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Communist Party of the Philippines

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A SAMPLING: 10 strategic areas of China encroachment in PH

in Countercurrent

Below is a sampler list indicative of what (or how much) the US-Duterte regime has so far achieved as an imperialist puppet and bureaucrat capitalist. All the following demand thoroughgoing investigation, disclosures of what (and how much) rationalizations are behind his avidly welcoming China’s potential stranglehold of the country.

1. China military basing in WPS

With Duterte’s tolerance of China incursions into Philippine maritime areas, the latter is getting bolder in claiming portions of Philippine patrimony. Reports now point to the possibility that in crafting a Code of Conduct for all Asian claimants in the West Philippine Sea, China would likely insist on formalizing its claim and military basing in the Spratly islands and Panatag Shoal where it seems intent on setting up similar installations. Duterte has said they will not oppose China if they do that.

2. In Philippine rivers, mountains, IP ancestral lands

On top of earlier logging and mining concessions by US corporations that originally destroyed vast virgin forests and mountains in the Philippines, China is entering Sierra Madre via Kaliwa River dam project and Cordillera via Chico River Irrigation project. The projects include clearing parts of the forested mountains where the said rivers to be dammed are located. Deals with China include bringing their workers, steel, equipment and other construction requirements.

3. In Philippine telecommunications

In July 2019, Duterte granted a China-funded local telecommunication startup, Mislatel now Dito, a license to operate as the country’s third major telecommunications player. This, after Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy’s Mislatel signed a $5.4-billion investment deal with China Telecom to fund his company’s expansion in the Philippines.

With Duterte’s go-signal, the AFP changed its tune to signify openness to the deal for the said China-backed telecommunications, Dito Telecommunity Corp, to install its system, towers, and facilities within military bases in the country. Initially, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana warned this will endanger the Filipinos’ privacy, security and a vital industry that should have been firmly under Philippine control.

4. In power industry

The State Grid Corporation of China, the second largest firm in the world in 2018, owns 40 percent of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP). The Chinese firm is majority owner as the other owners, Filipino taipans Henry Sy and Robert Coyuito, each owns 30 percent. The Duterte government says the Filipinos are in control of the corporation, but reports said the Chinese are the ones maintaining and have operational control.

Privately owned NGCP is in charge of operating, maintaining and developing the Philippines’ state-owned power grid, an interconnected system that transmits gigawatts of power at thousand volts from power generators to consumers. NGCP holds the 50-year franchise and 25-year concession contract to operate and maintain the country’s transmission system. Their franchise began in 2009.

The NGCP went to Chinese owners in 2008 under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Having a monopoly of this strategic utility, the NGCP profits immensely from power transmission.

5. In oil exploration and drilling

Other countries ruled also by tyrants try to strike a balance between getting more out of their oil first for themselves and second for their population. In the Philippines, the would-be gains would first be cornered by China. One of the 29 deals Duterte signed with China during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Manila in November 2018 was the joint oil and gas exploration deal. Officials of the Duterte regime including National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon approved the 60-40 sharing agreement. Before 2019 ended, China and Duterte governments have signed the terms of reference and formed as well as convened the joint committee comprised of representatives from China and PH.

Filipinos from various walks of life condemn the deal saying it has all the makings of a lopsided agreement. Even if 60-40 sounds in favor of the Philippines, Filipinos have little to no safeguard against probable 100% control by China of the entire operation, considering it will lead the exploration and drilling activities, using its manpower and equipment.

6. Trade imbalance favors China

Duterte and Communications chief Sec. Martin Andanar boasted that with their friendly ties with China, it is now a major trading partner. But data show this trade partnership is lopsided and in favor of China. Philippine imports from China rose to US$22 billion in 2018, while its exports to China were worth only US$8.8 billion.

7. Filipinos losing its waters and marine resources to China

On its Spratlys military bases, China has installed surface-to-air missile systems in three artificial islands: the Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross), Zamora Reef (Subi Reef), and Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef). These islands have become no-go zones for Filipinos because of Chinese military intimidation. Also, these installations have killed precious corals and the marine life around them.

