Velez: Apec-ted nation

IT'S a 9.8 billion peso two-day event, hosting 20 presidents or prime ministers from Asia and Pacific countries including the US and Australia where many of our OFWs are based and from China and Japan where their goods flood our country.

It’s the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit happening on November 18 and 19 in Manila that would discuss that matters to our state of economy. The investments, finances, jobs, industries, factories, education, services, plantations, where and how this would be developed.

This summit determines the fate of our future and our resources, yet we are not invited.

Not the Mindanao Lumads, the 700 lumad leaders and students who are on their Manilakbayan ng Mindanao protest, who as of presstime Friday, are being forced out from their campout in Liwasang Bonifacio.

The Aquino government sees protesting Lumads, and other activists, as eyesores for the event. So are the urban poor settlers as their shanties are covered by huge walls, reminiscent of former First Lady Imelda Marcos’ penchant of putting up walls during the Miss Universe event in 1974.

The Lumads have much at stake here in the Apec summit, as their ancestral lands have been part of the ‘global economy’ not of their liking, as 500,000 hectares are already occupied by agri-business plantations and million hectares more eyed for palm oil and pineapple.

Apec member countries receive 85% of our exports including agribusiness.

The Apec Summit’s theme is “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World” but it’s an irony that the Lumads, or the 80% of our Filipinos living below poverty are not included. There is a lack of their voice in the group that handles the Apec, the Apec Business Advisory Council, which is composed of CEOs from Ayala Corp., Jollibee, and Magsaysay Transport.

Apec’s website shows that Aquino proposes four issues to be tackled in the summit: Regional economic integration, helping small and medium enterprises in the regional and global trade, investing in human capital development, and building sustainable and resilient communities. Each one presents a problem for the average Juan and Maria.

While SMEs such as ours need support, the reality of taxes, bureaucracy and corruption in our country has been discouraging to entrepreneurs.
The human capital development has led to overhauling our education system into the K to 12 program to fit in with the 12-year basic education system with other Apec countries.

But this has led to questions on preparedness of curriculum and infrastructure, and criticisms from youth activists that the K-12 only leads high school and college students to join the global demand vocational, technical, BPO-heavy and cheap labor.

What kind of sustainable and resilient communities is Aquino talking about, when Lumad communities are being divided apart by military and paramilitary, and self-reliant Lumad schools are vilified and forced to close down by the military and some DepEd officials.

And what about the communities affected by super typhoons such as Tacloban and Baganga and war-torn Zamboanga have barely seen government rehab projects being completed.

So this is Aquino’s daang matuwid, which leads not to prosperity and peace, but to the mouths of other countries that siphon our workforce, our resources and our dreams.

As 70% of investments come from Apec, with the United States taking the dominant role in $1.1 trillion in investment in this region, the road of Apec is a troubled journey for 90 million Filipinos.

Meanwhile if the Lumads get dispersed off Liwasang, they will still continue to march on in their protests, with more supporters from the likes of Cardinal Tagle, conscientious artists like Bayang Barrios and Aiza Seguerra, religious, and environmentalists.

That’s the state of our nation, while Aquino waltzes with giants, the poor and the Lumad are trekking like ants to find a better place away from the madness.

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[tyvelez@gmail.com]
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