During a course work at the university, I have had the opportunity to talk to a group of fisherfolks and an economist friend about economic development – a term that the Philippine government continues to overuse from its word pool. The fisherfolks, without hesitation, argued that the government-professed economic development is nothing but a sham; they have never benefited from it as their sector remained the poorest in the country. My friend, on the other hand, reasoned out that this is good for the country if viewed in a macroeconomic perspective; people might not be able to harvest the fruits of development today but in due course they will. From these two diverging views, we see that economic progress is a target which a State must hit and continue hitting without a miss. Therefore, it is necessary that the economic progress be genuine. This means that it is projected towards sustainability, not just for plain publicity; it is capable to survive in the long run, not just in a given period of time. Employing the thoughts of Filipino political luminaries, this article will discuss the components of genuine economic progress that the Philippine government can consider in crafting economic policies.

National industrialization: Local ownership of business enterprises

The Philippine government, as its duty, should work for the welfare of the Filipinos first and not for any foreign power. This was resolutely advocated by nationalists and former senators Claro M Recto and Lorenzo M Tañada. Since the late 1930s, foreigners have been dominating fields that can be run by Filipinos and left no ample leeway for the latter to thrive in the local economy. The Philippines being controlled by non-Filipinos is not only an irony but an affront to the Constitution, the highest law of the land. Senator Tañada believes that the utilization, exploitation, and disposition of the country’s natural resources emanates from the Constitution. Since the national patrimony must be fully enjoyed by Filipinos themselves, allowing foreign corporations to sap out the privileges which the Philippine economy can offer to locals is both a constitutional violation and an act of robbing Filipinos of these benefits.

Dependence to foreign enterprises is a suicidal policy for Philippine economic life. The motives of foreign entities conflict against the interest of the Filipino people as, to borrow Senator Recto’s argument, non-Filipinos who are engaged in huge enterprises could not have a nationalistic orientation in their economic motives as a Filipino might. Both senators suggest that policies must be passed to promote national industrialization because it is a powerful tool for the eradication of poverty, ill-health, ignorance, and stagnation produced by relations with a manipulative foreign power. For instance, the Retail Trade Nationalization Law granted Filipinos the predominant control over the retail trade and greater degree of domestic control over business and economic activities. Self-processing of raw materials instead of exporting for profit should be favored, as it will result to higher employment rate and increased local purchasing power, which in turn would expand the home market and veer it away from being an export-oriented economy.

Independent foreign policy: Freedom from foreign domination

Senator Recto describes the foreign policy of the Philippines as mendicant – that is to say, it is subservient to foreign interests as it does not reflect the goals and aspirations of the people. Filipinos have been colonized by foreign powers and led to believe that ours is a hopeless nation which needs the enabling of a stronger state to survive. Filipinos have embraced the myth of the capital-poor Philippines which needs the aid of foreign institutions for capital formation. With this philosophy so entrenched in the native psyche, the advancement of independent foreign policy failed to materialize as seen in different stages of Philippine history.

A nation economically dependent on another cannot call itself independent in fact, says former senator Jose W Diokno. Without economic independence, political independence is illusory. Senators Tañada and Recto opposed the dependence of the Philippine government to foreign control in the promotion of economic growth. The continuing exercise of control of any foreign power in the country threatens its sovereignty and undermines the Philippine interest. Senator Tañada said that the Filipinos have been too dependent on the US opinion of the Philippines: a country which needs to attract foreign capital and give special treatment to foreign capital in order for it to come. From foreign loans, foreign creditors have profited hugely through interest payments. The country’s reliance to foreign capital has resulted to impoverishment instead of progress.

To achieve genuine development, foreign domination in the Philippine economy must be eradicated and economic independence be attained. While economic self-determination is preferred over foreign investment laws, Senator Tañada clarifies that foreign investments can still be allowed but with conditions: (1) it must be reasonably controlled, and (2) it must serve the country’s interest. Needless to say, Filipinos should command the framing economic policies and go against foreign intervention and deceptive policies. Every Filipino should assert their strength and work unceasingly for economic emancipation.

Senator Recto identified the qualities the government must acquire to realize these goals: (1) legitimacy to work for the people’s interests in general; (2) efficiency to advocate the value of self-reliance and self-help; and (3) honesty to assume unquestioned credence recognized by other sovereign States. If the government indeed wants to fulfill its promise of real economic progress, now is the time to learn from our nationalist thinkers and act for real solutions instead of banking on palliative ones.

Image Source: Filipino Star News