Why is it so exceedingly difficult for the Philippines to change for the better?

Ultimately this is really the only question that really matters. There is no disputing the fact that the Philippines must change. The alternative? Well, that’s really up to Filipinos. If the Philippines does not change, it will continue along its current path. It would be a matter of being content with that course and the future it will bring.

If the alternative to not changing dooms Filipinos to a bleak future, why aren’t Filipinos readily embracing opportunities to change? The answer to this question involves simple economics. To change, you need to invest. To invest you need to be assured a return on that investment. The trouble with the prospectus of change at a national scale is that Filipinos are very skeptical that any of the benefits of macro change will ever trickle down to their dinner tables or bank accounts.

Old habits die hard: Pulling Filipinos out of their comfort zones is like pulling out teeth.
Old habits die hard: Pulling Filipinos out of their comfort zones is like pulling out teeth.
For example, much of what any one of a number of governments that have ruled the Philippines over the last several decades touts as “achievement” involves “economic growth”. Economic growth measured by a number such as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) constitutes a macro change in a country’s circumstances. However, the tough thing about macro change is making it relevant to ordinary citizens. To the average Filipino eking out a living in her mnimum wage factory job or even a garden-variety white collar worker who wastes three of his precious waking hours everyday stuck in traffic, those numbers are meaningless.

And so, an investment at an individual to change at an individual level becomes an exteremely hard thing to sell. Try telling that worker to work harder and “smarter” to contribute to improving national manufacturing productivity and you’ll get a glazed look back. Try telling that office worker stuck in traffic to observe traffic rules and be more courteous on the road and you’ll likely get punched in the face.

What’s in it for me?

Why should Filipinos care about “doing their part” to contribute to the national effort? Indeed, there is no evidence of such civic ethic in Philippine society. Big walls separate the rich and middle class from the poor. Shiny cars cocoon their occupants from Manila’s corrosive atmosphere. Losts of heat removed from airconditioned homes and offices are routinely blown into the faces of Manila’s wretched sweating majority. The poor, in turn, feeling they have been left to their devices to make good use of the public areas the rich and middle class have fenced out of their enclaves and turned an apathetic eye to progressively annex vast tracts of these lands and facilities into their rapidly-expanding colonies and foul up vital transportation channels (including critical waste disposal channels) with their refuse.

Surprisingly, notwithstanding all the loud complaints about traffic, inefficiency, and corruption that are fielded all over social media from their ranks, the rich and middle class for their part have a lot invested in maintaining the status quo. This is why it has proven to be devilishly difficult to extract any kind of unified outrage and indignation out of the leisure and middle classes. They have a lot to lose if a truly disruptive change or reform process kicks off. A real taxation reform program, for example, will hit them hard — specially owners of small- to medium-sized businesses with revenues largely flying underneath the the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR’s) radar.

Another possible out-of-left-field development would be the rise to power of a politician who truly represents the Filipino masses (as opposed to the traditional ones from the current oligarchy who pay them mere lip service). A true people’s politician will institute reforms where it truly hurts if one happens to be part of the A/B classes. Indeed, the irony here is that though all the loud calls for “reform” come from the educated, so-called “illustrado” classes, this is really a case of rich and middle class people needing to be careful of what they wish for. How much real reform are rich and middle class people willing or able to tolerate? What if this supposedly ideal politician who truly represents the interests of the masses institutes that real taxation reform described earlier to redistribute wealth more “equitably” across society, or starts cracking down on brain-killing telenovelas, or decrees the opening up to public use of roads within private subdivisions, or cracks down on “private armies” including the private security agencies that have been vital to maintaining the peace in gated subdivisions and shopping malls.

Indeed, will the entrenched oligarchy even allow this frightening scenario to transpire? Not likely. They’ve got concessions, sweetheart deals, and other agreements amongst themselves to protect. Just getting pork barrel thieves thrown in jail, for one, has already proven to be a big monumental no-results exercise — precisely because everyone is in on the racket. A real scientific accounting of the thievery mounted will result in nothing short of a class-wide meltdown. Even ex-communists who appear to have gone “legit” and joined the democratic process to become House Representatives have, themselves, become part of the problem. So there is little hope of ever seeing a self-motivated initiative coming from the A/B classes to police their own ranks.

Meanwhile, the entire economy is propped up by the remittances of the Philippines’ vast army of overseas foreign workers (OFWs). Though reports put their contribution to the economy at a number that hovers between 10 and 12 percent of GDP, the impact on the economy may be a lot higher if the flow-on effects of these remittances in terms of the consumption these stimulate may be a lot bigger. OFW reliance is a lot easier than creating wealth — and employment — domestically, which is why OFW addiction is here to stay. It is the easy solution.

