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Group claims TRAIN law wrought havoc on poor sector

Militant group Tindig Pilipinas has slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for his failure to fulfill his campaign promises and instead wrought havoc on the poor sector with the implementation of the TRAIN law.

The group said the “TRAIN wreck has caused untold sufferings on the poor, caused higher inflation resulting to the prices of even the most basic commodities such as rice, fish and all the Bahay Kubo vegetables increasing dramatically.”

It added that “joblessness has risen and nothing has happened to their much ballyhooed Unconditional Transfer Program. The daily 6 pesos given to a family of 5 is hardly assistance at all, it is an unconditional insult to the poor.”

The group recalled that when Duterte became president, “he promised the poorest of the poor, the most vulnerable sector of our society, that its assistance to them will no longer be conditional but rather be an Unconditional Cash Transfer Program, a dole out in the truest sense.’’

But after two years, they said, the DSWD has failed to provide cover to the 10 million families that the DoF already stated that will be adversely affected by TRAIN.

“Social protection is meant to provide safety nets for the vulnerable sectors of society but we have not seen any coming from this government. On the contrary, not only has TRAIN further exposed them to risks such as hunger and horizontal violence, its implementation has made the poorest families even more buried in hardship and hunger. In short, the lives of the poor have DUTERIORATED under this callous regime,” the group’s statement said.

“This government’s calumny and their callous statements are not in short supply, Secretary Diokno called the poor “crybabies” and admonished them that one will never go hungry if one works hard, even while the jobless rate has gone up. Neda Secretary Pernia, with unerring indifference, told us to tighten our belts since inflation is already here, conveniently ignoring that inflation has gone up since the launch of Duterte’s TRAIN. DOF Secretary Dominguez arrogantly claims that inflation is a sign of a robust economy, conveniently forgetting that the Aquino administration was able to grow the economy while managing the inflation rate.’’

"Mga manhid talaga itong mga alipores ni Duterte,” it added.

The group also admonished the various government agencies, telling them to work hard and stop fooling the people.

“Isa lang ang masasabi namin: magtrabaho kayo, tigilan ninyo ang panloloko sa mahihirap at huwag kayong manhid,” the group said.

The statement said that Tindig Pilipinas will stage a die-in protest on July 5 (Thursday) at the train tracks of the PNR Train Station in Espana to symbolize the effects of the TRAIN Law on the public, especially the poor.

The die-in protest will be held at 10 a.m. before Tindig Pilipinas manifests its position on the government’s tax reform program. Several members of the urban poor sector are also expected to speak about the effects of the TRAIN Law on their livelihood.

Meanwhile, the IBON foundation claimed that the Duterte administration’s second full year in office “sees the people’s condition worsening and the need for genuine reforms even more urgent.”

The foundation said that “the government is, however, digging in its heels and pushing more harmful neoliberal measures that aggravate the people’s plight instead of implementing policies that overcome economic backwardness.”

“Filipinos struggle to cope with fast increasing prices and workers’ wages continue to erode. The National Capital Region has the country’s highest minimum wage but even this has eroded by about P17 since Duterte took office,/” it added.

It also cited data from the agriculture sector which it said has been shedding jobs for the last five years including a huge 723,000 lost in April 2018 from the same period the year before, drastically bringing agricultural employment down to just 9.8 million.”

It also said that underemployment

swelled by 466,000 to 3.2 million people over the same period, showing wage insufficiency.

“Meanwhile, there remains over 50% of total underemployed who are part-time workers or working 40 hours or less.”

According to IBON estimates,  over 60 million poor Filipinos from living off P125 or less per day and that the 21 million Filipinos the government considers poor according to its absurdly low poverty threshold of Php60 are better understood as those living in extreme poverty. The highest poverty incidence, by this standard, is among farmers and fisherfolk.

The foundation also alleged that the “neoliberal market-oriented policies of the Duterte administration in its Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 are designed to support the profits of local and foreign big business,”

“On the other hand, they (government) worsen the people’s situation and aggravate the country’s agricultural and pre-industrial backwardness and neocolonial character,” it said.

IBON also said that while the government claims that the program benefits the poor, infrastructure spending is perversely concentrated in regions with the lowest poverty.

“For instance, over P343 billion worth of flagship projects are concentrated in the National Capital Region (NCR) where poverty incidence is the lowest but the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which has the highest poverty incidence, accounts for just Php5.4 billion worth of projects. Thousands of communities also stand to be displaced by the grand infrastructure program.”

“The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Package 1 meanwhile lowers taxes paid by the few rich and makes up for this by increasing consumption taxes paid by the majority including millions of the country’s poorest households. TRAIN-aggravated inflation has already eroded the incomes of the poorest Filipino families who are pushed deeper into poverty. The unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) supposedly meant to help the poorest 50% of families cope with the higher taxes are very delayed and over two million households even remain unidentified to date,” it added.

Moreover, the foundation accused the government of continuing to “recklessly open up the economy to foreign capital which jeopardizes long-term national economic development. It seeks to amend the Public Services Act to open up vital utilities like communication and transportation. The Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL) will be shortened even more. It is also out to change the 1987 Constitution itself and remove important controls on foreign investment in natural resources, public utilities, education, mass media and advertising. These will not just continue but complete the neoliberal overhaul of the country’s economic policy regime. Yet, as it is, the economy has received scant benefits from foreign investment which needs to be regulated according to a strategic plan for national industrial development.”

“Two years is long enough for the Duterte administration to start taking steps towards real change to develop the economy and improve the conditions of the people. Instead, it has solidly established its pro-business and pro-foreign capital credentials under the guise of free-market orientation. It has also been unabashed in heavy-handedly using force and intimidation to advance a neoliberal economic agenda. This will keep the economy underdeveloped and the people in a raging crisis of joblessness and chronic poverty.

Yet reforms have long been proposed by social movements, taken up in peace talks with armed revolutionary groups, and even articulated by government anti-poverty agencies. This includes free land distribution, support for farmers, and broad-based rural development. This improves equity in the countryside, raises rural incomes, spurs demand, and stimulates economic activity. Developed agricultural and rural areas, in turn, are a solid base for expanding Filipino-owned industries. National industrialization is the key strategy for ensuring stable employment, decent and rising wages for the working people, and continuing productivity gains over the long-term, it said in conclusion.

Topics: Tindig Pilipinas , President Rodrigo Duterte , TRAIN law , Unconditional Cash Transfer Program
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