Militant groups stage “chain of protests”

BAGUIO CITY — Showing their disgust to the Arroyo government of the worsening economic crisis, different militant sectoral groups staged a “chain of protests” in key areas of the city’s central business district, here Tuesday.

RICE PRICE PROTEST. Passersby and people queued trying to buy the cheaper government-subsidized rice listen attentively to women protesters as they explain steep price hikes at the rice section of the Baguio City market Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Cye Reyes/NORDIS

Clad in apron while holding placards with calls of protest against the issue of rice crisis, members of Innabuyog-Gabriela and the Cordillera peasant group Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taéng Kordilyera (Apit-Tako) held a short program in the rice section of the market, where there was a long line of people trying to buy the cheaper government-subsidized rice.

The women protesters stressed that the “increase in rice importation made the country dependent on other countries to meet the local demand for rice” that eventually led to the condition of speculation and price manipulation.

“We are actually capable of producing our own supply of rice but thousands of hectares of our agricultural lands are now being converted into subdivisions and golf courses,” said Virgie Dammay of Apit-Tako adding that the country’s food security is also threatened by crop conversion where high-value crops such as oil palm and jathropa are substituted for palay.

Members of the urban poor organization Organisasyon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (Ornus) in their lightning rally at Km. 0 lower Session Road, showed their fury on the continuous oil price hikes resulting to the relentless increase in the prices of basic commodities.

“Mahal na ang bigas, mahal pa ang gas, kaunting kita lagas!” read the rallyists’ placards.

Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) Spokesperson Lito Wayas aired the sentiment of drivers and operators for the scrapping of the 12% expanded value added tax (EVAT) on oil and its by-products.

The urban poor sector pinpointed the oil deregulation law as the main culprit why multinational oil companies can have unlimited increases in the prices of their petroleum products.

The militant workers’ alliance Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Cordillera chapter held a petition signing at the People’s Park calling for the enactment of House Bills 1772 and 1962 authored by the late Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran of Anakpawis Partylist.

The said House Bills are to legislate the P125 wage increase of workers and the P3,000 across-the-board wage increase of government employees.

“We intend to get as much signatures as we can before submitting it to the appropriate committee in Congress,” said Nida Tundagui of KMU-Cordillera.

Photo by Cye Reyes/NORDIS

Different youth organizations led by Anakbayan also gathered along Session Road on the same day to ventilate the people’s remorse to the present economic crisis, specifically denouncing Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s late pronouncement asking colleges and universities not to increase tuition and other school fees.

“There is no other way to help the students with the high fees than to review and reform the Commission on Higher Education’s (Ched) policies on education and allocate higher state subsidy to education,” said Anjo Rey Cerdeña, chairperson of College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) Baguio-Benguet chapter.

According to the statement of Tongtongan ti Umili “the economic hardship would not only lead to increasing number of poor and hungry Filipinos but also to the widening and ever-growing movement to assert people’s rights and protest against this anti-people regime.”

The protesters all gathered at the People’s Park and held a short program to signify their united call to oust Arroyo. # Cye Reyes(NorthernDispatch)

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