Women’s group condemns Marcos admin’s negligence amidst El Niño crisis

Women’s group condemns Marcos admin’s negligence amidst El Niño crisis

The Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) condemns the negligent response of the Marcos administration to the devastating impacts of El Niño, particularly on peasant women. The administration’s failure to address the needs of peasant communities underscores a pattern of disregard for the welfare of those most vulnerable to environmental and economic crises.

The impact of El Niño on the agricultural sector in the Philippines has been devastating, with over 41 provinces experiencing severe consequences, including the loss of farmlands and crops. As of March 2024, the damage to agriculture amounts to P1 billion, with a significant loss in rice production alone. Around 247,610 farmers and fisher folk are also at risk of bankruptcy and loss of livelihood.

Despite these alarming figures, President Marcos Jr.’s response has been dismissive and insensitive as he refused to declare a nationwide state of calamity. Even before the impacts of El Niño, the poverty incidence among farmers and fisher folk is already alarmingly high. In 2021, the poverty incidence among farmers was at 30% and 30.6% among fisher folk, the highest among sectors. According to the PSA, the agriculture and fisheries sector comprised 10.8 million in 2022, where 2.99 million are women.

The root of the crisis lies in the failure to prioritize the development of local agriculture to the detriment of the livelihood of Filipino farmers. For instance, neoliberal policy of privatization led to monopolization of water resources and distribution that left small-scale farmers at the mercy of private players such as Ayala’s Manila Water, Maynilad of Metro Pacific Investments, and Prime Water of Villar Group. Consequently, only 1.2% or 39,300 hectares of irrigation development target has been reached despite the increased budget allocation to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in the national budget.

Trade agreements and laws like the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA), World Trade Organization Agreement on Agriculture (WTO-AoA), Rice Liberalization Law, and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have favored foreign interests over national development which hinders the growth of the agricultural sector. The push for the pro-foreign ownership “economic” Charter Change further threatens the agricultural sector.

As El Niño subsides and the threat of La Niña looms, the government’s inaction in providing adequate support and resources to mitigate the effects of extreme weather patterns is alarming. Without proper assistance and planning, farmers will continue to face significant challenges and losses due to unpredictable weather conditions and climate change. Coupled with a trend of silencing dissent through militarization and violence, it poses a grave threat to the safety and well-being of farmers, fisher folk, and land rights activists.

The Center for Women’s Resources stands firmly in solidarity with Filipino farmers amidst this ongoing crisis. We echo their demand for urgent government support and an end to neoliberal policies that exacerbate the plight of Filipino farmers. We urge all Filipinos to unite in demanding that the government prioritize the well-being of its citizens, to safeguard our rights to livelihood and democratic rights. #

Threats to PH sovereignty heightens as Pres. Marcos Jr. continues military agreements with US, enters dangerous waters with China

Threats to PH sovereignty heightens as Pres. Marcos Jr. continues military agreements with US, enters dangerous waters with China

Pres. Marcos Jr. is entering dangerous waters by involving the Philippines in the geopolitical war between superpowers US and China. By allowing the participation of well-known US allies like South Korea, Australia and Japan, in this year’s Balikatan Exercises, Marcos Jr. is risking further alienating and potentially worsening relations with China. This decision could escalate tensions in the region and draw the Philippines further in the US-China conflict.

History has shown how such wars affect economies and people’s lives in developing countries that have little to no direct involvement in said conflicts. By agreeing to be a war zone for countries with their own for territorial interests, Pres. Marcos Jr. has consciously allowed the bombing and sinking of lives, security and interests of Filipinos he has sworn to serve. Foreign military exercises in the Philippines have profound and multifaceted impacts on women and children, ranging from displacement, human rights and sexual abuses to environmental damages.

Participation in this year’s Balikatan is set to be larger than before, involving 17,000 forces including around 5,000 AFP troops, 11,000 American soldiers, and support group members, government officials and civilian contractors. The Australian Defense Force and Japan Self Defense Force will participate as observers, with spectators from Japan, South Korea, India, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Germany, and New Zealand.

The exercises become a show of force and display of the alliance between these countries in the WPS where Chinese forces are present, particularly in Mavulis island in Batanes, closest to Taiwan, and west of Palawan. This position diminishes the country’s ability to pursue an autonomous foreign policy and maintain a commitment to peace and mutual respect and collaboration with all nations.

