Philippine tourism touted as key to ‘inclusive’ growth while decay of key infrastructure continues


Climate change continues to loom as one of the biggest risks to the Philippines’ long-term future. Speaking before the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s ASEAN International Conference on Tourism and Climate Change in Legazpi City yesterday, Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III, asserted that the ‘new normal’ it will bring will compromise the long-aspired-for focus on “inclusive growth” that his administration had promised will be its legacy…

“If we do not tackle it head on, this ‘new normal’ brought about by climate change will be here to stay and we will be forced to make unfair choices between disaster risk management and development,” Aquino said.

Manila airport toilets: In the Philippines, it takes decades before even simple things get fixed.

Manila airport toilets: In the Philippines, it takes decades before even simple things get fixed.

The Philippines remains highly vulnerable to the mood swings of global weather. It has an already-shallow water supply that is rapidly being depleted, impoverished low-lying coastal cities that are disasters waiting to happen (and, of course, disasters that have happened), and suffers an enormous population that swamps any existing domestic capacity to feed.

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Much of what accounts for the Philippines’ “economic growth” lies in external drivers — remittances from its vast army of overseas foreign workers (OFWs), labour-added-value industries such as call centres and business process outsourcing firms (BPOs), consumption-fueled mega-retailing, and, more recently, a surge in investments in love-em-then-leave-em gambling tourism.

While reports that the Philippines had achieved a “transition from a pussycat into a tiger economy over the last decade,” are trumpeted ad nauseum, the reality of the hollowness of this growth remains a consistent caveat across such reports…

[Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist for global information company IHS] said the growth drivers for the Philippines include the “rapidly growing technology-business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) sector and the strong flow of remittances from Filipino workers abroad.” The IT-BPO sector posted $13.3 billion from 2008 to 2013, while remittances soared to $25 billion last year.

…an observation that hadn’t changed much since BusinessWeek issued a similar “report” on the Philippine economy back in mid-2012 the bottomline of which we summarised thus;

The Philippines is no more than a consumer market. Filipinos simply spend their money and spend their days finding ever more creative ways to convince themselves how much they deserve to spend their money on the latest trinket or gadget.

In that kind of a market, what sorts of industries is the Philippines likely to attract under a hypothetical regime of unfettered access to foreign capital of the sort preferred by foreign governments and investment banks? Most likely this: industries that will further grease the pipeline that channels cheap manufactured goods from highly-capitalised economies to the living rooms of increasingly impoverished Filipinos.

What miniscule part of that windfall-of-the-moment gets spent on enduring capital works is unlikely to mitigate the unstoppable onslaught of Mother Nature’s fury. The massive disaster super-typhoon Haiyan had left is now nothing more than an afterthought for famously amnesiac Filipinos. No evidence of any effort to learn from it can be observed, what with the political infighting and corruption scandals that have all but paralysed government’s will to do any useful work.

In the meantime, as more progressive (i.e. well-capitalised) countries get on with the business of preparing the future, the Philippines’ premier metropolis, as a case-in-point, has seemingly resigned itself to simply living with routine disaster.

Metro Manila is, by its very nature, a city vulnerable to flooding. Yet it has grown and developed into a monstrous megalopolis that, today, teeters on the brink of catastrophic failure. Manila is bisected by the Pasig River into which connect a system of natural waterways that both feed into it and absorb excess water in times of heavy water flow (say, brought about by heavy rains).

Much of the forests that once covered highlands from which water that feeds Manila’s river systems originates once served as the lowlands’ first line of protection from torrential water flow into the low-lying rivers and waterway systems. With that forest cover gone, Manila would have benefited greatly had its natural river system channels still been intact today — perhaps, had city planners applied a bit of foresight, these might even have been enhanced and even turned into key features of the city. Unfortunately, Metro Manila is now a strong candidate for a massive future urban catastrophic failure.

If the Philippines lacks any will of consequence to save its greatest city from degeneration, what more the rest of its territory where a significant chunk of its natural treasures lie — beyond the reach of the worlds’ tourists ready to part with their mega-dollars in exchange for that next unique experience.

Tourism in the Philippines is always touted as the key to that “inclusive growth” many presidents have aspired for and that which the current administration had recently made into the cornerstone of its public relations spin strategy. Yet Aquino insists that his government’s response to all this is to “plan ahead and reduce the impact of the effects of climate change on our tourist destinations.” How this will be done over the remaining two years of his term remains to be seen.

[Photo courtesy Skyscraper City.]

13 Replies to “Philippine tourism touted as key to ‘inclusive’ growth while decay of key infrastructure continues”

  1. Although it might still be a band-aid solution, the best thing I could think of to stop Manila from being reclaimed by the sea is to repeal the Lina Law. That way, squatters can just stop putting up ramshackle shanties along vital waterways, thus easing the city’s flooding (not of course to eliminate flooding completely; that’s been going on even before Manila was a sultanate).

