Speech to Graduate Students Of UST
March 11, 2011
Environment and National Industrialization
Dear Friends, good afternoon!
The National Economic Protectionism Association or NEPA salutes the University of Santo Tomas on the occasion of its 400 years anniversary.
Though NEPA is the country’s oldest organization of businessmen with its 76 years of existence, it pales in comparison with your own 400 hundred years. Yet we take pride in the knowledge that we share some similarities in the great movement in nation building.
From history we know that the first student mass action in the country occurred in UST preceding by more than a decade the Great Propaganda Movement. Great men from the propaganda movement like Marcelo Del Pilar to the founders of Katipunan like Emilio Jacinto and Pio Del Pilar and the First Philippine Republic came from the UST. Throughout time, great men and women passed the great halls of UST to make their indelible mark in our history.
NEPA, too, have its bit of history. NEPA was founded at a time when our country was under direct rule by the Americans. Filipino businessmen at that time were under constant threat of going bankrupt due to competition from imported goods.
In conjuction with the independence movement led by Quezon and Osmena, the young entrepreneurs among them the forefathers of today’s Sorianos, Razons, Periquets, Tuasons and Aranetas founded NEPA to spearhead the movement for economic independence.
To the then founders and leaders of NEPA, the issue and the answer is simple. It is as NEPA 1934 constitution states we should one, organize and campaign for greater consumption of locally-made products and keep alive the doctrine of national economic protectionism; two, propose and support legislation promoting new and existing local industries and enhancing domestic and foreign trade; and three, protect our economic interests against unfair and unjustified foreign competition.”
In short, we should build our own national economy!
Today’s topic is not only current but pressing.
During the past few years, major weather disturbances damaged food production worldwide. Fuel prices had been steadily rising way before the current Mideast crisis.
What does this mean for us?
For one, the Mideast crisis will result into higher oil prices in the short term. More importantly, we can expect dramatic shrinkage for the country’s top export – the Filipino OFW’s. Our fiscal and financial position, already precarious, will totter.
Two, the United Nations is predicting skyrocketing food prices later this year. The Philippines is 13th on the list of the most vulnerable countries that will suffer the most. It does not take a rocket scientist to know why and how.
Due to failed promises to upgrade agriculture and ensure the country’s food security, our country is dependent on food imports to feed our people. More than half of our arable lands are devoted to export production with 2 million hectares devoted to coconut, a million hectares to sugar, and another million hectares devoted to bananas and pineapples. The five million hectares devoted to rice and corn had been sharply decreased by conversion to subdivisions and commercial establishments.
We expect that the poorest amongst us will continue to more hunger as food and fuel prices increase.
My friends, the crisis that we find ourselves into is one of our own making. Since the mid-60’s, trade liberalization or what is now fashionably called globalization have wreaked havoc to our manufacturing and industrial base.
Economist historians emphasized the fact that during the 50’s the country was second only to Japan in the whole of Asia. What is important in this knowledge is that we were second in development because we built during the 50’s a large manufacturing and industrial base. We were producing steel, jeeps, textile, plastics for our people. Sadly, this was swept away during the mid sixties by the new mantra called trade liberalization and globalization.
And so, with a weak manufacturing and industrial base, our economy cannot absorb a growing labor force and population. Hence, to offset the internal crisis, we were forced to export our countrymen to all parts of the globe – heralding an economic diaspora.
What is now left of our manufacturing and industrial base is directed primarily for export. Hence, an economy dependent and vulnerable to crisis after crisis.
And so, what can we do?
We can continue to pursue the five decades long export strategy. Or we build our own national economy – that is producing for our people, our wants and our needs.
Is it not too late not a few have asked?
NEPA believes it is never too late. South Korea was a backwater country during the time we were number two in the whole Asia. During the 70’s, despite World Bank and IMF warnings, (the same warnings we were received), South Korea pursued an industrialization plan anchored in a comprehensive steel industry. Today, South Korea is number four in the region, next only to China, Japan and India.
On the other hand, our current development path is based on exports and recently, to an expanded effort to open up mining to foreign investors. This brings us nearer to our topic today – environment and climate change.
Much ado have been made of exploitation of our natural resources by foreign interests. But then a simple look of our history shows differently.
During the 1940’s up to the 1970’s, the Philippines was one of the world’s top producer of copper, gold and other mineral products. We have had Atlas Mining, Benguet Mines, Lepanto Mines, Marcopper, and Paracale. Unfortunately, mining did not lead us to development but a wasted environment.
Opening up our mining resources will ultimately lead to what some economists call the Africanization of the Philippines. As you well know, Africa had been mined for centuries by foreign powers. All it got for its wealth is extreme poverty and AIDS.
We are against opening up our mineral resource to foreign interests but we are for the development of our mining resources to build our own industrial and manufacturing base.
NEPA believes that we can and should partner ourselves with foreign investors in the development of our natural resources IF the development of which is directly supportive of a comprehensive national industrialization plan. Extracting nickel, iron, gold, copper and other minerals to build other countries industries to the detriment of our own is self-defeating.
NEPA believes in the protection of our natural resources and our environment for and in behalf of the Filipinos.
We cannot ignore the degradation of our environment and the global climate. Even in a pure business sense, we can only ignore them at our own peril.
We must be cautious of various environmental advocacies that imperil our own national aspirations of development and environmental standards that promote and protect foreign interests.
We are against coal fired plants in the country not only because environmental concerns. More importantly, coal plants are providing for the power requirements of largely foreign businesses in export processing zones.
We are for clean energy such as solar and hydrothermal and other environment friendly energy sources. But we hope that the government can assist in making these cost efficient for the Filipino industrialists and manufacturers.
We are for the protection of our forests because during the past century big logging concessions have laid to waste our forest in order to export them! We must judiciously use and conserve our forests along the lines of the needs of people.
My friends, God has blessed our land with bountiful resources, a climate that allows us to till our land the whole year round, and more importantly, a people capable of realizing the dream of development.
Unfortunately, our environment have been damaged and our natural resources have been spent not to advance our national aspirations. Our rivers that used to irrigate our farms have dried out, our forests are denuded due to mining and large-scale logging, our marine resources are under constant threat.
Like yourselves, NEPA believes we can and must turn this around.
NEPA advocates a fine-tuning of our environmental advocacies and policies to align with the goal of national industrialization and development and against the use of our natural resources and degradation of our environment to the benefit of foreign interests.
NEPA unites with the Filipino businessmen in the effort to build a self-sustaining use of our natural resources in order to build and rebuild an environment worthy of our children.
Mabuhay ang UST!
Mabuhay ang Sambayanang Pilipino!