Philippines: The Next International Business Hub

by Miss Angie Lou G. Padernilla  June 16, 2015

 "International politics, like all politics, is a struggle for power"

- Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations

 

            As what realist scholars stated, no country will survive alone in the International System. Each either joins or creates alliances while advancing their own national interests. On August 8, 1967, five nations namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, formed a partnership which is now known as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or the ASEAN.[1] This is an alliance that aims to promote and enhance "cooperation in the economic, social, cultural, technical, educational and other fields" and at the same time maintaining peace and stability within the region in accordance to the United Nations Charter.[2] This alliance also withstands the growing presence of the Western powers as the Cold War divides the world into the capitalists and communists.

            The Philippines, a small country located in Southeast Asia with powerful economic States as its neighbors, is as blessed as it sounds with natural resources and talented citizens. Sad to say, the country is far from being considered a first-world nation in par with today's hegemon which is the United States or having a smooth and strong economic flow like its fellow Southeast Asian neighbor: Singapore.  For the past decades, our country has been trying to climb the ladder up, although with difficulty, the Philippines is still standing in this anarchic world after surviving different international, regional, and local financial crises: the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis is one to boot.

            The Twenty-First Century is a new era for the Philippines. The government knows that survival alone is not enough. Our country needs to compete, needs to create links from different nations, needs to play diplomatically and struggle for power. In 2011, there had been reforms with a six-year program in governance targeting economic growth and poverty reduction.[3] This allowed a new possibility to give way to a new strategy which is "fully aligned with government priorities, focusing on strengthening the investment environment to attract more private funding for infrastructure development and job creation."[4] This reformation has been attracting foreign companies to invest in this country. Today, "the Philippines is among the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia, with upgrades to sovereign investment ratings confirming improvements in the country's macroeconomic fundamentals.”[5] 

            There had been various speculations that the Philippines will be the next alternate trade hub in Asia especially this period as the ASEAN integration pushes forward. Dr. Felixberto Busto Jr., a financial analyst, had shared his thought about it in a recently published news article. He enumerated four factors to support this theory: a) People; b) Location; c) Cost; and d) English or shortly known as PLACE.[6]

            First, let’s talk about the PEOPLE. Filipinos are flexible and can adapt in different circumstances. It also implies that no matter what kind of task or position were given to them, they tend to do their best. Our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) having different kinds of jobs all over the world shows that they’re not just excellent workers but they’re also good communicators.[7]

            Second, strategically speaking, the location of our country is significant to other powerful countries in the international system. Location wise, our country is surrounded by countries like China, Japan, and Singapore, other than that, it is also located in the Pacific, a gateway heading to the US. Being this close to China and Japan, the US had seen the essential role of the Philippines. As an ally, the US can maintain the balance of the system and control the growing influence of Chinese power in the continent. The Philippines needs the extra support of the hegemon while the hegemon needs the location of the Philippines. The friendship of the two countries can result to a relative gain where both benefit and meet each of their interests as they cooperate.[8]

            Third, comparing the Philippines to other Asian countries like Hong Kong, Japan, or Singapore, the cost of living is low. Of course, the labor cost follows as well as doing business here. How can this happen? The rent for business space or home rentals are affordable, one thing that foreign business groups and individuals search for. Good schools in the Philippines are also affordable, a great help for the future laborers and thinkers. All in all, the general living expenses in the Philippines is lower compared to other Asian countries and that alone can attract international companies to invest and consider the country as their next business hub.[9]

            And lastly, there are lesser language barriers. Language, as it seems, is the primary tool for communication and one of the most important factor why people understand and interact with each other. The Philippines is known as an English speaking country, almost all the citizens know how to speak and can understand the language and the working sector is trained to communicate in English. But the best thing that attracts foreign investors is the fact that the court documents in the country is done in English and thereby eliminating the need for translation.[10]

            Looking back, the Philippines is one of those countries which had withstood different crises. From being a colony to an independent State, the country had proved itself in the international system. Today, a lot of foreign investors and countries are eyeing the Philippines as it once again rises up from the ladder because of these factors: a) the people of the Philippines are excellent workers who can adapt in different situations, b) the location of the country is strategically excellent to great powers such as the United States, c) the cost of living in the country is considerably low compared to other Asian nations, one of the most attractive features of a country for foreign investors, and lastly, d) the Philippines is an English-speaking country wherein almost all its citizens can speak and understand the foreign language and the documents are also written in English. These are the reasons why the Philippines is considered as Asia’s alternate hub for the international business sector.

References:

ASEAN Secretariat. History: The Founding of the ASEAN. ASEAN Secretariat, 2014. http://www.asean.org/asean/about-asean/history. (accessed June 9, 2015).

Asian Development Bank. ADB-Philippines Partnership Strategy. Asian Development Bank, 2015. http://www.adb.org/countries/philippines/strategy. (accessed June 9, 2015).

Rodriguez, J.C. Why the Philippines is seen as Asia’s alternate hub. ABS-CBN News, 2015. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/business/06/07/15/why-philippines-seen-asias-alternate-hub. (accessed June 8, 2015).

[1] ASEAN Secretariat. History: The Founding of the ASEAN. ASEAN Secretariat, 2014. http://www.asean.org/asean/about-asean/history. (accessed June 9, 2015).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Asian Development Bank. ADB-Philippines Partnership Strategy. Asian Development Bank, 2015. http://www.adb.org/countries/philippines/strategy. (accessed June 9, 2015).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Rodriguez, J.C. Why the Philippines is seen as Asia’s alternate hub. ABS-CBN News, 2015. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/business/06/07/15/why-philippines-seen-asias-alternate-hub. (accessed June 8, 2015).

[7] Rodriguez, J.C. Why the Philippines is seen as Asia’s alternate hub. ABS-CBN News, 2015. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/business/06/07/15/why-philippines-seen-asias-alternate-hub. (accessed June 8, 2015).

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Rodriguez, J.C. Why the Philippines is seen as Asia’s alternate hub. ABS-CBN News, 2015. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/business/06/07/15/why-philippines-seen-asias-alternate-hub. (accessed June 8, 2015).

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