Inside out

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(UPDATE) ‘Expect massive protests in September’–Bayan

Posted by Abi Kwok on August 28, 2008

Activists pressing on despite unheeded demands

By Abigail Kwok
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:46:00 08/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Leftist groups on Thursday said the series of mass actions they have been holding lately would be a prelude to much larger mobilizations next month if government continues ignoring their demands for higher wages, the scrapping of the value added tax (VAT), and a return to regulated fuel prices.

“[These protests] are just in betweens. There will be something bigger happening in September,” said Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, New Patriotic Alliance), which led militant groups that held simultaneous protest actions in different areas of Metro Manila.

The leftists and other sectors have been urging government to do away with the VAT on oil, electricity and food, legislate a P125 across-the-board wage hike and repeal the Oil Deregulation Law.

Although the government has yet to act on any of these demands, the leftists say they remain unfazed.

George San Mateo, secretary general of the transport group Piston (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide or United Organizations of Drivers and Operators Nationwide) earlier said they might stage a nationwide transport strike next month if oil companies do not rollback their prices.

“The Arroyo government better not be stubborn. This is just a prelude to a nation-wide transport strike we are gearing up for next month if our demands are not met,” said Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU, May First Movement) chairman Elmer Labog.

On Thursday, hundreds of activists belonging to Bayan, Piston and the KMU, gathered at the Welcome Rotonda, Araneta Avenue, Philcoa, Litex-Commonwealth, Stop ‘N Shop, and Novaliches-Bayan in Quezon City; along Sta. Mesa, Pedro Gil and Taft Avenue in Manila; at Pinagbuhatan in Pasig City; at the Marikina Sports Complex in in Marikina City, Cainta-Junction, Marulas Market in Valenzuela, and in Alabang and Las Piñas.

Reyes said oil companies should roll back fuel prices by at least “P6-7, which is roughly equivalent to the oil price hikes in May and June this year. We are concerned that it is taking the oil companies forever to give consumers a substantial relief from high oil prices.”

He said the recent P0.50 to P1 oil price rollbacks were “unbearably slow” in coming compared to the rate at which oil companies increased fuel pump prices.

“The small rollbacks, while welcome, are not enough given the huge increases over the past few months,” Reyes pointed out.

“With VAT, prices of commodities have gone so high, the majority of poor families are feeling the impact, especially women and children,” said Emmi de Jesus, Gabriela Women’s Party secretary general.

“Inflation has already reached 11.4 percent, the highest in 14 years, and all the government does is to tell us the VAT is good for us. This surely doesn’t make much sense given the severe economic burden on the people and the ensuing economic slowdown facing the country,” Reyes said.

Labog also criticized the recent grant of an additional P5 cost of living allowance to workers, saying this would not pacify labor.

Groups also went from door to door in urban poor communities in Tondo, Manila and Alabang, Muntinlupa City, to educate people about the VAT and to invite them to join the protest.

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