A group of civil society organizations in the Philippines is urging the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to prioritize people’s rights and needs over corporate profits ahead of the Asean Summit that the country will host this 2017.
“The Asean Civil Society Conference/Asean People’s Forum 2017 (ACSC/APF 2017) Philippines National Organizing Committee (NOC) sees the Philippines chairmanship of Asean for 2017 as a good opportunity to advance people’s critique of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) and the current direction espoused by Asean’s economic integration agenda,” said Dr. Eduardo Tadem, president of the Freedom of Debt Coalition, on Tuesday, February 14.
The ACSC/APF 2017 Philippines NOC handed a Valentine card containing its concerns to Ceferino Rodolfo, undersecretary and officer-in-charge of trade policies of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
Rodolfo is the country’s representative to the High Level Task Force on Asean Economic Integration (HLTF-EI).
Among the issues raised by the group were;
*increasing inequalities and continuing dominance of corporate power
*informalization of the labor market and increasing migration concerns
*environmental degradation and the climate crisis
*peace and human security
*human rights and access to justice
*life with dignity.
The Philippines NOC led by the FDC and its co-convenor, PhilWomen on Asean asked that these issues be discussed at the 31st meeting of High Level Task Force on Asean Economic Intergration (HLTF-EI) on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
“Makasisigurado po kayo na itong position paper po na binigay po ninyo sa akin ngayon ay makakarating dun sa HLTF,” Rodolfo said during the meeting with the ACSC/APF 2017 Philippines NOC at the DTI office in Makati.
(I assure you that the position paper that you gave to me today will reach the HLTF.)
Rodolfo said Wednesday’s meeting would discuss various topics, including the progress on free trade agreements.
Rodolfo also said that inclusiveness and innovation would be among the priorities for discussion in the 2017 Asean Summit.
The group said that even though Asean economies were expected to become a single production and market base that would facilitate free flow of goods and skilled labor, the current thrust of the AEC and the Asean integration process itself was influenced by neoliberal interests affirmed by free trade agreements wherein big businesses and transnational corporations would remain its main drivers and beneficiaries where markets and profits were prioritized over the needs of the people.
“The government should review all existing trade and investment agreements, and if necessary terminate those that do not serve the people’s interests,” said Joseph Purugganan, coordinator of Focus on the Global South Philippines and another co-convenor of Philippines NOC.
Chang Jordan, program director of Women’s Legal Bureau, said the Asean regional integration was feared to fail lest it took into account the systemic and intersectional dimension of discrimination, oppression and exclusion.
ACSC/APF is a network of Southeast Asian civil society organizations and social movements that engages the Asean processes to address the issues and concerns of the people such as human rights and access to justice, peace and human security, trade, climate change, migration, and social protection.
The Asean Summit is a semi-annual meeting held by Asean members in connection with economic and cultural development of Southeast Asian countries.