It is always an honor when I am invited to discussions among ASEAN consumer organizations. Through collaboration, we at Laban Konsyumer Inc. believe that each country can learn from each other and adapt best practices to bring more welfare and security to consumers around the region. The Philippines is always willing to lend a helping hand when needed, and the sentiment also goes both ways. I had a very good meeting recently with the Federation of Malaysia Consumer Associations (FOMCA).
FOMCA is a national non-governmental organization, which is voluntary, not-for-profit, non-political, and civic oriented. It is the umbrella body for 13 consumer associations in Malaysia. FOMCA links the activities of consumers’ associations in Malaysia and works together with the national and international levels towards strengthening consumer protection. FOMCA’s main concern is not only value for money but more so, value for people. FOMCA also promotes through the purchasing power of consumers a need-oriented “development that will ensure socio-economic justice and environmental quality of life for all.”
Recapping the meeting with FOMCA, it was very informative on the issues faced by consumers in the Philippines. We also mentioned that our group, Laban Konsyumer Inc. will be giving full support in disseminating the information through other consumer organizations through newspapers and electronic messages since the proposed issues are common issues among ASEAN consumers.
During the discussions, it was agreed that the Covid-19 pandemic has critically impacted consumers. I believe the same goes with the Laban Konsyumer Inc. and how all our organizations advocate for system change and undertake education programmes within extremely limited resources.
Thus, FOMCA would like to continue to have a series of short discussions with ASEAN consumer organizations on the impact of COVID-19 on the well-being of consumers.
Areas of concern would include:
- The economic impact of the pandemic on workers and consumers especially the vulnerable groups such as women, single mothers, workers in the informal sector and micro businessmen – the loss of job and income have devastating impact on the welfare of consumers especially for children ;
- The need for Social Protection Reform – includes policies, programmers and measures aimed at maintaining basic standard of living for the consumers beyond the pandemic ;
- Access to Affordable Food – the poor is severely affected by high food prices as they spent most on food items. Efforts should be done on how to reduce prices and assure steady supply ;
- Healthcare Reform – Excessive profiteering in the healthcare services. A good mental health program must be in place;
- Addressing the Digital Divide – review the equal access to internet of the consumers between the “haves” and “ have nots “;
- Empowering Digital Consumers – assess the impact of the internet on the wellbeing of consumers especially the psychological and mental impact of online learning , and
- Consumer and Financial Education – financial literacy shall teach consumers how to effectively spend their money.
FOMCA is looking forward to collaborating with Laban Konsyumer Inc. to enhance consumer protection in the ASEAN region.
The conclusion from the recent discussions were as follows:
- In its core efforts to protect consumers as well as empower consumers in this challenging environment, FOMCA focuses on advocacy as well as consumer empowerment programmers.
- FOMCA’s advocacy is based through memorandum, press conferences and press releases, media, social media, national campaigns representations on various policy making as well as through our own communication website – Konsumerkini.
- FOMCA empowerment of programmers are through education and empowerment programmers in schools, workplaces, communities and NGOs through face to face (less during the pandemic), social media and zoom programmers.
FOMCA also updated that “Moving forward, we will host a webinar to highlight issues arising in many ASEAN country. We would like to request Laban Konsyumer Inc. to share our country’s’ consumer issues related to COVID 19. We anticipate the Webinar to be hosted by end of September or early October 2021. We will try to get other ASEAN countries consumer associations to share their inputs as well.”
Our group and other consumer organizations in the Philippines can also set out and look outside of our walls to learn more from other countries, as I believe that collaboration truly is the key in solving many of the crises that our country faces, especially during times of pandemic, when consumers are struggling to make ends meet. At the end of the day, any interaction will be give and take and for the benefit of all.
Atty. Vic Dimagiba, AB, LLB, LLM
President, Laban Konsyumer Inc.
Email at [email protected]