Chanting “ADB, back off! Philippines not for sale!”, activists from the Multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) picketed today the opening of the 45th annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Manila.
The group burned a mock ADB logo that displays the words “Anti-Development Bank, Promoting poverty in Asia and the Pacific”,
Bayan criticized the Aquino administration for the red carpet treatment it is giving to the ADB assembly, saying that the bank is behind the many anti-poor and anti-development policies that impoverish the people and bankrupt the domestic economy. It said that the ADB is the main creditor and proponent of programs that facilitate the sell-off of Philippine patrimony to profit-oriented private business, including foreign corporations.
It cited the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), which the group said is the reason why Manila has now the most expensive electricity rates in Asia. Even Mindanao, which is also being plagued by rotating brownouts due to lack of energy supply, has higher power rates than Hong Kong, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and other major Asian cities. Electricity rates in the country have doubled since Epira was implemented.
ADB is the main proponent of Epira and the neoliberal restructuring of the country’s power sector in the past two decades. It bankrolled the design, legislation, and implementation of Epira which it funded through debilitating foreign debt of about $1.6 billion in the past 14 years.
Aside from power, ADB has also funded the privatization of the country’s water services, irrigation systems, dams, and even the commercialization of the National Food Authority (NFA). These reforms have resulted in skyrocketing cost of living and further hampered the poor Filipinos’ access to basic social and economic services.
Worse, the odious loans used to finance these neoliberal reforms have also been draining the country’s resources and siphon off funds that should be used for public education, mass housing, health services, social security, land reform, and other social services. The ADB is the single biggest foreign creditor of the Philippines, which as of 2011, owes the bank some $5.84 billion. More than 50% of the country’s multilateral debt comes from the ADB. For 2012, the Aquino administration is willing to spend P738.6 billion for debt servicing while the budget for social services is pegged at only P575.8 billion.
The Manila meeting is supposed to center on so-called “inclusive growth”. But Bayan said the impact of ADB’s policies and loans has been excluding and marginalizing the poor while only profiting the big corporations. (end)