Obama’s visit to PH bodes ill for Filipino workers, small firms

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US President Barack Obama’s visit to the Philippines will be a final push for further trade and investment liberalization which will gravely affect Filipino workers and even small enterprises, a labor research group said today.

Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) said Obama’s push for Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal portends greater influx of imported commodities and wider exposure of Philippine economy to external shocks amid the lingering global economic downturn.

“With Obama’s push for TPP, we fear that thousands of workers will be laid off as small enterprises will be jostled out of the market with the entry of big foreign capitalists and greater influx of imported goods. Further trade and investment liberalization will be only for US gain,” EILER executive director Anna Leah Escresa said.

“Pressure will also be exerted in export-oriented special economic zones to maintain a vast pool of cheap and contractual labor, in line with the globalization mantra of global competitiveness and trade efficiency. Labor’s race to the bottom will be much worse,” she added.

With increased pressure in economic zones, Escresa said Filipino workers stand to suffer intensified flexible work arrangements, wage depression, and severe labor rights violations.

EILER explained that there is nothing significant to gain from joining the US-backed TPP agreement, saying the country’s three decades of trade and investment liberalization proves the disastrous implications of neoliberal globalization.

“In the three decades of liberalization, the key economic sectors of manufacturing and agriculture have been in perpetual decline. Employment in manufacturing did not surpass the 4-million mark. Agriculture’s share in the country’s gross domestic product has continued to shrink,” Escresa said.

The group said Obama is also expected to pressure Aquino to fast-track the Charter change (Cha cha) as contained in House Resolution No. 1 to give the TPP agreement a legal basis.

“Workers should lead the protests against Obama’s visit, as they will gravely suffer from the pernicious effects of Cha-cha and the TPP agreement,” Escresa concluded.

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