APEC, Neoliberalism and the Filipino Workers
By Sonny Melencio
1. In 1996, the Asia-Pacific Cooperation (APEC) summit met in Manila during the administration of Fidel V. Ramos. Then US President Bill Clinton was one of the leaders of the countries gathered at APEC. The summit was held at Subic Freeport, Olongapo City.
2. There were a number of progressive groups which protested against APEC and the neoliberal globalization that it represented. Two alternative conferences were held – one was Slam APEC (Solidarity of Labor Movements Against APEC) which was held in an abandoned factory of Rubberworld in Novaliches, Quezon City. This was joined in by a number of unions under the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) and its allies in the labor movement and other sectors. The other one was the Manila People’s Forum participated in by NGOs and POs (people’s organizations) against APEC and its neoliberal agenda.
3. These two coalitions staged a long caravan which snaked its way from Manila to Olongapo City. It was blocked from entering the APEC Summit site in Subic.
4. The Ramos government’s propaganda on APEC and its agenda of ‘globalization’ focused on its role of creating more jobs, developing agriculture and industries, and therefore stimulating Philippine economy. The government boasted that foreign investments would hurriedly come so the Philippines can join the march towards globalization of the entire economy.
5. On November 18-21, 2015, the Philippines will host another APEC summit. The leaders of the 21 capitalist countries in Asia-Pacific, led by the US President Barack Obama, will meet in Manila. The countries or ‘economies’ belonging to APEC consist of the following: United States, Japan, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, South Korea, Canada, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Chile, Vietnam, Peru, Russia, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
6. After 19 years since the first APEC summit in the Philippines, we can readily say that the promised heaven under APEC and ‘globalization’ failed to materialize. But more than this, we have to look at the role played by APEC in what happened after.
7. APEC impelled an economy based on an economic growth that favored only a small number of landed elite and capitalists in the country. It fosters exclusive growth that marks a growing gap between those who have access to wealth and resources those who have not. This is a type of economic growth that is possible only through increased exploitation of the working class and the wanton abuse of the country’s environment and natural wealth.