Navy colonel statement based on solid grounds

MANILA, Philippines- “Navy Colonel Generoso Mariano’s statements regarding the Aquino government are on solid grounds”.
The acrtivist labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU-May First Movement) said Col. Mariano was making a time appeal for critical thinking among Filipinos and the population should always be warned fo sweet-talking liars and by statistics that run counter to reality.
“When he said that the government is incapable of helping the people to escape poverty and death, he is merely expressing the growing sentiment of the Filipino workers and people towards the Aquino government,” the KMU said in a statement of support to belaguered marine officer.

Roger Saluta, KMU secrretary general said, “let us recall that the people in Malacañang are the ones who were calling for military actions against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The fact that the Aquino regime is now worried over calls to change the government is proof that it has not really differentiated itself from the Arroyo regime”.

The labor leader said the Aquino government has not made significant departures from Gloria’s policies. It has not made significant changes on the socio-economic situation of the poor. That is why it is worried over the statements of a Marine official about changing the government.

Saluta added that the Palace’s immediate association of Colonel Mariano with Gloria is a sign of the Aquino regime’s panic and paranoia similar to that which hounded the Arroyo regime.

“We worry, however, that when Mariano spoke of changing the government, he meant installing a right-wing and militarist government, one whose “development” policies are buttressed by political repression. We reject and will oppose attempts to install such a government,” the KMU official stressed.
However, Philippine Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said the oust President Aquino call made by Col. Mariano was part of the regrouping activity being done by the camp of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In an interview with the leadng broadsheet the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the former rebel soldier turned Senator said Mariano’s statement was not reflective of the sentimennts of the majority in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Trillanes said the videotaped statement should be take by Palace security personnels as wake up call to President Aquino. According to Trillanes, supporters of Mrs. Arroyo are regrouping to regain power.
Palace spokespersons are quick to dismiss the political impact of Mariano’s statement, with one of them dismissing the videotaped statement as nothing but motherhood statement.

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PH president asked: “How long it would take you to jail GMA?”

MANILA, Philippines- Barely 9 days before he delivers his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), a group critical of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III today asked the 50-year old bachelor president how long his administration would take to charge and imprison his predecessor- former President and now Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
President Aquino last week promised the Filipino public that final chapter of his anti-corruption, a campaign oath during the May 2010 elections will soon happen with the filing of charges and imprisonment of former President Arroyo.

But critics were not convinced. “How long it would take Mr. Aquino to have Mrs. Arroyo charged and jailed for first rate crimes of corruption and for crimes emanating from mass murder of political activists? The filing of criminal cases against Arroyo can be done in a week upon his assumption of the presidency in June 30 last year.

But Mr. Aquino did not do his job,” lamented Fernando Hicap, national chairperson of the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) in a press statement.

Hicap said the evidence implicating Arroyo on various crimes involving the plunder of taxpayers’ money specifically on the P 728-million fertilizer fund scam and now the P 325-million PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office) fund are strongly supported by voluminous documents, testimonies and paper trails enough to convict the former President and other officials during her tenure.

“It seems to us Mr. Aquino and the current occupants in Malacanang are not inclined to charge and jail GMA in the name of political accommodation and political compromises. It appears to us that sooner or later, Aquino and clique will repeat what Arroyo did in her nine years in office,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

Pamalakaya further said: “All these tirades against Arroyo and company were all just for public consumption to convince the Filipino people that Aquino is sincere in getting rid of corruption committed by the Arroyo officialdom. But the group said Aquino is not keen to make Arroyo pay for her crimes.”

The group had these lamentations aired to media as Hicap together with other fisherfolk leaders—Pamalakaya vice chairperson for Luzon Salvador France and Pamalakaya-Timog Katagalugan chair Pedro Gonzalez filed a letter of appeal to the Department of Justice (DoJ) in Manila this morning and asked Secretary Leila de Lima to investigate the case 97 ice-making machines bought during the last 8 months of the Arroyo administration.

The Pamalakaya leaders argued the missing 97 out of the 98 ice-making machines was a case of ghost delivery involving the P 455-million overpriced ice making machines several months before the May 2010 elections.

