Date: Mon, 16 Dec 96 14:29:32 CST
From: (Brian Hauk)
Subject: Workers Protest Imperialist-Led Summit In Philippines
Organization: InfoMatch Internet—Vancouver BC
Article: 2405

Workers Protest Imperialist-Led Summit In Philippines

By Eugen Lepoui and Ron Poulsen, the Militant, Vol.60 no.46, 23 December 1996

MANILA, Philippines—Mass protests the way to answer union-busting! read a large hand-printed placard in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, at a rally of striking unionists here November 25. About 500 workers and youthful supporters of Bukluran Ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP or Solidarity of Filipino Workers) marched past sympathetic onlookers to the Malacan~ang Palace, the offices of Philippines President Fidel Ramos.

An impromptu rally was staged at a police roadblock near the palace with speakers using loudspeakers from on top of a jeepney, the windowless minibuses that are Manila's main public transport. The march was part of a range of protests over the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on that day.

The unionists were also protesting the arrest on November 12 by the military of BMP chair Filemon Popoy Lagman on trumped-up murder charges over an incident some years ago. Lagman was released on November 28 but the charges are still being held over his head, said Sonny Melencio, the international officer of BMP currently in Sydney, Australia, in a phone interview December 5. His detention was clearly timed to coincide with APEC as part of a broader security drive by the Filipino police and military surrounding the event.

A series of conferences and rallies protesting APEC's free market agenda set by Washington and embraced by Manila were held leading up to the APEC summit. The Peoples' Conference against Imperialist Globalization (PCAIG) was associated with Bayan (the New Patriotic Alliance, whose acronym in Tagalog means nation) and the KMU, the May First Movement of unions. The Solidarity of Labor against APEC (SLAM APEC) conference was sponsored by the BMP, the National Confederation of Labor in the Philippines, the KPUP (Fraternity of Union Presidents in the Philippines) and Sanlakas, which describes itself as a multisector alliance.

A third gathering, the Manila People's Forum on APEC, involved non-governmental organization representatives.

These conferences ran concurrently and were covered by the daily Manila papers in the lead up to the APEC summit. Then caravans with several thousand protesters, organized out of these meetings, headed for the APEC meeting at Subic Free Port, the site of the former U.S. naval base and now a tax-free industrial zone for overseas investors. Deliberate harassment at police checkpoints stretched the four hour trip over two days, however, and prevented all but token numbers from arriving in time to protest the imperialist-led conference.

A common theme of speakers at these anti-APEC meetings, was opposition to imperialist globalization, to the multinationals, and to neo-liberalism. What these abstract terms refer to is the reality of Washington's trade offensive against its imperialist rivals, as well as against weaker capitalist classes in semicolonial countries like the Philippines, at a time of worldwide competition over depressed markets and profits. The prevailing politics of the official talks at these conferences was economic nationalism.

The sponsors were the divergent political currents that came out of the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in the early 1990s. In 1986, the U.S.- backed dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos was toppled by mass mobilizations of millions of Filipino working people. The CPP's abstentionism in the face of this popular outpouring, and the subsequent opening up of more democratic space for the workers movement, led to internal divisions and a split in 1994.

The SLAM APEC conference was attended by close to a thousand, mainly workers, in a unused factory. These reporters had numerous discussions with students, workers and some peasants that ranged over broader questions of world politics, from the Russian revolution and its Stalinist degeneration to the character of the Cuban revolution and its leadership; from questions about the worker-peasant alliance to women's liberation. As one young fighter put it, We think you have to understand the world first in order to understand politics here in the Philippines.

APEC currently groups 18 disparate countries including imperialist powers (the United States, Japan, Australia, Canada and New Zealand), the Chinese workers state, and a range of capitalist countries at various levels of underdevelopment, mainly from southeast and east Asia but also Mexico and Chile.

Newsweek's front page issued the week of the APEC summit heralded the Philippines as Asia's New Tiger, a reference to the so-called industrializing or tiger economies of some semi-colonial countries of Asia. But the grinding poverty facing millions of Filipino working people is in stark contrast to the profiteering dreams of imperialist investors from New York, Tokyo, or Sydney. In a country of 73 million, the foreign debt is US$38 billion, up from $26 billion a decade ago under Marcos. As Newsweek explained to its big-business readers eager to exploit cheap labor abroad, The average incomes are less than a tenth those in neighboring Taiwan. However the press is also keeping a nervous eye on the combative ranks of Filipino workers.