On the visit of Japan’s top diplomat: What about the Sumifru workers?

DEFEND THE CAMP: Members and supporters of NAMASUFA workers union hold candlelight vigil Friday night (Feb. 8) to defend the workers' camp in Liwasang Bonifacio against demolition threats from city government of Manila.
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Nonprofit organization Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER) calls the attention of Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono as President Rodrigo Duterte received him in Davao City for a three-day official visit. Minister Kono affirmed Japan’s support for peace and stability in Davao region, but was silent on the labor rights violations, red tagging, violent dispersals and murder of banana plantation worker Danny Boy Bautista in connection with Japanese multinational company, Sumifru Corporation.

EILER lamented the official visit’s silence on the serious damages being caused by Sumifru Corporation to the workers’ communities in Mindanao. The lack of empathy for Sumifru workers union namely Nagkahiusang Mamumo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMASUFA) is also palpable. The union members holding a peaceful campout in Liwasang Bonifacio now also face demolition threats from Manila city government.

“President Duterte and Minister Kono did not discuss the accountability of both governments, DOLE, Davao region LGUs and Sumifru Corporation in recognizing the collective bargaining and trade union rights of Sumifru workers. Worse, they turn a blind eye on human rights violations in the business operations of the exporting giant,” Rochelle Porras, EILER executive director said.

“Minister Kono said that Japan supports efforts to revitalize economic activities in the region. He should also underscore the protection of the workers, who are the life and driving force of the region’s economy. Sumifru Corporation after all controls 30% of the banana supply in Japan. That is not possible without the blood and sweat of more than 18,100 Filipino workers producing 19,000 boxes of banana daily, thousands of whom are only paid P365 per day, in contrast to the company’s P19 million gross daily income,” Porras added.

On Sumifru Corporation, EILER restates it strongly condemns the company for denying its long-term workers their regularization and right to living wages, the attacks on workers’ freedom of association and the subsequent violent dispersal of the strike in Compostela Valley on October 11, 2018. The labor NGO emphasized that the right to strike is a fundamental human and trade union right protected by laws and international conventions particularly ILO Conventions 87 and 98 both ratified by the Philippines in 1953, and Japan in 1965 and 1953 respectively.

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