Aside from being one of the complainants in the P 728-million fertilizer fund scam, Pamalakaya also filed its own plunder case against former President Arroyo and former agriculture secretary Arthur Yap in connection with the P 455-million ice making machines scam.

Meanwhile, Pamalakaya urged lawmakers on Wednesday to “vigilantly scrutinize” the P 25-B irrigation budget that National Irrigation Authority (NIA) would ask Congress come budget deliberation in 2012.

The group said the ambitious fund request to irrigate 145,000 hectares of rice farmlands in the country may result to an avalanche of high crimes of corruption that can surpass the celebrated graft and corruption cases hurled against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and many of her former Cabinet officials.

The NIA an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA) has P 12.79 B for this year to repair old existing irrigation systems and build new ones to cater to additional 55,000 hectares of new irrigated farm lands.

“NIA is one of the top money makers as far as corruption undertaking in the government is concerned. Small irrigators have been complaining that the budget for NIA irrigation projects usually went to corruption, with 25 percent, 40 percent and 60 percent of the budget going to the pockets of corrupt government officials and their contact syndicates,” the group said.

Pamalakaya recalled that in 2008, the Bataan provincial government complained to NIA over the construction of Tangilad Dam supposedly to irrigate 860 hectares of land and to benefit 698 farmers in the municipalities of Samal and Orani. The project was started in 1998, but in 2008, the local government unit found out that the same project remained useless.

“The project cost the national government P 286,224,000 and it supposed to be constructed by Villamar Construction and Development Corporation. But in 2008, the project was declared a white elephant, but NIA kept mum on the findings on an irrigation project that failed to deliver even a glass of water to supposed beneficiaries,” it noted.

“P 25-B is P 25-B. And P 10-B of that in the form of commissions will lose to all time plunderers and raiders of taxpayers’ money under gangland of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. This will usher a new era of substandard irrigation systems or even ghost irrigation projects under the Aquino dispensation,” the Pamalakaya said.

Pamalakaya said NIA set another P 20-B budget for 2013 for rehabilitation of old irrigation systems to service an additional 92,000 hectares of farm lands.

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

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, all.voices.com
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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Supreme Court told: Go easy on Manila Bay clean up

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Portnip Pakangcharap and Bb. Joyce Cabral

MANILA, Philippines- Slow down please.
THE left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday said Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona and 14 other justices should go easy in pushing its decision on Manila Bay clean up following reports that government agencies and local government units which have clinched deals with private investors are using the decision on Manila Bay rehabilitation to remove fisherfolk and urban poor have them replaced with projects financed by private interests.

Pamalakaya vice chairperson for Luzon Salvador France issued the statement hours after chief Justice Corona and 3 other SC justices joined the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in inspecting the cleanup of Manila Bay this morning.

Joining SC chief justice Corona in the inspection were SC associate justices Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo and Jose Perez with DENR Secretary Ramon Paje. They boarded on PCG Vessel BRP EDSA II that passed through the Pasig River and the Manila Bay area and off Navotas City and SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

“We strongly urge Chief Justice Corona and 4 other SC justices to exercise extreme prudence in enforcing their decision on Manila Bay rehabilitation. People and groups with vested interests to private Manila Bay are taking advantage and are using this landmark ruling to effectively eject the fishing people and urban poor folks opposed to Palace’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) escapades in Manila Bay and adjacent rivers, tributaries including Laguna Lake,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

“The SC decision putting weight on the demolition of fishing communities and urban poor structures along Manila Bay and its interlocking tributaries that would include the whole of Pasig River and Laguna Lake is not only unfair but also revolting. It is a grand massacre of social justice and people’s rights,” France added.

Voting 11-4, the high tribunal two weeks ago instructed the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) until Dec. 31, 2015 to remove illegal structures along river banks and waterways connected to the bay.

“On or before June 30, 2011, the MMDA shall submit its plan for the removal of said informal settlers and the demolition of the aforesaid houses, structures, constructions and encroachments, as well as the completion dates for said activities, which shall be fully implemented not later than December 31, 2015,” the SC said.

The decision also gave the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and local governments in Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan provinces until Dec. 31, 2012 to demolish illegal settlements near river banks.

