MANILA, Philippines – On Friday, November 13, Lumad protesters and the groups supporting them held another demonstration at the Liwasang Bonifacio against the Aquino government’s seeming apathy toward their plight.
“Junk APEC” was both the group’s war cry and the day’s theme. They called out APEC 2015 for being a meeting of economies which only intended to impose “exploitative and unequal” policies.
Jomorito Goaynon, Higaonon chief and one of Manilakbayan 2015’s spokespersons said large-scale mining operations that only fuel the production of industrial countries were hurting the Lumad. “Sa nakikita ko, wala talaga kaming nakukuhang benepisyo sa APEC (From what I see, we’re not getting any benefits from APEC),” he said.
Much of their protest centered on unfair economic policies of globalization. Kerlan Fanagel, one of the Manilakbayan organizers, blamed the government for allowing foreign control of the mining industry.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño described the Lumad’s plight as “a clear example of how the policies of APEC have a negative effect on the poor,” especially given the attacks on the communities and the displacement of their people.
Based on the numbers, however, the Philippine economy has greatly benefited from the opening of markets, the business sector said. Guillermo Luz, co-chairman of the National Competitiveness Council, noted that 85% of the country’s exports and around 70% of its investments come from APEC.
However, this growth has been criticized for being unequally distributed: while the country’s numbers are improving, just having food to eat the next day is still a problem the poorest in the country have to tackle on a daily basis. (READ: Despite high economic growth, PH poverty on the rise)
“The agricultural sector has shrunk since the last APEC summit in the Philippines 19 years ago,” IBON Foundation executive director Sonny Africa said in a Rappler Thought Leader piece. (READ: APEC: Special lanes for whom?)
According to the progressive economist, agriculture’s share in the economy has fallen from 21.1% of GDP in 1996 to 10% in 2014 and itsF share in total employment has also fallen from 42.8% to 26.9% over that same period. At least 1.4 million agricultural jobs were lost since 1996. This and the shrinking of the the manufacturing sector resulted in “the worst jobs crisis in the country’s history and drives increasing numbers of Filipinos overseas,” Africa said.
While the summit is aiming to address this, there are those who, like some of the Walk with the Lumad protesters, believe that at the core of APEC are policies that are to the marginalized’s disadvantage.
‘An international embarrassment’
“Tinatanggal nila kaming mga mukhang basura sa mga mata ng mga APEC leaders, (They are removing us because we look like garbage in the eyes of the APEC leaders)” said Fanagel when asked about the government’s preparations for the summit.
Manilakbayanis earlier received a notice from the Philippine National Police (PNP) ordering them to clear out by 12 noon. Asked what they intended to do should the police forces arrive, Fanagel said they would try to negotiate with them first and would show the police that theirs is a peaceful demonstration.
However, the Manilakbayanis said they would continue the protest. “Hindi dahil pinapaalis kami na ibig sabihin ‘nun na titigil na kami, (Our removal from this place does not mean that we will stop our struggle)” said Goaynon.
The protesters waited to be dispersed when the 12 noon deadline came. Leaders went to Manila City Hall hoping to have a dialogue with Manila Mayor Erap Estrada, who then gave them until 6pm to clear out. The Lumad then marched to Mendiola to continue their protest there before moving to Baclaran.
Casiño pointed out that the attempts to disperse the Lumad reflect “the efforts of the government to hide this fact from the international community” and called it an “international embarrassment” and an attempt “to gloss over [the government’s] faults.”
He challenged the APEC leaders to send delegates to the camp to see the real results of their policies. He said his hope was that the protests would “bring attention to the Lumad’s plight” and that it would “send the message that not all is well with globalization.” – Rappler.com