Category Archives: neoliberalization

Philippines 300K fishers asked to join fish strike vs. oil price hikes

By Gerry Albert Corpuz,
MANILA, Philippines- The series of oil price hikes prompted a leftist fisher group in the Philippines to call for a fish strike at the end of this month.
The activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday urged the more than 313,000 small fishermen across the country who operates small fishing boats to go on fish strike on March 31 against the unbridled increases in the prices of petroleum products.
“Let us mark March 31 as a National Day of Outrage Against the Oil Cartel Exploitation and the Puppetry of the Aquino government to multinational oil companies,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a statement.
In a hastily called press conference yesterday held at Pamalakaya national headquarters in Quezon City, Hicap revealed that the national secretariat had issued a memorandum to 43 provincial chapters of the group to join the fish strike on March 31 and convince also owners of commercial fishing vessels to join the nationwide fish strike on March 31.
The memorandum for Fish Strike and No Fish Day was dispatched over the weekend to Pamalakaya chapters in Northern Luzon and Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, National Capital Region, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Negros Island and Panay Island, Far South Mindanao and Northern Mindanao. The March 31 “No Fish Day”, Pamalakaya said, is just the beginning of more protest actions from marginal fisherfolk.
“Let us all express our collective outrage against this national exploitation and oppression courtesy of oil cartel and their incumbent puppet and client in Malacanang. We ask our small fisherfolk and the operators of commercial fishing vessels to join the small fisher people in this fight against this national exploitation for all season,” said Hicap.
Last Tuesday, oil companies raised prices of gasoline and diesel by P 1.50 per liter and kerosene by P 1.25 per liter, the third time in eight days, making the accumulative increases in the prices of gasoline by P 6.75 per liter for gasoline and P 6.50 per liter for diesel since January this year.

Pamalakaya’s Hicap said the fisherfolk who regularly consume 10 liters of gasoline or diesel per fishing trip are groaning in pain due to the intermittent increases in the prices of petroleum products. He said the cost of petroleum products eats up 80 percent of the total production cost per fishing trip.

Hicap said in 2008, due to weekly increases in prices of oil products, fisherfolk were forced to cut fishing trip from the regular 8 hours to 12 hours to 4 hours to 12 hours. The Pamalakaya leader said small fisherfolk also reduced fishing days from the average 5 to 6 days a week to 3 days a week due to oil price hikes. The Pamalakaya leader said about 313,985 owners of small fishing boats have been affected by the series of oil price hikes all over the country.

For his part, Pamalakaya Vice chairperson for Luzon Salvador France said the oil price hikes also affected operators and owners of commercial fishing vessels. During the same period, France recalled that commercial fishing operators admitted that oil cost make up 65 percent of their companies total production cost per fishing expedition.

“If my memory serves me right, around 50,000 fish workers lost their jobs as 14 tuna canneries in Western Mindanao engaged in tuna fishing and canning closed shops or downsized their operations as a result of oil price hikes and the 12 percent expanded VAT levied on petroleum products,” France said.

He said the Iloilo City based Jumbo Fishing Company, an operator of 30 medium-sized commercial fishing boats grounded its vessels in protest of the weekly oil price hikes and the 12 percent VAT on oil. The fishing company said they pay P 1.8 million per month for VAT on oil alone.

8-point demand
Meanwhile, Pamalakaya national vice chairperson Pedro Gonzalez enumerates the concise 8 point proposal of the group the Aquino administration should undertake to stop the oil price hikes.
1. Immediately impose price control on petroleum products.

2. Compel oil companies mainly the Petron, Shell and Chevron to open their books of accounts to allow the government to identify their practices of overpricing and other forms of price manipulation.

3. Remove from the current prices of petroleum products the amount representing overpriced cost (overpricing reaches P6.72 per liter according to recent study)

4. Recover the P 10.5 billion in total tax credits and incentives given to oil companies.

5. Remove the 12 percent VAT imposed on oil products

6. Use the P 68-billion audit free pork barrel of President Aquino for oil and production subsidies. The allocations would be P 28 billion for small fisherfolk and other rural products using oil products, P 20 billion for small jeepney drivers and operators and the remaining P 20-B for livelihood subsidies of other vulnerable sectors

7. Certify as urgent House Bill No. 4317 authored by Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano calling for the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law.

