Opinion

7.8% GDP rate still a tall tale

By Gian Franco, Socio-Political Editor |

Those are just numbers. The Philippine economic growth rate doesn’t deserve a cake.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” said the president. Or so it seems. It just so happened that the 7.8% GDP growth rate in the first quarter was a shot through the roof; but the actual outcomes are nowhere, nothing that can be perceived by the 5 senses. For a struggling third-world country like ours, we don’t need the numbers. They’re just a part of a newspaper front page and propagandas. We demand concrete truths.

Everyone remembers how President Benigno Aquino III rounded our heads with his metaphorical statements that are far from reality in his latest State of the Nation Address (SONA).

We know how he morally annihilated the hostile parties during the 2013 mid-term elections last May and yet failed to deliver the 12-0 sweep on the side of his Team PNoy, which reminds him of his poor charisma. It’s undeniable that he left the “Kayo ang Boss ko” cliché before us, making us think that we are. We shouldn’t have believed him.

“Daang matuwid” is a joke. Corruption exists even in some of the world’s economic powerhouses. Corruption is a tradition, and it manifests in regions where there is absolute idiocy among the legislature and executives.

There are even some who can’t debate on the floor in straight, fluent English and doesn’t have any existing background in politics. Show business now serves as the entry point to the serious business of fixing our ill country. Much less when a scion carries the last name of a dying mother and so gains fame overnight. In this case, we can say that elections are but a ceaseless circus of morass.

That we are the “Boss” is deemed unnecessary. We still live beyond the “Gates of Hell”.

What had been critically a prime mover of change was a certain book “Inferno” of Dan Brown, released last month, that set the MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority) – which I actually thought we haven’t – and the greater posts of the Palace to motion. The tale is true, to be against your country is pale and that to let a foreigner take his shot on yours is compelling. The aftermath was newspapers displaying aerial views of the “Gates of Hell” and rants of MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino in his press statements, that Brown “used Manila as a venue and source of a character’s breakdown and trauma”.

But ladies and gentlemen, isn’t it?

Poverty

It is very displeasing to the eyes to see our nation crumbling on its feet and can’t bring back the once envied reputation that has been lost since the 70’s. You can’t argue that you don’t think twice before stepping down the underpass because what naturally comes to your mind are the robbers waiting for a chance to snatch a piece of fortune from you.

Crime is the only way here to gain something that lasts for a week or two without a hitch. Last night, while I was rounding the corner towards the Manila Cathedral, I heard a woman next to a shanty say  to a man, “Sandali lang ang pera (Money is transient).” However, there are worse things that poverty shows.

These are the street children to whom I can’t imagine myself being. Whenever I see one asking for help, I fish my pocket for a five or ten-peso coin hoping that this would help them survive the day. You’ll see how destroyed humanity is if you walk down the streets.

The latest Social Weather Stations hunger survey in March showed how insignificant the GDP numbers are, “that households that missed one or more meals over the previous three months rose to 19.2 percent, up from 16.3 percent in December, despite first quarter growth.”

Poverty-stricken families live among gutters and sleep at night without the comfort of a decent home. Children scavenge for half-rotten food or try to gain an extra by wiping the car windows. They can’t afford to enjoy the childhood that we had. We slept in a couch and found ourselves on the bed in the morning, while these kids often wake up in the shelter of hoodlums.

And where are their parents? They’re probably gone, or not.

Foreign Investments against Local Investments

Again, for the nth time, jobs are always a major deadlock in our economy and it plunged down to hell. The 7.5% unemployment rate in April was the “highest in three years”, which means there are 37.819 million people who can’t find a job or are simply discouraged to seek for one because they’re not qualified or there is no vacancy. Among these unlucky seekers are high school and college graduates. Come to think of it, why are they unable to get a job in less than 5 months?

With these problems on hand, we still have to consider putting up our own investments rather than relying on other nations’. It may be a sign that the Philippines is already regaining its glory, but not all of the profit goes to us. Our resources are being used, which might cause our downfall.

Foreign investors have actually nothing to share with us. They say, with these investors, there would be massive job recruitments, and that they are the only elixir to revive the economy. No, it can’t be. Filipinos sweat for a foreign economy and not for ours. Where is the government’s concern for export industry? It went down to a dramatic 11.5 percent in the first quarter and in such case truly makes our land an Asian bowl of foreign interests. And to foil this down, many of them don’t pay enough taxes.

If foreign investments that suck the most out of our resources were the problem, we would have to cut down its roots. Too much trouble for our own interests and direct development.

Local Exports, poof!

We are once a major market on the exports of coconut products, bananas, mangoes, sugarcane, and rice among others. But the government simply denies the share of what export products can give. They eventually switched to unnecessary investments with the foreigners. These don’t give Filipinos the full-scale benefits of a certain franchise or local corporation that might improve the lower and middle class. Majority of what a foreign investment earns is being shipped back to their mainland, and what goes to us? About 20% might go off.

Our local investors are at once discouraged to build their own pillars of business outfits absorbing the agriculture sector. Most of them, who dared to box out foreign businesses, failed to deliver a successful enterprise and bring a share of economic boom in our faint economy.

All of these once in-demand export products feel the same as how Filipinos feel. We are always neglected. We are now experiencing coconut and mango crisis because of absence in attention and short funds to protect them from pests. For all that we know, our government protects some of foreign interests because they themselves have some of their stocks invested in them.

Sabah Standoff

This year, there came an instant solution for all of us. But to claim the Sabah needs a government support to our Muslim brothers. The Malaysian-claimed Sabah, one of its 13 states, finds itself between a bloody standoff between the Malaysians and Filipino Muslims.

Why is it so?

Beneath its vast oil fields and plantation comes a potential stash of billion dollars that forges Kuala Lumpur into an Asian tiger economy. The profit itself can suffice Philippines’ economic gaps and lapses in our agriculture, education, and business sectors. The sum isn’t questionable. It once proved its wealth to the Malaysia’s capital and that the rich resources underneath Scarborough Shoal, locally named Panatag Shoal, is still questionable.

There’s a hesitation from the government. Newspapers say that the Cojuangco and Aquino clans have shares on the industry of Sabah. They have to protect and keep this as a secret to exclude it from liabilities and assets declarations. I’m not that sure as all of these are not yet confirmed and revealed. This still serves as the preview of what Aquino is hiding behind his slogan “Daang Matuwid”.

It might also be a reason for delaying that Malaysia helped put peace talks between the government and the now, Bangsamoro nation of the Muslims. You call it in Filipino, “utang na loob”.

For now, our country is still in the disputed waters of the Scarborough Shoal and is “protecting our sovereignty”. Recently, the Philippine Navy acquired a Hamilton class cutter, BRP Ramon Alcaraz, worth 620 million pesos of restoration from South Carolina, USA. It isn’t brand new anyway. It served four decades to the US Coast Guard, and might notably be seen an easy target for torpedo-carrying Chinese warships. It should have been passed down to the lower classes. We don’t need a strong navy when our state itself is weak.

With a strong Team PNoy on the senate floor, there are no alibis. The Philippines exports economy; and augmenting local investments should be the priority on his last years. It is a “must-see” where all these end up. The Aquino administration will be either of the two: a historic feat or a public’s mishap.

3 thoughts on “7.8% GDP rate still a tall tale

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