THE IBON Foundation’s “Birdtalk 2024 Yearstarter,” an annual briefing on the economic and sociopolitical condition of the Philippines, served as a forum for students and progressive organizations to examine the situation of the country under the Marcos Jr. administration.
According to IBON Research Head Rosario Guzman, the lower unemployment rate and the hyped economic growth did not translate to more jobs nor additional income for families since there were actually job losses in the manufacturing sector, and the working age population grew amid stagnant employment in the past year.
She also observed that the number of jobless Filipinos who were discouraged have been excluded from the government’s labor force count. The manufacturing sector was also reported to have lost almost a third of its workforce, thus increasing the number of unemployed Filipinos.
Reduced production and a weakening capacity to create jobs, around 80 percent of employed Filipinos in informal and low-paying work, and wage workers in irregular work arrangements were also identified by IBON as data points that undermine the government's claims of progress.
The touted "economic growth" of the Philippines under Marcos mostly benefited the top corporations and economic elite due to stagnant, neoliberal government policies, explained IBON Executive Director Jose Enrique Africa.
Africa said profits mostly went to the biggest companies, investors and oligarchs; while the incomes derived by workers, breadwinners and their families were not enough for them to meet basic needs due to rising prices of goods and services and high inflation. Inequality even among super rich Filipinos and their families was also reported.
Africa added that human rights violations persist under Marcos. Economic slowdown, geopolitical tensions extending to the West Philippine Sea, and political squabbling among Marcos Jr. and Duterte and their allies were all also key political issues during the past year.’
Guzman and Africa asserted the need for fundamental changes in policies to address socioeconomic and political issues. They said the government should support the agriculture and manufacturing sectors and come up with a national industrialization policy.
Africa proposed, for instance, developing Filipino-owned jeepney assemblers as a starting point for sustainable development, instead of relying on vehicle imports and foreign investments to bring about the modernization of public transportation. According to Africa, the biggest constraint to national development remains to be the obsolete neoliberal policy framework.
Finally, Africa explained that the prevailing reasons for Charter change (Cha-cha) are erroneous. Cha-cha, even if limited only to revisions in the Constitution’s economic provisions, cannot resolve the country’s crisis and will only perpetuate the country’s problems.
Foreign investment, even with short term gains, often hinders long-term and genuine national development, said Africa. He added that the hidden motive for Cha-cha, i.e. for Marcos Jr. and allies to gain perpetual power, should be exposed, and called on Philippine social movements, people’s organizations, and progressive groups to be vigilant.
The forum was held on January 18 at the Institute of Biology Auditorium, National Science Complex, College of Science, University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), Quezon City.
“Birdtalk 2024 Yearstarter” was co-presented by the UP Office of the Faculty Regent, All UP Academic Employees Union, and Altermidya. It was conducted :in partnership with: Rappler; Philippine Collegian; Now You Know, PinoyMedia Center; PITIK BULAG; UP Office of the Student Regent; UPD University Student Council; Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) Center for Inclusion and Diversity; Economics Research Society; PARA-Advocates for Inclusive Transport; Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc.; Bunyog; Human Rights and People Empowerment Center; AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People; Inclusive Cities Advocacy Network– (ICAN); Agroecology X; Community Pantry PH; Musika Publiko; Living Laudato Si’; Kodao Productions, SUKI Network; and Council for People’s Development and Governance. PR