8. Reclaim or re-acquire the entire Petron to pave way for the nationalization of oil industry.

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Lawmakers asked to stop toll hikes

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Manila Legarda

MANILA, Philippines – A group of affected rural producers on Saturday urged members of the Philippine parliament to act with dispatch and stop the looming hikes in toll fees, after the Philippine high tribunal declare the recent increases as legal and constitutional.

The activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Saturday urged lawmakers from both houses of Congress to cross party lines, call a special session and pass a joint resolution to scrap if not indefinitely suspend the implementation of toll increase at the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx).In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said Congress can exercise its legislative powers and remedies to spare millions of people in Southern Luzon and the National Capital Region from bearing the brunt of the 250 percent hike in SLEx toll fees.“President Benigno Simeon Aquino III will not stop the toll fee increase at SLEx because he wants to lure foreign investors to takeover SLEx that would promise lucrative business and sure super profits for foreign investments. So the ball is now Congress court to stop this highway robbery in broad daylight,” said Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader asked Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte to lead the authorship and sponsorship of a joint Senate-House resolution that would indefinitely suspend the implementation of SLEx toll hike, which should be followed by a full-blown congressional inquiry on toll hike proposals that would include the Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and South Metro Manila Skyway.

“The 250 percent increase in toll fees at SLEx is not only a case of highway robbery in broad daylight. This burdensome hike in toll fees is tantamount to economic sabotage,” added Hicap.

Following the Supreme Court ruling junking the petition against SLEx toll increase, South Luzon Tollways Corporation (SLTC) president Isaac David said the increase toll rates at SLEx will be implemented by next week or early November.David said the toll increase would enable STLC to pay its debts from creditors amounting to P 1 billion in the past two months. In a decision released Thursday last week, the Supreme Court declared as valid and constitutional the supplemental toll operation agreement (STOA) covering the Luzon Tollway Project between the government and SLEx, as well as the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) resolutions allowing rate increases.The SLTC had spent P 12 billion for the rehabilitation of SLEx which cover the rehabilitation of Alabang viaduct and the widening of highway. The company which is backed by Malaysia’s MTD Capital holds a 30-year concession to operate SLEx and it is allowed to collect toll to ensure that it gets a 17-percent return on investment every year.

Pamalakaya said the 250 percent increase in SLEx toll fees would further push trade cartels and buyers of agricultural and fishery products in Southern Luzon to cut farm gate prices of farmers and fisherfolk produce in the Bicol and Southern Tagalog regions. “The cartel will further cut prices of farm gate prices by as much as 50 percent. Because of toll hikes at SLEx, fish traders will further reduce the average of fish price of P 50 per kilo to P 30 or P 25 per kilo. To ensure fish cartels would have money for toll fees and still make profits, fish cartels on the other hand will jack up prices of fish products by another 10 to 20 percent at the expense of the fish buying and eating public. This is one of negative impacts of the 250 percent increase in SLEx toll hike,” said Pamalakaya. (With reports from Pepsi Laloma and Sarsi Pimentel)

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Incoming Philippine President urged to suspend debt payment

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Mimaropa France

MANILA, Philippines- Anti-debt activists belonging to the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Saturday challenged leading presidential candidate Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III to radically overturn the decision of the 14th Congress to allot P 726.63 billion for debt servicing this year.

“We strongly recommend to the incoming Yellow Republic in Malacanang to scrap the P 726 billion budget for debt servicing earmarked by his predecessor President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the inglorious money market bastards and corporate financial gangsters of International Monetary Fund and World Bank,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

The Pamalakaya leader added: “Mr. Aquino and the recycled Hyatt 10 economic managers can do that in their first 100 days in office. That can be done without much fanfare. We hope Noynoy and his self-proclaimed economic experts will face these all time money laundering giants and pursue the collective interest of the Filipino people”.

“Billions of pesos of hard-earned taxes by the 94 million taxpaying Filipinos go to payment of debts incurred by all time financial monopolies, business syndicates, money market gangs and bureaucrat capitalists. Aquino is hereby tasked to stop this modern day financial oligarchy and slavery,” said Hicap.

