The Philippine journal of science (1914) (14803480553)Two important trade agreements shaped the US-Philippine relationship after World War 2: The Bell Trade Act (link) and the Laurel-Langley Agreement (link). Let us have a look at them:

  • The Bell Trade Act was passed by the US Congress and approved by the Philippine Legislature on July 2, 1946. In return for $800 million for post World War II rebuilding funds, the Philippines gave the United States preferential access to its markets, pegged the peso to the dollar, currency transfer from the Philippines to the US could not be limited. Most importantly, American citizens were given the same access to Philippine minerals, forests and other natural resources as Filipinos, which necessitated an amendment to the 1935 Constitution.
  • The Laurel-Langley agreement superseded the Bell Trade Act in 1955 and expired in 1974. It was an amendment to it, but still gave full parity rights to American citizens and businesses, who had the right to 100% ownership of corporations in the Philippines. Access to resources was for sure part of it as well, since American mining interests remained from what I have heard.

The trade acts with the USA included a preferential sugar quota – the Bell Trade Act was also courtesy of President Manuel Roxas, a sugar planter. Sergio Osmeña was against it, seeing it as practically undermining Philippine independence. One does wonder about how much the situation in sugar plantations helped fuel some sympathy for the Hukbalahap rebellion which raged.

  • There were for sure foreigners who came to the Philippines for natural resources. Paracale in Camarines Norte was from what I have been told the site of a major Spanish garrison under royal supervision because of the gold mines there. There was an article called “Aves de Rapiña” or “Birds of Prey” in the American period which referred to gold mining around Baguio.
  • But stories of Samar  (link) sound like African blood diamonds – allegedly Marcos was in the bauxite business, Enrile in logging. The Russians say: where there is gold, there is blood.
  • There are speculations regarding the Bangsamoro Basic Law and natural resources, even suspecting Aquino. But older wealth is usually not as greedy as new wealth. Those that have known hunger, fear of hunger, or humiliation are usually those who can’t get enough and can never stop. They want to be rich and important. European nobility only became noble when they had acquired some culture – the first were usually hardly better than bandits or Russian Mafiosi.

Is that everything?

One major premise is wrong here. That it makes sense just to sell raw materials. That is the path of least resistance.

  • Germany and Japan hardly have any natural resources. Could that be the reason why they had to learn to excel at making more out of the materials they get? They are for sure successful?
  • Africa has its blood diamonds. Some Arab oil states look like the paradise Binay is promising, with everything free for citizens. But do they develop themselves, what if oil finally runs out?
  • The Philippines sells even its people – as overseas foreign workers and in business process outsourcing. But does it add any value to its human resources, does it develop people enough?

Interestingly, it is Germany and Japan that I see putting up industrial plants in the Philippines. Stihl (link) recently did in Batangas, and there are a lot more companies, coming one by one. Germany via the K-12+ Project (link) develops the skills of Filipino workers via a mixture of theory and on-the-job called Dual Training System, which focuses on making theory truly applicable.

Can things change?

Now is the Philippines truly progressing? What are the forces for and against progress.

  • The Philippines is often resistant to change, the Filipino a creature of habit, loving his own comfort zone
  • Exposure to the world has changed many things – via OFWs, migrants, BPO workers, tourists, retirees
  • Foreign transplants do sometimes get rejected by the cultural immune system – see Spanish language

Romeo Encarnacion, a business consultant who lives in the USA and was in Eastern Europe (link) has made similar observations to me – that the Philippines is “parochial” – I have said insular.

  • The first Filipinos to leave the islands and see something else were the ilustrados of the 19th century.
  • Others like Andres Bonifacio worked for foreign firms in Manila which was booming due to trade.
  • Today, Filipino OFWs and migrants go the way of Rizal and BPO workers the way of Bonifacio.
  • Plenty of foreigners came to Manila in the late 19th century, including a German pharmacist named Zobel.
  • Foreign retirees, tourists and businessmen today may bring enormous change and new ideas into the country.

There may be enough critical mass soon to make for – hopefully – gradual and sustained change. Unlike before where it was only a minority and the rest remained in Padre Damaso’s Dark Ages. Then it will no longer be the kind of place that made Ibarra fail and Simoun kill himself, make AntiPinoy (link) hate his country, which according to Rizal (link) many Filipinos did even before.

When the ethical abasement of the inhabitants had reached this stage, when they had become disheartened and disgusted with themselves, an effort was made to add the final stroke for reducing so many dormant wills and intellects to nothingness, in order to make of the individual a sort of toiler, a brute, a beast of burden, and to develop a race without mind or heart. Then the end sought was revealed, it was taken for granted, the race was insulted, an effort was made to deny it every virtue, every human characteristic, and there were even writers and priests who pushed the movement still further by trying to deny to the natives of the country not only capacity for virtue but also even the tendency to vice.

I think human resources are the major natural resource of the Philippines. Where they are not being wasted outright, they are still not being sufficiently added value to and developed.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 27. February 2016