On March 8, 2016, International Women’s Day, two hundred (200) strong women, coming from different sectoral groups of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) stage their protest to denounce PNoy government’s mismanaged and unfit economic policies. Women call for Care Economy and perform the "Women’s ‘Economic’ Fitness Calisthenics” also to bring forth the challenge to electoral candidates in making our economy fit.
Women as economic managers of Filipino households, decry the multiple burdens they will continue to bear, with Pres. PNoy leaving them a staggering P6.4 Trillion debts (of which P4.16-Trillion alone was borrowed during his term). Women denounce its continued adherence to the flawed fiscal policy that is based on the Marcosian law of automatically paying debts. Consequently, religiously paying the foreign debt according to the harsh terms of the creditor, currently taking up an average of 27.21 percent of annual public revenues automatically earmarked for interest payments, while principal amortization has eaten up an average of 67.61 percent of new borrowings, restraining spending for economic and social services, and leaving little space for funding pro-poor initiatives.
Under PNoy’s term, an average of 48.2 percent of government borrowings from 2011 to 2015 automatically went to amortizing existing debts, while an annual average of 15.6 percent of the national budget were allocated first to interest payments before appropriations for its economic and social programs, projects and activities.
The PNoy government, following conscientiously the neoliberal paradigm, with Central Bank and its Department of Finance seeing inflation as the dragon to be slain, is biased against an active and flexible fiscal policy that would put the focus on job creation, and structural reforms that would raise the incomes of the poor and make them a source of demand to spur economic growth. Also guided by the idea that it is foreign corporations and the rich that are the source of wealth, the PNoy government is stuck with tax, investment, and incomes policies that favor these groups while shifting the burden of providing revenue to the middle class and the poor, including women via VAT and excise taxes.
Mae Buenaventura, FDC Vice President explains, “The taxes collected from the Philippine economy ends up not being re-channeled back as social or economic services, but goes out of the Philippines as payments for the government’s debts. This unresolved debt problem has resulted in the government’s failure to meet its obligations to the people, or social debt as a percentage of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The women are most impacted on the financial and economic hemorrhage the Filipino people is experiencing due to massive debt service requirements.
The President’s social debt in the sector of education and health alone amounts to P7 trillion, with average education spending to GDP at 2.7% from 2006-2012 and 3.66% health spending to GDP (with 1.39% in 2013) as reported in the Philippine Official Gazette. The country continue to fall short from the UNESCO standard of 6% of GNP provision for adequate education for all with only , and the World Health Organizations standards requiring government budget allocations equivalent to 5% of gross domestic product to provide adequate health programs.
Because of misprioritized spending and regressive revenue generation, women’s essential needs have been compromised, leaving them with uneccesary burdens from the meager allocation resulting to the fiscal policy of the PNoy government. Women as nurturers and caregivers, have to take on the multiple tasks for the health, well-being and development of their families, providing for food on the table, ensuring roof over their heads and education for their children.
Women need not die from giving birth as CEDAW and the Magna Carta of Women was passed over the last decade assuring women’s health from birth until death. But the country continue to have higher maternal mortality ratio, for every 100,000 live births in the Philippines, 114 mothers die during pregnancy (WHO, 2015). Mothers continue to struggle with sending their children to school as their efforts are not matched by ample government service.
Women continue to burden their family’s security with regards to their shelter needs, as government’s backlog on housing continue to rise, currently estimated at 5.5 million and projected at 15 million by 2030 (according to the HUDCC report 2015). Around 22.8 million people live in slums in the Philippines (United Nations Commission on Human Rights and Homeless International), of which 1.2 million are children (70,000 of them in Metro Manila) who peddle goods or beg in the streets to live.
The alternative for an economically fit Philippines? Women fight for Care Economy, with an economy and economic life that ensures the provisioning for human life in all its fullness, integrity and dignity. These include not only those involved in what is called production and market economy; but also and more importantly, an economy that includes reproductive and care work . These take place not only in the public domain but also within the context of the family and household, not only within the market but also in the non-market sphere made possible primarily through the unrecognized and un(der)valued labor of women.
The FDC Women believes that economy and economic life is not about just ensuring human survival nor the allocation of scarce resources. The economy should be aimed at providing the material requisites to ensure human life with integrity and dignity and in all its fullness — physical, mental, intellectual, emotional, psychological, social, cultural life.
Today, in celebrating the International Women’s Day, the women fight for Care Economy and demands an end to the UNHEALTHY way of managing the Philippine economy. To exercise women’s rights, the Filipino women are enjoined:
SIPA UTANG! BIGWAS SA BUWIS! TIGIL TAAS NG KURYENTE’T TUBIG. BADYET ITAAS SA SERBISYO! Kababaihan, Isulong ang Mapangalagang Economiya Ipaglaban, Kalayaan sa Kahirapan at Karahasan!
Freedom from Debt Coalition
The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) – Philippines is a nationwide multi-sectoral, non-sectarian and pluralist coalition conducting policy advocacy work and campaigns to realize a common framework and agenda for economic development.