The Pamalakaya official advised Aquino to issue a marching order to Senate and the House of Representatives suspending debt payment this year. Hicap said Aquino can put to task the 23 senators of the Philippine Senate and the 270 members of the House of Representatives to review the approved 2010 national budget, and in aid of legislation passed a joint resolution suspending debt payment for 2010.

Pamalakaya said the next thing Mr.Aquino should do is to call Congress to amend if not repeal the automatic 40 percent appropriation to debt servicing as enshrined in the General Appropriations Act to empower Congress and the Office of the President to pursue the budget in accordance with public interest and opposed to the financial interest of foreign creditors and big financial groups here and abroad.

The militant group also learned the Philippine government is posed to allocate some P 829.41 B for debt servicing, which is P 102.78 B or 13.7 percent higher from this year budget for debt payment. Pamalakaya said of the P 829-B debt budget set aside for next year’s debt servicing program, P 367.28 B will go to interest payment, P 40.55 billion higher compared to 2010’s P 326.73 B.

The Bureau of Treasury said principal payment will reach P462.13 billion next year, 15.6 percent above the current year’s allocation of P399.9 billion. Of the total debt, treasury officials said P1.954 trillion was loaned from foreign creditors while P2.403 trillion was sourced from domestic creditors.

On the other hand, the Department of Finance (DoF) said the country’s total debt for 2010 would reach P4.83 trillion, higher than the previous forecast of P4.723 trillion. #

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Meralco, ERC asked: Don’t block refund of P 6.4 B overcharges

By TC Concepcion

Manila, Philippines-

soaring electricity rates will soon lead us to stop watching the late news

Leftwing activists belonging to the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday appealed to Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the Lopez owned Manila Electric Company (Meralco) not to block the refund of P 6.4 billion to consumers representing overcharges of the utility firm in 2004 and 2007.

The P 6.4 B in overcharges was uncovered by the Commission on Audit (COA) based on the request of the ERC to find out if the utility firm overcharged its customers in 2004 and 2007. The government audit agency affirmed allegations by some sectors that there was overcharging of electricity rates during the period.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya vice-chairperson for Luzon Salvador France said ERC and Meralco officials should instead come into a gentleman’s agreement to fast track the refund to consumers, which he said was long overdue to Meralco’s million of consumers specifically in North and South of Luzon.

“Public interest lawfully and morally merits and dictates ERC and Meralco to correct their grave mistakes which sacrificed the collective interest of electric consumers from North and South of Luzon and the National Capital Region,” France said.

Pamalakaya said the fisherfolk along the coastal areas of Manila Bay, including NCR and the entire 27 municipal towns in Laguna Lake (Rizal and Laguna provinces) constitute the bulk of Meralco costumers and were part of the bigger based consuming bloc affected by overcharging or any sharp increase in electricity rates imposed by the utility firm.

The fisherfolk group estimate that around 28,000 fishing families in Cavite, Rizal and Laguna provinces were affected by Meralco’s overcharging in 2004 and 2007. Pamalakaya said the estimate is conservative and could be double or triple more.

Pamalakaya said the computation for refund should include interest accumulated for the use of P 6.4 billion and should be based on the current interest rate. The militant group said since Meralco had used the fund for operational expenses, interest from the use of people’s money representing overcharges should be included in the computation of the refund. #

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Gov’t no contingency plans on tuna job crisis, says fishers group

By Sugar Hicap and Billy Javier-Reyes in General Santos City
and Bb. Joyce Cabral and Gerry Albert Corpuz in Manila

Manila, Philippines- The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday lamented that the Macapagal-Arroyo administration failed to come up with a contingency plan on how to address the loss of 150,000 jobs among tuna fishermen in Far South Mindanao with the two-year tuna fishing ban executed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

“The government has no contingency plans to address “the Great Tuna Crisis” of 2010. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her economic advisers are well informed that this job crisis in the tuna industry is in the offing with the imposed two-year ban, but nothing has been done to arrest the issue of labor woes and loss of economic means for tuna fish workers” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

“150,000 tuna fishermen will lose their jobs, and around 750,000 people indirectly dependent on the country’s backward tuna fishing industry will also feel the economic disaster of this 2-year tuna ban. So what would be the next move of this government? Tell the poor tuna fishing people to wait for two years for the lifting of the ban?” the Pamalakaya leader added.

