by Liv G. Campo
April 16, 2005
Thousands joined yesterday’s march from the Department of Health regional office to the Plaza Independencia as a show of protest against trade liberalization.The march was in culmination of the Global Week of Action on Trade observance that the group Fellowship for Organizing Endeavors, Inc., or FORGE, had started last April 10.
“The widening gap between the rich and poor is a glaring manifestation that indeed, the current international trading system characterized by liberalization and privatization has only worked for the interest of the rich countries,” FORGE said in a press statement.
Joshua Mata, of Alliance of Progressive Labor, said the march coincided with similar protest actions in other countries worldwide that also oppose trade liberalization.
“Masama ang epekto ng free trade in contravention to President Gloria Arroyo’s earlier promise that it would mean millions of jobs for Filipinos, improvement of livelihood, among other benefits,” Mata said.
He claimed that for the past 10 years of the country’s membership with the World Trade Organization, the Filipinos have experienced instead shrinking family income, declining agricultural inputs, and rising unemployment, among others.
Mata cited a recent study showing that there are 5 million Filipinos who are jobless, aside from the 8 million others who have to go abroad for work. “Directly or indirectly, this can all be traced to trade liberalization,” he said.
The gathering that FORGE had spearheaded was intended to inform the public of the effects of free trade or trade liberalization, especially that WTO member-countries are set to meet in Hong Kong this December to renew their ties.
“We are asking the Philippine government not to sign on a bad deal,” Mata said as he warned that rich countries, during that meeting, are expected to push poor countries to relax their laws limiting ownership of lands.
Should this happen, foreigners would soon be owning vast tracks of land in the Philippines resulting to soaring property prices that would be out of reach to Filipinos themselves, Mata said.
Last Monday, FORGE held the forum, “Cebu Uniting for Global Trade Justice,” with Akbayan party-list Rep. Rizza Hontiveros-Baraquel, Akbayan national president Ronald Llamas, and an official of a non-government organization from Mindanao Tom Villarin, as speakers.
Baraquel had appealed to the government to reform the global trading scheme, saying that a growing number of local small firms are dying in the arena of trade liberalization, which only strengthens imported products while leaving the local industry paralyzed in the competition.
For every local business closed, more Filipinos are added to the statistics of the unempl
oyed, the congresswoman said.