July 23, 2012
The Filipino youth are greeting the State of the Nation Address of President Benigno Aquino III with greater discontent and protests, for his failure to address the deepening socio-economic crisis faced by the youth and the people.
1. Tuition and other fee increases
In the last two years, the Aquino government has failed to regulate tuition and other fee increases in schools, colleges and universities. It continues to support the deregulation of higher education, in which private schools can determine conclusively their rate of tuition, and imposes other schools fees without need for the approval of government, and the consultation and consent of students and their parents.
As a result, the Commission on Higher Education itself admitted the increasing number of college dropouts due to rising school costs. This is coupled with the continuing stunting of wages and salaries across lower income groups, in which government has responded to by rejecting calls for the immediate passage of a legislated P125 nationwide across-the-board wage increase.
2. Budget cuts in state schools and social services
Instead of state schools, colleges and universities operating as a viable alternative to rising school costs in private education, they are now being operated in a similar deregulated manner as private higher educational institutions.
Without need for regulation by the Commission on Higher Education, the Board of Regents of state schools can unilaterally increase tuition and other fees, such that state schools are now as expensive as its private school counterparts.
This is due to the perennial budget cuts in state colleges and universities pursued by the Aquino government. Instead of fully supporting the operation and development of state schools to increase democratic access and improve quality, the government is committed to further decrease subsidies and force state schools to raise their fees.
As a result, an increasing number of Filipino youth cannot now enter or graduate from higher educational institutions.
This is further worsened by budget cuts in pivotal government services such as healthcare, metrorail, electricity, water, among others. The cuts severely affect families in their day-to-day activities and expenses, as they will now have to spend more than what they actually earn.
Thus, instead of the youth and their families being better off in the last two years, they are forced to contend with deepening poverty and economic difficulties.
3. The false promises of K+12
Further aggravating the plight of the youth and their families is the implementation of the K+12 program in basic education. Parents will now have to further stretch their meager incomes to fund additional two years of study which do not respond to the requirements of genuine Philippine development but to the demands of the international labor market.
It does not make the youth immediately employable, but immediately exploitable, as the only available jobs for them are semi-skilled, low-paying overseas employment.
4. Youth unemployment
Despite the yearly job fairs during Labor Day, a great majority of the Filipino youth remain unemployed and underemployed. The only available jobs are those for labor deployment overseas or in the BPO industry – both of which are unresponsive to the needs of genuine economic development.
The Aquino government’s failure to address youth and general unemployment aggravates the situation of unlivable and unjust wages, as it creates a market of unemployed persons willing to accept jobs under the worst conditions.
Instead of spurring rural economic development, he has rejected all calls for the immediate distribution of agricultural lands held by representatives of his landlord class, insisting even that the distribution of his own Hacienda Luisita be paid at rates most onerous to farmer-beneficiaries.
5. Surrender of sovereignty
The Aquino government has surrendered national sovereignty several times in the past two years. He has committed to the expansion of US military intervention in the Philippines, with the prospect of a surging of US troops, facilities and vessels in our territory.
He has also embraced the counter-insurgency operations plan of the US military, now implemented across the country through Oplan Bayanihan. This has caused tremendous suffering in the countryside due to increased military operations over barrios and agricultural areas. Grave human rights violations had arisen as a result.
He has also committed to the full-scale plunder of foreign corporations over our natural resources. He has also opened government facilities and projects to foreign and private operations through his Public-Private Partnerships.
Without doubt, President Aquino cannot now hide from the veil created by his electoral victory over the much-hated Arroyo regime. He has pursued the same pro-business, pro-landlord, pro-imperialist economic policies that had caused so much suffering among the youth and the people.
Nonetheless, the Filipino youth cannot now be fooled by the sweet talk of the President. It knows that only by uniting with the Filipino people in pursuit of their national and democratic aspirations can genuine development, including the right to education, be truly achieved.
Rep. Raymond Palatino
Vanessa Faye Bolibol