Big players in the tuna industry including corporations in canning of tuna said the closure of high seas for tuna fishing will render idle some 200 fishing boats for the next two years, predicting a 20 percent drop in the supply of tuna in the local and world markets. The tuna industry in General Santos is currently valued at $ 380 million based on annual export figures of 400 metric tons per year.

Hicap agreed with the observation raised by Martin Tan, president of Socsksargen Fishing Federation and Allied Industries Inc. (SFFAII), that the closure of high seas for tuna ban, covering areas parallel to Palau, above Papua New Guinea and below Micronesia was not meant to preserve tuna stocks in West and Central Pacific, but to dislodge fishing companies from Third World countries from their tuna fishing grounds and allow tuna industrial fleets of European Union and Japan to takeover these tuna rich fishing areas.

Pamalakaya noted that in their respective free trade agreements with the Philippines, Japan for instance want to invade the Philippine waters for tuna fishing under the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa), while EU also wants a share of the country’s territorial waters for tuna under the proposed RP-EU free trade pact.
The militant group said under Jpepa, the Philippine government is obliged to allow Japanese tuna factory ships to explore the country’s tuna resources in exchange for taxes derive from the value of harvested tuna from the country’s territorial waters.

Pamalakaya projected that the local tuna industry concentrated in General Santos port city stands to lose P18 billion in profits yearly once Japan tuna fishing fleets start their tuna exploration this year.

On the other hand, Japanese investors are expected to gain at least P43 billion annual profits in tuna trading, he said.

“The devastating impact of JPEPA to the local tuna industry includes the loss of 100,000 jobs provided by the local tuna fishing companies in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos City and the Davao regions,” Pamalakaya said.

According to Pamalakaya, a single 3,000-gross ton Japanese factory ship is capable of harvesting 50,000 metric tons of tuna a year or 150 metric tons of tuna per day. Based on industry standards, a single factory ship could earn as much as $32.5 million in gross profits from the sale of skipjack tuna.

Pamalakaya said the bulk of the profit will come from the remaining 35 percent of the 50,000 metric ton tuna catch, which is $210 million. “A single medium size factory ship thus will earn $242.5 million a year, and since Japan at the very least, employs four factory ships in its regular tuna fishing expedition per country, we expect them to earn a total of $ 970 million or P43.5 B per year,” the group said.

At present the local tuna industry yearly produces 400,000 metric tons of tuna, with 15 percent of the production going to domestic market and 85 percent for exports.

The European Union accounts for 40 percent of the country’s fresh and canned tuna exports or roughly 64,000 metric tons per year. The rest of the exports are shipped to tuna markets of Japan and the United States..

Pamalakaya said the government should indefinitely suspend if not abrogate the Jpepa treaty with Japan if it wants the local tuna fishing industry to survive.

“The most logical and objective solution to current predicament of tuna fish workers in Southern Philippines is to abrogate Jpepa and pursue the nationalization of tuna fishing industry by investing finance capital and technology for the inward development of the tuna sector, and this will arrest the rising tide of job loss among tuna fish workers and tuna fishermen,” the group said. #

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Bayan Muna slams Palace refusal to stop debt payment

By Chocolate Moose Fernandez

Manila, Philippines- Bayan Muna party list Rep. Teddy Casiño slammed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for honoring fraudulent debts at the expense of the general public and Filipino taxpayers.

In a press statement emailed to The Pamalakaya Times, the activist lawmaker decried reports that the Macapagal-Arroyo government spent a total of P549.016 billion to service its debt from January to September this year.

The amount, according to Casino is two percent higher than the P537.352 billion it released last year for the same purpose. Some P235.283B of the total went to interest payments, slightly higher than last year’s P234.706 billion.

