updated 11 July 2001
updated 11 July 2001
There are over 150 national and locally-based organizations affiliated with CASA/Philippines. Many of these are coalitions representing hundreds of grassroots groups. This network is responsible for carrying out a CASA (Citizen's Assessment of Structural Adjustment) exercise, as the government and World Bank did not agree to be involved. Among these groups, which have participated in a range of activities organized by CASA, are: eight peasant associations, seven peace and human rights organizations, ten poor people's associations, seven development organizations, six environmental groups, five health organizations, fifteen labor unions, twelve church and religious organizations, five educational associations, twenty-eight women's organizations, five youth groups, three indigenous peoples' organizations, six political movements, five political parties, thirteen debt-relief advocacy groups, and four migrant-support associations.
There is a Steering Committee with 15 members, of which six are conveners of thematic working groups, three are regional representatives and six are members at large.
Steering Committee members:
When initial efforts to bring the government on board to carry out a SAPRI exercise failed in 1997, civil society began a process of organizing a CASA initiative. Beginning in early 1998, the Freedom from Debt Coalition took the lead in carrying out an extensive process of outreach with an economic-literacy component designed to actively involve a wide-range of organizations representative of different sectors across the country. Special efforts were made to involve people and their organizations in the poorest and most disadvantaged regions of the country, particularly northern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. A national assembly was held in March 1998, followed by a general organizing meeting in August of that year. Thematic working groups were constituted, with the participation of a wide range of organizations involved in the network, in order to help elucidate issues of concern to civil society, outline possible questions for research and prepare background materials.
After national elections in May 1998, a series of efforts were also made to bring the new government on board to jointly carry out a SAPRI exercise. While some government ministries expressed interest, a formal, positive response was never received. The civil-society steering committee made a decision in March 1999 to continue with the process as a CASA exercise.
The Opening National CASA Forum was held on 12-13 July 1999 at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City in the Manila metropolitan area. Nearly 300 people representing non-governmental and peoples' organizations -- one-third of them from outside of the Manila metropolitan area -- traveled from all 12 regions of the country to attend. They included members of small-farmer associations, research institutes, labor unions, environmental groups, and organizations of the urban poor, indigenous peoples, health-care workers, students and teachers.
The Forum's opening plenary was addressed by representatives of the civil-society network and a member of the country's House of Representatives, as well as by the World Bank's country representative, even though the Bank is not formally participating in the exercise. An afternoon plenary session was dedicated to presentations and testimonies by members of a broad range of civil-society organizations from across the country on the impact of four sets of adjustment policies: trade liberalization in the agricultural sector; public-expenditure reform in the social sectors; labor market flexibilization and liberalization and deregulation in the mining sector. Information was also presented in preparation for a desk study to be undertaken on the effects of privatization on workers and the poor. On the second day, Forum participants broke into four groups organized by themes to present testimonies and discuss areas on which to focus research. Each group reported on its conclusions in a final plenary session.
The Forum participants focused their attention on the adjustment package of interrelated free-market reforms comprising: deregulation; the liberalization of trade, investment and the flow of foreign capital; sweeping privatization; labor "flexibilization"; and cuts in social spending and in subsidies and support for small producers. They explained how, over the past 20 years, these and related policies that have thrown the Philippine economy wide open and promoted export production have increased the concentration of wealth, especially in foreign hands, and increased the country's debt burden, while imposing heavy costs on much of the Philippine population. These costs, the participants said, have included: a decrease in food security; extensive soil degradation and other environmental problems; serious health problems paralleling a decrease in affordable health care; the devastation of indigenous communities; the destruction of livelihoods; massive urban and overseas migration; the suppression of wages and incomes; the violation of human and labor rights; and a greatly expanded burden on women. The discussion of these adjustment policies and their effects, beyond engendering a broad understanding and consensus, also helped clarify the issues on which field research is necessary to further elucidate these links. (see report)
The four thematic groups, each addressing one of the four issues discussed at the Opening National Forum, met in August 1999 to review the information emerging from the Forum and refine the issues for research. They worked with the Technical Committee in September to define the research design for each of the following areas:
Literature reviews and desk research on these issues began in October 1999 in order to prepare for the field-work phase. The team involved in preparing for the research into the impacts of reductions in public expenditure on education and health care encountered much difficulty in narrowing down researchable questions that would elucidate the impacts of adjustment policies on these sectors. While field work for the other three issues began in early 2000, the fourth study did not get underway until later in the year.
In addition to the four field studies, the Opening National Forum endorsed the Steering Committee's recommendation for a desk study on the impact of privatization on poor and vulnerable sectors and access to services. Work in this area began in September 1999 and a background study, which also focuses on the role of the multilateral financial institutions in promoting privatization, was completed a year later. In addition to this overview, three case studies were carried out. They examine the process of privatization of water utilities, specifically in the Manila metropolitan area where the public water company (MWSS) was privatized in 1997, the implications of the proposed privatization of the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR), and the impact of the 1997 deregulation of the oil industry.
Fieldwork for the study on the impact of liberalization policies on indigenous peoples and the environment through the Mining Act of 1995 was completed in December 2000. Data gathering took place in July and August, after which the interviews with respondents were transcribed in the local dialect and then translated into Filipino and English. This was a time-consuming but necessary task, as data-analysis and writing could not proceed without the translated information. After reviewing this initial data, additional fieldwork was done in November and December. The thematic working group overseeing the study reviewed and discussed the initial findings from the field research with the communities where the fieldwork was done. Sessions in Manicani Island, Leyte (in Eastern Visayas) and Nueva Vizcaya (in Northern Luzon) took place in January 2001.
Fieldwork for the study on the impact of trade liberalization on food security was divided into two parts, each looking at the impact on food security from the perspective of a particular productive sector: one focusing on export promotion in the shrimp industry and the other focusing on liberalization of the rice industry. This fieldwork was completed in December 2000, and research teams completed their analysis of fieldwork output in January. Fieldwork for the study on the impact of trade liberalization on labor and the quality of work focused on selected industries -- the garment, cement, food-processing and sugar industries -- and was completed in January 2001. After getting a late start, field research into the impact of public-expenditure policies on education and health care was completed in February.
The political crisis that began to unfold in October 2000 slowed down the research process. Most draft reports were completed in February 2001, after which one-day workshops were organized by each thematic working group overseeing the separate field studies in order to discuss findings and elicit feedback from civil-society representatives prior to the Second National Forum on 4-5 April.
Economic-literacy work has been carried out throughout the exercise since its inception. It was an integral part of the mobilizing and organizing work building up to the Opening National Forum. Materials were prepared to explain basic economic concepts and structural adjustment policies. These were distributed in sessions held at the regional level, using a format that facilitated replication at the local level. In addition, a full one-day workshop was held two days before the Forum for the many people who had come into the capital from the outlying regions of the country.
Economic-literacy work has also accompanied the research phase in order to ensure greater civil-society participation in the process. A new round of economic-literacy workshops began in September 2000 and was to feed into the process of consultation to elicit feedback on initial research results prior to the Second National Forum.
The Second National Forum was held on 5-6 April 2001 at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City in the Manila metropolitan area. More than 200 participants from all around the country representing a wide range of civil-society organizations attended the two-day event, where the results of the participatory research were presented and discussed.
Following the Forum and based on its discussions, researchers worked to incorporate changes into their reports.