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Commentary

Socially oriented alternative urgently needed

12:03 AM September 22, 2015

AS A progressive coalition, the Peoples’ Forum on Apec (PFA) 2015 aims to advance and build a clear alternative to the capitalist- and elitist-led Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. In particular, it calls on the peoples of the Asia-Pacific to “assert control over their economies” and to “resist corporate dominance” over national and regional affairs.

The PFA2015 takes issue with some key pre-Apec Summit aspects. These include the newly drafted neoliberal Cebu Action Plan, President Aquino’s recent statement concerning China, Manila’s silence over Washington’s escalating regional maneuvers and interventions, and the World Bank’s viewpoint on the Apec and inequality. All of these contentious issues can easily be seen and understood within an unfolding context—the Aquino regime’s preparations for hosting the Apec Economic Leaders’ Meeting on Nov. 18-19.

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On those days, the world’s top capitalist leaders will come together to unite behind the Apec’s neoliberal economic policy framework. In doing so, they aim to compel the Apec’s 21 member-economies to hasten and deepen their ultra-free trade process.

This economic regime and its five main pillars—privatization, liberalization, deregulation, contractualization and public-private partnership agreements—are being imposed throughout the regional bloc’s vast trade zone, to the socioeconomic detriment of its immense population from the Central Asian steppes bordering China’s western frontier to the Andes mountain range eastward across the Pacific Ocean.

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Such a globalized paradigm is what the US-led bloc of imperialist powers is aggressively forcing upon the entire international political-economic system. Hence, the Apec’s overall negative impacts do not only dangerously undermine and damage the basic national conditions of this area’s states and societies, but also continue to destroy the general capacity of the region’s social majority to sustain their daily human lives.

This is the essential reason we stand firmly opposed to the Cebu Action Plan as a neoliberal instrument to accelerate the goals of the Apec’s Bogor Declaration set almost 21 years ago. This document was the main outcome of the November 1994 Apec Summit held in Bogor, Indonesia. Its central aim then was to achieve a “free and open trade” environment by 2020 for the Apec’s “developing economies,” while setting the same for the trade bloc’s “industrialized economies” by 2010. Yet for over two decades now, the Apec’s unabated free trade process has only spelled more doom and gloom for the peoples of the Asia-Pacific, with the ever-widening inequality among its member-economies.

We likewise oppose Malacañang’s decision to not raise issues related to the current tensions between the Philippines and China, especially concerning the territorial dispute over the “Southeast Asian Sea.” We cannot accept P-Noy’s foreign policy style of “more business profits as usual” toward Beijing when his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, arrives in Manila for the Apec Summit. As both head of state and regional leader, P-Noy must undertake all peaceful means necessary to urgently resolve outstanding regional questions and problems affecting Asia’s

essential progress. Pursuing political dialogue is vital to attaining a peaceful regional environment; nondialogue is the basic ingredient to aggravate conflict.

Likewise, when US President Barack Obama arrives for the Apec Summit, P-Noy should raise the question of America’s aggressive economic-political-security schemes and ploys in Asia. Particularly, the Aquino regime should lead the Philippines away from its century-old, pro-US-imperialist stance, as this is a provoking factor for rising militarist aggression in the region.

Breaking our chains from US imperialism must necessarily include the abrogation of the Philippines’ existing bilateral defense/security arrangements with America. These include the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement, the 2002 Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, and the 2014 Enhanced Defense

Cooperation Agreement. The Philippines must also stay away from Washington’s latest neoliberal Trojan Horse targeting Asia—the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is now being prepositioned as part of America’s “Arc of Denial Strategy” aimed at denying China any further room for expansionist moves beyond its frontier zone.

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Essentially viewed, this strategy is basically an imperialist thrust to accumulate maximum profits through expanded regional markets from around Asia in order to recover America’s faltering strategic balance on the world stage.

Lastly, the PFA2015 contests the pronouncement of Axel van Trotsenburg, the World Bank’s regional vice president for East Asia and the Pacific, in relation to the Apec and inequality. In a nutshell, his prognosis is that the Apec remains a very good regional economic instrument to lessen massive poverty and the “broadening income gap” in the Asia-Pacific. Our response to this typical neoliberal mindset that strongly dominates capitalist global institutions like the World Bank is this: Systemic mass poverty is a basic cause of ever-broadening income inequality around the globe. This directly reflects the capitalist logic that is fundamentally and structurally upheld by the Apec and similar trade blocs.

Therefore, unless the capitalist system and its neoliberal components (e.g., the Apec) are totally replaced with a socially-oriented alternative, more of the “worsening same” will occur and recur. Such are the contradictions forever trapped in the foundations of the capitalist order.

Rasti Delizo is secretariat coordinator of PFA2015.

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