President Duterte on Thursday sought for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations that will not only harvest its own raw materials, but will also develop and manufacture them into goods within the region.
In a speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) CEO Summit, the President said it is high time the Asean improved its industries by not relying on an import-dependent, export-oriented economy. He added it will be better for the region to adopt an economic policy ā la-European Union that will allow Asean countries to process their own raw materials into goods.
“I will bring [up] this matter forcefully in the Asean summit. We have to have integration, cohesiveness and we must act as one,” Duterte said. “[If] Europe can do it with its union and America is starting to revive its industries, why can’t we, the Asean, do it?”
Duterte lamented the alleged unequal relations between the Asean and the West, as the latter has taken advantage of the former’s abundance in resources, importing raw materials from the region then selling them back “four times the cost.”
“We’ve only [provided] the raw materials. We send it to the improved countries, the industrialized countries, and we get the finished product,” the President said.
Duterte added: “That’s the essence of how we can sort out this thing that we export the raw materials, then we import them again into finished products, but four times the cost of what our raw materials are valued. That is globalization.”
The Chief Executive also said he understands why United States President Donald J. Trump is keen on implementing protectionist policies in the US, citing the need to lure back American companies to bolster his “America first” policy.
With a nationalized industry, the President concluded a lot of Filipinos would not have to travel to another country to seek job opportunities.
“Even the Filipinos—all the plumbers, all the electricians—that…have the masters certificate of a trade, are in the Middle East. So the Philippines is having a boom in real estate, but yet it has to find the workers, and that leaves us behind in terms of how long it would take you to complete a project because then you have to scrape the bottom to find out who can work with us,” Duterte said.
As much as globalization and free trade are needed, the President said, the two have damaged the poor so much there is now an ever-pressing need for some remedial measures. Make no mistake, Duterte added, he is not against globalization, but the Apec and Asean economies have to address some of its drawbacks.
“The rich would become richer and the poor would become poorer, unless things are changed for those who are left behind,” Duterte said.
The President is presently in Danang, Vietnam, for the Apec summit, where he is expected to hold bilateral meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang and a pull-aside meeting with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
Duterte is scheduled to return home on Saturday, in time for the 31st Asean summit, which will be the concluding event of the Philippines’s chairmanship.