In its en banc resolution issued last Feb. 15, the SC noted that while some parties may view its orders as an encroachment on the powers of the executive branch, its Dec. 18, 2008 ruling “is but an integral part of the adjudicative function of the Court.”

But Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap dismissed the decision of the high tribunal as “injustice to the highest order”.

“The Supreme Court notion of environmental protection and rehabilitation is too narrow yet socially costly to the people and it puts the people of Manila Bay and Laguna Lake under heavy attack and endless dispossession of livelihood and extreme denial of housing rights. The 11 justices who voted on the decision forgot there are more than more than five million people, mainly fisherfolk and jobless and economic starving folks residing along Manila Bay and Laguna Lake communities. The decision is an across-the-Manila Bay and across-the-Laguna Lake tragedy,” said Hicap.

In a decision penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., the high court said “it is clear that the final judgment includes not only what appears upon its face to have been so adjudged but also those matters ‘actually and necessarily included therein or necessary thereto.’ Certainly, any activity that is needed to fully implement a final judgment is necessarily encompassed by said judgment.”

In December 2008, the SC dismissed the petitions filed by several government agencies asking the court to overturn the Court of Appeals September 2005 ruling upholding a Cavite trial court’s ruling. In that ruling, the Cavite court ordered the government agencies to clean-up Manila Bay and make it suitable for public bathing and swimming, and for catching milkfish and other similar fish species.

The Manila Bay Advisory Committee (MBAC) has recently reported to the SC that there were several setbacks in monitoring the implementation of its December 2008 decision. These include the lack of government agencies’ uniform manner of reporting their cleanup, rehabilitation, and preservation activities. Because of such problems the SC ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to submit until June 30, 2011 its updated operation plan for the Manila Bay cleanup.

The high court also gave the DENR until Sept. 30, 2011 to submit the names and addresses of persons and companies in Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, and Bataan that generate toxic and hazardous waste.

The Manila Bay clean up decision has put to task the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to order all local government heads in Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan and Bataan to inspect all factories, commercial establishments and residences along the banks of the Pasig-Marikina-San Juan rivers, the Navotas-Malabon-Tullahan-Tenejeros rivers, the Meycauayan-Marilao-Obando (Bulacan) rivers, the Talisay (Bataan) River, the Imus (Cavite) River, and the Laguna de Bay, and other minor rivers and waterways that eventually discharge water into the Manila Bay.

The heads of the concerned local government units were given until the end of September this year to complete their respective inspections.

But Pamalakaya’s Hicap said the SC decision will be used by the government and their partners in crime in the private sector to effectively full-blast commercialization of Manila Bay and Laguna Lake under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) republic of the Aquino administration, which started during the time of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos up to the present administration of President Arroyo is the main reason the 190-kilometer bay is on the brink of general collapse.

“Please allow us to state the real score on Manila Bay. Eighty percent of the untreated water wastes that are thrown or dumped into the bay come from industries and commercial establishments situated along the bay. The reclamation activities of the government that began during the Marcos era up and which continue at present are also destroying Manila Bay and have prevented the ecosystem and marine life from regenerating,” Pamalakaya stated.

“We are not happy with the way the national government is treating Manila Bay. We are being blamed for its deterioration. Why us? We are not destroyers of natural resources and marine environment. We cannot destroy our main source of livelihood. It is impossible for us to do that, because destroying Manila Bay is like destroying our basis for existence. In fact, the fisherfolk are long running victims here of corporate exploitation and capital accumulation,” the group said.

The militant group said about 20,000 hectares of Manila Bay waters have been subjected to reclamation to pave way for the construction of special economic zones in Bataan and Cavite, the commercial spaces presently occupied by Manila Film Center, the GSIS (Government Service Insurance System) Building in Pasay City, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and Folk Arts Theater in Manila, and the SM Mall of Asia and other commercial companies in Pasay City.

Pamalakaya complained that while the government and the Supreme Court are blaming the fisherfolk and the urban poor over the deterioration of Manila Bay, the Philippine government and the DENR had upheld proposals of the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to develop the 90-hectare reclaimed casino and resort complex in Manila Bay.

On top of the $-15 billion casino project to be constructed along Manila Bay, Pamalakaya said the DENR had granted ECC to the ambitious Cavite Coastal Road Project II that would involve reclamation of more than 8,000 hectares of coastal waters along Manila Bay from Bacoor to Cavite City.

