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The Lumad people under the Kahugpongan sa Lumadnong Organisasyon (KASALO) sa Caraga (Unity of Lumad Organizations in Caraga) strongly condemn the current brutal militarization of Lumad communities in the region. It is meant to force us to give up the riches of our ancestral lands to foreign and large mines, plantations, hydropower and other projects of the US-Duterte regime.

Ten (10) battalions or more or less 5,000 military troops are deployed in Caraga, aside from composite teams, and majority of these are in Lumad Manobo and Mamanwa communities. They wreak havoc in violating our human rights. In fact, in some communities, there are more military troops than residents!

President Rodrigo Duterte himself made clear the purpose of militarization. Last February 1, 2018, he told the Lumad who attended the Indigenous People’s Summit in Davao City that he will choose the investors in our ancestral lands, that we should prepare ourselves for relocation and that we should welcome the military into our homes. This is exactly what is happening now.

In Surigao del Sur, particularly in the Andap Valley Complex where five (5) coal mines (Benguet, Great Wall, Consolidated Ores, Abacus and PNOC Mining) are raring to start operations, almost 600 troops under the 36th IBPA, 75th IBPA,  88th IBPA and 16th Special Forces Battalion, 402nd IBde,  4ID of the Philippine Army are in 26 Lumad and peasant communities in the Andap Valley Complex covering the municipalities of San Miguel, Tago, San Agustin, Marihatag and Lianga. This resulted to the evacuation of 345 families with 1,628 individuals from 14 communities in January 28 until February 7, 2018.

In Surigao del Norte, there has been no let-up of military operations of the 30th IBPA troops in the mountains of Gigaquit, Sison and Surigao City targeted for the expansion and operation of large scale gold mining of Red 5-Greenstone Mining Corp., Manila Mining and Philex Mining

In Agusan del Norte, 100 troops from the 29th IBPA are operating in the mountains targeted by Sahi Coal Mining in Butuan City. This resulted to the evacuation of 115 farmers and Lumad of Sitio Patagon to Sitio Dugyaman, Brgy. Anticala, Butuan City last February 5. Meanwhile, 400 troops of the 29th IBPA along with other troops under the 4th ID from Cagayan de Oro, are in the mountain area of Ansili and Zapanta Valley in Kitcharao since February 2, where FirstGen Hydropower Corp. is constructing a hydropower plant. The area is also targeted for mining by Timberwolves and Empire Asia Coal Mining. This resulted to the evacuation of 41 settler and 59 Lumad-Mamanwa families with 278 individuals to the center of Zapanta Valley and Brgy. Bangayan, Kitcharao.

In Agusan del Sur that is the target for 200,000 hectares of Malaysian and Indonesian oil palm plantations, 26th IBPA, 23rd IBPA, 3rd Special Forces and in the Agusan-Surigao boundary, the 75th IBPA troops, are operating.  This resulted to the killing last January 15, of Aaron Notarte, a farm worker in Brgy. Imelda, Bunawan by 75th IBPA troops.

These military operations have interrupted the classes of 677 Lumad Manobo and Mamanwa students of 8 schools and 20 students of adult literacy in Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Norte.

The persecution of the Lumad must stop! We have been vocal in our opposition against the entry and continuing operation of destructive mines, plantations and hydropower in our ancestral lands since the past regimes. Is Duterte then lying when he said that if we do not want mining and plantations in our ancestral lands that he will not force us? Is his regime sowing in-fighting by recruiting Lumad paramilitaries and forcing the surrender of tribes so as to make it appear that we are consenting to  the theft of our ancestral lands.

We have struggled to establish our livelihood while protecting our ancestral lands, built schools amid government neglect in providing education to the Lumad and we organized ourselves to develop our livelihood, but we are now being attacked. These attacks must stop!

Stop militarization in the country side! Defend ancestral lands! Respect our right to self-determination!


February 9, 2018

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA)

Early 2018 Victory: Cleaning Workers Won Their Struggle

We come to thump at the door
Not to beg you for something
We come to thump at the door
In order to remind you
“Bang, Bang, Bang”
We can move away the rubbish
And also the boss of ‘Man Shun’”

— Hoi Lai Estate cleaning workers’ poem

After 10 days went on strike, the Hoi Lai Estate cleaning workers finally win their fight. Man Shun, the company which employed the workers, agreed to fulfil its obligation for severance pay. With the support of the community and various organizations, the cleaning workers will get HKD 1,200 severance pay for each year they were employed, according to local media InMedia.

