The Awkward Situation Of the Philippines
in the Global Trade Arena
by Apolinario Villalobos
In a global trade arena of players, the Philippines is a midget compared to the giants with advanced technology and humungous economy. Even compared to fellow third-world countries whose economies are anchored on sound nationalistically operated industries and modernistic agricultural technology, the Philippines is like a guppy swimming among carps in an aquarium. The Philippines has nothing to be proud of as regards agriculture which should have been the foundation of its economy. It has wasted the opportunity given by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the learning center for rice technology in Asia. It practically neglected its natural resources whose exploitation by both the corrupt Filipinos and foreigners has been left unchecked for so many years.
The government kept on encouraging the influx of foreign investors instead of using the loaned money, the amount of which escalates every year, in developing revenue generating programs for the Filipinos. Instead, the government practically depended on the exported service as the primary source of revenue in the form of remittances, and the BPOs which can be relocated anytime and to any country, as necessary. Meanwhile, the loaned money is allotted on projects that have no direct effect on the lot of the Filipinos, and worse…on “projects”, that serve as “reasons” for variously- named discretionary budgets. To date, the Philippines has 5.9 trillion pesos total accountability due to incurred loans.
As globalization calls for better management and modernization regardless of who are the managers, the government is not stopping its effort in privatizing even crucial public utilities such as hospitals for the sake of the two aforementioned reasons. The government did not learn its lessons from the privatization of MERALCO and NAWASA, Petron, and even the deregulation of the oil industry which worsened the woes of the Filipinos. So, for the government, it doesn’t matter if the new administrators or managers of the “offered” utilities are foreigners, for as long, corrupt and inefficient management of these by Filipinos is stopped. Nationalism goes down the drain!
Trade globalization eliminates “fences” that separate countries for the sake of good trading among country members. Such could have been ideal, if players have equal footing. But how can a backward country like the Philippines, for instance, that just rely on old-fashioned farming facilities be at par with countries that use tractors and modern technique in irrigation? Such is the plight of the Philippines, a glaring reason why it now imports rice even from its neighbors that used to be at the tail end of statistics on progress a few years ago. The Golden Era of agriculture during the time of Ferdinand Marcos is now relegated to the past which many Filipinos today are wishing to be revived….which may just be left as such, a wish.
The Administration of Marcos has approved the rejection of economic liberalization policies proposed by the Congress in 1969. When Cory Aquino took over, she did the opposite by liberalizing economic policies. The liberalization was continued by Fidel Ramos during his term which also saw the height of privatization and selling of government properties to foreign investors, even the historic Manila Hotel, which fortunately, was successfully checked. The two past presidents set precedents enhanced by the rest that followed them. And the result today is the economic quagmire where the country is seemed to be permanently submerged from which no escape can be perceived. Due to the liberalization of economic policies, practically, even the toothpick comes from China!
What the present government is insisting to show the people is a “robust economy”, hence, an improved credit standing. As regards the robust economy, nothing can be felt by the ordinary Filipino, as unemployment balloons every year due to the added number of unemployed graduates and displaced OFWs returning from the Middle Eastern countries beset with political unrest. Prices of basic commodities that have soared have no hope of ever be brought down to their once affordable levels. As regards, the improved credit standing, if the attitude of the government is just to rely on loans, especially, from the World Bank that also determines projects on which their loaned money will be spent, then the country will forever be shackled to this greedy international institution that has the gull to make pronouncement that the economy of the country on its upward trend! The government even tried its best to make use of such pronouncement as an enhancement to the latest State of the Nation Address (SONA) of the president, by holding the meeting with the World Bank a few days before the SONA during which the encouraging statement was repeated. What a shame!
The country is in a dilemma with the approach of the 2016 elections. Nobody among the aspirants is worth the trust of the Filipinos. Aspirants are either blubbermouths who rhetorically make promises or show unbelievably “humble” and innocent faces on TV, but insinuates strong desire to be on the topmost rung of the government. But what is clear, is that they are strung together by a common thread – corruption.
This early, dynasties of political families, are already treading the campaign trail for the 2016 election. These families are so shameless as appearing on TV to smile their sweetest while enumerating what they have accomplished, albeit questionable, for their constituents – with the mileage paid for by the tax money. As if, a father and a son who are in the different areas of governance are not enough, there are yet, the mother, the daughter, the niece, the nephew, the in-laws who are distributed in different agencies, as well as, local government units.
With the unabated corruption in the government, what remains of our country may just be its name and the colors of its flag, as it piteously battle with the giants in the global trading arena, in order to survive on the pittance returns from the so-called “investments” made by the so-called “brilliant Filipino leaders”.