China continues to bar Filipino fishers from Panatag Shoal and they are getting bolder at claiming ownership of it. Chinese Coastguard patrols the area, driving away passing ships including puny boats of Filipino fishers. The fishers have complained that for the longest time, they have been the “frontline casualties” of Chinese incursions.

Reclamation projects for China-funded infrastructure have also started to deprive many Filipinos of their homes and livelihood. There is a long-standing plan to reclaim at least 2,700 hectares of south Manila Bay for the P550 billion ($10 billion) Sangley Point International Airport (SPIA) in Cavite, 35 kilometers from Manila. Its proponent is the Cavite provincial government under a joint venture with China state-owned Chinese Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) and local partner Lucio Tan-led MacroAsia Corp. Once awarded to the joint venture, the Chinese partner will effectively control the SPIA, reports said.

In another development, local fishers reported as of October 2019 that heavy equipment were being used to dump debris on a fishpond connected to Manila Bay and adjacent to the public cemetery in Bacoor City. No information has been posted on whether it is a public works project or a private construction activity. A Senate hearing previously unearthed a proposed 420-hectare Bacoor Reclamation Project covering the area. Faced with fishers’ protests, Environment Department officials committed to cancel the project as it is also detrimental to the Supreme Court writ of mandamus to rehabilitate Manila Bay.

8. China-driven ‘Golden age’ of gambling in PH

Under Duterte government, the gambling industry enters a ‘golden age.’ Overall revenues quadrupled to $4.1 billion during the first three years of his presidency and the key driver is the boom in POGOs (Philippine offshore gaming operations). After China banned these gaming centers the operators have flocked to the Philippines and set up shops with Mandarin-speaking workers. In August 2019 a furor broke out about POGOs particularly on issues of undocumented Chinese workers, China’s request to curb the spread of Chinese-operated POGOs, and the US and the AFP warning against potential security threats with the gaming centers locating near Philippine (and US) military camps.
The Duterte administration has defended the POGOs, citing the revenues and tourism it brings in. Plans were then made to corral the gaming operators into “POGO islands,” to be built in Fuga island in Cagayan province and in Grande and Chiquita islands in Subic Bay.
POGO employs up to a hundred thousand workers, mostly Chinese. Members of the ruling class take differing positions on the POGO issue, driven by “security” concerns, “patriotic” concerns, and most likely also division of spoils. But they act nearly the same in not minding the deleterious impact on the masses of the construction of POGOs, or the working conditions of both the Chinese and Filipino workers who need to look out and guard against being played off against each other.

9. China’s ‘debt-trap diplomacy’

Some US officials unblushingly criticize China’s predatory loan deals used to expand influence globally. As if their banks and corporations aren’t doing the same, they warn countries and former colonies against China’s “debt-trap diplomacy,” its use of “opaque contracts and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt and undercut their sovereignty.”
They have a point, true, but it’s not coming from the goodness of their hearts but from self-interest and insecurity. China has embraced capitalism even if they still call themselves ‘communist’. Its President Xi Jinping is more assertive overseas and tightening controls at home—pretty much like what every other advanced capitalist country in the world is doing today. China no longer deals only with countries the US or the west have left out or considered “rogue states”. Now it is the most significant rival to the US, with which western capitalist countries have to compete more forcefully to maintain their old spheres of influence.
What the US puppet Duterte has been misrepresenting as independent foreign policy is his tactic of selling out not just to US but also to today’s cash-rich China. His administration craves funders for “Build, Build, Build” and China obligingly wants to integrate this program into its Belt and Road Initiative. The latter is a China spending/lending spree of up to $1 trillion in 17 countries in three continents. It traces the ancient path of Silk Road as it seeks to redirect the flow of trade and people traffic around China.
In the Philippines the China-funded infrastructure projects pose a double threat: 1) to the people hit by dislocation or forced landgrab of their communities and livelihood; and 2) to all Filipinos who will bear the added debt burden, and will have to cough up higher user-pay fees to use the infrastructure. Compounding the second is the threat pointed out by Justice Antonio Carpio: “In case of default by the Philippines in repayment of the loan, China can seize, to satisfy any arbitral award in favor of China, ‘patrimonial assets and assets dedicated to commercial use’ of the Philippine Government… including the oil and gas in the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea, and the gas fields in the Reed Bank.”

