News and Update: Week of Action against Illegitimate Debt, Unfair trade, and Worsening Poverty kicks off today

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PRESS RELEASE, 14 October 2007 http://debtweekpilipinas.blogspot.com

For more info contact:
Maris dela Cruz E-mail: maris@freedomfromdebtcoalition.org

MANILA, Philippines – Debt, trade, peasant, women, and environmental activists here kick off today week-long protests and creative actions against debt, poverty, and international financial institutions (IFIs), particularly the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – World Bank (WB) which hold their annual fall meeting in Washington, DC on 19-21 October.

In a symbolic protest action at the Quezon Memorial Circle, activists with chains wrapped around their bodies dramatized the people’s sufferings and hardships as the opening event for the Week of Action against Illegitimate Debt, Unfair Trade, and Worsening Poverty.

The week of action in the Philippines beginning today until 21 October is part of the Week of Global Action against Debt and IFIs also taking place worldwide which is co-convened and organized by international and regional debt activists led by Jubilee South.

“The IFIs have caused us sufferings through their policies and conditionalities in exchange for aid or loans, debts in short, for the poor and developing countries like the Philippines. An example of this is the privatization of electric power and water services which resulted in higher rates thereby making these services inaccessible to poor people and further exacerbating poverty in the country,” said the Freedom from Debt Coalition, one of the organizers of the week of action in the country.

FDC added that the national government’s debts have already reached P3.78 trillion, and that debt servicing eats up almost half of the national budget and 80 percent of the country’s tax revenues, resulting in further decrease in the national resources given to basic essential services such as health, education, housing, water and sanitation. What’s worse, according to FDC, is that many of these debts are illegitimate – debts that arose from anomalous transactions, grossly disadvantageous to the government, and were incurred to finance anti-people development projects.

FDC is pushing for the striking off or suspension of payments for illegitimate debts it identified in the 2008 NG budget. The Lower House adopted this proposal when it passed on second reading last October 12 the 2008 General Appropriations Bill. Committee on Appropriations Chairperson Rep. Edcel Lagman announced that more than P10 billion worth of interest payments for anomalous loans or projects tainted with fraud will be suspended pending thorough investigation by the Congress. Included in the payments to be suspended are those illegitimate debts identified by FDC.

Debt and poverty are among the major problems still faced in the country today. According to Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP)-Philippines, also one of the organizers of the week of action, “hunger has risen to its record high status since mid-1998 with 21.5% of families living with hunger.”

Further, the anti-poverty group criticized the government’s official data which says that 1 out of 4 Filipinos are poor and that a person is not poor if she/he has P41 (national poverty threshold) in a day for all her/his food and non-food needs. The group asserted that P41 is not enough for any person to live a decent life. “The government is mocking us all by saying so,” said GCAP.

Meanwhile, the food security issue is one of the subjects of the Congress of the Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK) which started yesterday and will end on October 15, the World Food Day. The PKKK Congress adopts the theme “Strengthen the Voice of the Rural Women in Response to Development and Protection from Violence” to reflect the strategic call to ensure rural women’s participation in all development-related decision-making process, in recognition of their indispensable role in the country’s food security and development.

Other activities lined up for the week include the Faith-based Congress against Illegitimate Debt and PKKK dialogue and dramatic action at the Department of Agriculture on October 15; a photo contest and exhibit by PNLC and National Conference entitled “Slow trade-Sound Farming” by Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS) on October 16; Stand Up and Speak Out Against Poverty and Inequality, a whole day event by GCAP, and workers’ march/picket at ADB led by APMDD-JS groups on October 17; solar café, photo exhibit, and forum by Greenpeace Southeast Asia and basic orientation on climate change by PNCC to grade six pupils of St. Joseph College during the Climate Change and Poverty Day on October 18; dramatic action at the WB office led by Youth Against Debt and peasant groups and a Forum on Aid for Trade by Stop the New Round Coalition and ODA Watch on October 19; and solidarity night against illegitimate debt, unfair trade, and worsening poverty on October 20.

Participating groups in the Week of Action in the Philippines:

Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development-Jubilee South, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Global Call to Action against Poverty – Philippines, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Focus on the Global South, Philippine Sabbath Year Campaign Working Group, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, Philippine NGO Coalition on Food Security and Fair Trade (PNLC), Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), Stop the New Round! Coalition (SNR), ODA Watch, Philippine Network on Climate Change (PNCC), Kilusang Mangingisda, and Sarilaya.

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