“After the devastation caused by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng worsened by the lack of government preparedness, it is shocking that the Arroyo administration still refuses to declare a moratorium on debt payments. These so-called ‘financial obligations” are nothing compared to government’s obligations to the Filipino people, millions of whom are worse off than they were previously because of the calamities,” Casiño said in a statement.

The Bayan Muna solon also castigated the government’s refusal to reorient the remaining section of its programmed payments for financial obligations for the rest of the year. For 2009, government aimed to allot a total of P698.5 billion for debt payments, 8.7 percent higher than the actual payout of P612.7 billion in 2008.

“It is an endless source of outrage that the Philippine government refuses to drop its debt payments when there are undoubtedly more urgent needs that should be attended to and provided for,” Casiño said.

“A debt moratorium is of utmost importance, as more funds are needed to hasten the rehabilitation are devastated areas and enable victims and survivors to get themselves back on their feet. The billions going to international banks and creditors should be given instead to local service infrastructure repair and creation,” Casiño pointed out.

Based on current data from the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr), the government released P61.277 billion for debt payments in September alone, higher by 1.87 percent from last year’s P60.149 billion allocation.

Interest payments to local lenders and foreign creditors were also exorbitant, with the former receiving P132.635 billion during the nine-month period, and the latter getting P102.648 billion from P93.379 billion paid out in the same period last year, an increase of 9.9 percent.

Principal payments amounted to P313.733 billion, or 3.66 percent higher than the P302.646 billion disbursed in 2008 during the same period. #

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Passage of RP baselines bill will revive China’s offshore mining stint in Spratlys, says fishers group

Passage of RP baselines bill will revive China’s offshore mining stint in Spratlys, says fishers group

The newly passed RP baselines bill will signal the revival of the stalled Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) in Spratly Islands with the Chinese government dictating all the aspects and phases of the ambitious offshore mining project in the Kalayaan group of islands, according to the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya).

“The passage of RP baselines bill is an enabling law to allow the regime of offshore mining giants headed by China to explore the bodies of waters connected by the regime of islands in the Spratlys,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

On March 10, 2008, Pamalakaya filed a diplomatic protest before the Chinese Consular office in Makati City, urging the Chinese government to refrain from pushing the $ 8-billion offshore mining venture it clinched with the Philippine and Vietnamese governments.

“The new RP baselines bill will pave the way for the re-entry China National Oil Corporation in the Spratly Islands, including portions of Palawan waters to acquire the right to mine the 3.3 trillion cubic meters of gas in Palawan and Spratly group of islands,” the Pamalakaya leader said.
Hicap said after the offshore mining exploration and the successful of tapping of gas and oil reserves, gas pipelines would be set up from Palawan to China, which he said will be the next big thing to happen under JMUS since the transfer of gas can only be done through the construction of gas pipelines like in the case of the Malampaya gas pipeline project.
“That’s the next logical chapter of this highly detestable partnership between the Arroyo government and China courtesy of the RP baselines bill and the predictable revival of JMSU. China will put up its pipelines to complete the loot, and the Malacañang will just beg for alms in the form of taxes and other duties, the Pamalakaya leader added.

