Eduardo C. Tadem, Ph.D.
University of the Philippines Diliman
Karl Arvin F. Hapal, MCD
Assistant Professor, UP College of Social Work and Community Development
The UP CIDS Program on Alternative Development (AltDev) aims to look at paradigms, policies, practices, and projects that are largely marginalized and excluded from the mainstream. As they challenge dominant modes, they do not figure prominently in the national and international discourse.
It aims to bring these alternatives out of the margins and into the mainstream and level the playing field so that they may be regarded on an equal footing with dominant discourses and thus offer alternatives to the existing system.
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The perceived failure of mainstream and dominant development paradigms to meaningfully address the issues and concerns of Southeast Asian peoples is viewed by civil society organizations and social movements as rooted in a market-centered and state-supported process wherein decisions are made without the participation of the marginalized and disenfranchised peoples of the region. These existing paradigms are accountable only to the narrow-vested interests of economic elites and political oligarchies. As a result, these have only further widened the gap between rich and poor within and among countries and caused unparalleled debasement of the environment.
This situation brings up the need to search for an alternative model of development, in general, and in particular, a regional integration that challenges the dominant paradigm – one that is based on what Southeast Asian peoples are already doing on the ground and is guided by cooperation, solidarity, mutual benefit, the commons principle, and joint development, not cutthroat competition, the insatiable thirst for profits, and narrow patriotism and chauvinism.
There are a large number of spirited individuals and communities, projects and programs, proving through action and achievement that there are other ways of doing things. These efforts are creating new social relationships in which practitioners are empowered socially, economically, and culturally, eroding and undermining the basis of maldevelopment. In these efforts are identified vibrant elements of a new civilization that we need to build, thus foretelling, if partially, the configuration of a just future society.
These models are still spatially dispersed and largely localized. There is, therefore, a need to link these diverse models so that they may eventually grow into alternative systems that can sustain themselves and, eventually, challenge the dominant system.
The Project on Alternative Practices in Southeast Asia aims to initially document these alternative practices by grassroots peoples and communities and link these across the region to form the building blocks of a people’s alternative regional integration. This will be conducted in partnership with the Department of Community Development of the UP College of Social Work and Community Development, the Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives (ARENA), Focus on the Global South, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)–Philippines, and the People’s Empowerment Foundation (PEF)–Thailand.
As part of this project, the Program on Alternative Development was able to conduct field visit and documentation activities in Bangkok, Thailand, and Jakarta, Indonesia. The Program, together with its partners, was able to organize a Regional Conference on Alternatives in Southeast Asia on 27-29 November 2018. Moreover, some of the ideas from this project were presented in different avenues such as the Asia-Europe People’s Forum by Ms. Ananeza P. Aban, and the 2018 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum in Singapore by Ms. Raquel Castillo.
UP CIDS is the lead implementing agency of a UNESCO project on transforming research into policy based on the principle of “social inclusion” as depicted in the 17 Social Development Goals (SDGs). It is about inequalities, inclusive development, transparency, and leaving no one behind. The objective is to look at research studies on best (and not so best) practices on social inclusion in the Philippines and what evidence is needed for a practice to be considered as implementing social inclusion. AltDev has been tasked by UP CIDS to manage the project.
A Philippine Working Group (PWG) has been formed with UP CIDS as the lead implementing and coordinating agency. On the government side, the PWG is composed of Philippine Commission for UNESCO (UNACOM); National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA); Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD); Department of Health (DOH); and the legislative research and policy offices of both houses of the Philippine Congress. Civil society is represented in the PWG by DIGNIDAD; the Network for Transformative Social Protection (NTSP); and the UP Manila’s Universal Healthcare Study Group. In the project’s start-up workshop held on 22 September 2017, the PWG decided to focus on programs and policies that address the shortage primary care health workforce within the primary healthcare approach as the project’s scope of study.
This project will host the activities of two sister organizations, the Network for Transformative Social Protection (NTSP) and Buhay na May Dignidad para sa Lahat (DIGNIDAD). NTSP is a Southeast Asian regional platform for a life of dignity for all that advances universal, comprehensive and transformative social protection and the agenda for a Social ASEAN. It is composed of issue-based people’s formations, NGOs, and sectoral networks including marginalized groups, some academics and parliamentarians in Asia, especially in Southeast Asia. NTSP endeavors to build movements that will engage governments into adopting social protection programs including people-centered and sustainable transformative development alternatives towards fulfillment of people’s economic and social rights and realization of social justice.