10. Drugs

In the Senate hearings last September about the police and military generals’ involvement in the drug trade, it was confirmed that Duterte’s top police officers were involved in criminal activities. In a statement, the CPP said it shows the so-called war on drugs is a big hoax foisted on the people.

The Senate hearings resulted in the untimely resignation of Police Chief Oscar Albayalde. Implicated in the issue of “recycling” drugs that were press-released to have been impounded by authorities, Albayalde left his position with full perks and retirement benefits intact.

This is not the first revelation of police and military involvement in the drug trade. Time and again, the “narco-lists” and witch-hunts or ‘cleanup’ of rival drug trade syndicates including their protectors in government positions have led to killings and arrests, including the alleged involvement of opposition Senator Leila de Lima in drug syndicates. Aside from using the drug war to desensitize the people to killings and sideline the opposition, the police and military have lately tried to use the tokhang-style joint operations against unarmed activists.

On this, the CPP says: “Duterte, who is publicly known to be friends with big Chinese druglords, has made himself the overlord of the illegal drug trade in the country by using the police and his police-controlled vigilantes to make every syndicate kneel to his power. He has assigned loyal officers in the AFP to control large-scale smuggling through the Bureau of Customs. Under Duterte, the illegal trade in shabu, cocaine, ecstasy and fentanyl has reached new levels.”

Crime and politics meld in the PNP, as well as in the AFP, adds the CPP, as it points to how the police and military have repeatedly proved to be “a battleground of rival political cliques and criminal syndicates in the illegal drug trade, jueteng and other forms of illegal gambling, prostitution, human trafficking and others.” The police and military officers’ loyalty to one or another rival criminal network, and at the same time, to one politician or another rival dynasty or party, is the thread that connects the spate of killings even of politicians already in jail or under police protection.

Treasonous Duterte

The Filipino people need to deliver an important message to the Duterte administration. His regime is the actual terrorist and persona non grata. His rule is giving rise to monstrous problems for Filipinos, endangering them now and in the future. What his regime is doing to the people, the country, and environment spurs the people’s wrath and calls for justice.

Under Duterte, the Philippines continues to be in an economic stranglehold of foreign capital and US-sponsored neoliberal economic policies. The country remains a backward neocolony—with the vast poor in dire strait. Add to US and allied superpowers’ established stakes in the country’s economy, government and military, China is also establishing footholds via debts, investments and illegal occupation.

Duterte has turned to China to add to his bureaucrat loot, and paved the way to increased US presence to prop up the puppet government and secure investments. The U.S. military aid to the Philippines amounting to $193.5 million in 2018 alone (9.77 trillion PHP) has helped fund state-orchestrated attacks on the Filipino people.

But Duterte’s war against revolutionaries is only further exposing him and the AFP and police for cowardice. They conduct focused and synchronized armed operations against unarmed and legitimate progressive groups, shrinking the democratic space they claim to defend as they weaponize the civilian bureaucracy against critics.

Like any other puppet president, Duterte cannot brook ouster moves, public protests and opposition. An untimely exit from Malacañang will cut his loot, clip the wings of his clique and small dynasty of local politicians, and open him to prosecution for his crimes. So, he is turning more fascist as his term’s end nears.

