Dismantle and end privatization!

Editorial
Ang Bayan
January 21, 2015

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The Filipino people suffer from ever heavier burdens due to the series of hikes in fees and expenses. The huge MRT and LRT fare hikes, the water rate hike and the impending power rate hike are but the latest burdens to be heaped anew by the US-Aquino regime on the Filipino people’s shoulders. They come on top of the already spiralling costs of education, medical care, communications, housing and other social services and infrastructure.

The higher fees and costs now confronting the people are the result of close to three decades of the privatization and deregulation of key social infrastructure. Enterprises that used to be state-owned and run by the government, funded by public funds and declared to be serving the “social interest” are now run by a handful of big comprador bourgeoisie and their foreign big capitalist partners in the name of profit without any obligation whatsoever to protect the people’s interests.


In exchange for credit, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other imperialist agencies imposed on the Philippines at the close of the 1980s the policies of privatization and deregulation—meaning the removal of state controls on services and utilities to give way to big foreign capitalist and bourgeois comprador investment and management. They took advantage of the Filipino people’s anger at the bureaucrat capitalist Marcos dictatorship and its minions who enriched themselves by running state enterprises in order to make privatization palatable to the public.

The lofty promise of privatization’s apologists was to create a “level playing field” to attract investments, promote competition and reduce prices for the people. Through the “build-operate-transfer,” “public-private partnership” and various other schemes, privatization and deregulation were enforced in almost all fields of social and economic life.

Water distribution, power generation and distribution, roads, hospitals and universities or parts thereof were privatized, as were vast public landholdings, telecommunications and postal services, and the companies Petron, Philippine National Bank, Philippines Airlines and other enterprises established, owned or run by the state. The biggest enterprises fell into the hands of the biggest bourgeois compradors in the Philippines, among them Lucio Tan, the Ayalas, Lopezes, Cojuangcos, Sys and eventually the Pangilinan group and their foreign big capitalist partners.

The privatization process in the Philippines is fraught with corruption. High-ranking government officials always line their pockets full whenever state properties are put on the auction block and government enters into private investment contracts. Sometimes, such corruption is exposed when the rival political party takes power—not to get rid of corruption but to forge new contracts, favor other businessmen and pocket their own share of the loot.

No less than the Filipino people’s close to 30 years’ experience with unbridled privatization puts to the lie the claims and promises of privatization. Wherever privatization reigned, social services and public infrastructure became commercial ventures whose main goal is to rake in profits for big capitalists. Services that used to be affordable are now practically beyond the reach of the Filipino toiling masses who comprise the majority.

Many of such public infrastructure were built and funded by the ruling state in order to facilitate the flow of commerce and production for the local ruling classes and foreign big capitalists.

Because they were funded by public monies, these formerly state-owned enterprises were categorized as “publicly owned” and their operations deemed as “public service.” During the US-Marcos dictatorship, a number of private enterprises were “nationalized” and controlled by Marcos and his cronies using public funds. To conceal the corruption, they were hailed as enterprises run “in the public interest.” On the other hand, becuase they were run “in the public interest” and with the use of public monies, they were obliged by the people to operate and provide services affordable to ordinary folk.

Within the framework of nationalizing public enterprises, infrastructure and services, the democratic forces are fighting for the allocation of bigger public funds to enable these entities to provide quality and affordable services to the people. They resist commercialization, or running these entities in order for the state to earn profits, and regard operating at a loss as necessary investment for the greater social good. They likewise expose and resist bureacrat capitalist management and fight for more democratic means of managing enterprises, infrastructure and public services.

Privatization has done away with the “public interest” aspect. Because they are funded by private capital (although mainly through state-guaranteed loans), there is a demand to run these entities “efficiently and profitably.” The so-called “user-pay” principle has been forced into the picture to justify all-out commercial operations and wanton hikes in fees and expenditures.

It is right and just for the Filipino people to demand the renewed nationalization or state conrol of infrastructure and services being utilized by, and of benefit to, the people and that facilitate the flow of commerce and production. It is right for the people to demand an end to contracts with private companies that have been granted concessions for water and power distribution, telecommunications, hospitals and universities or granted contracts to use public land or extract mineral or oil resources.

The people can fight for the renationalization of transport, energy and petroleum companies and others that play a significant role in economic affairs and people’s livelihoods.

They must likewise resist policies that call for national budgetary cuts in much-needed social services such as health and education. Year after year, the reactionary government has been allotting woefully inadequate funds for public universities and hospitals. In accordance with the principle that the bulk of public funds must be allocated to the majority, the people must thoroughly resist the allotment of more than a third of the government’s annual budget to servicing debts to foreign banks.

In the particular case of the LRT, MRT and other public transport systems, the people would do right by demanding that these be placed under full state control. It is to the Filipino people’s interest to cancel the contracts with the Ayalas and Pangilinans that grant them the right to control the operations of the metrotrains for 50 years—and this includes the right to hike fares on an annual basis. They must also demand an end to contracts privatizing water distribution in various parts of the country.

The nationalization of public services and utilities must be demanded by the Filipino people in the face of the ever worsening social and economic crisis. It is just for the people to fight for the nationalization of these entities to ensure decent standards of living for everyone. Under the present ruling semicolonial and semifeudal system, they must likewise fight for the democratic management of these enterprises to prevent them from becoming instruments of bureaucrat capitalist enrichment.

These people’s democratic demands are part of the agenda in the peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

State ownership and control over the biggest and key industries, land and natural resources, infrastructure and services are critical aspects of the social and economic programs of the Party and the NDFP. Through all this, the proletariat and the democratic government would have the power to plan the production and distribution of wealth for the benefit of all and ensure than everyone has work and is provided free education and health services within the frame of a dynamic, progressive and modern society.

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