I keep wondering why everything that is wrong with this country is blamed on former President Ferdinand Marcos and current President Rodrigo Duterte and not the political bloc that was in power for thirty years since 1986. Marcos was in power for twenty-one. Duterte six. That’s a total of twenty-seven. You don’t need to have a PhD in any discipline to analyze what went wrong with the Philippine economy. You just need to read history and analyze the political structure.
Yet here is PhilSTAR columnist Andrew Masigan in his piece “Clarity of need and strength of intention” telling us that “the Philippines is Asia’s sick man again after electing a Chief Executive who thought that illegal drugs was our most pressing development barrier.”
The tragedy is that the Duterte administration failed to sustain the National Industrial Strategy. The manufacturing sector eroded since 2017, decelerating to 5.1 percent in 2018 and 3.2 percent in 2019 until it collapsed during the pandemic, contracting by -11.5 percent. Instead of further developing local industries to generate jobs, exports and wealth, this government relied on infrastructure spending (and other types of spending) to drive economic growth. It was the wrong prescription.
Marasigan should recall the Philippines’ economic history. The Spanish and American periods saw the Philippines producing coconut oil, abaca and sugar. These were the main exports. Manila then was the Pearl of the Orient. A trading outpost similar to Hong Kong with a large expatriate community of Europeans and Americans. It was a plantation-style economy which was nothing but a modern version of fief and serf in medieval Europe. The monarchy was the Catholic Church. What was not manufactured was imported. Was there an economic policy in place by the Commonwealth government? None. That was dictated by the American colonial masters.
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After World War II, the Americans upped and left. But they retained parity rights for their businesses and kept their military bases. Then as now, economic activities were concentrated in Luzon. Visayan and Mindanao housed the large plantations. Politicians and the oligarchs were busy rebuilding the wealth they lost during the war. Pre-war, the Philippines had no manufacturing sector. Post-war, it was the Chinese who set-up shop to churn out was viable to be produced locally. The only time an economic and infrastructure development plan was in place was after Ferdinand Marcos was elected. Post-war, the country had to deal with a communist insurgency. By the time the 60s rolled in, it was back. Then there was the Muslim separatist rebellion. Both of these were instigated by the late former Senator Ninoy Aquino.
Marcos declared martial law and put forth an economic development policy anchored by the New Society — Ang Bagong Lipunan. Why did Marcos fail? Oil price shocks in 1973 and 1979 and the fact that the only lender of development funds was the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (IMF-WB) which was an American-controlled institution. It didn’t help that by 1976, the US wanted Marcos out for not renewing their parity rights and shortening the US military bases agreement shortly thereafter.
Cory Aquino’s tumultuous administration was wracked by political instability, labor unrest and military adventurism. Fidel Ramos, who succeeded her, was able to restore a semblance of order. Philippines 2000 was his vision but it was rudely cut short by the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Following him was Joseph “Erap” Estrada who was ousted by the ruling power bloc despite the overwhelming support of the masses which catapulted him to the Presidency. It again fell on Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) to restore order which she did, despite the fact that she was a party to the instability to begin with.
We all know what happened in recent history. Think about it, there wasn’t enough monies in the economy in the 1950s that the Cojuangco clan had to borrow money from Manufacturers Hanover Bank to purchase Hacienda Luisita from Tabacalera. Whatever industries Filipinos and Chinese-Filipino industrialists put up, shut down during the post-Marcos period because of labor unrest triggered by leftist-militant groups identified with the Communist Party, its terrorist arm the New People’s Army, and its “legal” front the National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF). How can the economy grow when there is no power supply? After that came the high cost of power.
All of the Marcos development plans were thrown in the garbage can. No investment in infrastructure projects. Whatever projects were there was controlled by the oligarchs. Even if foreign investors wanted to come in, they were precluded by the Constitutional limitations on business ownership. This is why our economy is consumption-driven. Demand is fuelled by overseas Filipino worker (OFW) remittances and business process outsourcing (BPO) operations. We don’t export agricultural commodities because our packaging industry isn’t as modern as our ASEAN neighbors. It was only recently that a petrochemical plant was established but its output is still short for the demand.
Its convenient for people like Masigan to lay the blame on Marcos and Duterte when this is farthest from the truth. He should stick to selling popcorn which his family imports. That’s where they made their money. Popperoo. Might as well be Pooperoo given the crap he comes up with with his economic “analysis.”
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