Besides artillery drills, and search and seizure exercises, offensive naval training including sinking exercises or the attacking and sinking of enemy ships are expected to happen in Laoag. This is the first time that Balikatan will exceed the 12-nautical-mile limit, thus reaching international waters. Other drills such as amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, among others are also expected. Newly-acquired weapon systems purchased through the heavy-funded AFP Modernization Program will also be tested including the SPYDER or “ground-based air defense system” acquired under Horizon 2 of the said program. Cyber security training and “information warfare” will also be highlighted in the exercises.

Further, while the Department of National Defense claims that the joint operations among the Army, Navy, and Air Force, in collaboration with foreign military forces under the Philippines’ new Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept (CDAC), is a shift from internal to external defense, there is no clear indication of a departure from counterinsurgency priorities. The recent aerial bombings in Abra, which led to the evacuation of families, suspension of classes, and disruption of economic activities, are indicative of heightened counterinsurgency operations. The ongoing Balikatan exercises and the newly acquired weapon systems and training could potentially fuel further militarization in the country. In fact, since 2021, the US has supplied the Philippines with $2.1 billion worth of weaponry, including jet fighters, missiles, bombs, and howitzers.

The Center for Women’s Resources joins the Filipino people in opposing US war provocations and resisting Marcos Jr.’s excessive reliance on US dominance. Independence and sovereignty would mean nothing so long as uneven military agreements such as EDCA, MDT and VFA exist. We must unite to push for a truly independent foreign relations policy, and resist any attempt that would drag us in imperialist wars that only risks the lives of all Filipino people. #

Filipino women’s conditions plummet under Marcos Jr. false hopes, empty promises

Filipino women’s conditions plummet under Marcos Jr. false hopes, empty promises

Pioneer women’s research institution Center for Women’s Resources opens women’s month with biannual Ulat Lila report on the national situation of Filipino women, March 1, 2024.

“In Marcos Jr.’s second year, while still reeling from the impacts of the pandemic, women are faced with even deeper crises – from unemployment and loss of livelihoods, to declining incomes and rising prices of goods and services. Meanwhile, the profits of foreign and local businesses benefiting from the priority programs of the current administration in infrastructure and trade continue to grow.” – Cham Perez, CWR Executive Director.

In its report, CWR notes how the majority of women experience severe crises and remain part of the most impoverished sectors of society. Perez also mentioned how the worsening poverty faced by Filipino people, including women, is primarily attributed to the scarcity of job opportunities and livelihood with decent wages and adequate income.

Between November 2022 and November 2023, 17.3 million women or 55.4% of women aged 15 years and above were not counted in the labor force.

Meanwhile rural women continue to suffer hunger and sink deeper into debt. Five years into the implementation of the Rice Liberalization Law, rural women endure livelihood losses, hunger and grappling with escalating debt burdens. The absence of sufficient subsidies and assistance forces women farmers to turn to micro-lending institutions to cope with soaring farm input expenses. Particularly in Southern Mindanao, women confront mounting debt as farm input expenses soar and product prices plummet, resulting in minimal or no income from production.

The women’s group is also alarmed by the Marcos Jr administration’s push for Charter Change that will further open the country to foreign investment and possible increase in foreign military presence. “Historically, foreign investments did not automatically translate to jobs and livelihood with decent wages and incomes for Filipino women,” added Perez.

CWR’s report also highlighted that during severe crises, women and children endure heightened abuse and exploitation, especially those from impoverished backgrounds who are particularly vulnerable. According to PNP-CIRAS, there were 19,635 reported cases of violence against women and children (VAWC) from January to August 2023, averaging 92 victims per day during this period. The lack of state support, access to public services and state negligence further exacerbate this abuse.

“Moreover, cases of abuse committed by soldiers and police officers continue. These include the rape cases reported by residents in Negros Occidental, Davao City, and in Cebu. While often dismissed as isolated cases, this is a clear exercise of power and impunity. If law enforcers are perpetrators themselves, where else can victims report cases to? In addition, what is more alarming is the number of cases that were unreported due to fear and lack of access to resources and infrastructures to protect victims,” added Perez.

Amidst the crisis and the people’s resistance, the Marcos Jr. administration continues to intensify repression in both urban or rural areas, targeting members of organized unions, community associations, development workers and women human rights defenders.

“Only two years into the Marcos Jr.’s administration, there have been 23 women political detainees. From July 2022 to June 2023, there were already 8 women victims of political extrajudicial killings,” Perez notes.

