Elmer Labog , the chairperson of KMU, the May First Movement (Kilusang Mayo Uno), the largest and the militant trade union centre of the Philippines, couldn’t care less if Tony Abbott shirt fronts Vladimir Putin, but he cares about Australian mining interests in the Philippines financing the military to kill mining workers struggling for their rights, and poising the environment.
The Philippines is the third largest producer of gold in the world, yet millions of people subsist on meagre incomes, hardly reaching the minimum wages standards.
One out of 10 workers leaves to work abroad, making labour export a huge source of income for the government while contributing to the trafficking of people in South East Asia and Middle East countries, where known abuse of guest workers occurs regularly but remains unpunished.
Like most resource rich countries where foreign capital dictates the terms, the sovereign owners of the resources hardly get any share of the wealth generated. The problem, according to Elmer, lies square at capitalism’s drive for profit.
The type of monopoly capitalism endured in the Philippines is not only driving profits and resources out of the country and of the reach of the people, but is also threatening the very survival of the planet. As Elmer stated “Production is social but appropriation is private, that is the fundamental contradiction”.
While the G20 agenda includes trade, jobs, infrastructure, investment and tax reform, climate change does not feature as a worthy topic of discussion. Yet, a year from the worst typhoon ever recorded, where 16 million people were affected, 6300 were killed, 4.1 million people were displaced and 1.1 million houses were damaged or destroyed, many people have not doubt that such disasters are brought about by extreme conditions of climate change.
Compounding the problem the people affected are the poorest farmers, fish folk, coastal communities and slum dwellers whose conditions are caused by the very particular social and living conditions brought about by the domination of foreign monopoly capital over a domestic, semi feudal order.
A mere 114 billion dollars has been spent for reconstruction purposes, which amounts to only a third of the funds required to rebuild the damaged areas. Yet, Barak Obama has requested that the Philippines government directs 50 million to fund military facility for the US.
The labour movement in the Philippines has not doubt that the neoliberal policies advanced by the G20 are taking a death toll on the people of the Philippines. Minimum wages is only 40% of the average cost of living for a family, while land grabbing continues unabated by foreign corporation.
The people from the Philippines are well aware that the interests of capital and labour will never meet. They are looking for solutions to reassert the sovereignty of the people. Worthy of consideration is to follow the example of ALBA, in Latin America, where governments are taking control over oil, land water, currency and banks.
ALBA has shown that a model of regional integration in which cooperation is replacing competition and humanity is rising over money can replace the neoliberal agenda and raise people out of poverty, improve education and health standards.
The G20 agenda cannot fix the problems that they have caused; neither they intend to. “Seriously, these leaders are not here to shirt front each other. If you ask me, we are here all the better to shirt front them”, Elmer said.