By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Aside from the Philippine Orthopedic Center, more Public-Private Partnerships are lined up by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, the multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) warned as the US-Philippine Society began a series of meetings in the country on Jan. 23.
In a statement, Bayan said the Philippine visit of executives of some leading American corporations for meetings with top government officials and local big business groups under the so-called US-Philippine Society will pave the way for the “total sell-out of the country to foreign big business interests.”
The US-Philippine Society is co-chaired by former US Ambassador to the Philippines John Negroponte and local tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan. According to Bayan, the US-Philippine Society was established in Washington last year when Aquino held a meeting with President Barack Obama. Its vision is to “elevate the Philippines’ profile in the US and promote trade and investment and build shared strategic and political interests.” Its officers include some of the richest Filipino businessmen like Pangilinan, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Enrique K. Razon,and former top US diplomats like Negroponte and Thomas Hubbard.
Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bayan,said the visit of top US corporations’ representatives to look at trade and investment opportunities here does not necessarily mean more jobs and less poverty.
“They’re here to take advantage of the government’s PPP program that includes the privatization of key infrastructure and utilities, which marginalizes our people while creating profit-making opportunities for big business. They’re here to take advantage of our liberalized economy that allows the wanton plunder of our minerals, energy resources and other natural wealth at the expense of our environment and development.”
Reyes said the key movers of the US-Philippine Society like Pangilinan, Ayala and Razon have already been reaping windfall profits from many PPP projects and they have been very aggressive in further expanding their business empires.
“Part of this is looking for American partners through the US-Philippine Society to boost their financial muscle. Problem is they’re squeezing profits even from vital economic and social services like roads, utilities and even hospitals,” said Reyes.
Speaking at the protest action at the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI) where the bidding for the modernization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center was being held, Bayan’s public information officer Arnold Padilla said this is “worrying because it signaled the privatization of not only government hospitals but other essential social services such as electricity plants, schools, road and transportation.” Padilla warned that the MRT and LRT are also up for privatization this year.
“It is so immoral to squeeze out more from sick, poor people. That is why in the Philippines,it is really prohibited to get sick. As it is so expensive (to get treatment), sick people will just die without seeing a doctor,” Padilla said.
‘Philippines is not for sale’
Reyes accused the Aquino government of “blatantly opening the country to investors.”
“Aquino has put up a sign board that says the Philippines is for sale. The regime uses the rhetoric of good governance as a come-on for investors, when the real incentive is the bargain prices they set for our raw materials and labor. The real incentive is the mega-profits big business can achieve at the expense of the people,” Reyes said.
Bayan noted that the United States has always been the country’s no. 1 investment partner. In the past decade, for instance, foreign direct investments (FDI) from the US accounted for more than 30 percent of the cumulative total, based on data from the BangkoSentralngPilipinas (BSP). During the same period, the US directly absorbed 18 percent of Philippine exports and 16 percent of imports.
“But we are far from being developed and have in fact been further mired in underdevelopment. If anything, these trade and investment numbers simply underscore how we have continued to be Uncle Sam’s source of cheap raw materials, cheap labor and semi-processed goods while at the same time a dumping ground of his surplus goods and capital just like during colonial times,” Reyes said.
Bayan reiterated that a genuine and lasting economic development should be built on strong domestic industries and modernized agriculture, and not on over-reliance to foreign trade and investments.
Padilla said their groups would hols more protest actions against the selling out of social services. He urged the public: “We should show the government that the Philippines is not for sale. Let us unite and show our force – our strong opposition against anti-people policies of the government in connivance with the big, private and foreign investors.”