Training Management students conduct financial literacy training in Bagong Silangan

DSC_0113Students of Training Management from Ateneo de Manila trained women on the basics of household finance last 21 September 2013 in Area 5, Bagong Silangan, Quezon City . The training aimed at educating the women on the basic concepts of income, expenses and most especially savings. Area 5, Bagong Silangan is one of the areas where LEARN extends development programs. LEARN’s Bonifacio Day Care Center hosted the training session.


DSC_0179Unions from the public sector participated in Trade Union Leadership Administration Seminar (TULA) held last 13-14 September at the Altaroca Resort, Antipolo. TULA is meant to develop the leadership skills of every trade unionist. The participants were composed of unionists from Home Mortgage Employees’ Association (HOMEA), Concerned Employees of Laguna Lake Development Authority (CELLDA), Dangerous Drugs Board Employees’ Union (DDBEU), Department of Interior and Local Government Employees’ Union, and Socialized Housing Employees Association, Inc.

DSC_0022 DSC_0013The seminar was a joint activity by the Labor Education and Research Network and the Philippine Independent Public Sector Employees’ Association (PIPSEA-SENTRO).

80,000 workers bonded together under new labor center SENTRO

DSC_0412SENTRO or Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa was formally established when it held its founding congress last week, August 30-31. Representing at least 80,000 members in the private, public and informal sectors, including migrant workers, women and the youth, SENTRO is committed to take social movement unionism (SMU) to new heights by intensifying the organizing of industry and sectoral unions in the country.

“SENTRO is our humble and sincere contribution to the overall initiative to help unify or strengthen the Philippine labor movement,” Frank Mero, founding chairperson of SENTRO, declared in front of over 2,000 trade unionists and activists that packed the Ateneo High School Gym during the “public session” or the second day of the congress. Mero also chairs the Philippine Metalworkers’ Alliance (PMA).

“It is the culmination of years of painstaking efforts of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), the Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN) and their allied organizations to bring together 13 trade union organizations (mostly industry federations) and three sectoral groupings – informal sector, migrant workers, youth,” Daniel Edralin, SENTRO vice chair for the private sector workers, noted. Edralin is also the APL chair.

Josua Mata, SENTRO’s founding secretary general, explained that the congress’ theme of “Mag-organisa! Magkaisa! Isulong ang Pag-uunyon sa Sektor at Industriya!” is a “call to intensify SMU in the country by merging unions along industry and sectoral lines, and to fight back the devastating effects of global neoliberal programs against the workers and their trade unions and other mass organizations,” and adding that “this is a significant break from the past where the emphasis is on forming similar and squabbling general federations.”

“Through the formation of industry and sectoral unions, we can significantly reduce, if not eliminate, one of the biggest sources of disunity among workers – union raiding,” Felix Cabuguas Jr., SENTRO vice chair for the public sector workers, said. Cabuguas is also the national president of the Philippine Independent Public Sector Employees Association (PIPSEA).

The founding members of SENTRO include unions in the automotive, metal and metal-related industries, hotels, hospitals, beverages, broadcasting, banks, electric power, and some others in the manufacturing sector. Its member unions in the public sector include those in the local government units (LGUs), postal service and some national government agencies. SENTRO also includes one of the country’s biggest federations of transport workers, a national confederation of informal settlers, a migrant workers’ group in Hong Kong, and a youth organization.

“SENTRO is committed to fight for regular and decent jobs, an expanded ‘social wage’ – including public housing – and the recognition of labor and trade union rights for all workers in the public and private, formal and informal sectors,” Fatima Cabanag, SENTRO vice chair for the informal sector workers, stated. She added that “through our community-based organizing, we are even able to bring into the fold of unionism the unemployed and home-based workers.” Cabanag is also the chair of the Kapisanan ng mga Maralitang Obrero (KAMAO), a federation of urban poor associations.

SENTRO also vowed to help strengthen international workers’ solidarity, as it decided in one of its resolutions to affiliate to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the biggest global labor center with more than 300 member federations representing about 174 million workers in almost 160 countries and territories. SENTRO also encourages its affiliates to align themselves with global union federations appropriate to their respective industries or sectors. The GUFs that some SENTRO members are currently affiliated to are the IUF, IndustriALL, ITF, PSI, and UNI.

(IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations; IndustriALL is in mining, energy and manufacturing industries; ITF is the International Transportworkers’ Federation; PSI is the Public Services International; and UNI is the Union Network International, which is primarily for workers in the services, media and communications sector.)

Coinciding with the 150th birth anniversary this year of Andres Bonifacio, SENTRO likewise decided to actively campaign for his recognition as the first president of the country. “Apart from correcting history, Bonifacio’s recognition as the First President would also remind us that the working class, through its revolutionary movement, actually governed the country at one point in our history,” Mata said.

“This is an inspiring reminder for today’s working class that they have the ability and responsibility to (govern) again as the elites have repeatedly proven that they are incapable of governing without plundering the country,” the SENTRO secgen added.

Atty. Gary Bonifacio, the great-great grandson of Bonifacio’s brother Procopio, graced the SENTRO congress with his presence. Guests from the local and international trade union movement who were present and delivered solidarity messages to the congress were Noriyuki Suzuki of the ITUC-Asia/Pacific; Hidayat Greenfield, acting regional secretary of the IUF-A/P; Elizabeth Tang, coordinator of the IDWN (International Domestic Workers’ Network); Pauli Kristiansson and Gerard Linbergh from LIVS (Swedish Food Workers’ Union); Juska Kivioja, Sari Koivuniemi, Juha Vauhkonen and Orlando Quesada from SASK (Trade Union Solidarity Centre of Finland); Diis Bøhn and Floro Francisco of the LO-Norway (Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions); and Jens Saverstam from SEKO (Union of Service and Communication Employees in Sweden).

Also present were Ian Mariano and Norman Grecia from PSI-APRO (Public Services International-Asia Pacific Regional Office), Lennart Johnsson from SEKO (Union of Service and Communication Employees in Sweden),  and several member organizations of the broad labor coalition NAGKAISA (in which SENTRO also belongs), including Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), among others. Top officials from the Akbayan party-list were also present.

The guest speakers during the public session of the congress were Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello and DOLE Undersecretary Rebecca Chato, who spoke in behalf of DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz. Renowned protest singers Bayang Barios, Gary Granada and Noel Cabangon provided some inspiring songs.

Some of the solidarity messages also sent by both foreign and local partners include from the International Federation of Workers’ Education Associations (IFWEA), IndustriALL global union, Workers’ Educational Association of Sweden (ABF), Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL-Finland), Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO-Sweden), Finnish Metalworkers’ Union (Metalli), Trade Union Pro of Finland, Solidar – Belgium, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions,  Partido ng Manggagawa, TUCP, Philippine Trade and General Workers Organizations (PTGWO-TUCP), Associated Labor Unions (ALU-TUCP), among others.

One of the 11 resolutions submitted to and approved in the congress was SENTRO’s call on the government to abolish the “corrupt and corrupting” pork barrel and all “pork-like” funds like the huge and highly discretionary special purpose funds of both President Aquino and Vice President Binay. To demonstrate its resolve to continue the fight against “pork,” SENTRO held a 45-minute noise barrage along Katipunan Ave. right after its congress inside Ateneo de Manila University.

The founding members of SENTRO are the  Alliance of Filipino Workers (AFW); APL; APL- Youth; Federation and Cooperation of Cola, Beverage and Allied Industry Unions (FCCU); KAMAO; League of Independent Bank Organizations (LIBO); Mariners’ Association for Regional and International Networking Organization (MARINO); National Alliance of Broadcast Unions (NABU); National Confederation of Transportworkers’ Unions (NCTU); National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN); Philippine Independent Public Sector Employees Association (PIPSEA); Philippine Metalworkers’ Alliance (PMA); Pinag-isang Tinig at Lakas ng Anakpawis (PIGLAS); Postal Employees’ Union of the Philippines (PEUP); Progressive Labor Union in Hong Kong (PLU); and Workers’ Solidarity Network (WSN).

