Livable Wages for All! Justice for the North Cotabato Farmers!

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For Immediate Release
April 3rd, 2016
Press Statement

Reference:

Laura Emily E. Austria, Vice-Chairperson, Anakbayan New Jersey, NAFCON NE Regional Representative
Daniel Santiago, Solidarity Officer, Anakbayan New Jersey
(470) 309-2265, anakbayannj@gmail.com

Livable Wages for All! Justice for the North Cotabato Farmers!

On April 1st, 2016, farmers in North Cotabato stood up for their rights as they appealed for better working conditions and wages. Similarly in the United States, coalitions uniting together for a livable wage – $15/hour specifically – have organized and mobilized the working class because of their similar realities, manifesting in rallies such the 15 Now NJ April 3rd rally that many members of Anakbayan NJ have attended.

As of April 3rd, 3 people have died at the hands of the Philippine National Police while they tried to get rid of farmers and lumad that had been barricading the Cotabato-Davao highway in Kidapawan City. More than 116 people have been injured, and at least 18 have been hospitalized. In addition, there are still at least 88 people missing – including children that have incurred minor wounds and are stuck at the United Methodist Church compound in Kidapawan City.

The situation in North Cotabato was already grave before the Kidapawan Massacre took place. In May 2014, the Philippine state weather bureau PAGASA started predicting the onset of El Niño. In March 2015, PAGASA held a press conference stating to expect the onset of El Niño to take place in the upcoming months. Droughts took place, which affected crop yields. Despite this, the Philippine government did not provide adequate aid for their people because their priorities lied elsewhere. Soon after the Cotabato Massacre started to unfold, North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza announced that she would block donations from any presidential candidate who wanted to help the victims of the Cotabato Massacre. This comes at a time where Davao City mayor and presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte offered assistance to the victims of the Cotabato Massacre.

The delay in aid and the horrible working conditions and wages that the farmers of North Cotabato are uniting to fight against exemplifies how little the Philippine government cares about the welfare and interests of its own people. In this vein, we unite in solidarity as we think about the fight for a livable minimum wage here in the United States.

In many states, people – including migrant workers – experience below standard working conditions and unlivable wages. Sometimes, wage theft occurs because employers know that they can exploit their workers due to their level of education or their immigration status. At the same time, the cost of living has risen dramatically – and at a faster rate in comparison to that of minimum wages nationwide. These two separate factors have created an especially unfavorable situation for the working class as they struggle just to survive living in the belly of the beast.

In the middle of this, students and working-class youth are placed in a situation where they can barely survive but also have to struggle to find a way to obtain a college degree. Tuition rates have risen dramatically over the past couple of years.  With little money, the youth are forced to take out loans with exorbitant interest. While working-class youth are attending school, they are often working multiple jobs simultaneously, leaving little time for anything else and compromising their health. If they graduate on time – or even at all, they are still stuck paying for their loans for years. It is a problem if a college degree – something that is supposed to open the doors for more economic opportunities – only puts our working class in a deeper amount of debt.

We as Anakbayan New Jersey, a Filipino youth-and-student mass organization that is also a member organization of NAFCON (National Alliance for Filipino Concerns), uplift both stories in North Cotabato and in the United States because we recognize that these problems are not isolated. In both the Philippines and the United States, people are suffering under governments that are anti-people in orientation. The conditions that arise from these governments being in power is what leads Filipinos to migrate to places like the United States. Even as they leave horrible working conditions in the Philippines, the situation in the United States is still unlivable, especially as the current state of the minimum wage has not caught up to the rising cost of living. We organize so that the rights and welfare of all people – especially Filipino workers, migrants, and peasants – can be uplifted and preserved in their fight for justice and for the end to impunity.

FIGHT FOR GENUINE AGRARIAN REFORM!
JUSTICE FOR THE NORTH COTABATO FARMERS! BIGAS HINDI BALA!
STOP LUMAD KILLINGS!
EDUCATION IS A HUMAN RIGHT! LIVABLE WAGES FOR ALL!

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