Monday, November 24, 2008

Program for Recovery, Peace and Prosperity

The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) have made public their assessment of a staggering one million OFWs losing their jobs due to the western financial tsunami. A day earlier, the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. disseminated in its e-mail newsletter the American Chamber of Commerce’s announcement that multi-nationals will be laying off a great many workers domestically.

Since DoLE and NEDA will naturally soft-pedal their alarming findings, we can be sure that the real adverse effects will be far greater. We should therefore not be lulled to complacency and should prepare for the worst just as what the G-20 economies are doing.

For its part, the US , has shifted talks about recession, which it now accepts as reality, to the apparent deflation that has been rearing its ugly head. Deflation, alongside depression, is one of a pair of dreaded “D” words policy makers wouldn’t want to come out of their lips. The 1930’s Great Depression was accompanied by massive deflation of prices of commodities.

Today, we are seeing oil price crashes left and right, and while nobody is declaring it as the official start of deflation just yet, it certainly is a good sign that production costs will have to be re-studied and expensive extractive oil wells shut down -- like the Galoc oil field recently re-inaugurated. If the US goes into full deflation and depression, the RP economy will face another “D” word -- death.

Amid this backdrop, global trade and commerce’s very lifeblood, the Letters-of-Credit system, is also facing its biggest threat. has featured articles on rotting cargoes and seized shipments in major global trading ports due to uncertainties in the banking system and the collapse of several major banks.

Here at home, economic bosses from transnational and local Big Business firms, along with their “techno-quacks,” have long designed RP’s export economy to be an appendage of the US and Western system. This system is thus crashing too.

This space, which is unabashedly anti-corporatist, has long warned of this because it had been alerted to the fundamentally flawed, unviable and suicidal nature of the greed/profit-based financial and economic system that is not held together by a strong center -- government leadership taking affirmative action for the national welfare.

The crisis the world is facing today is described as a once-in-a-century occurrence. The last time it happened in the 1930’s, it led to one of the most destructive cataclysms of the 20th Century -- the Second World War (WWII). That war was not entirely an accident as opportunistic financial and Big Business elements engineered political conditions to advance it.

The Philippines was totally helpless at that time. Used as a pawn, Manila became the second most devastated city in the world after Warsaw . As a consequence, the squatter phenomenon in the Philippines emerged after WWII from the decimation of the carabao population and thence, agriculture, which forced urban migration that has remained up to this day.

Even if many may think that these are merely alarmist, history has proven that the worst imaginable scenarios always become reality in crisis times. I don’t want my people to suffer the kind of casualties that we had during WWII, which could include us or our children and their children. Whatever problems we have today will be miniscule to what would happen if there is a real world war in this nuclear age.

The attack on Iraq has produced a generation of victims of “Depleted Uranium” radiation among Iraqis and US Iraq veterans, and these are just the first examples of what we would see in a new global war. But even before that happens, we are already faced with economic radiation sickness today.

We must assume that at least three times of what the DoLE and NEDA project by way of additional unemployment must be added on to the 25 percent real unemployment we have today. Hence, the nearly 50-year old “export oriented” economic template no longer applies. To follow it will only guarantee the utter collapse of our economy, like what we’ve seen in Africa .

The key economic action to reverse this would be what’s called, “import substitution.” This entails tapping into domestic resources to generate jobs and wealth locally, producing the most critical of items such as food, power, transport energy, and fertilizers -- akin to turning our economy inwards, like what the most stable of economies like China have long been doing.

To remedy rice price crises and shortages that have been caused by the Arroyo regime’s deliberate suppression of domestic productivity to favor imports and smuggling, we should implement self-sufficiency programs within a year after Arroyo’s ouster.

Coconut food products and by-products, sourced from over 300 million coconut trees (which used to be 400 million), can then substitute for our many food imports, like coconut skim milk replacing expensive dairy products.

Meanwhile, geothermal energy utilization from already identified sites should be fast-tracked to supply another 2,000 MW or 40 percent of our power needs. Additionally, since the US Geological Service already identifies our country as one of its potential geothermal suppliers, just think of its wonders in meeting all our energy requirements, a few years after full exploration commences. On top of this, transport fuel from geothermal energy in the form of hydrogen, is also worth pursuing, as Iceland has shown.

Similarly, RP’s current natural gas capacity can be doubled to over 15 percent of total supply just as Mindanao ’s natural gas can be further opened up. Then, as we explore oil resources on- and offshore across our vast archipelago, building better-designed coal plants will reduce our oil dependence as well.

Since the Philippines is gifted with more potential than the US for food and energy independence given our vast mineral ores, which so many other countries covet, there’s really no need to worry about the resources for industrialization. It only takes good leadership and 10 years of determined implementation to carry our nation toward the path of recovery, peace and prosperity.

(Tune in to 1098AM, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Destiny Cable, Channel 3, Tuesday, 8:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with this week’s topic, “The Coconut: RP’s Savior”; also visit

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