History of NEPA
The crusade for political independence stimulated a parallel campaign for economic freedom in early 1900s. In 1926, the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands created a committee to spearhead the fight for economic protectionism. The Chamber thru the committee led by Salvador Araneta, Teodoro Toribio and others issued the historic Rizal Day Manifesto entitled ”Ours First, Yours Later,” urging the people to patronize locally-made products.
On November 19, 1934, the Chamber’s initiative gave birth to NEPA in a founding meeting held at Club Filipino. The founders were: Antonio Brias, Salvador Araneta, Isaac Ampil, Florencio Reyes, Benito Razon, Arsenio N. Luz, Joaquin Elizalde, Leopoldo R. Aguinaldo, Vicente Villanueva, Toribio Teodoro, Gonzalo Puyat, Ramon J. Fernandez, Ciriaco Tuazon, Aurelio Periquet, Sr., and Primo Arambulo.
Right after its founding, NEPA launched a nation-wide campaign to promote economic protectionism. Provincial, municipal and student chapters were created all over the country. Popular meetings and assemblies, attended by thousands of Filipinos, were held in different parts of the country. “NEPA” became a trademark and a symbol of pride of Philippine-made products.
World War II disrupted the work of NEPA. However, the pre-war consciousness-raising efforts of NEPA regarding self-reliance made it easier for individual entrepreneurs and families to produce essential commodities out of locally available materials.
NEPA was revived in late 1948 under the leadership of Senator Gil J. Puyat. In the 1950s, the entrepreneurs and firms associated with NEPA spearheaded the great industrial drive that developed around the program of import and foreign exchange controls. The rapid industrial transformation of thePhilippines made her the envy of her Asian neighbors.
During this period, NEPA founded the Home Industries Association of thePhilippines, Filipino Inventors Society, Philippine Hatter’s Association and Philippine Standards Association.
The decade ended with NEPA becoming the main pillar of the “Filipino First” program of President Carlos P. Garcia.
The decade of the 1960s saw the Macapagal administration putting an end to the “Filipino First” policy. Decontrols, peso devaluation and open-door to foreign investors became the order of the day.
This policy reversal, formulated by the International Monetary Fund and implemented by a rising group of so-called technocrats, was continued in the first term of President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
In the 1970s, thePhilippinesliterally became an open economy—open to foreign capital, foreign loans and foreign economic advisers. Filipino capitalists were relegated to junior partners under the policy of labor-intensive, export-oriented, transnational-dependent industrialization. This induced economic slowdown, which was exacerbated by the floating of the US-dollar in August 1971. As a result, the Asian currencies collapsed.
Against the backdrop of IMF-Word Bank domination of the economy, NEPA started redefining its role in the changed economic situation.
On August 23, 1980, it organized the 1st Conference on Economic Independence, which reaffirmed that “political independence can only be meaningful in terms of the welfare of the whole nation, if our national economy is free from the control of foreign interests.” The Conference expressed grave concern over the “operation of the World Bank and other international financial institutions in thePhilippines which primarily benefit transnational corporations and their home countries, to the detriment of Filipino businessmen, consumers, workers and peasants, and other sectors of our society.”
The above theme was reiterated in the 2nd Conference on Economic Independence organized in December 1983, which was held in the midst of the worst economic crisis ever experienced by the country. The Conference called for a renewal of NEPA and its transformation, once again, into a nation-wide movement aimed at the promotion of genuine economic independence.
In late 1984, NEPA gained another 50-year extension of its corporate life. Its leadership has declared its firm resolve to push NEPA once again in the struggle to promote economic nationalism so that the Filipino shall at last be the sole determinant and principal beneficiary of this nation’s economic development.
The year 1986 saw the renaissance of a new NEPA. It fought for the protection of the national patrimony in the Constitutional Commission, a just debt re-scheduling scheme and capping of debt service, agrarian reform and import rationalization. NEPA stood for nationalist development and industrialization to fight massive poverty.
In mid-1986, NEPA launched its mass organization known as Kilusang Pilipino Muna which renewed the call for the patronage of Filipino-made products and services.
The late 1980s saw NEPA initiating the organization of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and the Movement for Nationalist Industrialization (MNI).
In the 1990’s, NEPA once again vowed to be at the forefront of the struggle to promote and protect the economic interests of the Filipino people. In preparation for this renewed organizational vigor, NEPA conducted a series of workshop-meetings in 1991 which culminated in the adoption of the “NEPA Manifesto” better known in its title “NEPA Vision of Development – CAPITALISM AND NATIONALISM: THE MISSING PARTNERSHIP” on December 10, 1992.
NEPA resolved to: (1) to promote an alternative all-out industrialization based on economic Filipinism to achieve self-sufficiency and self-sustaining growth; (2) to oppose the imposition of the External Forces that seek to dominate our economy and exploit our human and natural resources; and (3) promote a sense of nationalism among our people, a sense of belonging to one another, a sense of collectivity in purpose and destiny, a national sense of pride.
This was capped by an operational planning workshop on December 29, 1992 which resulted in the adoption of the new NEPA organization system and the approval of several projects such as the revival of the Bureau of Economic Research, organization of the Information Resource Center, NEPA Training Center (which will be transformed later into the NEPA School of Business & Economics), Business Development & Management Center, NEPA Awards for Outstanding Entrepreneurs (first conducted in the 1970s), establishment of NEPA corporations and cooperatives, and the strengthening of NEPA Confederation by organizing city and municipal chapters, as well as faculty/student chapters in schools, colleges and universities throughout the country.
In mid-1990s, NEPA renewed its campaign to promote economic nationalism and new protectionism. However, the spirited NEPA plan was never pursued. The association was eclipsed by the dreamlike economic upswing coupled with strong anti-protectionist campaign by elite business groups and bureaucrat capitalists.
NEPA experienced organizational hiatus in late 1990s and the year 2000. Its directorial board deserted and membership dwindled—saddled with economic downtrend combined with NEPA’s organizational inactivity and a silent debate on maintaining “protectionism” as its pivotal concern.
NEPA entered the new millennium by refocusing its organizing and educational efforts among the small and medium size entrepreneurs. It launched several forums and seminars aimed at assisting the SME’s compete in the internet age.
A notable achievement of the period was NEPA’s headlining the efforts to oppose the lopsided provisions of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). NEPA’s admonition against the treaty would later prove prophetic as the waste materials from Japan are moved to the country while the promised nursing jobs remained illusory till now.
NEPA in the 21st Century
NEPA and its ideals continue to be relevant in the 21st century. The promise of globalization of cheaper goods and better quality of life for the Filipinos is unmasked with the reality of rising poverty and joblessness. The country’s incapacity to provide for jobs for a burgeoning population had created an economic diaspora.
The challenges of NEPA remains the same as it was in 1934. And the answers are not too far off from what it was in 1934 – economic nationalism, national industrialization and development. To this ends, NEPA remains committed as ever.