Beyond safety nets and taking on a life-cycle approach for people to realize their full human potential, the comprehensive social protection program consists of decent work and sustainable livelihood, guaranteed essential services, food, and adequate income guarantee in times of old age, unemployment, disability, and calamity as well as subsidy for children. The NTSP agenda also tackles structural causes of poverty and inequality and links up with struggles for tax and fiscal justice, trade and climate justice, and campaign against privatization of essential services.
DIGNIDAD is a Philippine national convergence of at least 32 people’s movements and formations—a coalition of coalitions—that united to pursue universal, comprehensive, and transformative social protection towards guaranteeing Filipinos a life of dignity. The people’s movements that are part of DIGNIDAD are grassroots organizations, labour groups, and other sectoral coalitions (of peasants, urban poor, older people, persons with disability, and women), movement‐based party‐lists and multi‐sectoral issue-based coalitions, church‐based organizations, human rights groups, and academics.
DIGNIDAD has been pursuing 8 specific demands: 1) Decent work and sustainable livelihood; 2) Free and quality health care; 3) Socialized decent housing; 4) Free education up to the tertiary level; 5) Safe and affordable food; 6) Guaranteed access to safe water and electricity; 7) Safe and reliable public transport; and 8) Living pension for older people and adequate income support to children, persons with disability, unemployed, and calamity survivors.
Karl Marx (1818–1883) was the German philosopher whose ideas exercised a profound influence on the world and inspired countless revolutionary movements in the twentieth century. Yet, after the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s, Marx was considered irrelevant and consigned to the margins of popular discourse. Then came the series of economic crises beginning with East Asia in the 1990s and culminating in the US induced global economic meltdown in 2008–2009.
In the aftermath, there was renewed interest and discussions of the works of Karl Marx. In 2014, Rolling Stone magazine noted that Marx accurately predicted that capitalism would regularly experience crisis as a result of “the inherently chaotic, crisis-prone nature of capitalism … a cycle that is still playing out before our eyes.” Also noted was Marx’s foretelling the phenomenon of “globalization” due to capital’s “relentless search for new markets and cheap labor … and more natural resources.”
In a 2016 The New Yorker magazine article, Louis Menand, argued that Marx’s ideas, though formulated later in the 19th century, “may help us to understand the economic and political inequality of our time” as well as the “bubble of ferment in the advanced economies.” The celebrated French economist Thomas Piketty had this to say of Marx: “Economists of today would do well to take inspiration from his example.”
As the 2nd millennium neared its end in 1999, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) conducted a poll among its online readers as to who they thought was the greatest thinker in the last 1,000 years. The winner: Karl Marx. Second and third places went to Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton.
The year 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth. In many parts of the world commemorative and celebratory events are being organized. The Marx 200 International Conference was organized by the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) on Marx’s birthdate, May 5, “celebrating Marx’s work and exploring the significance of Marxism in the world today.” The Carnegie Mellon University Humanities Center in Pittsburgh, USA is currently holding a series of lecture forums on Marx which began in January 2018 and will last until September 2018. In Madrid, Spain a major international conference will be held in October 2018 “dedicated to the study of the work of Marx and his influence on science and pragmatic contemporary politics.” In Beijing, the 2nd World Congress on Marxism convened from May 5 to 6 and is expected to attract 300 participants.
At the same time, books and reader-friendly literature on Marx are piling up. On the whole, according to The Guardian, “interest had increased in Marxism in the past couple of years, while numbers attending lectures on Marxism and conducting research … have risen in recent months.”
In the Philippines, under the auspices of the University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies Program on Alternative Development (UP CIDS AltDev), a group of academics and social movement activists have gathered to plan for a series of lectures to commemorate Marx at 200. The objective of the project is to situate the works of Marx and Marxist theory and practice within the context of the Philippine political, economic, cultural, and scientific situation. The lectures will seek to:
- Interrogate the diverse intellectual, political, and historical legacies of Marx and Marxism
- Revisit Marxist theory and practice in light of changing social, political, and economic contexts, such as technological development, the rise of social media, and the erosion of democracy across countries.
- Assess the complex relationship of Marxism with other intellectual currents and disciplines, from gender, science, and biopolitics to literature, historiography, and political practice.
- Determine how and to what extent Marxist theory and practice can inform, impede, and enrich questions of political and economic praxis.