Duterte and his ilk seriously need to be taught lessons in history. They cry to get a taste of what the Filipino people do to tyrants. It is high time he gets booted out by the people. His rampage deserves no less. ###

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RIDING THE PROWLING CHINESE DRAGON: China’s Economic Hold in the Philippines

in Countercurrent

“This is the Chinese Coast guard. This is under the jurisdiction of the Chinese government,” blared a Chinese officer who tried to bar a cargo ship from sailing through Panatag/Scarborough Shoal, a part of the Philippine territory off Zambales province in the South China Sea. His action has sparked an outcry, but as of this writing, the Duterte administration continues to avoid offending China.

Its officials—from Malacañang to the Foreign Secretary to the Philippine Coast Guard— have all refused to call out China’s infraction on Philippine sovereignty and on freedom of navigation. Meanwhile, at a Senate hearing around the same period, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stirred patriotic outrage when he downplayed the Chinese ships’ firing of flares as Philippine ships navigated the West Philippine Sea.

These are just two incidents in a series of cases of Chinese incursions into Philippine territory, all unchallenged, being dismissed, and at times even justified by the Duterte regime. Why would a tough-talking and cursing president, who advertises his stance as “charting an independent foreign policy,” court the people’s ire with blatant subservience? Perhaps, this question should begin with “How much…?”

An imperialist puppet’s gamble for bureaucratic loot

The first time President Rodrigo Duterte visited China three years ago, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) already enumerated ways in which the Filipino people may benefit from ties with China. This would start ONLY IF Duterte strives to build diplomatic relations with China on the basis of equality, mutual respect, and mutual benefits, the CPP said at the time.

But Duterte did not listen. Instead he has shown that he is not at all capable of building diplomatic relations with China on the basis of equality, mutual respect, and mutual benefits. He has persistently desisted from asserting the country’s victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, claiming China would wage war against the Philippines if he did so (which has no basis in fact). Thus, he has let pass China’s repeated incursions into our country’s extended economic zones (under the United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS) and bully Filipino fishers at Panatag Shoal.

Probably believing that in the prevailing system, presidents like him couldn’t be anything other than the worst imperialist puppets and bureaucrat capitalists of the day, Duterte is angling for whatever gains he could get from deals with the imperialists. His administration calls China an “integral partner” in their P4.23-trillion infrastructure buildup.

By now it is clear the only change that has come with Duterte is that besides serving US imperialist interests (while feigning to be distancing from it), his administration is moonlighting with another imperialist power, letting it latch on to wherever it can partake of the country’s riches and potentials.

The country’s foremost bureaucrat capitalist finds in China a promising huge pot of bureaucratic loot as former sources have dried up due to the economic slowdown, or are compelled by their citizens to raise questions on and denounce continuing extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations under his increasingly tyrannical rule. On this issue the Duterte administration is allergic to what he deems as foreign intervention.

“Duterte is in a hurry and desperate to secure his kickbacks from foreign loans and contracts from China,” the CPP said in a statement when Duterte still had three years in power. Duterte’s list of projects, flagship or otherwise, has since continued to evolve or get revised.

After three years in power, only nine of Duterte’s 75 listed “Build, Build, Build” projects begun construction. By November 2019, Duterte dropped the projects considered too long or unfeasible. It ‘overhauled’ the list such that only 30-plus of the original projects remained, and added another 68 to the “evolving” list. Half or 50 of Duterte’s flagship infrastructure projects will be funded by Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) or foreign loans, 23 are to be fully funded by the Philippine government, 24 by public-private funding, and only two will be privately financed.

Duterte’s panic over delayed delivery of the loot is palpable. Past midway in his six-year term, the amount supplied so far by China in loans and grants is still far short of the US$9 billion promised by President Xi Jinping during their first meeting in October 2016. Having already signed numerous deals with the Chinese government, his administration wants to proceed with implementing the projects ASAP so the funds could start pouring in. That can happen, of course, only if his administration can overcome the public criticisms and protests over the lopsided provisions of the deals that have been made public, criticisms for the lack of transparency on deals that have yet to be disclosed, and delays in completing the technical and legal requirements that include feasibility studies, environmental clearances, and the freely given consent of communities that would be adversely affected.

