WITH 7,107 islands and a land area of more than 300,000 square kilometers, the Philippines lies at the center of the globe, 6 to 18 degrees above the equator, between the Pacific Ocean and the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). The country has interesting places for commerce and human interactions on issues about politics, economics, sociology, culture and national security among Malays, Arabs, Chinese, Spaniards, Americans, Africans, Europeans, Japanese and other nationalities.
If you look at the world map, it’s not just location, per se, you’ll see, but, in essence, a strategic area that has access to more than one half of the world’s 7.108 billion population—a vast market for the country’s economic output if we develop it and use this area to our advantage in the economy of distance and time.
The Philippines has the fourth-longest coastline in the world—36,289 km—after Canada (202,080 kilometers), Indonesia (54,716 km) and Russia (37,653 km). Our coastline is almost twice of that of the US, thus, making it advantageous not only for global security, but also for maritime-business projection.
By implication, this means that we have a unique access to this vast market—just seven days by sea; three to five hours by air from any part of the Pacific Rim and East Asia; nine hours by air from the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East; and 11 hours by air from the US mainland.
It is assumed that we have an industrial output that is highly competitive with that of neighboring industrial countries, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, to have access to this vast market of consumers beyond our borders.
Unfortunately, we chose to remain an agricultural country, as defined in Section 1, Paragraph 2, Article XII of the 1987 Corazon Cojuangco Aquino Constitution, which says: “The State shall promote industrialization and full employment based on sound agricultural development and agrarian reform….”
Based on this fuzzy provision, how can you, by any stretch of the imagination, promote full industrialization without the use of modern industrial machines than can build ships, airplanes, cars, trucks, digital mobile phones, railways and other durable goods?
Dr. Ernie Gonzales, post-doctoral fellow of the Asia Research Center of the London School of Economics and Political Science and University of the Philippines-Manila graduate-program professor, told me that the Philippines is an archipelago with vast aquatic resources that are five times bigger than land resources. “Therefore,” he said, “her global competitiveness and inroad to green industrialization must be through her aquatic resources.”
In a paper he prepared for the Philippine Council of Management, Gonzales defined the country’s paradigm shift from the economic fundamentals of continental lands toward the economics of vast aquatic resources and thousands of islands to create modern industries in fisheries and aquaculture, energy from the sea, modernization of seaports, shipping and fishery industries.
Besides, as defined by our geographic and demographic makeup, we are a nation endowed with 62 deep natural harbors in different strategic locations in the country, where domestic and international commercial ships can easily and safely dock and unload both passengers and cargoes.
Look at South Korea, for instance. It has only one deep harbor, known as the Port of Busan, and yet it has an industrial maritime complex now considered as the world’s largest builder of ships of any size, make and gross weight.
What do the South Koreans have that we don’t? Unlike Filipinos, South Koreans have an industrial manufacturing base and the right combination of economic policies that are strategically designed to compete in the global economy.
Mind you, the economic direction of a country is dictated by the right mix of policies. One of South Korea’s strongest policies is that it sells more, rather than buy, products from other countries.
Needless to say, the South Koreans are using their intelligence, imagination and nationalism to create an economic miracle for their country. Except for nationalism, we have those qualities, too. In fact, we have more: strategic location and access to raw industrial materials.
The great difference, though, between the two countries lies in the fact that the South Koreans care more about socioeconomics than politics.#
Image from: www.pixabay.com