Are Filipinos more concerned about projecting a positive image to the international community rather than finding a solution to the negative images that keep finding their way into the hands of international news media organizations? It would seem so. This was evident when a lot of Filipinos felt outraged and demanded an apology from a Malaysian company that highlighted the Philippines’ structural, security and geographical problems.
Aegis Malaysia, a business outsourcing company recently reiterated what some of us have been saying all along – that the Philippines will continue to be a risk to foreign investors if problems that are vital to the operation of a business are not addressed.
When the Aegis Malaysia’s ad agency released a promotional video, apparently “in error”, enticing foreign investors to Malaysia, it not only emphasized the advantages of doing business in Malaysia, it also drew attention to the disadvantages of doing business in the Philippines. The Filipino people’s reaction to the video was more disappointing than the video itself.
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Instead of seeing an opportunity to demand that the Philippine government address the country’s shortfalls as enumerated in the video, a lot of Filipinos went on the defensive and expressed their “hurt” feelings towards the company. I mean, shouldn’t they have directed their anger at their government instead of Aegis Malaysia? Filipinos didn’t even have to do their own research because somebody else did it for them. All they had to do was present the evidence to the country’s administrators and clamor for solutions. But they didn’t. They, instead, helped defend the government by shaming the Malaysian company.
Presidential spokesman Secretary Edwin Lacierda described the Aegis video as “below the belt” and recommended sanctions to those responsible for the video. It seems, Malacanang cannot handle the truth. They didn’t even bother to address the points raised in the video.
The promotional video enumerated the following conditions that are working against the Philippines and boosting Malaysia’s attractiveness to investment:
– Inadequate infrastructure
– An unfriendly climate for smooth operations
– Less security
– Lack of government support
No wonder Malacanang was offended. The video pointed out that the Philippine government does not give support to foreign investors. We can’t expect the current government to be happy about that. President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino himself is not known for admitting mistakes or any shortfalls. As far as he is concerned, his government has achieved significant “gains”. It doesn’t matter if the only thing significant his government has achieved is getting positive credit ratings from international credit rating agencies during his term. And never mind that some international commentators also credit the previous administrator with the essential reforms that support a stable Philippine economy.Most Filipinos who reacted negatively to the Aegis Malaysia video admit that what the video highlighted about the Philippines is true especially about the lack of adequate infrastructure. However, they still thought it was inappropriate and unacceptable for the company to single out the Philippines as a risky business partner.
Unfortunately, what most Filipinos do not realize or do not care to realize is that most foreign investors actually hire consultants who tell them about the risks prior to investing in a foreign country. These consultants gather information about a particular country of interest from local media and, increasingly, from political bloggers who are not subject to the editorial standards of traditional journalism. The latter is noteworthy considering that political bloggers are seen to be more reliable due to their unbiased opinions.
Therefore, the removal of the Aegis Malaysia video will be of little consequence to potential foreign investors. Filipinos may have heaved a sigh of relief knowing that the video is not available on YouTube anymore but it doesn’t change the fact that the problems of the Philippines persist.
The reaction of Filipinos who were offended by the video is similar to the way some reacted to foreign journalists who reported the real situation following typhoon Yolanda’s devastation of Leyte. Filipinos do not appreciate it when the Philippines is highlighted in a negative way. Their reason is that the Philippines is a poor country with poor infrastructure and a few resources. Never mind that a big part of the reason the Philippines is poor is because its voters keep electing leaders who mismanage the country.
Like what I have said in my previous article, those who are offended by the straightforward assessment applied by the foreign correspondents seem to be more concerned with image. It has become apparent that they just want to project a “fun” Philippines to the international community. It’s like they do not want anyone highlighting or broadcasting the real state of the poor people and the country’s decrepit infrastructure.
Hiding the real condition of the country never works. Natural calamities are guaranteed to reveal it one way or another. Disasters tend to expose not just people’s capacity to handle stressful situations, it also exposes the country’s lack of capability to save its own people.
Filipinos should discuss the Aegis Malaysia video with President BS Aquino who had just finished a European trip aimed at enticing foreign investors to seriously consider the Philippines. They should ask him why, despite spending billions of taxpayers funds through the Disbursement Acceleration Program, the basic infrastructure needed to attract investors who will in turn provide jobs for Filipinos is not even on the drawing board. In short, Filipinos should ask him, where did all the money go?
In life, things are not always what they seem.