The dispute between the workers and the employer began when company’s contract with Hong Kong Housing Department over Cheung Sha Wan’s Hoi Lai Estate ended last year. As the contract ended, the workers were tricked by the company to sign voluntary resignation in October 2017 without any compensation.

Despite long tenures, the company denied the obligation to pay the workers their right to severance pay. Rather, Man Shun offered the workers to be re-employed by Hong Kong Commercial Cleaning—which appears has a close ownership connection—regardless of the previous tenure with only HKD 11 pay rise.

The company denial of workers’ right has made the cleaning workers furious. Refuse to be disrespected, the workers decided to determine their own fate. They went on strike and vowed to continue until they win their right.

Cleaning workers went on strike in front of Hong Kong Housing Authority Headquarters at Ho Man Tin, Kowloon City, Hong Kong on Thursday (04/01)


During the strike on 4 January, the workers alleged that the authority should take responsibility for resolving the problem given the Housing Department has funded the contractor. “Housing authority should take responsibility. We demand the housing authority to come and meet us,” said one of the protesters who declined to be identified.

Most of the dozens cleaning workers who went on strike are old-aged women workers with 7-9 years tenures. One of the interviewed workers said that her monthly salary is only HKD 8,600. “My earning is not sufficient to have a decent living.”

Cleaning workers showing a demand poster for unpaid severance pay in the previous strike (04/01)

Cleaning tasks are often underestimated, although the routines are heavy tasks, especially for the old-aged women workers. Some of the workers’ routines are cleaning the toilet, the floor, and the ceiling. The company provides less working tools, as the workers need to mix the limited cleaning liquid with water or even search for cleaners in the trash bin.

Every single day, the cleaning workers have to collect and dump trash from 400 flats in 40 floors estate. This task has to be finished within working hours. Otherwise, the workers have to do the unpaid overtime.

Another task is handling the large garbage such furniture and home appliances—which is done only by 80 years old workers. The workers also have to manage the bulk trash that vulnerable to accidents.

Such domestic task which is done by the cleaning workers—also domestic workers elsewhere—is one of the major issues under capitalism. Taking care of the households, which construct as the main role of women in the patriarchal biased society, are often underpaid—or rather, unpaid—and regarded as unskilled labor.

This view is problematic given the domestic task serves a critical role in the society: that is the social reproduction of labor. In this sense, the domestic tasks made it possible for the working class to maintain their labor power and to recover from fatigue. Hence, the domestic task is an integral part of the economic development—and also subject to capitalist surplus value appropriation.

The invisibility of the cleaning workers become one of the factors of the wide support. “We should appreciate the cleaning workers. The community will be dirty without being cared by the cleaning workers,” said Lau Siu-Lai, one of the disqualified legislator during her solidarity speech in the celebration of workers’ victory at the Hoi Lai Estate, on Saturday (06/01).

With the workers’ determination and wide support, the company finally gave up. From the initial HKD 200 severance offer—which obviously was refused—the company will pay HKD 1,200 severance for each one year of service. The cleaning workers also will also receive a raise of HKD 172 salary which was initially offered only HKD 11.

Supporters from various local organizations and countries—Poland, Indonesia and Philippine—came to congratulate the workers over the victory. Since in the very beginning, various organization—trade unions, local community, political party, sympathizer, student groups and NGOs—helped the workers to organize the resistance.

Experiencing their own cases, the cleaning workers found themselves empowered. One of the workers delivered her testimony, said that ‘I feel empowered. I am now encouraged to be brave.” The supporters followed with chanting joyfully.

Through their experience, the cleaning workers also learned about the importance of solidarity. ‘I was amazed when I saw many people contributed to the fundraising. Also when I joined New Year’s Day pro-democracy protest, I was touched that many people sympathy on our struggle,” said another worker during her testimony.

Denny To reminded the workers and all of the supporters that there is still a long struggle for the better living condition of working class. “The end of the strike is the start of the movement for the workers who are still being exploited,” said Denny To who is one of the organizers of Cleaning Service Industry Workers Union.


Contributor: Rizal Assalam

Editor: Muh. Ridha


*Credit to Fifi (Chinese University of Hong Kong Grassroots Concern Group), Rena Lau (Globalization Monitor) and Fei (Workers’ News) who provided the valuable information


Workers in Asia are Facing Major Challenges from the Current Neoliberal Development

There are at least two major challenges for workers and the ways of organizing and resistance in the current Asia neoliberal development: the expansion of China Overseas Investment and the shrinking of democracy.

