The Philippines: the path to world leadership
The world is changing. Values, powers, thought processes, technology. We do not stay the same.
If we look back, we can see that the fates and timelines of history play their unpredictable little games. Quantum shifts in leadership and momentum do occur.
- The US was drawn into a war Americans never wanted, World War II, and emerged the strongest industrial nation on the planet, burdened with being the World’s policeman, ardent advocate for human rights and democracy, and the World’s kicking can, criticized for every ill faced by other nations at any time for any reason.
- The Philippines has been too poor to install land telephone lines across the nation and, whilst languishing indolently in the sunshine, was greeted with cellular technology that leapfrogged the nation past plugged-in phones and into the lead as one of the most socially connected nations in the world.
My contention is that the Philippines can become a predominant world leader within in 10 to 25 years. The tea leaves say so.
But you have to open your mind. You can’t just laugh.
It seems that whenever I mention that the Philippines is on the move toward First World stature, I draws snickers from those critical of the Aquino Administration. Well, they are mostly grousing complainers, are they not? They are not builders, not idea-men and women, not problem-solvers. Their political well-being rests on their ability to throw mud on Filipino accomplishment. Citing a positive achievement isn’t in their lexicon.
The thought of the Philippines as a global leader draws raging gales of laughter from the antis who are critical off all things Filipino and have backed themselves back into a wee little box of snarling condescension and racism from which they cannot see beyond the drips from their Pinocchioan noses.
Then we have the extreme conservatives and extreme nationalists, the people with their feet and way of life stuck in cement or even the 1950’s. They like things the way they were, the way they are, and change brings on anxieties and hives and a lot of complaint. The Philippines, to them, will always remain tribal and divided and tainted by colonizers, confusion, congestion and corruption. It’s an earthy, chaotic place, and they are comfortable in it.
I tell you, being a pioneer in thinking invites all kinds of ridicule and harassment.
But it is true . . . it is true . . . that there are no guarantees that Philippine world leadership will happen, because to happen, the nation has to remain on the straight path, driving toward honesty and broad productivity over personal gain, dynasties, oligarchs and other gremlins whose narrow self-interest drags national unity and productivity down.
If you are not busy right now, I invite you to join me up here in the conceptual stratosphere, and consider these premises:
- Being a leader does not require economic wealth; it requires the ability to show others the way ahead.
- Leadership is a function of time and circumstance, a convergence of the fates. Nothing is pre-ordained. Even God has granted us free will.
- There are four primary global forces at work today:
- Climate change and its dramatic, sometimes violent, impact on communities and food productivity
- Aggression: terrorism in support of religious beliefs; domination sought by China and Iran
- Instant electronic communication reshaping commerce, social values and behaviors
- Diminishing natural resources imposing the need for austerity and self-sufficiency
So think about all this for a moment.
The Philippines’ ramshackle economy, poverty and free-living lifestyle have no bearing on leadership. What the Philippines is and represents has a great deal of bearing on the nation’s global leadership.
This is the Philippines that offers us promise:
- The nation is a place where two of the world’s great religion are striving to coexist in peace, and allow other faiths to thrive.
- It is a place where austerity is the way of life for 90 million people because they cannot afford to join the rat race of acquisition, consumption and waste. People’s needs are simple. The Philippines does not have to go through economic chaos like Greece or Spain to find the simplicity of austerity. It’s here, now.
- The nation is a place where diversity is mainstream, where there are over 100 languages spoken, 7,000 isles, a stew-pot of racial intermarriage, of rich and poor, intellectuals and ignorant, artists and iron workers. There is no typical Filipino. Resilient, happy, intelligent, beautiful. That is the character of this nation, forged by the stresses and strains of dealing with hardship and neglect, of brutality, subjugation and sacrifice.
- It is a nation of barangays, of neighborhoods, where people use that old-fashioned way of communicating, the mouth. Yet it is also one of the most active social media nations in the world.
- It is a place of great natural riches. Yes, these resources have been exploited and poorly managed, but the nation is just a hare’s breath . . . or hair’s breadth . . . from being totally self-sustaining.
So here we are: tribal, Spanish Asia, highly Americanized, deep roots in China with rich Muslim and Catholic history, that history so rich with plot twists that even Richard Ludlum couldn’t unravel it. Modern and yet deeply traditional. The Philippines is a dynamic, peaceful, young, totally unique nation working earnestly to deal with all four of the primary global forces shaping the world today:
- Climate change
- Instant communication
- Limited resources: austerity and self sufficiency
To become a world leader, the nation only has to demonstrate the ability to master each of these four forces. That is, the nation needs to work thoughtfully and purposefully on goals other than simple economic expansion.
