The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) — a forum in which governments and big business collude to prioritize corporate profits at the expense of the global working class and poor — continues to gear up for its Leaders Meeting and CEO Summit this November in San Francisco. Today, all eyes are on the Philippines as the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) holds its third meeting of the year in Cebu from July 27 to July 30, with the deceptive theme of “Equity, Sustainability, and Opportunity.”
ABAC was established in 1995 with the explicit purpose of getting input from big business on how to achieve APEC’s goals of liberalizing trade and investment. In the Philippines, liberalization of the economy has spelled disaster for the masses, particularly peasant farmers who bear the brunt of trade liberalization in staple crops like rice, as well as workers whose jobs remain contractual and at the whim of foreign corporations who invest in the country.
The topics to be tackled during the meeting — sustainable growth, economic integration, digital innovation, and inclusion — are corporate buzzwords that hide the exploitation of people behind APEC’s neoliberal agenda. That Sabin Aboitiz serves as the Vice Chair of ABAC’s Sustainable Working Group says enough. The Aboitiz Group, which is owned by the tycoon Aboitiz family, is notorious for pushing energy projects that have led to environmental degradation, displacement of Indigenous peoples, and attacks on labor. Aboitiz’s interests as a CEO are diametrically opposed to real, sustainable growth for the people.
Even prior to the Cebu meeting, ABAC Philippines held an online roundtable on nuclear energy through “small modular reactors” (SMRs). This is despite widespread criticism of SMR technology being too expensive, risky, and dangerous for the environment and surrounding communities. On his recent state visit to Washington DC, Marcos Jr. made it a point to meet with officials from NuScale Power, an energy company based in Oregon focused on producing SMRs.
The neoliberal development strategy being championed by Marcos and APEC is doomed to fail because it exacerbates fundamental problems in the Philippines’ economy: widespread landlessness and a lack of national industry. And contrary to Marcos’ pronouncements during his recent state visit to Malaysia, a foreign investment-driven economy without national industrialization and agrarian reform will only lead to the forced migration of more workers. The labor export of Filipino workers spiked in the 2000s as the government relied more and more on remittances to address trade deficits, much of it a direct result of foreign investment-centered policies in the country.
BAYAN USA calls on Filipinos and allies across the country to join us in exposing and opposing the moves of Marcos and APEC by joining the No to APEC Coalition, a formation of migrant, labor, trade justice, women’s, youth and student, and anti-imperialist organizations across the U.S. and abroad. Mobilize with us this July 28 and 29 in Seattle as we protest against the 3rd round of APEC Senior Officials’ and Ministerial Meetings. And join us in San Francisco this November to confront Marcos, Biden, and other world leaders at APEC’s Leaders Meeting and CEO Summit. Let us assert the masses’ decisive role in economic development, over the interests and schemes of the ruling few.
No to APEC! People over profit! No to neoliberal policies in the Philippines!