Some years ago, a Japanese visiting professor told a Physics professor of a Philippine university that was hoping to set up some local semiconductor research capability a rather condescending joke “our microchips for your banana chips” – commenting on the level of bilateral trade/exchange our two countries had.
The Physics professor, unfortunately due to the heat of local university politics, later just threw in the towel and went abroad as an OFW, and all the equipment that was bought to make vacuum systems for the purpose just ended up not being used to achieve the goal.
It’s amazing that with the wealth of manpower and legions of graduates we churn out in the engineering and scientific fields, Filipinos can’t seem to get their act together and produce Filipino-original locally made advanced products that can compete in the real world.
Besides, what is this country known for? If you asked a random person walking on the streets of our northern Asian neighbors what they knew the Philippines produced/exported – they would be groping to give you an answer only to say in the end: “bananas!” What does that make of your country? You got it – a classic banana republic!
An Import- and Consumer-Driven Economy
Although semiconductor and electronics constitute the “number one export” of the Philippines, that has happened only because foreign companies set up their factories or assembly plants here and used cheap Filipino laborers. When you see any electronic parts labeled “Made in the Philippines”, don’t be too proud because all of that is the embodiment of foreign minds and wizardry. Unlike a genuine 100% Filipino company, they easily come and go. Intel by the way, used to make Pentium processors in the country, but now they’re gone with the wind and closed down local operations.
I asked a mechanical engineer who worked for a research arm of the government before, why the Philippines couldn’t make its own engines (crankshaft, pistons and all). Although we could have had the expertise, he said entering such a market was not very feasible; it would be cheaper to simply import engines. True enough, if you look under the hood of a Sarao jeepney you’ll find a good old Isuzu or Mitsubishi surplus (cheap wag-wag) diesel engine extracted from Japanese scrap.
So here we are – a country content on simply importing every kind of advanced product and retailing them in Henry Sy’s massive malls, who by the way is equally content in siphoning all that cash our OFW dependents are so eager to spend. We are nothing but a consumer economy, waiting for everybody else in the world to make cool products for us.
Our Advanced Asian Neighbors
We don’t even have a decent true-blue Filipino-designed/manufactured automotive brand the way South Korea has their very own Hyundai, Daewoo, and Kia; or any local computer maker the way Taiwan & China have their Lenovo, Acer, and Asus. Heck, even Vietnam who had been lagging behind us is now coming up with their own humanoid robots.
Our president is once again flashing his famous dubious-looking smirk with the order and delivery of Korean-made fighter jets the country needs to appear capable of countering the Chinese threat in the Spratlys. Imagine – jets made in Korea, a country which just a few decades ago Filipino soldiers were helping out (with sweat and blood) to free them from a ravaging civil war.
Note that the Marcos era left the country with a promising aerospace industry (Philippine-made helicopters and airplanes), which now has virtually vanished into thin air under the Yellow camp’s watch.
Advanced Filipino Products = Genuine Pinoy Pride
Instead our Pinoy pride lies in
- Servitude – our many helpers, nurses, entertainers, and construction laborers exported all over the world;
- Singing – our national skill of loud wailing (maybe fueled by our drama-filled lives);
- Boxing – a legalized way of getting to beat up somebody and get paid handsomely doing it
-not the things any decent country that seeks respect in the world arena would really brag about.
Most of the time, news from the Philippines that goes out into the world is about some tragic calamity/accident, ingeniously crafted scam, or pathetic display of corruption/incompetence. When do you think will there be technology-related news like: “Filipinos develop new memory chips with double capacity” or “Philippine company manufactures advanced submarines”?
So what is it that Filipinos can proudly contribute to the world? What products can Filipinos be known for other than bananas, coconut juice, dried mango, and pineapples? Do these products represent all the innovation and creativity that can be squeezed out of the Filipino brain?
Do we need to hear again those insulting words from a pissed off racist abroad saying “Nothing good ever came out of the Philippines!” for us to wake up and seriously make advanced innovate products labeled “Proudly Philippine Made”?
Could I be dreaming too much to wish that one day Filipinos would get to travel to the US, go to Wal-Mart and see lined up with all the Samsung (Korea), Philips (Netherlands), and Sony (Japan) electronic products our very own Filipino-made brand? Well, when that day comes, I can assure you that Filipinos will be grinning from ear to ear.