These major challenges were addressed in the Asia Transnational Corporation (ATNC) Monitoring Network ‘Biennial Conference’ in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 17-21 November 2017. The conference was attended by 45 participants as the delegations from the various organization and individual members of the network.

In the last two years, Outward Direct Investment of China has significantly increased. In 2015, China already became the world’s second-largest source of outbound foreign direct investment (FDI) with infrastructure network project as the prominent sector. In Southeast Asia for example, Chinese investment has grown rapidly from US$ 1bn in 2007 to US$14.6bn in 2015.

This expansion has been accelerated by the ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR), a major development strategy proposed by President of China Xi Jinping first unveiled in September and October 2013. Under OBOR, the infrastructure projects funded by China capital are designed to connect Asia, Europe and Africa through six economy corridors. In this regard, Pakistan already integrated within the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

First plenary session discussed on the current neoliberal development trends in Asia. Credit: Lennon (SPA)

ATNC members discussed the major issue appears within this development framework. As the evidence already emerged in many cases, the expansion of capital in particular funded for infrastructure project will further damaging the environment. This is true since OBOR will continue the extraction of the fossil fuel. At the same time, this continuation will also follow by the forced eviction of local communities.

Delegations from Southeast Asia shared the country report. Credit: Lennon (SPA)

This capital expansion is also coupled with the shrinking of democracy in many countries in Asia. As the delegations from Southeast Asia reported, there is a growing trend of the rise of militarism and right-wing populism. Some of the countries experience this trend are Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia.

Philippine under Duterte become the biggest number of human rights defender killed in Asia (Front Line Defenders Report, 2017). Most of the killing is related to the land dispute which nearly in the context of mega projects, extractive industry and big business.

While in Cambodia, main opposition party dissolved by Supreme Court only recently. Workers in Cambodia also facing difficulty to organize a resistance and to establish union since the new Trade Union law passed in 2016.

These described major challenges workers facing become the priority to be addressed by the ATNC members in the following years. Within this priority, ATNC members will organize interrelated activity: a research to have a better understanding of the capital expansion in Asia and to identify proper leverage to improve labour working condition, educational activity to equip the members with knowledge to resist, and campaign activity to raise the concerned issue.

Unite and fight against the neoliberal attacks on labour!


A solidarity statement by
the Asian Transnational Corporations Monitoring Network

on the International Labour Day Celebrations
May 1, 2016


Under the globally pervasive neoliberal economic development regime, the Asian economies have become completely integrated and subsumed into global capitalism. Big Asian and global transnational corporations (TNCs) have built economic power by consolidating their regional and global production networks. On the other hand, developing countries in Asia opened up their economies to become eager hosts of TNC-driven and export-oriented industrial factories and corporate agricultural plantations. The governments of developing Asian states believe that economic growth can spring from foreign direct investment-friendly economic policies, which are often anti-people policies. ‘Let us wait for the growth to trickle down,’ they would say.

Hence, on the grounds of the “economically surging Asia” are the precarious workers who are assiduously toiling, suffering, and are being sacrificed upon the altar of neoliberalism. We observed that most Asian governments have been adopting labour law and economic reforms that not only bolster the neoliberal agenda but also curtail the rights of the workers and restrict the democratic space for workers’ organising and collective bargaining.

Asia’s race-to-the-bottom wages

In order to attract foreign investments, Asian governments are competing against each other in a race to the bottom in terms of labour standards. They implemented policies that directly cut wages, removed regulations on wage settings, and introduced flexible wage schemes. In the Philippines, a two-tiered wage system was advanced by the government in one region – the first tier is the floor wage based on the poverty threshold (USD 1/day) and the second tier is based on productivity. It resulted in reduced wages as the floor wage was 25 percent lower than the minimum wage while the payment of the productivity-based wage is not mandatory.

On the other hand, the Indonesian government issued a new wage regulation in October 2015 that changed the minimum wage-fixing mechanism. In the past, the minimum wage was set through a process of bargaining between the employers’ group and trade union, somehow taking into account the cost of living. In the new wage regulation, the minimum wage will be unilaterally determined by the government based on a formula that considers the inflation and the GDP growth. Worse, the adjustments will be made only every five years.

Legitimising the attacks on the right to organise

Asian governments also use the laws to suppress trade union activities. In Cambodia, for instance, the National Assembly passed the Trade Union Law on 4 April 2016, restricting the workers’ rights to freedom of association, collective bargaining, and strike. Championed by the industrial capitalists, the enactment of the new law is defended by the Ministry of Labour, declaring that it will aid in attracting more investments. In China, the Foreign NGO Activities Law was already submitted to the National People’s Congress for enactment. It limits the activities of foreign NGOs in China, including those that support the building of an independent labour movement at the grassroots level.

