“There seems to be no major difference in the policy of the new DTI leadership and that of the previous one.”

That was the observation Akbayan Representative Walden Bello made when deliberations on the budget of the Department of Trade and Industry revealed that the department continued to pursue an export-oriented policy track and maintained little regard for the security of tenure of workers.

Bello pointed out that there have been “major changes in the world and in the international market” that the DTI needed to take into consideration for policy-making.

“We have seen the decline in our traditional markets, and economies all over the world are now focusing on domestic markets as a response to woes of the global economy,” Bello pointed out. “The DTI is behind the curve and needs to review its current policy to reflect these changes.”


Revise Anti-Labor Stance

Bello also raised some concern over DTI Secretary Gregory L. Domingo’s stand on legislative efforts led by Akbayan and a couple of pro-labor legislators to bolster workers’ security of tenure and control contractual employment.

Since his appointment, the Secretary has made consistent pronouncements in the news regarding the need to relax security of tenure clauses in the constitution and the labor code to attract foreign investors.

At the hearing, the Secretary declared his opposition to anti-contractualization legislation, but said he was supportive of workers’ security of tenure.

“Have you even read the text of the Security of Tenure bill?” Bello asked Secretary Domingo to determine the basis of his opposition to the legislation.

Sec. Domingo qualified that his reaction was based on certain provisions of bill, which he thought provided for the banning of contractualization. He admitted that he has not yet read the bill but relied on summations of the bill by his subordinates.

“It is important to note that the bill does not ban contractual employment. What the bill does is to limit and regulate contractual employment to ensure that workers’ welfare is duly maintained. Ang problema dito, naglalabas ng position ang DTI laban sa Security of Tenure bill nang hindi pa nila ito nababasa. Ang hinihingi lang naman namin ay sana na-konsulta muna kaming mga authors bago nagdeklara si Sec. Domingo ng pagtutol sa panukalang batas,” Bello explained. “What’s worse is, by issuing such statements, Secretary Domingo is giving the impression that the P-Noy administration is anti-labor.”

Bello also pointed out in the hearing that Sec. Domingo used to be executive director of SM Investments, known notoriously for violations to the labor code and as promoters of wide-scale contractualization in the country.

“I think you should realize that you are no longer a representative of a corporation but of the Republic of the Philippines, of which labor is a very important sector,” Bello reminded the DTI chief.

Promoting Philippine Garments Industry

Bello also asked DTI to provide an update on the SAVE Bill filed in the US Congress that seeks to promote garment imports from the Philippines into the United States in order to support the revival of the Philippine garments industry.  

“The SAVE Bill is a good springboard from which we can reinvigorate the garments industry in the country,” Bello explained. “DTI confirmed that both houses of the US Congress have raised concerns over labor provisions of the bill. We expect the DTI to provide remedies to these concerns immediately.”

Industry and Investments Group Undersecretary Cristino L. Panlilio explained that in order to save the bill, the Philippines enlisted in the “Better Works Program” of the International Labor Organization (ILO) that is designed to assist manufacturers comply with core labor standards. Panlilio however said that the country does not have the resources to pariticipate in the program and thus cannot obtain certification from ILO, which is delaying the passage of the SAVE bill.

According to Panlilio, the DTI is planning to develop its own/local version of a Better Works Program, with the help of a consultant, to remedy this concern.

“The government has some 600 million unused funds from the Garment and Textiles Export Board (GETB) that was turned over to the Treasury in 2005. We should tap this to support Philippine Participation in the ILO Better Works Program,” Bello recommended.
The GTEB was set up to regulate the allocation of apparel export quotas granted by the US Government. This allowed medium-sized companies in the ‘80s to become big firms by the late ‘90s. As a result of the termination of the Multi-Fiber Agreement and the quota system in January 2005, GTEB was abolished, and remaining funds were transferred to the national treasury.

In conclusion, Bello pointed out that the DTI “has a lot of catching-up to do” to contribute to the administration’s goal of improving the economy and ensuring that the Filipino people benefit from all development efforts.

“Akbayan believes that Philippine industries must be revitalized and turned into drivers of economic growth,” Bello concluded. “There is a lot of work that the DTI should do, and it should start by revising its position on contractualization and the welfare of workers, turn its eye to local markets and develop innovative ways to improve local production.”###