With a term of office from 2013 to 2018, the elected SENTRO officers that comprise the 15-person Executive Committee – including Mero (PMA), Edralin (APL), Cabuguas (PIPSEA), Cabanag (KAMAO), and Mata (APL) – are Willy Pulia (AFW), national treasurer; plus the nine Execom Directors: Enrico Ballesteros (LIBO), Asuncion Binos (PIGLAS), Hilario Simacon (NABU), Joanna Bernice Coronacion (APL-Youth), Ernesto Cruz (NCTU), Manuel David (PEUP), Ramon de Leon (NUWHRAIN), Alfredo Marañon (FCCU), and Meliton Nalla (WSN).

Meanwhile, the Confederation of Independent Unions in the Public Sector (CIU) also expressed interest to join SENTRO.

LEARN launches ‘Philippine Labor Outlook’

DSC_0051LEARN launched its first ‘Philippine Labor Outlook’ last 28 August 2013 at the Oracle, Katipunan. Unionists from the private and public sector attended the launch. The said publication aims to strengthen labor education through an analysis of contemporary issues in the Philippine labor market. The publication of the book was made possible through the support of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung – Philippine Office.


SENTRO Statement for SONA 2013

SONA 2013

Three years ago, President Aquino promised to substantially reduce poverty, create quality and secure jobs, and end the reign of impunity, among others. He promised “inclusive growth”. Workers have had enough of these broken promises.

This was aired by the SentrongmgaNagkakaisa at ProgresibongManggagawa (SENTRO) as it led its affiliates in holding protest actions to counter the “phenomenal” economic “growth” that PNoy would surely brag about in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) today.

SENTRO believes that to end poverty, government needs to redistribute wealth, shift its economic paradigm towards building the domestic economy and, heavily invest in social services such as education, health, housing and the like.

Unfortunately, many if not all these, particularly the redistribution of wealth, run counter to the class interests of the Aquino government.

‘Phenomenal growth,’ historic investment ratings

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) announced on Jan. 31 that the Philippines, amid lackluster US economy and worsening economic crisis in Europe, had posted an impressive 6.8 percent hike in its gross domestic product (GDP) in the last quarter of 2012 and a full-year increase of 6.6 percent. To emphasize its feat, NEDA also disclosed that the country’s fourth quarter GDP was higher than its fellow members in the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations): notably the 5.4 percent of the fast-developing Vietnam and a mere 1.1 percent of the powerhouse Singapore.

In entire Asia, edging the Philippines was the 7.8 percent of the economic giant China. The country even bagged the distinction, even momentarily only, of having the “fastest growth rate in Asia” when it attained a 7.8 percent GDP in the first quarter of this year compared to China’s 7.7 percent.

The said steady and remarkable development had enabled the Philippines to pull off a historic first when Fitch Ratings bestowed upon the country an investment-grade status last March 27, from BB+ to BBB- credit rating with stable outlook. The same rating was granted to the Philippines by Standard & Poor’s (S&P) on May 2.

Moody’s Investors Service rates the country two notches below investment grade or Ba2 with positive outlook, but nonetheless favorably regards the Philippine economy by upgrading its growth forecast this year from 5.9 percent to 6.5 percent. Its sister company, the Moody’s Analytics even described the country as “Asia’s rising star.”

Dubious record of Big 3; ratings will mainly benefit Big Business

In his Sona, Aquino will definitely highlight these ratings “awarded” to the Philippines; but the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), a founding member of SENTRO, has revealed some unsavory records of Fitch, S&P and Moody’s or the Big 3 global credit rating agencies, foremost of which are their “intimate” relationship with big private corporations, especially those that obtain investment rating from them.

For instance, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia were likewise given investment grade ratings shortly before the Asian financial crisis in 1997, which considerably affected too the Philippines. A few days before the infamous bankruptcy of the giant Enron Corp. in 2001 – as well as the collapse of the Lehman Bros. and AIG in 2008 – the S&P, Moody’s and Fitch still issued “safe investment ratings” to these American firms.

An independent research divulged that more than half of the loans granted to several companies that were classified by S&P as AAA, the highest rating, were downgraded only seven years later – testimony to the rating’s unreliability.