A sample of what the Duterte administration can do to push its deals with China: in time for the visit of Chinese vice-premier Hu Chunhua in October 2019, it railroaded the release of environmental compliance certificate and threatened to use police power against public protests on the Kaliwa Dam project in Sierra Madre. Yet, the protests were such that as of February 2020, his economic manager confirmed they have barely started construction in Kaliwa.

Protests against the China-funded projects hinder its implementation. Past debacles with China-funded projects such as the ZTE and Northrail also cast its shadow, slowing down Duterte’s hope for inflows of ODA from China. Until December 2019, the Chinese government wanted meetings with the Duterte government “to thresh out issues involving the Duterte regime’s big-ticket infrastructure and development projects that are being implemented with funding support from China.”

To push through with the projects Duterte needs to remove all constraints including protests. His government has busied itself imposing a de facto martial law since establishing the National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in December 2018, ordering to place civilian bureaucracies and local governments under the task force.

But Duterte cannot trample on the people’s rights and welfare on the way to collecting his loot and still maintain his dubious popularity. To deceive supporters, he is passing off his “China pivot” as “independent foreign policy.” He is also using it as leverage for demanding more support and funds from the Philippines’ long-time neocolonial master, without really upsetting the established “special relationship” with US imperialist overlords.

In fact, as a US puppet, Duterte is providing exemplary services to his master. He sets the stage for the Pentagon and the Department of National Defense-Armed Forces of the Philippines to use the China card to both increase and extend US military presence in the country. The US has been allowed to have another military facility, this time within a Philippine Air Force base in Palawan. Under Duterte, the US military and the AFP have also conducted an increasing number of war exercises designed to counter China’s military build-up in the South China Sea.

“The aim of these exercises is to ensure that the US will remain militarily dominant in order to protect its economic interests in the Philippines and across the region,” the CPP said in a statement during the Kamandag US military exercises in October 2019.

As president and “public servant,” Duterte continues to expose himself as a total scam. And so, to block protests and increasing calls for his ouster while he strives to make his puppetry to US and China more profitable for himself and his clique, he continues to militarize the bureaucracy and the entire government.

In 2019 his government allowed a military rampage nationwide on the basis of their ‘whole of nation approach’, a harsh and more insidious martial law than that carried out for 14 years by the ousted fascist dictator Ferdinand Marcos (whom he has politically rehabilitated by allowing his preserved corpse buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in 2017).

Enter the dragon: World’s No. 2 power develops its own stranglehold in PH

The Duterte regime has looked the other way as China finished reclaiming and installing military installations over three reefs within Philippine territorial waters. Duterte has all but given the green light to China’s staking claim and proceeding with plans to construct more installations at the Panatag Shoal. He is all but allowing also what amounts to China’s military encirclement of the seas around Luzon, sans any written treaty.

Commercially, China is also gaining humongous ground with the lopsided “joint” deal it signed with Duterte to explore and drill for oil in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea. Officials from the Duterte regime and China are meeting regarding the “joint” oil exploration.

The increased Chinese presence in Philippine coastal areas, islands and waters has placed fisherfolk and urban communities at a grave disadvantage. China’s aggressive grab of Filipinos’ traditional commercial fishing grounds has worsened the fisherfolk’s lot.

Not just in Philippine reefs and seas, China is also boldly entering vital Philippine industries and staking claim over rich natural resources in ancestral territories of indigenous peoples through opaque or lopsided deals with Duterte. As earlier stated, China’s actual fund release in Duterte’s big-ticket “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure projects is so far negligible. But the projects where it is bound to come in, per the deals already signed, and where other private and state-controlled Chinese firms are coming in are many times bigger and more dangerous than the NBN-ZTE deal for which Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo got burned late in her disputably prolonged nine-year term.

Some of the strategic industries where China loans or investments have come in or are in the pipeline include energy (China already owns as much as 40% stake in the National Grid of the Philippines), telecommunications (Dennis Uy’s Mislatel/Dito Telecommunity), water, heavy railways, and various infrastructure projects such as bridges and highways, real estate development including economic zones and islands to be devoted more or less exclusively for Chinese business and gambling operations.