The report argues that Marcos Jr. administration uses the same playbook used by predecessors and late dictator father. Laws and government institutions are used as instruments to suppress women and people’s movements. Red-tagging, harassment, surveillance, and various forms of attacks against anyone standing up for their democratic rights remain rampant.

“As long as the crisis persists and the dominant neoliberal system serves the interests of the few while the majority suffer, women will stand united with the toiling masses in their struggle for a just and equitable society. Their continuing assertion and resistance is the most potent and sustainable means to achieve structural transformation,” Perez concludes. #

UNESCAP AGENDA ITEM 2: Thematic Review with focus on “the Summit of the Future”

UNESCAP                                                                                                                 AGENDA ITEM 2: Thematic Review with focus on “the Summit of the Future”

Statement to be delivered by Cielito Perez, Center for Women’s Resources, Philippines 

As we sit here discussing the prospects of the Summit of the Future, women in our communities are grappling with depressed wages, insecurity of jobs and livelihoods, rising food and fuel prices, reduced public services on health, education, social protection, and social welfare. Democratic spaces continue to shrink with increased militarism, fundamentalism, and authoritarian patriarchal regimes. 

While we appreciate the emphasis on human rights and gender equality in the Pact of the Future, it is more important to move beyond mere rhetoric. We are presented with real problems that need real solutions and actions. Member States must demonstrate resolute commitment to dismantling systemic barriers and injustices by a system that takes away wealth and resources from developing countries to developed countries, and thus, exacerbates inequalities within our countries.

Despite affirmations of commitment to the 2030 Agenda, glaring gaps in financing remain unaddressed. In the Asia-Pacific region alone, USD 1.5 trillion is needed annually, to achieve the SDGs. Yet, half of the region’s developing economies rely on external debt to meet our needs, burdening us with crippling debt repayments. As a result, women bear the brunt of austerity measures imposed on us. Meanwhile, ODAs have been declining in quantity and quality and donor countries are failing to uphold their historical commitment to appropriate 0.7% of their Gross National Income towards development assistance. 

We are alarmed by increasing reliance on the private sector to fund the SDGs. The Public Private Partnership approach at different levels, gave more roles to the corporate sector in development policies strengthening corporate capture of our economies. Privatization of essential services and infrastructures widens disparities, depriving and displacing marginalized people.

The Summit also talks about international peace and security, but this will remain elusive as militarism is used to pursue economic and hegemonic interests. There is no peace and inclusive development when military expenditure continues to divert resources away from sustainable development spending. Peace cannot exist when the military-industrial complex profits from wars and conflicts that claim the lives and future of women and children.

We recognize the need to strengthen digital cooperation and harness the potential of science, technology and innovation, and with this, we want a Global Digital Compact that will end the concentration of power in a handful of big digital and tech companies and ensure that technologies will be a tool of development for the most marginalized, and not used to maintain the status quo or reconcentrate much bigger resources and profits in the hands of a few. 

In transforming global governance, we are concerned that we are falling short of realizing the vision of a multilateral system that is more effective, more trusted, more inclusive, and better equipped for the challenges, opportunities, and capacities of the present and the future. It is essential to overhaul the global debt architecture, and prioritize climate finance, and human rights. The Summit of the Future must advocate to democratize global economic and financial governance, referencing ongoing processes such as the UN Tax Convention to tackle illicit financial flows and promote fiscal transparency. 

While the Summit of the Future presents a crucial opportunity to chart a course toward a more just and equitable world, this can be done if, and only if, we acknowledge that the current system has failed and that a new framework of development is needed. We urge our governments to chart a course towards development justice – an alternative model of development that puts people and planet over profit, centering on and respecting human rights and people’s right to development – a future of global equity, of ecological sustainability, of social justice, and genuine peace.

Thank you very much.

ULAT LILA 2024

ULAT LILA 2024

In commemoration of March 8, International Working Women’s Day, CWR | Center for Women’s Resources, in partnership with the UP Diliman Gender Office and Altermidya, will be holding a public forum to present Ulat Lila, its annual report on the situation of Filipino women. For 22 years, Ulat Lila has served as an avenue for researchers, community leaders, advocates, and rights defenders to discuss pressing issues of women from different sectors.Join us on March 1, Friday, 1-5PM at Benitez Theater, College of Education, UP Diliman, Quezon City. You may register at https://forms.gle/mi1kVsiR8HVJgmu56.

#WomensMonth #IWD #DefendFilipinoWomen