‘Growth’ for whom?: The poor getting larger, poorer and miserable

Despite the boast of being Asia’s fastest growing economy, in spite of the stellar ratings given by the Big 3 rating firms, the most recent Philippine poverty figures show that in June 2012 the destitution was ironically worsening or at least “had no statistical difference to the poverty incidence in 2006.”

In this case, NSCB deserves praise that while it proudly announced in January the GDP hike, it likewise humbly admitted in April that poverty rate was barely changed to the chagrin of some top officials in the Aquino government.

Although deemed by independent studies as yet “conservative” or “trimmed down,” the official data on “poor” people, issued by NSCB last April 23, bared that this was practically unchanged from 28.8 percent of the population in 2006 to 27.9 percent in 2012 (or 23.4 percent of total families to 22.3 percent in the same period).

Hence, in June 2012 about 28 of 100 Philippine families or estimated at over 25 million Filipinos were considered “poor” or barely living on P7,821 a monthly income (for a family of five), which includes P5,458 for basic food needs alone. Still below this poverty threshold are those living in “extreme poverty,” which remained virtually unchanged also from 14.2 percent of the population in 2006 to 13.4 percent in 2012 (or 10.8 percent of families to 10.0 percent in the same period).

Moreover, the United Nations (UN) reported last October that hardly three years into the deadline of completing the seven Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Philippines failed in four, including eradicating extreme poverty as well as achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality and sustaining maternal health.

‘Growth’ for whom?: The rich becoming richer – filthy, obscenely richer

From 2010, when Aquino assumed the presidency up to the present, the poverty worsened vis-à-vis the tremendous increase in the wealth of the few, particularly the country’s richest 40 families.

Hence, the collective wealth of the “Super 40” has literally skyrocketed from $22.8 billion in 2009 to $47.4 billion last year, or roughly P1.9 trillion ($1 = P41).

NAGKAISA, the broad trade union coalition, which both SENTRO and APL belong, has placed the current wealth of the Super 40 at P2.4 trillion or “more than the combined annual income of 17 million wage earners.” It added that the GDP growth has “remained concentrated to the high income class … with the top 15 percent … getting more than 60 percent of the national income.”

In fact, the collective riches of 11 wealthiest Filipinos – the US dollar billionaires – listed this year (2013) by Forbes publication reach a mind-boggling $39.85 billion or roughly P1.63 trillion or equivalent to a staggering 15 percent of the Philippine GDP last year, which was $257.5 billion or P10.6 trillion.

These crème de la crème of the Philippine elites are the following, including their respective families and purported worth: Henry Sy ($13.2 billion) of SM, BDO, etc.; Lucio Tan ($5 B) of Philip Morris-Fortune Tobacco, PAL, etc.; Enrique Razon ($4.9 B) of port operator ICTSI, Solaire hotel-casino, etc.; Andrew Tan ($3.95 B) of Megaworld, Emperador brandy, McDonald’s-Philippines, etc.; David Consunji ($2.8 B) of construction and real estate company DMCI, etc.;

George Ty ($2.6 B) of Metrobank, Toyota Motor Philippines, etc.; Lucio Co ($2 B) of Puregold, etc.; Robert Coyuito ($1.6 B) of National Grid Corp., PGA Automobile, etc.; Tony Tan Caktiong ($1.4 B) of Jollibee, Chowking, MangInasal, etc.; Andrew Gotianum ($1.2 B) of Filinvest, etc.; and Roberto Ongpin ($1.2 B) of Alphaland, etc.

Missing in the dollar billionaires’ list but certainly among the Super 40 are the Gokongweis of Robinson malls, Cebu Pacific Air, etc.; Ayalas of Ayala Land, BPI, etc.; Ortigases of the Ortigas real estate firms; Aboitizes of Aboitiz Power, Union Bank, etc.; Lopezes of ABS-CBN, Rockwell, etc.

