation? Unless the fishers and coastal communities become involved, it would be difficult to see how the plan will serve our interest especially since it involves grabbing communal resource like a portion of the Bay in order to convert and put it under private corporate interests,” asserted Rosales.

“It raises serious questions and deep suspicion among the people that perhaps the clean up is for another purpose? That the billion peso reclamation projects are really the driver of this rehabilitation effort,” Rosales concluded.

Submit your contribution online through HRonlinePH@gmail.com
Include your full name, e-mail address and contact number.

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.

[From the web] Basta ya! WTO: People Choose Sovereignty -Focus on the Global South

Basta ya! WTO: People Choose Sovereignty
Focus on the Global South, Statement on the failure of MC11 in Buenos Aires
15 December 2017

Contast in endings. A contrast in endings. Above despair and frustration at the OMC,below hope and optimism at the People’s Summit. photo courtesy of Javier Echaide. -Photo from Focus on the Global South

The failure of the WTO talks in Buenos Aires to produce any substantial outcome is a victory for the people. This is a clear and significant pushback against the WTO and its anti-development, expansionist agenda.

Focus on the Global South joins numerous peoples’ movements against the WTO and free trade across the world in celebrating the collapse of the talks as a setback to the neoliberal, corporate driven project of economic globalisation.

We saw in Buenos Aires the same “my way or no way” attitude of the biggest players. We are one with diverse popular movements in denouncing the unilateralism of the United States and the jingoism of the Trump administration, which continue to impede meaningful discussion on critical issues such as public food procurement, remunerative prices for small scale farmers, safeguards against agricultural dumping and price volatility in developing countries. That the end of the MC11 talks came by way of the US rejection of the proposed permanent solution concerning food security, only underscores the utter disregard of some wealthy nations to issues of interest for developing countries.

We must also reject however, the multilateralism of the WTO that for the last two decades has overseen an aggressive agenda of economic liberalization, and the construction of global trade rules that have further exacerbated global inequities and weakened the capacities of states–particularly in poor countries–to advance trade in the context of their own development objectives. The multilateralism of the WTO demonstrates a huge democratic deficit, where decision-making is concentrated in the hands of a few rich and powerful countries that dictate the trade agenda backed by the interests of transnational corporations.

The 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization started with an impassioned plea from the Conference Chair and host, Argentinian Commerce Minister Susanna Malcorra, to “engage with their citizens and make the case for the positive benefits trade brings for economic growth and development.” However, days prior to the opening of the conference, the headlines were about the decision of the Macri government in Argentina to ban several civil society organisations to the MC11 for supposedly “violent tendencies.” Having failed now to produce even a Ministerial Declaration, the story in Buenos Aires is that of an institution that has clearly lost touch with the realities, needs and aspirations of the people.

The push for new issues
A number of new issues were pushed in Buenos Aires by wealthy countries while long standing commitments towards equity remained sidelined. Foremost was a push for new trade rules to govern the trillion-dollar global e-commerce market. There is a mad scramble among the biggest e-commerce companies to establish rules in the WTO that will guarantee their competitiveness and lock-in their advantages. However, what is needed by the majority are trade rules with stricter domestic regulations on investments that safeguard the interest of the poor and marginalized, not rules that favor big corporations. For developing countries still struggling for basic necessities such as water and electricity, and where citizens still fight off hunger and diseases on a daily basis, the demands for just trade rules are anchored on the fulfillment of such basic needs rather than the quest to secure more profits for corporations.

The old question of development
The fiction of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) round–that it could be an instrument for development, and that somehow through implementing the Doha commitments the WTO can be reformed to address fundamental problems of inequity and poverty–should once and for all be laid to rest, buried under the rubble of 20 years of failed promises.

In 2001, the so called “development agenda” was dangled and used to bring developing countries on board to what was essentially a new round of further trade liberalization. But as many of us have consistently asserted over the last 16 years, the Doha Development agenda never was, nor will it ever be about development. The fact that developing countries still had to fight to defend their rights to protect agriculture, food security, public health and access to medicines in Buenos Aires in 2017 dramatizes the bankruptcy of the WTO and the Doha round of talks.