These businesses being opened to China may be par for the course for any imperialist puppet, but Duterte is adding more, “industries” and “trading” such as gambling and drugs. Given Duterte’s red carpet for China, the Philippines has been putting up dens for gambling operations for mostly Chinese operators. Duterte, who has been publicly known as friendly to Chinese drug lords, has also repeatedly been implicated in the illegal drugs trade. The CPP describes him as the overlord of illegal drugs trade in the country.

For now, Duterte has already shown how he has been selling out the country and committing high treason. While Duterte is not the first Philippine puppet president to have entered into lopsided deals with China, his regime surely leads in ramping it up. ###

DUTERTE’S REAL LEGACY: Criminal Neglect at Facing Epidemics and Disasters

in Countercurrent

Pee on Taal volcano, eat ash fall, and slap the (novel corona) virus—these were Pres. Duterte’s responses to the current disasters that Filipinos confront today.
The Taal volcano eruption and the novel corona virus epidemic highlight the ineptness and indifference of the Duterte regime at serving the needs and interests of the Filipino people. His regime is accountable for its negligence and ill-preparedness, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said in a statement on February 2020.

The Duterte government is aware that calamities and epidemics regularly visit the Philippines.

These would not have automatically turned to disasters if the government took steps to prepare for, and mitigate, disasters; and if the government has been addressing the people’s vulnerabilities to calamities and health emergencies such as the problem of overcrowded urban poor communities, malnutrition, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, and lack of access to free or affordable health care.

Disasters exacerbate the poor people’s insecurities that stem from these vulnerabilities.

Instead, the Philippine government has mostly been doing the opposite. The Duterte regime is INTENTIONALLY inept and indifferent to the possible disastrous impacts of calamities and health emergencies to ordinary Filipinos. It is not due to lack of foresight. It is a predictable outcome of its conscious decisions. It opts to excel more in bowing to its US and Chinese imperialist masters, for its bureaucrat capitalist gains, at the expense of the Filipino people’s lives.

It is plain to see in the series of decisions they have taken in the face of the latest health emergency and disaster to hit our shores.

“Afraid of China’s admonition, Duterte has opted to secure his selfish interests over the people’s welfare,” the CPP said. Duterte acceded to a travel ban from the virus’ country of origin only after widespread condemnation of his inaction, after the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency and various governments have already taken drastic measures to limit the spread of the virus.

SLASHED BUDGET, WEAK HEALTH CARE SYSTEM FOR THE POOR

Aggravating the people’s vulnerability to epidemics is the dismal state of public health in the country. “Having decreased the health budget year upon year since taking power, the Duterte regime failed to fund enough medical experts and equipment to determine and treat highly contagious diseases,” the CPP said.

The Duterte regime has continued the neoliberal reforms turning health care into a for-profit operation.

The poor majority are increasingly deprived of free public health services but, looking at the shiny private or public hospitals boosted by Philhealth, the Health Secretary claimed we are “not a country with a weak health care system.”

Despite the dismal state of public health, he also said we’re not among the “really poor” countries the World Health Organization worried about in coping with the global health emergency.

Such illusionary denial is easily shattered by facts. The country’s latest doctor-to-patient ratio remains too low at 0.3 per 10,000. Research thinktank Ibon said this is far below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended ratio of 1-1.5 doctors per 1,000 population.

In the Philippines, the most vulnerable from the corona virus are the urban poor communities and rural areas under-served or not being reached by health services, and are also scarcely informed about the virus, said the Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan-Bikol (MAKIBAKA, an allied organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines) said in a statement. In Bicol, as it is in other regions, there are too few public hospitals and most of it are in the cities, the underground women’s group said. “Often, these hospitals lack equipment or the clinics in the barrio lack personnel and don’t open everyday.”

