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Thousands of workers join Lakbayan vs. hunger, poverty and corruption
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) Press Release - April 29, 2008
Thousands of worker members of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), together with allied organizations—Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod (KPML), Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA), Makabayan-Pilipinas, and joined by SANLAKAS and Kalayaan! launched their own version of Lakbayan (people's march) which kicked off from Crossing, Calamba in Laguna on April 29 and marched onward to Muntinlupa, Parañaque and Bicutan today, and finally, a protest rally in Mendiola on May 1 after staying overnight at Brgy. Pio in Makati City. Dubbed "Martsa Laban sa Kagutuman, Kahirapan, at Katiwalian", the three-day Lakbayan, organizers say, has one destination — Malacañang, because the responsibility for the rice and food crisis and the grinding poverty now suffered by the toiling masses lies nowhere else but at the doorstep of the Arroyo government.
BMP President Leody de Guzman pointed out, "A few weeks after the rice and food crisis erupted, the problem of rice shortage and increasing prices of basic food commodities is still very real. It is real because, despite Arroyo's recent moves to allocate a P44 billion package to solve the rice crisis, address food security and improve agricultural productivity – the ordinary Filipino is yet to be relieved that the crisis will be over soon. The people are even asking why this government insists on 'short-cut' solutions such as the food rationing and discount coupon system of the NFA and DSWD instead of implementing strategic government policies and programs which prioritize food security, protect labor and the livelihoods of workers and farmers, and provide sufficient subsidy to our agricultural sector to improve productivity."
Meanwhile, Pedring Fadrigon of KPML slammed the Arroyo government's hunger mitigation program in response to recent surveys saying that Filipinos are becoming hungrier and poorer. Ka Pedring explains, "The Ahon Pamilyang Pilipino is a palliative and media opportunity for Malacanang to mitigate, not hunger but the continuing rise in prices of rice and food! Arroyo is allocating a hefty amount, but this will not in any way mitigate the poverty and hunger situation of poor families. The amount to be given to the 300,000 beneficiaries of this program will simply not be enough for them to relieve from hunger and poverty if prices continue to soar. Government would do better if it imposed price controls on rice and other basic commodities if it seeks to intervene significantly in mitigating the current crisis."
Sanlakas spokesperson Rasti Delizo exclaims, "Arroyo's effort to address the rice and food crisis is too little, too late. The problem of rice cartel is long standing and should have been dismantled a long time ago. Fund allocations for agriculture and mitigation programs may help, but the question is will the funds actually redound to the the beneficiaries? Even now the Jocjoc Bolante case and Swinegate scam remain unresolved. What we need to do is to prioritize the country's food security in our government plans and program, stop liberalizing agriculture, and reverse policies akin to neo-liberal strategies that render our economy, and thus our people, helpless and defenseless against market volatilities, especially under prevailing global conditions. Unfortunately, these are the very precepts of Arroyo's enchanted kingdom ambitions."
BMP's Leody de Guzman adds, "Efforts of the Arroyo government to mitigate hunger and poverty in the face of the food crisis will not alter the squalor and misery that the toiling masses are already being made to suffer. Further, Arroyo's insistence to convene regional wage boards to work out wage hikes for labor is obviously her way of compromising with the business sector, as these wage boards have long proven to be mechanisms for pinning down rather than providing adequate relief through just increase in wage. Thus, we assert that a legislated wage increase may cover the difference between the current market prices of basic commodities vs. the purchasing power (capacity to pay) of our average minimum wage workers, but of course, this is surely not enough. Thus, we believe that it is the right time to start the discussions and implementation of a law on the family living wage (FLW)."
De Guzman concludes, "As measures taken up by the Arroyo government to mitigate the effects of the rice and food crisis fails to alter the poverty and misery of the masses, neither has it succeeded in altering our course to oust Gloria and to take action for decisive change. The ZTE broadband investigations may have been stalled by Gloria's moves to force her will through new appointees in the Supreme Court, but the movement to oust Gloria and pursue basic reforms continues. The food crisis and the fact that no significant and decisive resolution is forthcoming from Arroyo's government only stokes the fire that blazes even more intensely to pursue this course."
BMP, Sanlakas, Kalayaan!, KPML, AMA, Makabayan-Pilipinas and other affiliate organizations held a press conference at the BMP Office in Calamba, Laguna on April 29 to announce the line-up of activities for the three-day Lakbayan and this year's May 1 celebration. The activity's focal theme was "Kagutuman, Kahirapan, Katiwalian: Sobra Na! Oust Gloria! Reject Noli! Itayo Democratic Transitional Council, Pagbabago Ngayon Na!"