    1. As you say it’s a band-aid. Squatters were building shanty towns decades BEFORE the Lina law was passed. And we still clear out anyone who has illegally occupied property in the Metro (which would be one of the direct results of repealing the Lina law).

      The problem has been exacerbated over the years but the massive population of urban squatters isn’t attributable to our relaxing the penalties imposed on them. It still comes down to a lack of (access to) economic opportunity away from the country’s urban centres.

    2. I meant to say ‘The problem has been exacerbated over the years but the massive population of urban squatters isn’t SOLELY attributable to our relaxing the penalties imposed on them.’

    3. Replanting trees is much less physically and mentally painful than pulling those ingrates out in the grand scheme of things.

    4. Problem is, if there is a vacant land, squatters tend to make their city on that land. The government won’t do nothing to stop those squatters from building houses. They’ll just pop in if they’ll use the land, which if that happens, there are thousands of squatters residing already.

      1. Well even if we have a law we can’t eradicate or relocate those squatters because politicians tend to back them specially whenever election season is coming, politicians tend to used the masses for them to win, well the only way for our politicians to kick those people residing illegally is if they have no use for them, well for that to happen we should pass a law that prevent non-tax payer to vote. If you can’t pay your taxes you don’t have the right to vote, why should you have the privileged of voting if you already abandoned your responsibility to your country?

  2. ‘Tourism in the Philippines is always touted as the key to that “inclusive growth” many presidents have aspired for and that which the current administration had recently made into the cornerstone of its public relations spin strategy.’

    The fact that a succession of government policies have produced little more than missed opportunities in tourism should have convinced us long before this current round of foolish boasting that politicians are the worst people to be put in charge of promoting the Philippines.

  3. All that high fallutin talk on climate change and inclusive growth is just that. Talk. To keep up with the the “trend”. No action. No implementation. Not even a tiny, teeney weeny bit of delivery.

  4. Inclusive Growth? Maybe , Aquino is talking about his partners in the Pork Barrel Scandal…
    Climate Change is here to stay…the “greenhouse effect” on the Planet Earth has done its job…we will continue to have weird climate and weather…solar flares will give catastrophic effect on our planet…
    I see no good in this tourism business, that Aquino is trying to tell us…it is more of Sex Tourism; where Phedophiles come and have sex with Filipino boys and girls. Where Foreign Sex Perverts are the biggest patrons; to do their things here…
    Mr. Aquino fail to address the vital issues that are facing him…

  5. People who come to the country are set upon by scam artists, the very first thing that happens to them, as soon as they step on the curb at NAIA. The taxi-cabs all have different prices and are a bunch of thieves.The scenario is a microcosm of what takes place in the entire country 24/7.

    the country will never be a tourist ‘hot-spot’ for many reason’s not the least of which is the thievery perpetrated on the visitors.

    Personally, I have heard many people state:”Fuck that stinking cess-pit, and everyone in it.”, which is too bad…beautiful country.If Filipino’s could treat others as they’d like to be treated…maybe….

  6. When it takes 3 hours to go 60 miles in a ramshackle POS bus that may or may not be air-conditioned, how likely is it the tourist is going to enjoy the experience? or tell someone else to visit the country.
    Crumbling Infrastructure,hideous over-crowded ferries, POS aircraft in the local Air-line fleets, thieving, lack of any real cultural curiosities/landmarks (no ancient temples like Cambodia/T-land).Face facts, people that visit once won’t come back uness they find a BF and those who consider a visit but don’t are better off if they don’t.

    Good luck with that. WOW, W-H-A-T ??? HA!

  7. the forrests in the country are being decimated. The highway from Baligoan to CDO 24/7 has trucks with logs on the back piled up to the sky. The sale of these tree’s is not benefitting the people and their loss of these tree’s is a large part of the flooding problem on Northen Mindanao. it is not the only place it is happening either.

    Someone is getting rich at the expense of the tree’s…and the people drowning.

  8. Ladies and gentleman due to heavy traffic at NAIA we will not be landing today.
    Underneath your seat is a parachute please put the parachute on and jump into the heavily polluted waters of Manila Bay.
    A dingy will be on hand to ferry you to the shore where you will be robbed by our outstanding friendly immigration officials.
    Once you have cleared immigration you will be directed to the nearest jeepney terminal.
    You can then enjoy a nice slow leisurely ride through the gridlocked polluted streets of Metro Manila.
    If someone jumps into the jeepney brandishing a firearm please hand over all your cash and valuables as they are not afraid to shoot, but hey do not worry you have an insurance policy so you can make a claim.
    Your throat and eyes might burn from the effects of heavy pollution and if symptoms persist after a few days please consult a Doctor.
    We are sorry you lost your luggage but you can go to the crowded chaotic Divisoria and buy replacement knock off fakes for next to nothing.
    We hope you enjoy your stay.

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