On Justice Guarina’s “Economic Nationalism: Voices from the Past”

The very well-written article “Economic Nationalism: Voices from the Past” (Commentary, Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 24, 2014) was for me quite refreshing, considering that it was surprisingly written by a former high court official, retired Court of Appeals Associate Justice Mario Guarina III.

The article itself is a rarity at this time of the profligacy and dominance of neoliberalism in policy, word and rule in the country.

Justice Guarina’s commentary was a very welcome respite in the face of current mantras of neoliberalism and its mouthpieces in the state and private establishments, trying to make it appear that Asia’s long-standing economic laggard in the Philippines has now become the region’s star economic performer.

Actually, the Philippines has been turning out to be, more and more, one of the region’s worst socio-economic performers, as it now has one of the lowest industrial – and even agricultural – capability, activity and development in the region. It also has one of the largest and most deploring rate of unemployment and poverty in the region.

All this, as a result of several decades of world imperialist-imposed neoliberal economic dominance, policies and programs, that have drastically crippled the country’s industrial and overall socio-economic development and have grossly impoverished the mass of the Filipino people.

More than half a century ago, the voices of a great many advocates of national independence, economic nationalism, industrial development and social progress – notably among them, Claro M. Recto and Lorenzo Tañada – were able to openly wield wide influence in the country and promote policies and programs for these causes.

During the time the “Filipino First” policy was officially adopted and being implemented in the country in an effort to promote national industrialization and socio-economic development, local industries then developed and proliferated in the country, as Justice Guarina recalled: “in a manner unprecedented in our history”, such that “we became the fastest growing Asian economy next only to Japan.”

But imperialist attacks against and dismantling of such, and the local neocolonial puppets’ overly submissive compliance to imperialist attacks, started to take place since the U.S. imperialist-imposed “decontrol” policy of the Diosdado Macapagal regime. This was followed much later by even more comprehensive and more systemically destructive anti-nationalist and anti-national industrialization measures via the global imperialism-imposed neoliberal policies, all under very tight dictation and close supervision by the imperialist-controlled International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization, as well as by U.S. agencies.

Instead of becoming genuinely economically and industrially self-reliant, inclusive and developed, the Philippine economy has consequently become all the more dependent on foreign capital and foreign trade, non-inclusive and underdeveloped, with only external and actually false appearances of “progress”.

The Philippine economy has, in particular, falsely “developed” in recent decades as one of the world’s main cheap assemblers of electronic parts reexported to imperialist countries, providers of ancillary call center and other outsourced back-office business process operations, and suppliers of private household help and other cheap labor in imperialist and other more developed countries.

All these, not quite far from being looked down for being just “miners of gold and hewers of wood” for foreign masters for a long time since about a century ago, as we were overly dependent on traditional agricultural, mining and other raw material exports for survival, amidst rapid and solid industrial and socio-economic development in other countries not as submissive to the imperialist powers.

All these, not far from the Philippine economy now more and more just specializing on catering to the ancillary needs of imperialists and other more developed countries, and the people in the country becoming more and more dependent on such.

Bulk of the country’s income from such has mostly gone to consumption and the development of commerce, services and the related proliferation of commercial buildings and upscale condominiums, while industry and agriculture have fallen and continue to fall way behind.

Justice Guarina’s commentary quite competently touched on problems since the past – and actually up to the present – but did not yet proceed on what necessarily should be done to decisively solve such problems.

In regard to what is to be done, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and allied people’s revolutionary organizations in the country have long since submitted and continue to submit, not only direct to the people but also to the local reigning government (the Government of the Republic of the Philippines or GRP/GPH), the NDFP’s agenda for comprehensive and substantive solutions to the fundamental problems of the country and people. Among such has been the NDFP’s long since proposed Comprehensive Agenda for Socio-Economic Reforms or CASER.

As far back as February 2011, the NDFP and the GRP/GPH were supposed to immediately discuss the CASER in the resumption of their long-stalled peace talks.

But, just a few hours before the resumption of the peace talks, combined military and police forces of the GRP/GPH, with the direct go-signal of their higher ups, treacherously arrested and hauled into jail a long-standing peace consultant of the NDFP and also a regular member of the NDFP’s Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms. This, despite his and fellow peace consultants’ supposed protection from surveillance, arrest, detention, torture and other antagonistic acts that would deter their participation and work related to the peace process. This, actually, in vile effort to tie the hands of those sitting opposite to the GRP/GPH across the negotiation table.

The NDFP peace panel demanded from the GRP/GPH the immediate release of all detained peace consultants, including the then latest one arrested and jailed. The failure – actually, the refusal – of the GRP/GPH to do so resulted in the long stalling once again of the peace talks, including that on socio-economic reforms.

The NDFP continues, in principle and in practice, to press for the resumption of the formal peace talks to be able to comprehensively and substantively discuss with the GRP/GPH, and seek to resolve fundamental socio-economic and political-constitutional problems of the country and people, in the effort to achieve a just and lasting peace. The NDFP always remains open to meetings with the GRP/GPH, for as long as the latter reciprocally remains open and opportunities for serious talks and efforts to resolve standing issues and problems of the people and the country remain available.

In the meantime, the NDFP has kept on pressing the GRP/GPH for the soonest resumption of the long-stalled formal peace talks and, in particular, the start of the talks on CASER. The NDFP will continue to press on such with the outgoing present GRP/GPH regime or, if such is no longer feasible, with a successor regime seriously interested enough in the peace process and open to fundamental changes.

The NDFP is presently hopeful of the possibility of the current GRP/GPH regime’s opening up to the resumption of peace talks with the NDPF in the near future.

