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Building a resilient economy

The announcements that Nokia, Wells Fargo, and Honda will be minimizing or shutting down their business operations in the Philippines have been met with serious concern. Their employees—700 IT professionals in Nokia, 700 out of 750 tech workers in Wells Fargo, and nearly 400 manufacturing workers in Honda—will have to consider how they can best be employed again, and in the shortest amount of time. I can only imagine the difficulty, particularly for Honda employees, as some of them may have had decades in Honda’s work force.

It’s not hard to believe that for some of them, the solution will be to work abroad, becoming OFWs, if they cannot find jobs at home that need their skills, and can pay them at least near what they were earning. For others, they may experience a long period of unemployment, and this will produce unwanted stress within their families.

It’s imperative now that we craft a “resilience plan” that will allow our country’s economy to sidestep large-scale business shutdowns. Such plan should also integrate ways to address other global issues, such as the coronavirus outbreak, as these events disrupt economic processes, particularly in terms of manufacturing. If the coronavirus needs a vaccine to counter it, then our economy needs a contingency plan to make sure that it can weather the new economic realities that are happening all over the world.

Last Wednesday, we held an inquiry on the implementation of government programs concerned with industrialization and employment generation. The inquiry will start the process of figuring out the following—what has been accomplished, which ones are working, and what will have to be done to sustain programs that are working well. Indeed, our economy would be more resilient from large-scale shutdowns if more jobs were available, and if the government invested strategically in generating these jobs.

This is where our Tatak Pinoy (Made in the Philippines) initiative comes in.  Tatak Pinoy is not just about saying that something is proudly Philippine-made. It is about identifying and encouraging productive sectors of our industries, in such a way as to give small and medium businesses a better chance of succeeding and expanding their operations. Tatak Pinoy-related programs will help our industries become self-sufficient, and will encourage more local employment for our workers. The goal, really, is to transform the Philippines into an economy that not only consumes, but also innovates, invests and manufactures products, as well.

There, too, is a need to take stock of our initiatives for industries that involve information technology, business-process outsourcing, tourism, creative industries, trade, manufacturing, agriculture and aquaculture, logistics, shipping, research and development, and other sectors that will be analyzed as productive. As we can see by the jobs that will be lost when Nokia, Honda, and Wells Fargo pull out their stakes, these industries require that we make action strategies if stakeholders decide to leave or downscale operations.

What must be done now is to study how best we can leverage the 2020 P4.1-trillion national budget to innovate and upgrade our own industries, so that we can create more local jobs for our fellow Filipinos.

And it is not as if we are lacking in success: Our country is home to global brands like Jollibee, Oishi and Bench. We also have excellent Tatak Pinoy examples like furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue, and the Puentespina family, who developed the award-winning Malagos Chocolate from Davao. CSM Philippines, a ceramics company run by the Manriques, exports handmade china plates, teacups and other similar products. Ubisoft developed the video game “Assassin’s Creed” in its Laguna Studio, and SG Interactive prepares audiovisual presentations for Fortune 500 companies. All these are made in the Philippines, so to speak. And this is why one of the goals of the Tatak Pinoy program is to create a unified strategy to encourage and develop Filipino products and services for the local and the global market.

We need to work on making sure that we will have jobs and services ready to help those who suddenly become unemployed. We should also make sure that these are local solutions, so our people won’t have to find work elsewhere. We all know too well how difficult the life of an OFW is, and how brain drain is detrimental to our country’s development. In short, we must create more jobs for the Filipino people, now and in the future.

Sen. Sonny Angara has been in public service for 15 years—nine years as representative of the Lone District of Aurora, and six as senator. He has authored and sponsored more than 200 laws.  He recently won another term in the Senate.

E-mail: sensonnyangara@yahoo.com| Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @sonnyangara.

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