June 21, 2012

New pup, same collar

President Benigno Aquino III came to power in June 2010 with "special relations" -- the Philippines serving as a neocolony of the US -- already entrenched 64 years after the "grant" of independence. Before him, every administration had tried to outdo its predecessors in maintaining this unequal and unjust relationship to ensure the continuing support of the US.

Mr. Aquino is no exception.

As with every Filipino politician aspiring to be top gun, Mr. Aquino has had to prove to the country’s former colonizer that his regime can sustain, cultivate and enhance these "special relations" given the recurrent economic and political crises that have hit the country marked by growing awareness of and resistance to imperialist-dictated policies and programs by restive sections of the population.

Mr. Aquino comes at an auspicious time for stabilizing this relationship what with the former Chief Executive, Mrs. Gloria Arroyo, proving to be no longer effective having reached the nadir of credibility and respect among the vast majority of the people. For after all, an odious head of government is a useless head of a client regime. Someone who is perceived as unsullied, sincere and enjoys wide popularity (more by historical fluke rather than political track record), is a more useful and valued one.

This is the main advantage of Mr. Aquino -- his ability to tap into the people’s revulsion against corrupt government officials utilizing populist rhetoric while drawing on the mystique of his iconic parents in order to justify the continuation and worsening of anti-people, pro-imperialist policies and programs.

How long he can keep this up is altogether another matter.

New packaging
Mr. Aquino’s centerpiece program for bringing about economic development, the public-private partnership (PPP), is presented as a unique approach that his administration is purportedly in an unprecedented position to implement because of his apparently popular, albeit shallow, anti-corruption drive.

In truth, the PPP is the same old privatization thrust of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s pushed by the international financial institutions -- International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) -- as well as multinational corporations and their domestic partners, that has been discredited and rejected by the mass of consumers worldwide.

This whitewashed version of the privatization policy (forming, along with liberalization and deregulation, the triumvirate of neoliberal globalization policies) has resulted in higher costing, inaccessible and even poorer quality infrastructure and services because the public interest is undercut by unbridled profit-taking of foreign and local big business interests with full backing of government.

People's burden
Mr. Aquino argues simplistically that through the PPPs the country will have the vital infrastructure it needs for transport, power, water, sanitation and sewerage, irrigation, education, health, and housing without having to spend the billions of pesos such projects require and even bring in earnings for the government.

What this means in actuality is that the public, through exorbitant user fees and tariffs, pays for the following:

• outstanding debts of government entities that are to be privatized (such as National Power Corp. and Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System);

• assured profits of the multinational corporations and their local partners in PPP contracts regardless of changed circumstances or questionable charges (Metro Rail Transit/Light Rail Transit and North Luzon Expressway/South Luzon Expressway); and

• more debts that government will incur to insure corporate profits, should the "regulatory risk guarantee" offered by Mr. Aquino push through.

The granting of regulatory risk guarantees, an innovation and vital development to the way privatization projects were handled in the past, would have government paying the private sector the total cost of the infrastructure project in case problems arise, including public clamor to regulate.

Favoring business
In short, the Aquino administration washes its hands of government’s responsibility to use its revenues to ensure universal access to basic social needs and services especially for those who can ill afford them.

Worse, it takes on as its primary role, providing the best environment for foreign monopoly capitalists and local comprador(trading/banking) capitalists to rake in profits from this deregulated and privatized government function.

On the other hand, the Aquino administration is faced with the following objective constraints: the global economic crisis continues to impact adversely on the Philippine economy with less foreign direct investment, slowing down of overseas Filipino worker remittances, declining exports, etc. amidst widespread poverty, misery and hunger arising from joblessness and low wages coupled with the incessant spiralling of prices.

For decades, government has conjured the illusion of "sound economic fundamentals" but even its own figures show heavy indebtedness and vulnerability to impositions of foreign monopoly capital through the IMF, WB, ADB and World Trade Organization that aggravate the Philippine economic crisis.

Like his predecessors, Mr. Aquino conceals the fact that the so-called "sound economic fundamentals" are what constitute precisely the neocolonial relationship imposed by US imperialism that has prevented the Philippine economy from industrializing and achieving economic self-reliance and independence from foreign capital.

To do this, he uses the corruption bogey as a smokescreen‚ "Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap" -- as though corruption, not the foreign control of our economy and exploitation of our people, is the root of poverty.

But no amount of propaganda and deception can obscure increasingly intolerable living conditions that push more and more people to protest and revolt.

Over the decades, where deception no longer works, the US-backed governments have responded not with reforms but with an iron hand.

It is thus no surprise that even before the elections, Mr. Aquino had outlined his own "peace and security program", Oplan Bayanihan, with peace negotiations dovetailed to it.

Less surprising even, is that Oplan Bayanihan turns out to be nothing more than the US Counter-Insurgency Manual applied on the Philippine situation.

In support of US pivot
With respect to foreign policy, Mr. Aquino has committed in word and deed, full cooperation with the announced US policy to reposition its military forces to the Asia Pacific for power projection and necessary intervention in regional flash points such as the Korean peninsula, the Taiwan straits, the South China Sea, etc.

Secret negotiations are ongoing on how the US can increase its de-facto permanent deployment and stationing of troops and war materiel on Philippine territory, its covert and overt activities such as intelligence gathering, military "training" exercises, combat support operations, humanitarian missions, etc. and its heightened intrusions into the ongoing counterinsurgency campaigns against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Mr. Aquino has deliberately fanned the territorial dispute with China over parts of the Spratley islands and shoals in order to justify and encourage greater US military presence and intervention in the South China Sea.

Seal of good housekeeping
He perpetuates the big lie that an alliance with the US guarantees Philippine security and sovereignty when in fact:

• it is US presence, military activities and intervention in Philippine affairs that violates national sovereignty; and

• US military presence in and use of Philippine territory has been the magnet for foreign aggression, e.g. the Japanese invasion and occupation in World War II.

It is not surprising that the photo op that each Philippine president strives to have at some time (better even if several times) during his term of office is the one with whoever is the current US president.

To this kind of Filipino leaders, such a meeting constitutes one of the most sought after, since it constitutes the proverbial political "seal of good housekeeping" that a neocolonizer gives its chief puppet.

Mr. Aquino continues this ignoble tradition and the deceptive propaganda that goes along with it.

Published in Business World
22-23 June 2012

Article location : http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Opinion&title=New pup, same collar&id=53892


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