If the NDFP-GRP/GPH talks on CASER do pull through and turn out to be successful, then there may be a good opportunity to push for the revival – and actual advance – of real economic nationalism, national industrialization, and other socio-economic reforms that the NDFP sees eye-to-eye with Recto, Tañada, Guarina and other principled and determined advocates of these socio-economic causes in the interest of our country and people, who have already suffered too long from imperialist greed, exploitation and intentional suppression of our development as a country and people.

Alan Jazmines
NDFP peace consultant and
member of the NDFP Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms,
presently detained at the Special Intensive Care Area Jail
Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City

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What “Rising Tiger” are the World Bank and the Aquino regime talking about?

The Benigno S. Aquino III regime is self-congratulatory about government statistics portraying an unusually high (6.6%) growth rate of the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2012 building up from to 6.3% in the first half to 7.1% in the later part of the year.

The regime is even more titillated that with such a showing, the World Bank’s Country Director MotooKonishi now all of a sudden calls the Philippines a “rising tiger”.

The regime attributes such “good grades” as a result of its promotion of the “straight road” and of “good governance”.

Closer and more objective and truthful analysis and presentation of data, however, reveal that the supposed “outstanding growth rate” of the country’s economy of late is deceptive and what is more factual and real is that the Philippines remains Asia’s economic laggard, its economic base has only been getting worse and worse, and the mass of its people have all the more been suffering amidst many prettifying cover-ups.

 In the first place, last year’s supposed growth should better be referred to as a mirage, as its 6.6% was computed from a low base – – the 3% dismal growth rate of the country’s economy the year before.

Such “growth” of 6.6% in the whole of 2012 (and even 7.1% in the latter part of the year) did not show real industrial growth, even if for the first time in many years a significant “boost” was supposed to have come from the industrial sector.  Bulk of the supposed “industrial growth” was in construction, jumping by an additional 24.3% from a year earlier, due largely to the rush of late in construction activities [- – principally in the raising of new buildings and “property booms” due to the surge of call center and other business process outsourcing (BPO) activities being set up in the country, and in the rise in sales of condominium units boosted principally by the massive inflow of remittances from the now more than 12 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), whose total remittances sent through banks (and not including those sent via other means) have now reached $24 billion a year and have already become the third largest in the world after China and Mexico.

  A third major source of supposed “growth” in the last decade or so – – the re-export (after some labor-intensive processing locally) of semi-conductors and other electronic semi manufacturers – – have for the last several years amounted to more than #25 billion annually, and consisted more than 60% of the country’s export.

 All these sources of supposed “growth”, however, are characterized by the mere exploitation of cheap labor of Filipinos, whether r locally or abroad.  The windfalls of the benefits from the exploitation of such surplus cheap labor, especially in terms of returns to capital and in terms of economic development and growth, are harvested not by those who perform the cheap labor of their foreign and comprador exploiters.

The most that the performers of cheap labor get are crumbs from the table of their i, that in the case of the Philippines span from increases in consumer purchases (including more purchases of imported or multinational-patented commercial products to the likes of condominium flats). Thus, the big rise in commerce and services plus sales of condominium flats over more solid industrial and agricultural production have been leading the Philippine economy since the surge of re-exports of semi-processed electronic parts, esport of surplus cheap labor and influx of BPOs.

The irony in all this is more clearly seen in the fact that while all such “growth” based on the exploitation of the country’s surplus cheap labor is building up in the trillions, just a few people are covering the country’s wealth and more and more the masses are suffering on the wayside.

This is most notably marked in the continuous rise of unemployment and underemployment (i.e., disguised unemployment) which have already be fallen more than 12 million (now more than 30% and further rising) of the available workforce.  Without the export of labor overseas, the unemployment and underemployment rates would practically double or even be a lot worse,

With such overly large unemployment and underemployment, Philippine labor has become cheaper and cheaper, and even more expendable. The legal minimum wage is less than half the value of the fair living family wage. The actual average wag is even worth much less in present terms, and becoming more less due to inflation.

 It is because of all this and more (including the widespread and increasing  landlessness and joglessness of the great majority of peasants) that the mass of the people are getting poorer and poorer.

 Indeed, the number of local comprador capitalists who have made it to the Forbe’s list of the world’s billionaires have risen to 40. They have done this to the point of amassing 76% of the Philippine economy. Compare this to Japan where the richest 40 own only 2.8% of the economy, and to Malaysia where the richest 40 own only 5.6% of the economy. The Philippine comprador, bureaucrat and feudal elite and their imperialist masters have been exploiting the people more and more greedy, and in turn have made the people all the more poor and miserable.

What “rising tiger” are the World Bank and the Benigno S. Aquino III regime myopic now talking about?

Drastic fundamental overhaul of the entire bankrupt, rotten and moribund semi-colonial and semi-feudal ruling system in the country will have to be made to reverse the prevailing socio-economic crisis that has long been overly burdening the Filipino people.

 

This article was written by Alan Jazmines, a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) and a member of the NDF’s Socio-Economic Reform Committee that since the mid-2012, should have been meeting with its counterpart from the side of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) for the second round of the formal NDF-GPH peace talks, which is supposed to center on socio-economic reforms. The meetings, however, have not taken place because of Jasmines’ arrest and continuing detention since February 14,2012, and the arrest and continuing detention of about a dozen other NDF peace consultants,. The NDF-GPH Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) is supposed to protect peace consultants of both parties from surveillance, arrest, detention and other antagonistic acts that would prevent or deter in any way their effective participation and work in the peace process. The NDF and the GPH are, however, at odds in regard to its implementation – – or present non-implementation by the GPH.