The Philippines is already receiving international recognition for the work done to prepare and recover from large storms. Yolanda was a wake-up call. National agencies how have routines in place to track storms, get warnings up and brief people on what they mean, get aid staged before storms hit, designate or build storm shelters, conduct evacuations of high-vulnerability areas, get aid quickly into storm-wracked areas (helicopters, ships) and gain international assistance (US re donated ships, EDCA; Australia re flood mapping).
Four initiatives would raise the Philippines to world leadership, naturally:
- Preserve and improve upon the steps already taken. Learn from each storm. Stronger buildings. Bigger, better, quicker relief.
- Build capacities for defense and self-recovery in the provinces, cities and municipalities. Make sure local governments feel a deep sense of accountability for what happens. Or does not.
- Upgrade construction standards and budget generously for the building of sea-walls and urban river banks. Put together a menu of major, targeted initiatives, as is currently done with highways. Get aggressive and master the water.
- Laws: (a) Pass a National land use law that standardizes zoning, preserves open spaces, and bars construction of residences and businesses in vulnerable areas. (b) Upgrade the building code and separate it from national law, assigning it to an agency for more responsive monitoring and updates.
The Philippines is dealing with aggression on four fronts: (1) Chinese territorial expansion, (2) Moro/Muslim initiatives to achieve self-governance, backed by threats of rebel uprising, (3) international terrorism from Muslim extremists, and (4) continuing communist insurgency with the main combatants being the New People’s Army (NPA).
The nation has employed a formula consisting of four attributes in just about all of these conflicts:
- Law-based solutions,
- Firm resistance to violence,
- Open willingness to negotiate without pre-conditions, and
- Partnership with international allies.
The weight of the attributes varies from one battle-front to another, but the Philippines is already gaining a reputation for leadership in Asia as she pursues a peaceful, law-based arbitration case against China. President Aquino has worked diligently to build partnerships abroad, wrapping the nation in a security blanket of alliances stretching from Europe to North America to Asia . . . while building the nation’s own military capabilities. These steps have firmed up . . . BUILT . . . Philippine sovereignty, not undermined them as the nationalists would suggest.
The effort to end years of disenfranchisement of the Moro/Muslim communities on Mindanao is also receiving international acclaim, and it is a shame that progress has been politicized by those who place their own ambitions above the nation’s well-being.
These two initiatives need to be continued.
The third important initiative needed to bring three of the four conflicts to a close is to bring prosperity and jobs to Mindanao. This ought to be one of the highest priorities for future governments, to realize the promise and potential of what is today a wild land shunned by international travelers and businesses. Bring Mindanao in out of the cold. Invest. Build.
Filipinos are connected. Make no doubt about it. Cell phones, internet, WiFi. But these connections are vulnerable to storms or malicious hacking. The nation or huge regions can go dark in an instant, leaving everyone desperate and in chaos. The connectivity is also seldom used in an organized way, for national good. Information is pull driven, by the citizen, rather than push driven, by the government. Imagine storm warnings texted out to every Filipino, real time.
- The nation can become a global leader by thinking of and building ways to apply broad connectivity to unify as a nation, and to move as one. If telemarketers can find a way onto our cell phones, certainly, national need demands similar access.
- The nation can also become a leader by building its communications networks as shared, interlocking grids both regionally and locally, much like electricity, so that if one sector goes out, the remaining sectors stay connected.
- The cities and municipalities need a satellite based, generator powered communication network that can keep population centers plugged in no matter what happens. Communication can be quick: National to local crisis center, crisis center to barangays. The barangays represent a world-class, world-leading governmental system of communication and leadership. Here, today. Right now.
Limited resources: austerity and self-sufficiency
Imagine poverty being recast as simplicity of living. Where efficient mass transportation, the primary means of travel today, becomes the norm and private cars become the exception.
Imagine the small farms of the Philippines being the way of the future with shared equipment and shared knowledge. With highly skilled young people . . . . trained up at TESDA, a world class, world-leading pragmatic educational system . . . moving back to manage the farms, forests, seas and minerals properly, efficiently, productively. Assuring food for themselves and neighbors and local markets. Assuring a self-sustaining care-taking of the seas and forests. Assuring that ores are used to the benefit of all Filipinos, and not just the entitled, or the thieves.
Imagine the rivers and waves and air and sunshine and volcanic heat tapped for more electricity than the nation can possibly use. With the excesses sent by underground cables to Taiwan and Malaysia for sale into world markets.
Imagine the Philippines thriving, standing alone, independent, peaceful, and strong . . . .
And working with other nations to share her riches of knowledge and ways forward, in a fast-changing, connected world . . . led by nations that develop the means to survive, and thrive.