It is a mistake to see the Doha round as a fight over whether the interests of developing countries can be discussed under the ambit of the WTO in the wake of a more ambitious and expanded trade and investment agenda. The Doha package does not contain the demands of peoples across the world and the Doha round has been a defensive fight for developing countries from day one of those talks. It is now time for developing countries to take the offensive in the name of peoples’ sovereignty and development.

In the lead-up to MC11 in Buenos Aires, the development agenda acquired new names: MSMEs, women and development, fisheries subsidies, investment facilitation for development, all of these were nothing more than attempts to whitewash the deeply rooted corporate agenda. As these new issues surfaced, earlier ones were further buried. Agriculture will always be a central terrain of the struggle in the WTO. The direction that the Doha round negotiations took on agriculture over the past years is clear proof of the anti-development nature of the talks and of the WTO. Agriculture negotiations have increasingly sought to undermine the rights of peasants, erode the capacity of states to promote rural development and agriculture, and weaken local food systems in favor of corporate, commercialized agriculture for corporations.

Peoples’ resistance and alternatives
The collapse of the WTO talks amidst growing frustration and pessimism of Member States is a huge contrast to the hope and optimism that characterized discussions at the Peoples Summit in Buenos Aires. There, unity and consensus were forged around a common statement outlining the resolve to continue to build and strengthen popular movements; to support common struggles; to resist the neoliberal agenda on all fronts, and; to develop and enrich peoples’ alternatives. The failure of the WTO in Buenos Aires gives us the momentum to move forward.

Joseph Purugganan
Head of Office

Follow Focus on the Global South @

Website: focusweb.org
Facebook: @focusontheglobalsouth
Twitter: @focussouth

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc

[Press Release] CSOs meet with UN Special Rapporteur to express frustration to lack of gov’t food policy -ATM

CSOs meet with UN Special Rapporteur to express frustration to lack of gov’t food policy

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) headed by FIAN Philippines, Focus on the Global South, LILAK, Alyansa Tigil Mina, and Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) held a conference on Feb 20, at the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) Penthouse to meet with Dr. Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.


The conference was the first of the many agenda in the itinerary of the newly appointed rapporteur in the Philippines, her very first official mission since her appointment last May 2014.

“Dr. Elver’s visit is a milestone for the discussion of the Right to Adequate Food issues in the country,” said Aurea Miclat–Teves, President of FIAN Philippines and one of the convenors of the National Food Coalition.

“Civil Society Organizations advocating for the establishment of a National Food Policy to eradicate hunger in the Philippines were provided with the opportunity to present the hunger and food situation in the country,” Teves added.

A paper released by Focus on the Global South stated that in the past 15 years (1999-2014), the number of Filipino families who rated themselves as hungry (based on the Social Weather Station’s self-rated hunger survey) rose from 8.3% to 18.3%.

In the last quarter of 2014, an estimated 3.8 million households were victims of hunger – a close quarter of the total population of the country, majority of whom resides in the rural areas.

“The figures showing the persistent state of hunger in the country, which previous and current governments have failed to address .” said Mary Ann Manahan, program officer from the Focus on The Global South.

“This largely stem from the government’s lack of a rights-based inspired national food strategy and program that could have helped eradicate this dire situation.” added Manahan.

Elver’s visit will focus on assessing the legal framework of the country when it comes to the discussion of food security, an investigation on the impacts of extreme weather events and socio-economic conditions vis-à-vis the food security and malnutrition issues.

An assessment on the protection program for smallholders, indigenous peoples, and urban poor with a focus on women peasants in achieving and implementation of the right to food and food security will also be discussed,

as well as issues of adequacy, availability and accessibility issues vis. realization or violation of the right to food in the country.

Through the UN Rapporteur’s visit, the CSOs aim to emphasize the links of land rights, access to and control of productive resources and the right to food,

highlight policies and impacts of external actors on the right to food and food security and to underscore the issue of poverty, inequality and the right to food of the poor and vulnerable groups, especially women, children and indigents.

CSOs also raised the issues of harassments, intimidation, and extra judicial killings of land rights defenders, farmers, and indigenous peoples perpetrated by landlords, real estate, commercial, and mining companies.

According to the group, the raised issues are all related to the central question of control and access to land and security of tenure by the country’s food producers, which is key to rural poverty alleviation and a hungry-free Philippines.