Pamalakaya said close to 3 million coastal people in Metro Manila and Cavite are still dependent on fishing as a principal source of livelihood, and any move to transform or convert Manila Bay for other purposes like the $15-billion casino project and the Cavite Phase II Coastal Road project will have a killing impact on the livelihood of small fishermen, aside from the fact that they would be demolished from their communities, once construction of support structures and establishments begins.

“From 1992 to 1995, the demolitions of coastal shanties became an everyday ordeal in Pasay Reclamation area. Houses were uprooted almost daily. Small and big time bribery to divide the communities were conducted to facilitate the demolition of coastal communities,” the group said.

The setting up of casino and resorts, including SM’s Mall of Asia was included in the master plan of the government known as Manila Bay Master Development Plan that officially started during the time of President Ramos and projected to end between 2020 and 2025.

Pamalakaya recalled that 3,500 small fisherfolk in Pasay Reclamation Area and another 3,000 coastal and urban poor families along the coastal shores of Parañaque were evicted by the government of former President Fidel Ramos to pave way for the construction of the proposed casino that would make the Philippines the Las Vegas of Asia.

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Leftist alliance in Manila calls for scrapping of PH-US war games

By Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines- Opposition to the up coming Philippines-US joint military exercises is getting stronger with the largest alliance of patriotic and progressive groups in Manila voiced out their collective rejection to the scheduled Balikatan exercises next month. In their webiste (www.bayan.ph), the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) today called on the Aquino government to scrap the scheduled 2011 Balikatan exercises saying it undermines any meaningful review of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement.

“By holding the Ballikatan war games on April 5-15 this year, the Aquino government is showing that it is not really serious in reviewing the VFA. Unequal and lopsided provisions remain in the agreement yet the Aquino government has no problems enforcing this pact for the upcoming war games,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“What will happen if there are again violations of Philippine law which would require us gaining custody of American troops? How will the unequal provisions of the VFA be implemented once more? Will we have another Daniel Smith episode, one that is ultimately embarrassing for the Philippines?” Reyes added.

Bayan objected to the holding of the Balikatan exercises saying that the VFA does not specify the number of US troops entering the country and the type of activities they can engage in.

“The VFA has been abused by the United States so they can permanently station their troops in the Philippines as what we are seeing now in Mindanao. The Philippine government has taken on the untenable position of allowing this to happen despite it being a clear violation of our sovereignty and constitution,” Reyes said.

“The upcoming Balikatan exercises show the extent of the Philippine government’s subservience to US dictates. The Aquino government will allow 6,000 US troops who are covered by a defective and one-sided pact to undertake unspecified military operations in our country. The Aquino government, much like the Arroyo government, will allow US troops to make the Philippines their playground,” he added.

The group also said that there remains the unresolved issue in relation to corruption of Baliaktan funds. A Commission on Audit investigation revealed there were irregularities in the management of the AFP’s funds deposited in the Land Bank of the Philippines.

“This is the 27th Balikatan war games. What have we gained so far? What benefits has the VFA provided us? The so-called civil military operations at the communities are mere publicity stunts for US forces to be acceptable to the local population,” Reyes said. The Philippine military announced last week that around 6,000 American troops are going to participate in Balikatan (Shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises next month. It said around 2,000 Philippine troops will join their US counterparts in the 10-day war drill that would start on April 15. The exercises include a unilateral planning exercise inside the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

But AFP officials said the US troops will only participate as observers in the unilateral planning exercise. Aside from the unilateral planning in Puerto Princesa, other joint PH-US military exercises will be held inside Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija, Basa and Clair Air Base in Pampanga, Crow Valley Range in Tarlac, Naval Station L in Zambales, Sangley Point in Cavite, Msrine Base in Ternate, also in Cavite and Mactan Airbase in Cebu province. Earlier, the activist peasant group in Central Luzon– the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) announced its plan to hold series of protests against the Balikatan exercises. Leaders of the farmer regional alliance said farmers in the region will be barred again from attending their crops during the war exercises.