A report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer enumerated additional data related to this grossly lopsided income divide:

  • The high-income class posted a 10.9 percent income growth rate in 2011 against the 4.3 percent income growth rate among the middle-income class.
  • The wealth of the country’s Top 40 corporations accounted for 76 percent of the country’s nominal GDP.
  • Since the high-income class comprised only of about 15 percent of the population, its share of the gross national income (GNI) is about three-fifths.
  • In 2010-2011, among the upper income class, the growth by GDP stood at 10.9 percent, GNI at 9.9 percent, and net disposable income (NDI) at 10.6 percent.
  • In contrast, the growth in the middle-income group was 4.3 percent by GDP, 3.4 percent GNI, and 4.1 percent NDI.
  • Should the government becomes serious in collecting taxes from the rich, especially the Super 40, it could earn approximately P320 billion in tax revenues, a huge amount that could finance important government projects.

But where are the jobs?: Jobless ‘growth’

Despite again the supposed “economic boom” the number of unemployed and underemployed Filipinos is steadily rising.

Last February, the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES), an attached agency of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), reported that in one year’s time or from October 201 1 to October 2012, the number of employed Filipinos went down from 38.5 million to 37.7 million or more than 880,000 became jobless.

Worth mentioning in this job displacement figure was that the BLES “observed that more people lost their jobs because they were fired, not because they quit.”

Furthermore, a significant reason for this “job problem” is the absence of secure, decent and quality jobs, the APL reiterated. “In-demand” jobs are mostly contractual employment in the services sector and the business process outsourcing (BPO), particularly call centers, putting aside the very vital agriculture and industry, especially the manufacturing.

It is not surprising that data from NEDA’s Socioeconomic Report 2011-2012 reveal that more than half of the country’s total employed is in the services sector; while less than one-sixth comprises the industry sector and roughly one-third the agriculture, fishery and forestry sector.

The increasing incidence of underemployment has now alarmed NEDA when no less than its head, NEDA director general and concurrent Socioeconomic Planning Secretary ArsenioBalicasan, was quoted as saying that “underemployment is (now) a bigger problem than unemployment,” where the latter has reached in April at 19.2 percent or about 7.2 million Filipinos.

Benjamin Diokno, a noted economist, even claimed that the 2012 “growth” has actually cut or decreased the number of employed persons as the “contribution of agriculture to GDP continued to shrink, posting the lowest growth among the three major (economic) sectors,” including industry and services.

He underscored the fact that most Filipinos “still depend on agriculture and related sectors for a living,” and because the most recent (October) employment data show that “nearly 1 million” agricultural jobs were lost, the 2012 GDP “may be characterized as labor-shredding growth.”

Thus, from Oct. 2011 to Oct. 2012, the number of employed workers in the agricultural sector was slashed by 705,000 or to 12.2 million from 12.9 million, according to the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES), an attached DOLE agency, as well as the National Statistics Office (NSO)

On the other hand, employment in the services sector has consistently multiplied from 18.7 million in 2010 (when Aquino assumed the presidency) to 19.7 million last year.

In the same period, employment in the industrial sector has gained a modest growth, at first glance, from 5.4 million to 5.8 million; but the vital subsector of manufacturing posted a slow increment of 3.03 million to 3.13 million, while the other subsectors have significantly swelled from a combined 2.37 million to 2.64 million.

This is clearly portrayed in the “industrial component” of the 2012 GDP, as shown in the hefty increases in the construction, electricity, gas, water and mining and quarrying subsectors – a reflection of the dysfunctional economic strategy of the present and previous Philippine governments, the APL observed.

Government statistics also show that, despite of the GDP “growth,” unemployment rate has increased from 6.4 percent of the labor force or equivalent to 2.6 million Filipinos in the last quarter of 2011 to 6.8 percent or 2.8 million in the same period last year.

Average annual unemployment figures are virtually unchanged at 7.0 percent of the total labor force (40.4 million) or 2.83 million jobless in 2012 from 7.0 percent also (of 40.0 million LF) or 2.81 million people without work in 2011.

While the Neda contrasted the country’s GDP last year to some of its neighboring nations, the Philippine jobless rates in 2012 are the worst compared to the following nearby countries: Thailand (0.6 percent), Singapore (1.7 percent), Malaysia (3.0 percent), South Korea (3.0 percent), China (4.1 percent), Taiwan (4.3 percent), Vietnam (4.4 percent), and Indonesia (6.5 percent).

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