Just last year, Philippines has been awarded by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for outstanding progress in fighting hunger ahead of the 2015 deadline.

This however, is not enough according to the CSOs as despite the unprecedented growth rates in the past few years, poverty, hunger and inequality have remained high.

“Targets are mere figures,” Teves said. “The 3.8 million Filipino families whose hunger affect their everyday lives is the real measurement of the government’s poor adherence to this basic right to adequate food,” she said.

Meanwhile, Elver is expected to visit Tacloban on February 21 to meet with CSOs and Yolanda survivors in the area. The UN special rapporteur on the right to food is also scheduled to visit areas in Luzon, the trips’ dates are yet to be announced.


Additional Information:

The CSO Coordinating Committee for the entry conference of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right To Food comprised of 25 national organizations from NGOs, farmers, women, labor, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples, social movements ,the religious, human rights community and academe.

For more information:

Check Zabala, ATM Media and Communications Officer, (0927) 623.50.66 <checkzab@gmail.com>

Press Release
20 February 2015

[Announcement] Job Post: Program Officer for Mekong Program -Focus on the Global South

Job Post: Program Officer for Mekong Program

Focus on the Global South is seeking a Mekong Program Officer based at its main office in Bangkok.

About Focus on the Global South

Since its establishment in 1995, Focus on the Global South (Focus) has become a leading activist think tank that works with social movements, progressive individuals and organizations, academics, policy makers and legislators who are challenging neoliberalism, market capitalism, militarism and corporate-driven globalization, while strengthening just and equitable alternatives. We work in solidarity with the Global South – the great majority of humanity that is marginalized and dispossessed by corporate-driven globalization – believing that progressive social change and solidarity are imperative if the aspirations and priorities of oppressed peoples are to be met.


Job Objectives

The Mekong region has been a strategic area of engagement for Focus for almost 20 years. Focus now seeks a Mekong Program Officer (PO) for strengthening popular education, grassroots empowerment and advocacy activities in the region.

The Mekong PO will support the development and implementation of the organization’s programs (Trade and Investment, Commons, Climate and Environmental Justice, and Power) in this region. The post holder must initiate, support and, where necessary, lead innovative projects that are in line with the organization’s overall programs and that promote the alternative concepts that Focus is committed to (deglobalization, buen vivir, the rights of Mother Earth, climate justice, etc.).

For more details please visit focusweb.org

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.

[Resources] Keeping Land Local: Reclaiming Governance from the Market -Focus on the Global South

Keeping the land local

Keeping Land Local: Reclaiming Governance from the Market — learn about local struggles around the world to defend land and territory. Available as a free download at Keeping Land Local: Briefing Papers on Land Struggles, No. 3 | Focus on the Global South



Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.

[Resources] Tubig Natin! – Our Water! An Illustrated Publication in Filipino -Focus on the Global South

Tubig Natin! – Our Water! An Illustrated Publication in Filipino

tubig natin


Ginawa ang komiks na ito upang mas maipalaganap ang mga pagsasaliksik na ginawa ng Focus tungkol sa mga isyung kaugnay ng tubig. Maaari itong gamitin sa mga gawaing pang-edukasyon sa pamayanan, sa LGU at sa mga CSOs.

This illustrated publication in Filipino, “Our Water! Rights and Responsibilities”, is based on research by Focus on the Global South on the privatization of water, water justice, and alternative public-public partnerships in water delivery. It aims to popularize these issues and raise awarenes about them among the general public in the Philippines. It can also be used as an educational tool by community leaders, local government staff, and civil society organizations in their education campaigns on water.

See more at: http://focusweb.org/content/tubig-natin-our-water-illustrated-publication-filipino#sthash.mM3AVOOE.dpuf


Focus on the Global South
19 Maginhawa St. UP Village
Diliman, Quezon City
Telephone: +63-433-1676
Mobile +639062983206
Twitter: @criticalcommons
Focus Twitter:

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.

[Event] Don’t blame the women, blame the abuser! -CATW-AP

PNoy is set to sign a law which leaves out women in prostitution as criminals/vagrants!

Invitation to Take Back the Night!
(Don’t blame the women, blame the abuser!)
April 3, 2012
6 PM, Mendiola Bridge

(“Mary Magdalene Contemplating the Crown of Thorns” by Michelangelo)

This Lent, the Filipino women are being doubly persecuted with the impending passage of an anti-women bill. Women are poor, too. Why leave them out as criminals in this amendatory bill?