It is relevant to note, however, that even before these laws are passed, the space for independent labour movements’ activities have been restricted. We have witnessed the violent crackdowns of strikes in Cambodia in the past years and the arrests of numerous labour activists in China in December of last year, two of whom are still in detention. Needless to say, the recent laws are being pushed to legitimise harassment, violent actions, and criminalisation of labour activists.

Violent crackdowns on the working poor’s protests

Even in countries where the policies are supposed to protect working people’s rights, the reality shows a precarious face. In Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, landless farmers protesting for land rights on 29 March 2016 faced violent repression. Sixty-four protesters were arrested while 14 were injured after being shot by the police. Two days later, on 1 April 2016, hungry farmers in Kidapawan, Philippines suffered the same but more brutal fate. Demanding for rice, the protesting farmers got bullets instead. Three died while 76 were arrested, including elderly and pregnant women. While the marginalised people face injustices and harassment, agricultural TNCs in these two countries are enjoying not only incentives for investments but also protection from the military.

Reversing the gains from past struggles

Moreover, the victories from the struggles of labour and other social movements have been reversed. In South Asia, particularly, labour law reforms are going backwards. In the past year, the reforms that are being proposed in India aim to flexibilise labour arrangements by making hiring and firing easier and by excluding the majority of the workers from the purview of the law. Sri Lanka, which has one of the best severance benefits, is considering reducing the benefits at the request of the employers. Meanwhile, in response to the increasing number of trade unions registered since the Rana Plaza tragedy, the Bangladesh government issued new Labour Rules in September 2015 to regulate union registration more strictly.

We, at the ATNC Monitoring Network, are alarmed at these trends and developments in Asia that are obviously aimed at further reinforcing the neoliberal agenda, eroding the workers’ rights, and dismantling the labour movement. We believe that genuine economic development should prioritise the interest and welfare of the poor and the marginalised and not of the global TNCs and wealthy elites. Thus, we strongly condemn the naked and violent attacks on labour activists and innocent working people who demand for a life of dignity.

Today, on International Labour Day, we register the following calls:

  • Stop the neoliberal attacks on labour!
  • Respect the workers’ rights to organise, bargain collectively, and strike!
  • Eliminate flexible labour arrangements that make workers more vulnerable!
  • Fight for living wage for Asian workers!
  • Justice for victims of harassment, criminalisation, and human rights violations!
  • Uphold the working people’s dignity!

We stand in solidarity with the working people of Asia who persistently fight for their rights and tirelessly build an independent and democratic labour movement in the region.

The impact of the Umbrella Movement on the labour movement in China and Hong Kong

One might say that the Umbrella Movement failed to achieve any concrete and immediate results, yet it has allowed many Hong Kongers, especially the younger generation, to become politically awakened. Furthermore, even though news has been blocked and distorted, it has still reached some in mainland China and could have far-reaching impact in future.


See on Scoop.itAsian Labour Update

A Vegetable Oil that Demands Blood: The Reality of Palm Oil Industry

In the last three-and-a-half decades Indonesia and Malaysia lost a combination of 3.5 million hectares of forest to palm oil plantations.

Globally, more people consume palm oil than soybean oil, and Indonesia is the largest producer of the stuff, churning out 31 million tonnes of palm oil in 2014. Malaysia and Indonesia together account for 85 percent of palm oil produced globally each year. Consumption of palm oil has risen steadily at seven percent per annum over the last 20 years.

The palm oil sector has added little real value to the Indonesian economy. The average contribution of estate crops, including oil palm and rubber, to GDP [gross domestic product] was only 2.2 percent per year. On the other hand, food production is the main source of rural employment and income, engaging two-thirds of the rural workforce, or some 61 million people. Oil palm production only occupies the eighth rank in rural employment, engaging some 1.4 million people.


See on Scoop.itAsian Labour Update

Migrant worker protest in Taiwan for fairer wages

A group of activists and migrant workers protested in Taipei on March 12 urging the government to meet Indonesian demands for better treatment of its workers in Taiwan. More than 30 protesters from Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand demonstrated outside the Legislative Yuan, holding placards emblazoned with the word “anti-slavery” and shouting slogans such as “minimum wage for all.” Some of the protesters chained themselves together and wore signs that read “slaves” on their clothes to protest long working hours and unfairly low wages.


See on Scoop.itAsian Labour Update

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