Monday, July 28, 2008

Workers demand for SONA: Abolish VAT on oil and power; fund social welfare from debt payments

Press Release
July 28, 2008

The Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) led workers and poor in protest actions for today’s SONA in rejecting the “social welfare program” that will be funded through VAT collections, and calling for a policy shift embodied in a “social reform agenda” to fix the economic crisis.

“The social welfare program is not a safety net for the poor but a lifeline for an illegitimate regime. The people may be poor but they are smart enough to see through GMA’s lies and schemes. Despite billions in dole-outs to some of the most destitute, a plurality of the people does not trust GMA and disapprove of her performance as revealed in the latest Pulse Asia survey,” stated Renato Magtubo, chairperson of PM.

As a first salvo in today’s SONA protests, members of PM and the Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino (AMP) trooped to the NFA warehouse along Visayas Ave. around 7:00 a.m. to highlight its call for “cheap rice for all” and its theme of a “Sonang walang bigas.”

According to Jess Panis, spokesperson of AMP, “The so-called gains from VAT are a deadly poison. VAT collections from oil, not yet including power, will reach more than P18 billion this year yet the dole-outs will not amount to half of it. Most of the worker and poor will not benefit from the misnamed gains of VAT though it was sourced from the blood and sweat of the people since it is a regressive consumption tax.”

Around noon, the PM and AMP mobilization joined the program of the Mamamayan Laban sa Pagtaas ng Presyo ng Langis at Pagkain at Toyota Commonwealth. Then by 3:00 p.m. bishops graced the Mamamayan Laban sa Pagtaas ng Presyo ng Langis at Pagkain activity to launch the 3:00 o’clock protest habit at St. Peter’s Church.

Judy Ann Miranda, secretary-general of PM, meanwhile averred that “The crisis brought about by high prices of food, oil and electricity is a national calamity. While economic relief is necessary for any national calamity, it has to be accompanied by a lasting solution to the economic crisis and is has to be funded by a reallocation of the national budget. A long-term solution must involve a reversal of the present policies as part of a thoroughgoing social reform agenda.”

PM is pushing for the abolition, not just suspension, of the VAT on oil and power, and for the budget for cheap rice, socialized housing, subsidy on basic goods, agrarian reform and other social services to be allocated from the presidential social fund, mandatory savings and debt servicing payments that are worth hundred of billions.

The group believes that liberalization, deregulation and privatization are the root of the inflation in prices. Therefore fixing the economic crisis will start with a reversal of liberalization, deregulation, privatization, cheap labor, labor contractualization and other pro-globalization policies. “This policy shift can only be implemented a new government with the iron will for reform and the firm support of the people,” stressed Magtubo. ###

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