The same sentiment was echoed by the fisherfolk group Pamalakaya, which said that the water-based military drills in Sangley Point and Ternate might result to banning of fishing activities during the joint war drills. Pamalakaya vice chair for Luzon Salvador France said everytime there is joint military exercises held along the country’s coastal shores, local government units enforce fishing ban as what happened in the Bicol Region during the 2008 Balikatan exercises.(With reports from Roy Morilla and Labo Molabo Ramos)

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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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World Bank eyes RP as Asia’s begging capital

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Bb. Tayuman Recto-Yap and Akihira Tatchu

MANILA, Philippines- The plan of the Brettonwoods institution to support the direct cash assistance fund to millions of impoverished Filipinos through an increased fresh loan to Manila government sparked protest from a Philippine group highly critical of the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The leftist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Sunday assailed WB over its recent move to double its assistance in the country for 2011 so the national government could fund its conditional cash transfer (CCT) program to poor Filipinos. Impressed by the Philippine government’s initiatives on good governance, WB country director Bert Hofman last Friday said WB will increase the current overall assistance to the Philippines from $ 630 million to $ 1.3 B in total assistance to the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.Hofman said the aid increase was approved last week at the annual meeting of the WB and International Monetary Fund (IMF)with the Philippines economic team.

In 2007, the WB approved a five year support to CCT with $ 400 million loan as funding support for 2008 as launched by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) then under President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo administration. This year, Congress passed the national budget for 2011, allotting P 21 B for CCT, an increase of P 9 billion compared to last year. The P 21 B for CCT elicited protest from 100 congressmen.

But Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the increase in aid assistance merely suits the political agenda of WB-IMF to turn millions of Filipino poor into beggars and mendicants, transform them into passive political entities highly allergic or hostile to politics of change in the country.

“The WB-IMF supports the CCT program because it sees it as a socio-political instrument that would convert this nation of over 90 million starving Filipinos into a Republic of mendicants and beggars rather than into a progressive nation with critical thinking and struggling people fighting for land, jobs, rights and justice.The increase in assistance with the purpose of supporting the CCT program is mainly a counter-insurgency program in form and in substance,” Hicap explained.

“The WB-IMF backed CCT program is also counter-productive in the sense that it does not create jobs and does not transform people into productive citizens but helpless folks begging for alms,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

The WB country director said the initiatives of the Aquino administration for poverty alleviation were doing well for target beneficiaries and that transparency under the new government made them more comfortable to provide additional assistance to Aquino government.

“It is business as usual for IMF-WB. It will lure the Aquino administration enter into another cycle of debt trap and national death bed due to debt. Behind the triple platinum debt offer of this US-led financial monster is the cruel intention of IMF-WB to get involved in Jurassic public-private partnership (PPPs) economic escapade of the Aquino administration,” said Pamalakaya.

The militant group also slammed the Philippine officials who signed the deal with IMF-WB during a meeting in Washington D.C. Pamalakaya said Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Budget and management SecretaryFlorencio Abad and Socio-Economic planning secretary Cayetano Paderanga Jr. should be condemned to the highest order for what the group called a millennium sell out of the national economy.

“These officials of Noynoy Aquino committed one of the major blunders in the 21st century when they offered the Philippines at the altar of IMF-WB millennium exploitation.They should be remembered in history as modern-day traitors along with President Aquino for undertaking this sell out of national patrimony and grand scam denationalization and privatization of national economy,” said Pamalakaya.

According to Pamalakaya, the IMF-WB aside from raking super profits from interest on loans, would also take part in highly profitable business in the country including but not limited to the expansion of Light Railway Transit system, the improvement of sewerage system of Maynilad and Manila Water.

The militant group said IMF-WB also wants to facilitate PPPs in tourism, food supply chain, construction of airports and other road networks, mass transport, national highways, water, power and other utilities.

Pamalakaya said the P 18.7 B Laguna Lake Dredging Project in Laguna de Bay was one of the PPPs approved by the Arroyo government prior to the May 2010 elections.The group said the project is between the Philippine government and the Fortis Bank of Belgium, which is a private commercial bank based in Brussels. It said around 400,000 lake families or roughly 2 million people in Laguna Lake will be displaced by the Laguna Lake dredging project #

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