The cousin of addiction to foreign employment is addiction to foreign investment. The trouble with the Philippines is that it is not a self-sufficient society. Capability to create and grow indigenous capital (i.e. native technologies, native farming methods, native medical practice, etc.) probably could have sustained a population of a couple-odd million. Instead, the Philippines had grown to an enormous country of 100 million. Much of this population growth is fuelled by foreign capital — which means the Philippines is hopelessly hooked. When you are hopelessly irrevocably hooked on a resource you exert very little control over, you’re pretty much f-cked for life and a slave to whoever controls that resource.

In summary, any initiative to change or “reform” the Philippines will have to address all of the above systemic factors that complicate all those good intentions. Are Filipinos up to the challenge of scaling that tall smooth wall to get to that prosperous future they feel they are entitled to?

Abangan ang susunod na kabanata.

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Post Author: benign0

benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.

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28 Comments on "Why is it so exceedingly difficult for the Philippines to change for the better?"

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..The paralysis of PHL is self inflicted, and just to add to what you already said, here are some randoms thoughts: 1) PHL has the highest cost of energy in Asia. Any long term planning for this sector is not possible when govt are only interested in projects that could be accomplished within six years as demonstrated by the last three administrations. Every new administration ignores the feasibility studies, which are costly, done by previous ones, as amply demonstrated by the current one, only because the top honcho personally hated the previous top honcha. PHL has also limited its option… Read more »
cx420
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8) What incentives do the ruling party have in helping agriculture? Importing rice, onions, chicken etc is a big source of money for any election war chest. There is not enough in the war chest because a new opposition candidate who has more money has showed up? No problem, invent a justification to import more rice, even if the overstock in the warehouse will just rot. 9) The rules for private public partnership are moving targets. Ayala just won a public bidding to construct an expressway in Southern Luzon, because San Mig was late in submitting a bank document by… Read more »
Bugoy
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10) mass transport system 11) “bahala na” 12) “pwede na yan” 13 ) “bro, meron ka ba dyan, pa-utang naman.” 14) “bro, pasensya na, kung pwede sa susunod na sweldo na lang.” 15) Filipino Time. 16) “Pinoy Pride” 17) “pre, bonus na ba mamaya? …o, cge, inuman tayo, tawagin mo na rin sila Pedro, Juan, at si Mitz at Joy na rin.” 18) “wow, noy, ganda ng wheels mo, ha, bago ba yan? …wag ka ma-ingay, lagpas kalahati ng sweldo ko monthly nyan.” 19) “honey, bayaran mo na yun bills…… eh, eh nagastos ko kagabi, eh. Hindi, ako maka-hindi kila…..”… Read more »
marius
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Seriously, would YOU trust a Filipino to run a nuclear power plant? Would you want to live down the road from one built by Filipinos?

These things are not inherently safe: they depend on smart, conscientious people all doing their jobs. One screwup or cut corner can result in disaster.

In any case, the Phils really doesn’t need more energy – it just needs to make far better use of what it’s got.

100% agree with you about ports, airports, customs, and taxes though.

Pallacertus
Guest

Would I trust a Pinoy to do and keep doing X? If he has all the right credentials, seems mentally and physically fit, and has no criminal record, then sure. Doesn’t really matter if X is coal, geothermal, hydroelectric, or nuclear; if he’s competent enough, the place is his.

marius
Guest
“If he has all the right credentials, seems mentally and physically fit, and has no criminal record, then sure.” Fair enough, but you need more than four people to build an operate a nuclear power station 😉 Seriously though, nuclear is NOT the same as (say) a coal-fired power station. Take a bribe on the latter and allow substitution of made-in-China safety components, and the worst that can happen is that some very expensive repairs will be required. If you’re really unlucky, a couple of people will die. Screw up a nuclear power plant, and you potentially have an entire… Read more »
Fred Mertz
Guest

eveer see a Filipino fill out an LTO form? LOL,its complicated ?

victor m. hernandez
Guest

Naaaaahhhhh! Are we really that hopeless?

Fred Mertz
Guest

Yeah.

victor m. hernandez
Guest

Nah. They go abroad to work where their skills are better appreciated, and get to change their world views as they are immersed in a better environment and a working system of modernity. OFWs remittance keep the RP economy afloat. Yet, they are never appreciated here, due to its topsy turvy system, and a lot of big &petty graft & corruption. And the business elite are resigned to the system or even thrie in it. What a life for Pinoys. We just try to cope and adjust, but never transform.

