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Halloween-inspired protest greets World Bank chief in Manila
Manila, Philippines – It was an early Halloween at the World Bank office here Thursday afternoon.
As World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick concludes his two-day visit in the country, members of Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) trooped to the Bank’s office in Ortigas Center, Pasig City, denouncing the Bank as the fount of global corporate greed and the dispossession of the world’s 99 percent, including the Filipino people.
Donned in Halloween costumes, FDC and PMCJ members bear placards with messages such as “World Bank is evil, backs corporate greed” and “World Bank sucks the blood of 99% of the world’s population.” One protester was locked in a dollar sign-shaped wooden pillory, symbolizing the country mired in debt.
Ricardo B. Reyes, FDC president, said that Zoellick’s visit is a grim reminder of the central role played by the World Bank during its more than 60 years of existence in bringing most of the economies of the South (developing countries), including the Philippines, to perpetual debt and bankruptcy.
“The Bank’s loan conditionalities like the acceptance by the creditor countries of the structural adjustment programs of liberalization, deregulation and privatization have wrought incalculable damage on their sovereignty, sustainable development, employment and food sovereignty. This is on top of the Bank’s high interest payments and other onerous loan terms which squeezed these economies dry of funds for the basic needs of their people. When these economies crash, the Bank offers them bail-out programs which only inaugurate another cycle of indebtedness and bankruptcy for them,” Reyes said.
“Not satisfied with the plunder of the South, the World Bank, in recent years, has also shifted its greedy eyes towards the Green Climate Fund which is intended to address the issue of climate change. By coercing governments to allow distrusted financial institutions to handle the GCF, the World Bank continues to gobble up financing for climate initiatives. The Bank applies the same ravenous framework as the funds are accessed by poor countries, including the Philippines, as loans rather than being reparations for climate debt,” added Reyes.
Judy Pasimio, executive director of the Legal Rights and Natural Resource Center/Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK) said: “The World Bank, supported by other international financing institutions in the country, orchestrated the passage of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. The Bank continues with its atrocities against our country and our indigenous kababayan by sucking our already depleted natural wealth, destroying our environment, worsening climate change and displacing entire communities – all for profit.”
Pasimio, also a member of the PMCJ coordinating committee, added that the World Bank is currently funding through its private lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a mining exploration project in Agusan del Norte without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples in the area and despite other irregularities tainting the project.
According to news reports, Zoellick’s visit here aims at strengthening the World Bank’s partnership with the Philippines to combat poverty. In meetings with President Benigno S. Aquino III and his economic team and with leaders of big business and civil society organizations, Zoellick wants to see firsthand the government’s reforms and to observe the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program at work.
Commenting on Mr. Zoellick’s agenda, FDC’s Reyes said that the World Bank’s anti-poverty programs in the Philippines are the same old failed models which only lessen the harshest impacts of poverty on the bottom poor like meagre cash transfers and avoid, even undermines the necessary asset, tax and political reforms for an enduring solution to poverty in our country.
Reyes further pointed out: “FDC and other human rights groups like FIAN Philippines criticize the WB-model of the conditional cash transfer program as not consonant with international human rights covenants declaring the Right to Food as unconditional and universal. As such, the CCT lacks the basic features of being a rights-based approach to eradicating poverty apart from its vulnerability to patronage and corruption.”
November 2001 was the last time a World Bank chief visited the Philippines, during the time of James Wolfenson.
As of September, the Washington-based lender had a total commitment of over $2 billion with an additional $185 million in commitments from the International Finance Corp., its private-sector arm