The Duterte government’s conscious indifference to peoples’ welfare shows most starkly in the national budget.

Duterte means business in waging war against the people, conducting surveillance and deploying committees to gag critics and establish military control of civilian agencies. It allocated billions of funds for these.

It has put the people’s money where its war-mongering mouth is. It has done the opposite toward social services.

While plonking billions for military rampages that victimized mostly peasants and indigenous peoples, it has been excising funds direly needed for health emergencies and disaster preparedness.

It slashed by more than half (56 percent) the Department of Health’s (DOH) budget for epidemiology and disease surveillance program, allocating it just P115.5 million compared to P263 million last year. Its health emergency program is at 830 million pesos, or just PhP8 for every Filipino.

If the Duterte government had pursued effective emergency plans and crisis strategies, our scientists and facilities are “more than capable of performing procedures for faster and more sustainable dealing with health emergencies,” the patriotic scientists’ group Agham said in a statement.

Filipino diagnostic capabilities have a lot of room for improvement but it’s severely hampered by the all-time-low budget given the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST). Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdie Gaite said the low DOST budget means little to no funding for potential research in genomics that could have helped improve our diagnostic capabilities.

The decreasing share for health in the national government budget shows the low priority given to this, said research group IBON. Even the crucial program meant to ensure we would have a wide range of human health resources including doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists, allied health professions, community health workers, social health workers and other health care providers and management and support personnel has been losing funding. IBON noted that the budget for the health department’s Health Systems Strengthening Program was cut by Php6.6 billion from Php25.9 billion to Php19.3 billion.

How would an underfunded, undermanned and ill-equipped workforce address public health challenges such as the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)?

The same criminal neglect in past and future natural and man-made disaster has been repeatedly pointed out in the national budget. A puppet government intent to survive or prolong his or her term while amassing bureaucrat loot from projects with imperialists just can’t seem to be bothered to correct this historical trend.

SLASHED BUDGET, ILL-PREPARED FOR DISASTERS

The Philippines is disaster-prone. It is in the Pacific Ring of Fire. It has active volcanoes. It has long been ripe for the Big One temblor. It regularly gets visited by typhoons. Portions of the archipelago are at risk of sinking from the predicted higher searise. In response, defying logic and this annual tally of worsening calamities, the Duterte government has been slashing the budget for disaster risk management. The Taal volcanic eruption illustrates the disastrous bent of puppet governments such as Duterte’s.

As hundreds of thousands of Filipinos reel with little to no rehabilitation yet in sight following the Taal Volcano eruption last January 12, and before that, the earthquakes and typhoons late last year, the Duterte regime’s lack of genuine concern for the Filipino people is starkly revealed.

Never mind the photo ops of government soldiers handing out relief packs (donated by the private sector) or forcing people to vacate their endangered homes (a core strength of the state troops lies in driving people out of their homes). Never mind the DILG Secretary and former Armed Forces Chief Eduardo Año asking for donations. Filipinos voluntarily give that and have in fact been doing that even without Año asking for it. The questions that reverberated following his calls for donations (“Why can’t the government take care of that when the Filipinos have been taxed to death?,” “Why do you spend so much for this and that but allocate a pittance for disasters?”), and the “shocked” responses by some lawmakers at “revelations” that they themselves slashed P4-billion from the already whittled down calamity fund for 2020. All these point to a government that shamelessly institutionalizes criminal neglect of its citizens’ needs.

That it has been caught flat-footed with meager budget for new calamities only shows it has not in the first place really thought of the people’s welfare.

Of the reduced P16 billion budget for calamity funds in 2020, only P7.5 billion can go to new disasters. The rest were already earmarked for relief and rehab of victims of earthquakes and typhoons from late last year and the still unimplemented Marawi rehabilitation. Even traditional politicians note that P7.5 billion is not enough for the more than 200,000 people deprived of livelihood and homes because of Taal’s eruption—this is just one calamity, and 2020 has just started.