Several lectures were held under the Marx Bicentennial Lecture Series, covering different topics. The lecture series is co-sponsored with the Socialist Circle and the Last Thursday Colloquium.
The United Nations’ Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011–2020) will end in two years’ time. Many road safety initiatives have been accomplished and implemented, with national road safety action plans being put in place in various countries. Road traffic fatalities are dropping at a slow pace and rate, but much work needs to be done in order to significantly reduce this to record-low levels. The international community was made aware of the increasing road traffic fatalities in different parts of the world, which is why the WHO has declared road traffic crashes a public health emergency. It is now given global priority and attention as the year 2020 approaches.
To illustrate the current state of global road safety, there are 1.25 million road traffic fatalities annually with no apparent sign of significantly slowing down soon. Low and middle-income countries had the highest share of road traffic mortality rates, which are between 18.1 to 26.1 deaths per 100,000 population. According to the WHO in 2015, road traffic crashes are the number one cause of death among those aged 15-29 years old, the most economically productive population.
As opposed to other countries in Asia and the Pacific, the death rate in road traffic crashes in the Philippines continues to climb. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) data, road traffic fatalities have been increasing since 2008, from 6,941 recorded fatalities to 10,012 in 2015, a 31% increase in a period of 7 years. Approximately half of all deaths on the country’s roads involve vulnerable road users such as motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians. A heterogeneous mix that includes high-speed vehicles sharing the road space with vulnerable road users, as well as unsafe road infrastructure and vehicles that are in poor working condition all contribute to the high fatality rates seen on national public roads. In 2014, the Philippines recorded that around 78.6% or 7,194 of road traffic fatalities were composed of members coming from the 20–29-year age group.
Because of the alarming road traffic mortality rate in the Philippines, it was identified as one of the countries included in the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS) from 2015 to 2019, along with other four countries: Thailand, China, India and Tanzania. This is being conducted by a consortium of international partners together with national governments and local civil society organizations. The funding is coursed through the WHO and coordinated with the Philippine Government, primarily with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Health (DOH). The BIGRS runs two fellowship programmes—the Legal Development Programme (LDP) and Media Fellowship Programme (MFP). The former primarily provides technical assistance to government and implementing agencies to improve and strengthen road safety policies and legislation through capacity-building measures for Fellows, such as training programs in road safety; while the latter focuses on developing advocacies in the media to disseminate awareness in road safety.
The BIGRS-LDP Fellows in the Philippines were able to provide legal and institutional assessments on road safety plans and develop training courses on road safety for PUV drivers and LGUs.
The overall objective of this project is to be able to contribute to the significant reduction of road traffic fatalities by the end of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety. In the Philippines, during the development of its own national road safety plan, the Philippine Road Safety Action Plan (PRSAP) 2017–2022, the various stakeholders of the advocacy agreed to a target of 20 percent reduction (in death rates) for road traffic fatalities.
This is a project initiated by the Quezon City Government and the Department of Interior and Local Government and contracted to UP CIDS to craft proposals on the role and functions of the Metro Manila region under a federalism set-up. It involves various UP CIDS programs and other UP faculty members and disciplines. For the AltDev program, it will focus on reclaiming public services and bringing these under public control and management.
In the 1980s, privatization became the preferred policy of governments in economic development and the delivery of public services. It was meant to reduce government involvement in business, infrastructure development and maintaining services, promote competition, efficiency, and productivity. The promise of privatization, however, remains unfulfilled. Monopolization, profit-maximization, patronage and corruption frequently accompany privatization in many developing and transition economies.
The problems engendered by privatization have spurred a counter movement to deprivatize and re-municipalize and give back to the public the control and ownership of public goods. In many cities around the world, public officials, workers, unions and social movements are reclaiming or creating public services to address people’s basic needs and respond to environmental challenges.”
The various ills related to privatization have seen its realization in the Philippine case. Is it time to now give back to government bodies and agencies the ownership and control over essential services? This opportunity has now been opened by the aggressive moves of the Duterte government and its allies for the country to shift to a federal system of government. Under a federal set-up, what are the conditions under which this can be effected? In particular, in the light of the global re-municipalization trend, how can the National Capital Region (NCR) undertake a similar undertaking?
This study will focus on the provision of water and power services. In the end, the ultimate measure is the welfare and well-being of all citizens and to ensure that essential services are available, accessible, and affordable for all.