Labor groups raise sugar crisis, labor contractualization in protest

·3 min read

MEMBERS of labor groups staged a protest rally in Mandaue City, Cebu to call on the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to address issues that have been causing burdens to ordinary Filipino citizens.

The activity was held in front of the Department of Agriculture office in Barangay Maguikay, Mandaue City on Monday, August 29, 2022, and was attended by about 100 individuals from labor groups Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno (AMA Sugbo-KMU), Alsa Kontraktwal and other advocacy groups.

Jaime Paglinawan, president of AMA Sugbo-KMU, said they held the protest to call for an amendment on the proposed 2023 national budget, solve the sugar crisis and abolish labor contractualization, among others.

Paglinawan and his group said they wanted the administration to allocate more funds for the building of houses for the poor and more classrooms in public schools.

He said that based on data, there are about P6.5 million backlog housing units in the country and 91,000 classroom shortages in areas struck by Typhoon Odette on December 16, 2021.

The group questioned the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023 submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to Congress on Monday, August 22, stressing that it focuses more on continuing the Build Build Build (BBB) program of the Duterte administration, which he described as less important.

The budget for the BBB program amounts to about P400 billion, while the funds for housing and education only amount to about P15.5 billion in total, Paglinawan said.

They also called on the national government to withdraw the additional funds to be given to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) amounting to about P20 billion of the proposed budget.

They accused the agency as solely responsible for red tagging and silencing advocacy groups, calling them "terrorists" for voicing out the real issues in the country.

The NTF-Elcac was organized by the government to respond to and raise awareness about communist insurgency in the country.

Paglinawan also stressed that sugar importation would not solve the ongoing sugar crisis.

Earlier, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and industry stakeholders agreed to import up to 150,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar to address the shortage in local supply.

Paglinawan said the government must strengthen the country's local production instead.

The protesters also urged Congress to pass the pending House Bill 406 by the partylist union Makabayan bloc, granting about P15,000 production subsidy to sugar and other farm workers.

Paglinawan said the cash aid would help farmers amid the increasing prices of farming commodities, including fertilizers, which now cost P3,200 from about P1,800 per sack.

They also called for the passage of House Bill 409, authored by the Makabayan bloc, that will give P10,000 monthly aid to workers that were affected by the closure of soda companies.

He said some companies that are using sugar for their products are taking advantage of the sugar crisis by implementing forced leave among workers, particularly the contractual ones.

Among other issues that they raised were cutting contractualization, implementing the national minimum wage, and suspending excise taxes on fuel products. (HIC)