Narra
Guest
It’s ironic how the government boast how the GDP grew every year with the help of OFWs remittances when having to sent out workers abroad is proof how poor your country is that people have to get away to earn better or have a job (and a factory worker/production operators, clerical or house help jobs at that – one of the main contributors in the said ever-growing GDP). Also these are mostly high school, college undergrads or vocational graduates. If the government has budget and is pursuing higher education as they firmly believed, they’ve just allowed the young generation to… Read more »
Ricardo_Diaz
Guest

Pretty much this.

Even if individual Filipinos can escape the Philippines and become tremendously successful, they are forever marred by the shadow that is their dysfunctional country.

Our country is like having an embarrassing relative – like a drunk uncle. Who loves being lazy, will continue to get drunk, keeps asking you for money, do stupid things embarrassing himself and you by proxy.

Now we have two choices, either we continue to let our drunk uncle do what he does, or find a way to make him stop.

Fred Mertz
Guest

How to make him STOP is an interesting proposition, eh?

marius
Guest

They tried to make me go to rehab, and I said no, no, no … 🙂

Pallacertus
Guest

You got the intellectuals in their best progressive dress shouting down the poor and unwashed for not doing as they say — you got the poor and unwashed too burdened by life and altogether too conscious of the fact that the intellectuals will not try and understand them, and will instead condescend and demean — you got both parties and the rich taking advantage and grabbing every scrap that is not tacked on fast — and precious lack of dialogue for all affected due to decades of suppressed ill-will and suspicion and banal stereotyping — and you get total dysfunction.

Chris
Guest

Yep, classism in a nutshell is this country’s main roadblock from moving forward. Not to mention thinly veiled racism with lightly skinned Eurasians mostly at the top echelon of politics, business and entertainment while the dark indios are left scrounging the earth working menial jobs in piss poor conditions.

SACRE-BLEU
Guest

Divide and conquer, disinformation on a massive scale,plain ignorance, and many more ingenious devices of mass manipulation are at work in the Philippines.

as a society, and for all its citizens not part of the 1%,there is no future for you. Yep, just like ALMOST everywhere else !

Hyden Toro005
Guest
Filipinos can change, if they want to…it takes great effort and will power to change. We are still a Feudalistic country. We allow the political leaders, to control us. We are numerous. They are only few…it seems the “tail of the dog” is wagging the whole body of the “dog”… Why are family political dynasties there? Because , we elected them. Why are Pork Barrel Thieves, rule us, and steal us blind? Because, we allow them and do nothing on them. We just let them steal. Why do we have an incompetent and corrupt President? Because, we allow him to… Read more »
Narra
Guest

For political dynasties, hopefully the anti-political dynasty law take effect before the upcoming election. PUSH pa!

Fred Mertz
Guest

oh yeah, good luck with that !

Add
Guest

..Link

Add
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..Link

triple r
Guest

Spot on analysis. yup ofws and their padala keep the social volcano from exploding. Opportunities to create wholesale change in a nation come by only so often. Edsa 1 could have been that chance but we tragically blew it and let the elite dictate the outcome. The second one was a farce. Doesn’t look like an opportunity for change is coming up anytime soon. I hope I’m wrong. BInay in 2016 seems like a confirmation that the country is resigned to its fate.

Fred Mertz
Guest

Why is it the ‘President’ is looked at as some sort of ‘agent of change’? It represents the established order of the way ife is, so why look at it as its going to chnage anything?
This is another illusion Filipino’s are endowed with.

triple r
Guest

Admittedly a leader’s role in change can be overrated but leadership is also a factor in societal change. Especially in an Asian setting…Korea’s park, Singapore’s yew, Malaysia’s mahathir, and even Marcos were all for good or ill leaders who were agents of change or at least the face of change.

Also because leaders hold power (the government apparatuses) they can enact policies that could directly lead to or stimulate change.

Jim DiGriz
Guest
Dave
Guest

Maybe you should install Google’s SatireBlock Plus plug-in, it could save you time.

Captain Obvious
Guest

Because Tangalogista Fliptard media/survey corporations are mind-numbing garbage.
Because there are many Fliptards who operate brothels and cybersex dens in the Failippines.
Because many Fliptards [regardless of socioeconomic status] are very lustful/promiscuous, always making many babies due to teenage or unintended pregnancies, and too lazy to close their own legs.
Because many Peenoise Pridists are still lying that the Failippines’ red-light districts are still “fewer” than other [nearer or farther] countries’ red-light districts.

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