MY close friends tell me that at my age, I am proverbially in the “pre-departure area,” as many of them–postwar babies–have actually departed, some surreptitiously in the night, the others with fanfare. My children think differently. They believe, I have now the time to enjoy my grandkids (three boys, two girls and counting) with “many years” ahead of me. My grandkids think Lolo will live forever in that “big house up thehill.” I think otherwise. I intend to attend the weddings of my two granddaughters, Sylvie and Claudia, ages two and one, respectively, and see them produce me my great-grandchildren. I suppose I have approximately 40 more years before my grand exit.
But this is not a treatise on death or how to grow old elegantly. This is about how at this ripened age, I still am amazed or flummoxed by current events, more particularly in the field of politics. And I love it!
Take last week–OMG! Trump won!
I have been entertained by the Donald from the time I read his book on “The Art of the Deal,” through his shenanigans in New York with his flings and wives, his reality TV career and even his presidential run during the primaries. I never thought he was serious about anything except for advancing his brand, least of all his presidential ambitions. But last Wednesday morning (Tuesday evening in the US) I had a surprise coming–no, I was shocked! All the major US polls were wrong, the Fil-Am community was wrong, the whole world was wrong! Only the Donald was right.
And now even as I write this, rallies are taking place in the avenues of New York City chanting, “Not my President!” Thousands of immigrants gathered at Trump Tower protesting over his plan to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
However, my concern is not the national cognitive dissonance hovering over their nation’s psyche right now, but the implications of Trump’s ascendancy to President Duterte’s internal and foreign policies. Trump’s election campaign was a harbinger of his economic policies, previously announcing an American-first policy, an inward-looking shift from the US “pivots to nowhere,” sending a shudder across many nations.
Trump’s economic policy only means greater focus on domestic affairs and issues rather than international concerns–NAFTA will die, TPP is dead. Trump promised greater border enforcement implying also more protectionist economic policies. According to Trump, globalization has hurt the American economy rather than increase its gains. The influx of cheap domestic goods in the country has cut domestic jobs and further sank wages.
But what does a protectionist policy mean?
Protectionism is an economic policy characterized by varied government regulations including restrictions of trade between countries, such as putting up tariffs on import and creating obstructive quotas. The underlying reason for gearing towards this policy is to shield domestic producers and businesses from import-driven competition. As Donald Trump claimed, the decades-long tradition of free trade has hurt the American economy and dispossessed Americans of their jobs. The unfair trade policies, Trump believed, has aggravated the balance between imports and services and goods produced domestically.
Tapping on the fears of the white disinherited forgotten voters, those at the peripherals, at the background of the American dream, Trump sure knew the winning combination to the presidency by accentuating the great disparity in the system, the long battle of financial insecurity and meager income. He also advocated for a “massive tax reduction” for those at the middle and the working classes; this despite allegations of his own tax avoidance which surfaced during the campaign period.
Eventually, Trump’s policies could push the Philippines to become more self-reliant, driving it perhaps more to the arms of China; or this could allow Duterte greater space to assert his independent foreign policy. On the matter of the West Philippine Sea, Duterte has already taken it upon himself to directly negotiate with China. But with no American card to speak of, can he just rely on the moral value of the UN arbitration tribunal decision and expect China to honor international laws? China has already said she won’t. Are we negotiating from a point of weakness?
Trump’s notions of racism, disrespect for women and minorities and his preaching of hate may seep into the US foreign policy psyche and may depart from decades-old American values which got Obama a taste of Digong’s “colorful language”. Human rights may not be Trump’s priority, giving Duterte greater leeway to pursue his war on drugs and so-called EJK, or extra-judicial killings.
We don’t exactly know as yet the implications of Trump’s ascendancy on US investments and FDIs in the Philippines in the wake of PRRD’s dare for US companies to “leave the Philippines” if they don’t like it here. This of course was an off-the-cuff knee-jerk reaction by our President, piqued by US attacks on EJK.
But our BDO industry is fast-growing, providing jobs for an estimated 372,000 Filipinos in 2016. Our 500,000 English-speaking college graduates per year is the lifeblood of these BPO companies.
Trump’s pre-election pronouncements to bring back US companies and jobs from offshore as solutions to the growing number of jobless Americans may have negative implications on our OFWs and jobs at home.
His immigration policy sends chills to undocumented OFW workers who are threatened by deportation to their homeland. Of course, Trump can’t swiftly make changes in the US’s immigration policy, but a strong enforcement of the laws may have a substantial impact on the two million Fil-Americans and the countless “TNTs” now residing in the US. How will this affect our Filipino families?
While on a state visit to Malaysia, Duterte congratulated Trump and even cited a few similarities like a love of expletives and the fairer sex–though our Digong is decent enough not to “grab them by the p___”. But the economic effects of the Trump administration are something Duterte must not take lightly. And he may need to grab the opportunity to make amends to goddam “big brother” America.
The author served under four presidents in various capacities as a member of the Cabinet and several commissions. A Harvard-educated political technocrat, he was one of the prime movers of the Citizens Movement for Federal Philippines (CMFP); one of the founders of the CentristDemocratic Party of the Philippines (CDP); Ang Partido ng TunaynaDemokrasya; and the Centrist Democracy Political Institute (CDPI).