JAPAN has eclipsed the US on the ODA (official development assistance) front. Soon, our trade with China will probably be bigger than the combined value of the trade with our second, third and fourth leading trading partners. Nothing is permanent in this world. Only our national interest is the constant guide in crafting the grand architecture of our foreign policy.
What Ka Blas Ople said a few decades ago, that the US “is our chief armorer, chief trading partner and main cultural mentor” was true for half a generation or more. But now, that thesis – except for the cultural mentor aspect – has not been holding steady. Even China, which is challenging the US on many fronts, is stuck on Hollywood. And rich Chinese families send their kids to the Ivies, if not to Stanford.
Mr. Xi’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road“ initiative has the subtle aim, or is the trade version rather, of Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. And it might succeed in making China the superpower and world’s most dominant nation that it wants to be—with most of Asia orbiting around it. Just in the unfortunate circumstance that Mr. Trump would scrap existing trade deals and go for tariffs and protective borders, that would be laying the stage for China’s leadership in trade—and consequently—global economic dominance.
There are many developments on the global front that tend to diminish the outsized influence of America on Philippine life and society. In 2015, the US was just thirdin export destination and fourth in origin of imports.
Ok, why then should Mr. Duterte accept the invitation of his kindred spirit, Mr. Trump, to visit the US of A? Many reasons, all of them pragmatic and strategic.
The apparent admiration that Mr. Trump has for Mr. Duterte can be leveraged by DU30 into gaining support from Mr. Trump on many fronts and many vital issues.
But there is one very important request that DU30, in his personal talks with Mr. Trump, can make. And this concerns the BPO issue.
DU30 can really secure Mr. Trump’s guarantee on the BPO issue – that Mr. Trump go easy on companies that offshore BPO jobs to the Philippines. DU30 can argue that these are not the manufacturing jobs that Mr. Trump badly wants to resurrect. These are not the types of jobs that are preferred by his support base. His supporters want jobs in coal or steel or the kind of jobs that propelled into middle-class status the high school graduates of the 1950s, 1960s and the 1970s in America.
To the Philippine economy in general and to local workers in particular, these jobs are more than vital. Imagine a $25 billion to $26 billion in yearly revenues with hardly any investment from government. The more than P1 trillion in the urgent infrastructure projects that DU30’s administration will undertake soon under the “Build, Build, Build” program will not even yield the volume of jobs that the BPOs will generate within the short term and the medium term. More, the state does not provide any form of guarantee to the BPO investments, an obligation it undertakes with most PPP projects.
Those at the lower rung of the infra jobs will get P12,000 a month for their backbreaking work. The entry-level BPO pay, excluding benefits, is about P17,000 a month.
The infra jobs will be short-term at most. The BPO jobs, unless another country can supply the quality of manpower the Philippines has and at lesser pay, will probably stay until the middle of the current century.
Just to obtain a pledge from Mr. Trump that he would go easy on the BPOs moving jobs to the Philippines will make DU30’s visit to Washington super important.
Also, remember that while Mr. Trump is a hard-core Republican on tax cuts and health care policies, there are many areas where he can deviate from orthodox Republicanism and grant concessions to the Philippines on the strength of DU30’s lobbying work. Personal connections are important to Mr. Trump and in many areas, DU3O can connect with Mr. Trump in the realm of the personal. Which can be translated later into policies favorable to the Philippines.
We can never tell what will happen in case DU30 changes his mind and decides to visit and bond with Mr. Trump.
And there is this too. DU30 will have a chance to interact with the Fil-Am community, easily the most important Filipino diaspora.
If you track the global remittances from the spread-out global diaspora, one thing stands out. Pinoys living and working in the US under all sorts of statuses (citizen, permanent resident, TNT) have been the most generous and inspired senders of hard currency into the country. There are remittance seasons when the remittances from the US (we are speaking of the US alone and not the entire North America that includes Canada) even surpass the combined remittances from the nine next big senders of overseas money.
On top of the generous flow of hard currency, the Pinoys in the US are also the most prodigious senders of BB, or balikbayan boxes, which are packed with the most vital needs from Spam to sneakers to baby diapers.
Ok, there’s this one more thing. DU30 may even get the chance to have beso-beso with Melania and Ivanka.