A mid-aged Japanese guy told me that when he was young, many products sold in his country back then were “Made in the Philippines.” Well, things have obviously changed. From being on the tipping point of becoming the next rising tiger cub of Asia ready to pounce and join the club of Singapore, Taiwan, and Korea, something happened. The Philippines slipped, then flopped, had “misencounters,” and now continues to goof up – resembling a bozo who makes “mistakes” on purpose just to feed on the hearty laughter of a well-entertained crowd.
As the laggard of Asia keeps dragging himself two steps forward only to take a step back with the relentless barrage of appalling displays of corruption and incompetence against the backdrop of poverty, rebellions, accidents and calamities, guess what – a gentle red dragon quietly grows, expands and dominates amidst all the “medieval” turmoil.
The Chinese Filipino (Chinoy) continues to make waves, slowly but surely transforming the Philippines into a modern economic powerhouse with the look and feel of the first world. Attesting to their success, the top billionaires in the country are now dominated by Chinese names like Sy, Gokongwei, Tan, Ty, Tan Caktiong, Co, Yap, Yao, and Ang. Not only in business, there is a long list of Chinoys who have become an integral part of Philippine history and success.
Just recently (Q4 2015), Henry Sy’s SM Prime Holdings opened its 55th Mall in the Philippines, a 30 billion peso complex that ranks in size as 3rd in the country and 8th in the world. SM Seaside City Cebu is the biggest in the Visayas and Mindanao, loaded with the cutting edge in entertainment and shopping amenities: 758-meter viewing tower, Olympic-size skating rink, chapel, sports arena, and 447 stores/services.
Meanwhile, in the tech space, Filipino mobile phone brands powered by Chinoy entrepreneurial drive and ingenuity, namely Cherry Mobile (Maynard Ngu) and MyPhone (David Lim), have risen to rival famous international brands like Nokia, iPhone, and Samsung in the local arena. If you question how nationalistic these brands are, all you need to do is look at MyPhone’s logo and you will see the Philippine flag – making any Pinoy beam with pride.
Jobs! Jobs! Filipinos Want Jobs!
While Pinoy political candidates cry out their usual rhetoric in promising the masses jobs to ensure each Pinoy can afford three square meals a day, the Chinoys have done much of the legwork with less of the talk to come up with solutions to unemployment. The answer is simple: Filipinos want jobs! Chinese enterprises need employees! A symbiotic relationship like that of a shark and remora allows the Chinoy-Pinoy partnership to work efficiently like a well-oiled engine.
I’ve heard insider information that SM plans to continue dominating the Philippine retailing market by building a mall every few kilometers. That means jobs (in construction, retail, food, services) not just in primary urban centers, but even in minor cities in remote provinces (country-side development).
Many Pinoys flock to Divisoria (general merchandise), Soler (construction), and Raon (electronics) near the heart of Manila’s port area for low-cost shopping. You will notice that almost every small store is Chinese owned. In one of my visits in the area, I got sidelined into visiting a showroom of the newest condominium being built near Manila Bay. The fast-talking guy who I admired for his sales-talk prowess was a tan-skinned Chinoy. As I viewed the model of the lofty skyscraper on display, it was obvious the project was yet another Chinese-driven venture.
In the days of President Fidel V. Ramos, the president was out surveying the showcase of accomplishments on display in the agricultural sector with some foreign dignitaries when a hand-held instrument called the SHEGA III Grain Moisture Meter caught his attention. He asked where it was made and the research agency representative said it was made in the Philippines. FVR then proudly told the group with him “Look, made in the Philippines!” Thanks to Alexan (Chinoy electronics company), the Philippines can now make world-class products even the highest official in the land can be proud of.
As I ply through the metropolis and see along EDSA all the vacant lots with the big signs “SMDC” (condominium building tentacle of Henry Sy’s empire), I can already see the future of this country. I won’t be surprised if I wake up one day with most of the country in Chinese Filipino hands, and with native Pinoys happily working for them.
Defeating the 60-40 Local-Foreign Ownership Rule
Enshrined in our 1987 Cory constitution (Art. 12, Sec. 2 & 11) is the 60-40 local-foreign ownership rule. It has been identified by many to be the culprit for our losing out against our ASEAN neighbors on tons of foreign direct investments, as it discourages foreigners with capital from coming in to start job-creating projects due to this oligarchy-protectionist policy.
But thanks to the Chinoys who are technically Filipinos (Chinese blood in Tagalog barongs), they are not covered by this restrictive 60-40 rule. They can borrow from their network of Chinese partners and relatives in the Bamboo network (pointed out by Onesimus Unbound) and invest as much as they wish in the Philippines without local Filipinos tying them down, effectively bypassing this outdated counter-progressive law.
The country has enormous potential to benefit greatly from its proximity to the China Circle (intense region of manufacturing and trade consisting of Hong Kong, Taiwan and coastal cities of PRC). It’s all a matter of Pinoy willingness to bring down the walls which our local politicians try to retain to protect their interests and the oligarchies supporting them. Who knows, Taiwan may soon set up a wafer fab through Chinoy connections in Ilocos owing to its proximity to the semiconductor heartland.
The Philippines is bound to become the next Singapore success story of Asia, but it will likely be Chinoys who will be credited for such a feat. Native Pinoys better shed off their dysfunctional Pinoy mentality fast if they want to stay in the game, unless of course they are simply content on bowing low polishing the shiny black shoes of Henry Sy.