Pamalakaya said the RP baselines bill is a complete sellout because it will facilitate the revival of China’s offshore mining interest in Spratlys, and in the next three years, China will establish gas pipelines that would supply the energy sector of China, Malaysia and Singapore and that it would merely engaged in lease contract with the Philippine government for the use of 142,886 square kilometers encompassing Palawan and certain parts of the Spratly Islands being claimed by the Philippines over the last four decades.
The militant group recalled that last year of the interception of Chinese oil exploration vessel Nan Hai which was docked at Puerto Princesa City port to refuel after coming from a seismic operation in Southwest Palawan. Pamalakaya said that aside from seismic operation, it was also convinced that part of the operation is a study on where to put or start the setting up of China’s gas pipelines in Palawan.
“The Chinese oil exploration vessel Nam Hai 502 was in Palawan last year not only to conduct seismic operation because it is already confirmed that trillions of cubic meters of natural gas are found in the waters of Palawan and the Kalayaan group of Islands. The best kept secret there is that the Chinese oil explorers are seemingly engaged in mapping operations regarding the setting up of gas pipelines,” Pamalakaya said.
“We were not born yesterday not to understand this geographical escapade of Chinese oil exploration. Once they explore, all aspects are considered from identification of gas deposits to how these deposits would be taken off and transferred to the home base of the oil exploration giant and their big-time clients in neighbor countries,” the group added.
Pamalakaya said that although Antonio Calilao, president of the state-owned Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) has admitted that the entire 142,886 square kilometer area covered by the controversial Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) among the Philippines, China and Vietnam are all within Philippine territory, he did not touch on the prospects of constructing gas pipelines for fear of making JMSU more controversial and more disparaging in the eyes of the outraged public.
Calilao said JMSU as a purely commercial agreement has a precedent citing the joint Australian-Philippine cooperation, the joint Norwegian-Philippine cooperation, stressing that involvement of other nationalities in such undertaking is a very common practice here.
In a related development, Pamalakaya revealed that the Arroyo government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Trans-ASEAN Gas Pipeline (TAGP) with Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam that would allow the construction of an ambitious gas pipeline from Palawan to East Natuna, Sabah, Malaysia.
Pamalakaya said the gas pipeline project that would link the Philippines through Palawan and Malaysia through East Natuna in Sabah, Malaysia was the product of the MoU on the ASEAN wide gas pipeline project.
The militant group said the Palawan-Malaysia gas pipeline project will go as far as 1,540 kilometers, with the gas pipeline measuring 42 inches in diameter. The cost of the gas line project between the Philippines and Malaysia would amount to $ 3.036 B. The project would start this year and would be completed in 2015.
Pamalakaya said other pipelines to be constructed are the Malaysia-Thailand gas pipeline, the Indonesia-Singapore gas pipeline and the Myanmar-Thailand gas pipeline. Hicap said Singapore is also eying its own gas pipeline that would connect the Philippines through the Camago in Palawan.
“Nothing has been said about this ambitious gas pipeline project. It remains a national confidential project on the part of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The people were kept uninformed and Congress has not been advised that such monumental project exists that has serious implications to the nation’s sovereignty and patrimony,” Pamalakaya said.
The group added:” If there’s nothing wrong about this project, why would President Arroyo keep this project like a big, big secret? We smell something fishy here, as fishy as JMSU.”
According to the eight-page MoU document obtained by Pamalakaya, the agreement was signed on July 5, 2002 in Bali, Indonesia by Abdul Rahman Taib, Brunei’s Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Suy Sem, Cambodian Minister for Industry, Mines and Energy, Purnomo Yusgiantoro, Indonesian Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, Nam Viyaketh, Laos’ Deputy Minister of Industry and Handicraft, Leo Moggie, Malaysian Minister of Energy, Communications and Multimedia, Brig. General Lun Thi, Myanmar Minister of Energy, Raymond Lim Siang Keat, Singapore Minister of Foreign Affairs, Phongthep Thepkanjana, Minister to the Prime Minister office of Thailand, Dang Vu Chu, Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and former Department of Energy secretary Vincent Perez Jr. for the Philippine government.
The MOU states, “Realizing that energy self-sufficiency can be achieved through national and multinational efforts geared towards indigenous energy resource exploration, development, exploitation, distribution and transportation, and undertaken in a manner that both conserves the resources a nd preserves the environment and human habitat.”
The MOU, which is consistent with the vision of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries to promote energy cooperation in the region, was first tackled on June 24, 1986 in Manila when members of ASEAN forged an agreement on energy cooperation, followed by the ASEAN Energy Cooperation in Bangkok on Dec. 15, 1995.
The TAGP is a specific energy program approved in Hanoi, Vietnam and was endorsed by ASEAN heads of state December 16, 1998. On July 3, 1999, the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation from 1999-2004 was approved, and it entrusted the responsibility of implementing the TAGP to the ASEAN council on Petroleum (ASCOPE). In 2002, the final MOU on gas pipeline projects across ASEAN was signed by its member states.
The objective of the gas pipeline project is to provide a broad framework for ASEAN member countries to cooperate towards the realization of the TAGP project to help ensure greater regional energy security.
The MOU for gas pipeline projects task all member countries to establish cooperation in various aspects such as individual and joint studies, and to support or encourage the production, utilization, distribution, marketing and sale of natural gas among ASEAN member nations.
Pamalakaya said ASEAN nations have virtually opened the floodgates for economic plunder by big gas and oil monopolies when it announced that funding would be secured from the private sector that has the means and technology to explore and extract the rich gas resources still abundant in Southeast Asian region.
“It is a sell out. In fact, this corporate prey was probably used by the Philippine government to sign the JMSU and sold its stake in the disputed Spratly Islands, including its own territory like Palawan, which is incidentally the object of the Palawan-Malaysia gas pipeline project,” the militant group said.
The agreement also recognizes the role to be played by the private sector in developing gas pipelines, including its financing and construction, and the supply, transportation and distribution of natural gas to member countries. The TAGP promotes the open access principle including management of pipelines according to internationally accepted rules as set by established oil and gas industries all over the world.
The MoU on TAGP also encourage exemption of export and import tax duties, lower or free transit fee, tax duties or other taxes imposed by the government, including charges on construction, operation and maintenance of pipelines as well as the natural gas in transit. #

