Realities of Philippine oligarchy

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Ej Lopez

Ej Lopez

It is not common in a developing country like the Philippines that you will find multi-billionaires of genuine Filipino blood. A true blooded Filipino is easily identifiable because he is born with both a Filipino mother and father. And perhaps, to further boost his Filipino lineage, both parents should have been born of Filipino ancestral origin. Of course this is not to cast doubts on the ancestry of the elite class of local “Filipino” billionaires in the country who are without doubt of predominantly Chinese origin, with the total wealth of the Top 10 billionaires approximately more than double what the entire Filipinos combined have in their pockets at $39.1 billion.

With the current running rate of the dollar at 44 to a peso, this is about P1,720 billion or P1.7 trillion which is more than double the approximate total Philippine money in circulation of about P600 billion! This is not to mention other personalities in the mainstream who are also making waves in the field of business and entreneurship.

Henry Sy alone has about $11 billion of fortune in his portfolio. That in itself is equivalent to about 73 percent of the local money in circulation. Sy’s total accumulated fortune approximately doubles what the distant second richest Lucio Tan has in his arsenal of wealth of about $6 billion. Henry Sy’s fortune of $11 billion is more than the combined wealth of Lucio Tan ($6.1 billion) and Andrew Tan ($4.7 billion), the second and third richest locally.

See the great disparity of living in a too democratic economy like the Philippines? Not because opportunities were made for the chosen few but for other reasons that are either personal or institutional to the individual or society.


This is not to say that true blooded Filipinos lack the opportunity of accumulating a fortune in their own land or that they don’t have the essential skills or capabilities to be one of the best in the field of entrepreneurship. Sad to say, it has become a rarity in the Philippines to see a true blooded Filipino achieve such kind of feat in his own land. Perhaps more than the opportunity available at our dispensation is the attitude displayed by our local talents. We see a long list of Filipino entrepreneurs who risked a considerable amount of money for a business venture but came home empty handed.

Many bright Filipinos in our midst who possess the skills and academic ammunition to succeed in the field of commerce and industry choose to remain unperturbed in the sidelines and would rather pursue a career as technocrats instead of being an entrepreneur but in the end wallow in mediocrity. This perhaps puts the true blooded Filipino in a bind as regards everyone’s dream of becoming a tycoon is concerned.

As time goes on, business entrepreneurship has become competitive more so with the growing cost of technology making the price of success more prohibitive. This in effect dampens our desire for competition especially if you are a struggling businessman with a meager budget looking for an immediate result in your investment.

This is unlike the inherent resiliency displayed by the likes of successful entrepreneurs you always see and read in the limelight of the business front, where success and fortune has become a tradition for these “Filipino Chinese” entrepreneurs who are in the elite class of “Filipino billionaires.”

The nature of oligarchy that exists in our midst has further created a disparity in resource distribution which aggravates the growing incidence of hunger and poverty locally. Latest statistics show that hunger statistics and self-rated poverty have grown despite the local growth rate. Does this have something to do with the lesser opportunities available to the Filipinos because local wealth is concentrated on the few?

Is it an apt time for the government to devise a policy that will provide greater opportunities for the less fortunate? In what way will true blooded Filipinos be given an equal chance if not more than equal odds of getting a “dip in the pie” of wealth opportunities? The way the system works, the breaks of the game go to the personality with a lot to spare which only the current crop of billionaires possess.

Competing with their equal will always be a battle between David and Goliath. While David was able to create the opportunity of winning in his favor; it would seem unlikely that struggling entrepreneurs would possess even that slim chance of surviving in a competition dominated by mammoth personalities in the field of business.

Unless and until the government comes up with a measure that will provide true blooded Filipinos more than equal opportunities for investment, then the nagging problem of poverty and other related economic quandaries will perpetually be a part of our system.

For comments email: doc.ejlopez@gmail.com with cc to:
opinion@manilatimes.net.

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