The Philippine government is appealing to the US government for a granting of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to hundreds of thousands of undocumented Filipino nationals illegally residing in the United States. The appeal builds upon the Philippines’ claim to being unable to fully recover from the devastation wrought by super-typhoon Haiyan (a.k.a. Yolanda) across its central provinces in November this year without such a grant. Up to 200,000 Filipinos currently located in the US reportedly stand to be eligible to avail of this concession.
According Section 244 of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act…
“Placing the Philippines under TPS will allow eligible Filipinos to stay and work in the US in order for them to assist in the county’s continuing recovery efforts after Typhoon Yolanda that devastated Easter Visayas last month, killing more than 6,000 people and affecting more than 16 million,” Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said.
(1) In general.-The [US] Attorney General, after consultation with appropriate agencies of the Government, may designate any foreign state (or any part of such foreign state) under [Temporary Protected Status (TPS)] only if-[…]
(B) the Attorney General finds that-
(i) there has been an earthquake, flood, drought, epidemic, or other environmental disaster in the state resulting in a substantial, but temporary, disruption of living conditions in the area affected,
(ii) the foreign state is unable, temporarily, to handle adequately the return to the state of aliens who are nationals of the state, and
(iii) the foreign state officially has requested designation under this subparagraph; or
(C) the Attorney General finds that there exist extraordinary and temporary conditions in the foreign state that prevent aliens who are nationals of the state from returning to the state in safety, unless the Attorney General finds that permitting the aliens to remain temporarily in the United States is contrary to the national interest of the United States.
But is the Philippines really lacking in sufficient resources to support the victims of Haiyan’s devastation?
Already, much of the rest of the country is gearing up (and spending big sums of money to do so) to celebrate the coming Christmas holidays. Evidence that there is enough disposable income to go around is abundant as malls, casinos, restaurants, and amusement facilities are lighting up in anticipation of the rush of consumption and household spending that usually marks this time of the year in the Philippines.
According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), remittances sent by the country’s army of overseas foreign workers (OFWs) reportedly “surged to a record high in October” which means that the Philippine economy will be awash with cash and buzzing with economic activity over the next several months.
Personal remittances, which include cash and non-cash items sent home by Filipinos abroad rose 8.8 percent to $2.282 billion in October, also an all-time high. This brought the January to October level to $20.452 billion, 6.8 percent higher than last year’s level.
Last month, the central bank said cash remittances may surge in November and December following the destruction caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda.
This is consistent with earlier claims issued by the BSP that the impact on the economy of Typhoon Haiyan has been “contained”. According to BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo, “remittances in November and December will post ‘stronger growth than in the previous months of 2013 to cover for the extra cost of rehabilitation’ in Yolanda-hit areas in the Visayas.” Other “analysts” also back this claim…
The projected increase “shields the economy from slow down since remittances provide for consumption spending,” which is one of the two key factors to Philippine growth other than services, said John Paolo Rivera, an independent consultant and former economist at De La Salle University (DLSU) in Manila, in an email over the weekend.
Indeed, the Philippines is seemingly in a good economic position and is touted as the emerging economic rockstar of Southeast Asia after posting 7.6 percent economic growth in the first half of the year — the “fastest” in the region.
The biggest Philippine cities are home to an increasingly affluent middle class and a small but powerful and wealthy elite class of big industrialists and business leaders. The awesome scale of the resources at the disposal of the Philippines’ economic elite is such as to attract the attention of big-time global luxury brands. Bloomberg reports that “Such is the wealth being generated in at least the upper echelons of Philippine society that Bayerische Motoren Werke AG in September opened its first Rolls-Royce showroom in Manila.” The same report also paints a pretty peachy picture of what lies ahead for the Philippines, putting all the worry around the challenges of rebuilding after the disaster in proper perspective…
The bank forecast that while the typhoon may cut full-year 2013 GDP growth to 6.9 percent from its earlier estimate of 7.1 percent, the nationwide impact won’t be long-lasting and the 2014 estimates should rise to 6 percent from 5.6 percent due to the boost from rebuilding.
Bloomberg also noted that the “history of comparable catastrophes shows that reconstruction can be a boost for developing nations.”
So there we have it. It seems the Philippines does not really need any further concessions from its former colonial master. It has an economy big enough and awash with enough cash to support any need for new employment and economic activity to fund disaster recovery. Perhaps if we start by scraping off all the hypocrisy that coats Philippine society’s quaint calls for “more support” for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, we can find it in our faculties to be a bit more resourceful and more self-reliant in light of the vast resources that have always been at our disposal.[Photo of Jose Antonio Vargas and Rolls Royce Philippines showroom courtesy TIME Magazine and PhilStar respectively.]
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