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Palace warned: French like general strike in RP, possible, says leftist group

Palace warned: French like general strike in RP, possible, says leftist group

A militant group warned Malacañang of a scenario of an across-the-nation general strike similar to that was launched by France’s 1.9 million-strong workers is not a remote possibility in the country, given the extreme degree of crisis confronting the country’s 37 million labor force.

The fearless forecast was raised by the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) after Labor secretary Marianito Roque announced that the government maybe looking at 200,000 jobless workers in six months if companies continue to shed jobs at present rate.

“A general strike across-all-sectors and across-the-archipelago is not a remote possibility given the extreme impact of the global financial crisis and the government’s continued implementation of neo-liberal economic impositions despite its adverse and devastating effects to 90 million Filipinos. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her top economic officials are facing a social volcano here,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

Records of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) show that 18,641 workers lost their jobs as of last week and that 33, 548 were working on reduced hours since companies in economic zones felt the brunt of the global economic crisis and financial crunch late last 2008.

“The scenario of general strike that would include factories, schools, government agencies, transport and farm and fish strikes is not a remote possibility. The current turn of events is pushing and driving the people to stage a general strike that would lead to the crowding of the National Capital Region and other key urban centers and cities nationwide. Mrs. Arroyo is really in big trouble,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

Hicap said to cushion the impact of the global economic crisis, the Macapagal-Arroyo government should impose a number of mitigating measures including a stop to mass lay off, moratorium on withholding tax, refrain from imposing new taxes, stop retrenchment of workers, spare the P 12.5 billion SSS funds from corruption, stop water and electricity rate hikes among others.

The Pamalakaya leader added that the government should allow the passage of House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) to ensure genuine land reform to rev up agricultural production in the countryside that will absorb jobless and job-lacking Filipinos all over the country.

Hicap said if passed into law, GARB will lead the national economy to absorb job losses in the National Capital Region and other urban centers, including displaced overseas Filipino workers abroad.

“Free land distribution with guaranteed strong subsidy and support mechanism is the most effective and far-reaching economic measure that would shield the country from the devastating impact and global menace of economic and financial meltdown across the globe,” Pamalakaya’s Hicap insisted.

For the fisheries sector, Pamalakaya demanded a P 32-billion production subsidy to enable the not less than 1 million small fisherfolk and fish workers to continue production and cushion the impact of the worldwide economic and financial crisis.

The group suggested a minimum P 4,500 oil subsidy for all small fishermen operating small fishing boats and P 2,000 for non-motorized small fishing boat owners across-the-country.

The P 4,500 monthly subsidy constitutes about 50 percent of the monthly expenses spent by marginalized fishermen owning a small fishing boat in their daily fish capture. Hicap said the proposed measure if approved will benefit 313,985 small fishing boat operators and will cost the government a monthly production subsidy of P 1.4 billion per month or P 16 billion per year.

As for the P 2,000 production subsidy to non-motorized boats, the proposed production subsidy measure will benefit more than 600,000 small fishermen all over the country. #

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