BUT THERE’S MONEY IN DISASTERS

Worse than negligence and ineptness, the government is using the disaster to advance business interests and remove the people opposing the scheme. There is a threat, aired by the DILG, that in the guise of ‘rehabilitation,’ they might permanently drive away the people who used to live around the Taal Lake.

“Batangueños must be vigilant to not allow this rehabilitation effort to turn into a profiteering scheme—the 2017-2022 CALABARZON Regional Development Plan has initially proposed that Taal Lake can serve as an ecotourism and leisure zone to maximize its tourism potentials and stimulate the development of new scenic lakeside communities,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Southern Tagalog said.

Against the DILG’s proposed permanent ban of human settlement in Taal Volcano’s 14-km radius danger zone, the group calls on the public and scientific community to conduct first a comprehensive investigation and environmental impact assessment.

Duterte’s promised “aid” involves P25,000 loans, an “uncalled for” offer at this time, said Agham. Batangas’ economy is mostly driven by agriculture.

Rather than offer loans to the disaster victims, the government must fully support the farmers and the fisherfolk affected by the calamity, Agham reasoned.

The National Democratic Front in Southern Tagalog (NDFP-ST) urges the people to also be on guard against “corrupt politicians and officials of the reactionary government who will take advantage of the calamity to pocket millions of calamity funds earmarked for the people.”

OUSTING DUTERTE A PATRIOTIC DUTY, BUILDING THE PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT A NECESSITY

Today the Duterte regime not only has to answer for its neglect of the country’s health programs and disaster risk preparation and mitigation, it must account for its continuing attacks on the people. Even under calamities, the Duterte regime continues to malign progressive peoples’ organizations as they take it upon themselves to mobilize for the disaster survivors’ relief and rehabilitation.

The youth group Anakbayan’s Tulong Kabataan for instance has successfully mobilized the youth for relief and rehabilitation efforts. But last January 20, they flagged the Duterte’s P36-billion funded National Task Force-End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) whose Facebook and Twitter pages red-tagged Anakbayan. The youth group said it’s a “desperate and pathetic move to attack our organization and to distract the people from Duterte’s criminal negligence over the Taal eruption.”

Right from the first days of volcanic eruption the NDFP has mobilized people to send help. It provided immediate aid and relief and muscle in the organized move to safer locations.

While praising the Filipinos’ warmhearted and fast bayanihan, the NDF called on the people to demand greater funds for relief and rehabilitation for those affected by Taal’s eruption.

“Even more so now, there is the pressing need for the people in the regions visited by calamities to unite, mobilize and struggle for calls such as long-term moratorium in farmers’ paying of land rent to their landlord, or their yearly payment for certificate of land ownership (CLOA) under the bogus agrarian reform of the fascist US-Duterte regime, and moratorium also in paying back the high-interest loans from finance institutions and cooperatives,” the NDF-ST said in early January.

Increasing the people’s capacities to prepare for disasters and health emergencies necessitate improving their livelihoods—and this could only start with implementing genuine agrarian reform.

Orienting the government to genuine public service necessitates changing that government.

It has been decades of a corrupt, inefficient, insensitive and criminally negligent puppet governments in the Philippines.

With the corona virus and Taal volcano eruption, Filipinos see again the rottenness of their government. As the regime dawdled, the call for Duterte’s ouster trended on social media.

The Filipino people has a strong, solid basis for demanding Duterte’s ouster. He has tried to forestall it through faked theories and wild accusations. Now, however, with his left and right crimes against the people, he begs to be ousted.

As events unfold, it is clear that while the likes of Duterte is in power, the Filipino people will only get bludgeoned deeper into poverty, suffering bitter oppression, as the NDF-ST concluded in a statement early February. It added that, it is a must to oust the likes of the Duterte regime, and replace it with a leadership that has genuine concern for the people’s welfare, and ready to defend the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country from imperialist intervention and neoliberal impositions. ###

PHOTOS FROM: Aljazeera / CNN Ph / Gulf News / Rappler

#OustDuterte

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