Increasing taxes, distribution of food coupons and liberalizing agriculture—these are some of the solutions of the government to the worsening economic situation in the country.
The Philippine government has committed to adhere to the Declaration on the Right to Development, Article 1 of the Declaration on the Right to Development, that states “every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development.” With this, people should always be at the center of all the development plans and project of the government. The people should be participants and beneficiaries of development.
The Philippine government has also committed to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by the year 2015, as it has committed to the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs.
Where are the poor people in Arroyo’s development plan and governance?
Recently, the Social Weather Stations released the result of its survey saying that 15 percent of the households in the country experienced hunger or had nothing to eat at least once in the last three months. Malacañang immediately said it would distribute food coupons to starving families. Then later, the government realizes that food coupons entail a lot of money.
When we ask workers what they think, they say that food coupons will not solve their hunger and poverty. Hungry people have a right to be provided with food during emergencies but in the long run, the government has to deal with the people’s right to just wages and to have jobs.
It is the obligation of the state to take steps for the fulfillment of people’s human rights, including immediate steps to ensure just and living wages for workers.
The Arroyo government has also included the liberalization of agriculture as a step toward solving the fiscal crisis. In an Alternative Report submitted to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in November 2003, peasant groups and their supporters have noted that the agreement on agriculture has had a negative impact on small farmers in the Philippines. The liberalization of some agricultural products “erodes further the ability of the Filipino farmers to compete and their motivation to continue in agricultural production.” Thus, encouraging more liberalization means exacerbating the small farmers’ deteriorating condition.
If workers and small farmers and their families are already burdened by unjust and (un)living wages, then the third plan to increase revenues through increased taxes would only further push the impoverished to greater misery and deprivation.
The government should stop adopting solutions to the country’s problems that do not address the cries of the poor and vulnerable. The Arroyo government should put all, not just a few, at the center of development and governance.
Aurora A. Parong
Task Force Detainees of the Philippines