For nine years, women’s groups, survivors and advocates have been pushing for an anti-prostitution bill that will shift the accountability away from the bought and onto the buyers as well as the profiteering business. Thus, for legislators to pass a bill simply amending the Vagrancy Act, keeping women in prostitution criminalized, while all other actors are decriminalized, is sheer callousness and misogyny. It is nothing but early and crass electioneering in the guise of being pro-poor.

PAALALA: Magsuot po ng kulay puti at magdala ng kandila upang ilawan ang labing-apat na istasyon ng krus ng mga kababaihan sa prostitusyon. Mga kontak: Clydie Pasia (4342149), Jean Enriquez (0917 8235326).

Alliance of Progressive Labor • Ateneo Human Rights Centre • Bagong Kamalayan • Buklod • CATW-AP • Center for Overseas Workers • Development Action for Women Network • Development Through Active Women Networking • EnGendeRights • Focus on the Global South • Ging Cristobal • IMA Foundation • Lawig Bubai • LUNA Legal Resource Center for Women and Children • Pagtinabangay Foundation • PKKK • PREDA • La Proteccion de la Infancia, Inc. • Rainbow Rights Project (R-Rights), Inc. • Renew Foundation • SARILAYA • SAMARITANA • Sidlakan • Talikala • Tisaka • Transform Asia • WomanHealth Phils. • Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau • Women’s Crisis Center • Women’s Media Circle Foundation • Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality • World March of Women

Jean Enriquez
Executive Director, CATW-AP
Tel: 63-2-4342149

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.

[Event] EDSAngangdaan: The EDSAStories Film Festival

Focus on Global South, an Asia-based non-government organization doing development research, analysis and action, has partnered with Dakila – Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism, an organization advocating social consciousness formation through the arts, for the event EDSAngangdaan: The EDSA Stories Film Festival.

This coming December 7 and 8, Focus and Dakila bring EDSA Stories to a climax by showing7 new films about EDSA in EDSAngangdaan: The EDSAStories Film Festival.

EDSAngangdaan wants to encourage creative ways of thinking about history, citizenship and human rights by communicating a number of stories about EDSA by a new generation of Filipinos, for a new generation of Filipinos. Our vision is to challenge the public towards an ideal of active, democratic citizenship, and towards a critical understanding of the EDSA events that is integral for advocating socio-political change in the Philippines today.

In this light, we would like to invite you and the members of your organization to attend the Film Festival. The Opening Night of EDSAngangdaan will be held on December7, beginning 4:00 pm at the University of the Philippines Film Center at Diliman, Quezon City. This will be followed on December 8, by a One-Day Screening with Panel Discussions beginning 9:30 am at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani along Quezon Avenue, Quezon City.

Admission to both days of the Film Festival is completely free.

For questions about EDSAngangdaan: The EDSA Stories Film Festival, please feel free to call Jerik Cruz at 0926-7284058 or phone number 433-1676.

Thank you and hoping for your most favorable response!

DAKILA – Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism
Unit 3A, VS1 Bldg., 34 Kalayaan Avenue, Quezon City
Cellular: (0905) 4292539
Tel. No.:(02) 4354309
E-mail:   mabuhay@dakila.org.ph
Website: http://www.dakila.org.ph
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dakila.philippines
Follow us on Twitter: dakila_ph

[Event] Roundtable Discussion-Strategy Session on Land, Forests, Fisheries, and Rural Investments in the Philippines

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Focus on the Global South, FIAN-Philippines, Legal Rights and Natural Resources-Center, the National Rural Women Coalition (PKKK), Project Development Institute, and the Rural Poor Institute for Land and Human Rights Services (RIGHTS), Inc.

invite you to a roundtable discussion-strategy session, entitled Investments, Risks, and Dangerous Legacies:

Roundtable Discussion-Strategy Session on Land, Forests, Fisheries, and Rural Investments in the Philippines, on November 25, 2011, 9:00-12:30pm at Seminar Room A & B, Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines-Diliman. Registration starts at 8:30 am.

and Rural Poor Institute for Land and Human Rights Services (RIGHTS), Inc.