Sunday, September 24, 2006

INTEL boss raved about the good quality of roads to Iba, Zambales

COMMENT: Martin's Hocus-pocus
Written by Patgricio P. Diaz/MindaNews

PORTLAND, Oregon -- Robin Martin, INTEL general manager in the Philippines, wrote a short item for circulation urging Filipinos not to “dwell too much on the negative” about our country but to balance “the negative with the positive especially when we talk to foreigners, whether based here or abroad." He said: “The negative perception of the Philippine is way disproportionate to reality when compared to countries like Columbia, Egypt, Middle East, Africa, etc.” Correct! The negative is only highlighted if the comparison is with Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Hongkong, Taiwan, etc.

But why the Middle East? Is the Philippines less negative, hence more positive, than Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirate, Iran, Lebanon, Israel, etc. when we send there hundreds of thousand Filipinos to earn dollars for their families and the country?

Mr. Martin itemized four marks of progress from 1995 that the Filipinos can be proud of and ten “additional tidbits to make our people prouder.” A co-op member sent the article through Our Coop loop to be passed “on to other Filipinos”

While the item merits appreciation, it, at the same time, invites critical response.


The four marks of progress – great telecommunication infrastructures, MRT, flyovers in Metro Manila, mega malls, new skyscrapers, six-fold increase in exports – are undeniable. So are the ten “additional tidbits” – INTEL, Toshiba, computer and microchip plants, international banks, and others like Procter & Gamble, car assemblers. These and many other industries boost Philippine exports and they offer employment.

What impresses Mr. Martin is that these happened in the last ten years. “Looking back and comparing the Philippines today and 1995 (the year I came back), I was struck by how much our country has progressed physically.”

The observation is undeniable. But can all these physical progress not only in Metro Manila and Luzon but also in the Visayas and Mindanao that brings multi-billion peso earnings to 10 percent, more or less, of the Filipinos balance the social injustice suffered by 30 percent, or much more, of the Filipinos?

To be a true source of national pride, the wealth from physical progress should justly and equitably benefit the various social classes – not just be the pride of a few but the envy of many and means of more and more economic and social exploitation.


If Mr. Martin’s office is in one of the skyscrapers in Makati, from there he can see the slums. And there are more such slums in the other parts of Metro Manila and big cities in the country. With no steady jobs, slum dwellers are like chickens scratching all day long for food and other needs. What does that progress that Mr. Martin wants Filipinos to be proud of mean to them?

Mr. Martin raved about the good quality of roads to Iba, Zambales. The same may be said of roads linking Metro Manila and the industrial zones in Central Luzon, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite and Batangas. However, this cannot be said of all provinces. Definitely, not of the farm-to-market roads so vital to agriculture. Not in Mindanao.
Has Mr. Martin tried to find out how many Filipinos are unemployed despite the “physical progress”? And of those employed, what percent are earning the equivalent of only half, or even less, of the cost of living? So, more and more Filipinos, among them doctors and other highly trained professionals, venture abroad.

These are realities that are also undeniable. They are marks of social injustices and inequities. They are as visible – if not more – as the physical progress that Mr. Martin wants Filipinos to be proud of.

These are the realities that Philippine media report from time to time. These are the realities for which foreign aid agencies come to help correct. These are the realities that the government has been vowing to remedy. I don’t know if these are the realities that Mr. Martin calls “negative”.

These realities do not have to be reported by media or to be told by any Filipino to be seen by foreigners residing in or visiting the Philippines. They are plainly visible or evident in the lives of the people. Not only then first Lady Imelda Marcos had tried to “screen off” the slums and eyesores in Metro Manila from foreign state visitors.

But if media report the so-called “negatives,” it is not to highlight them to drown out the so-called “positives” which are also reported. It is rather to pressure the government to do more to reverse them and to invite the private sectors like the realm of the “physical progress,” where Mr. Martin belongs, to help do something.

Even if media don’t report the “negatives” and the Filipinos don’t talk about them to foreigners here and abroad, they are still widely known. Our own government and charitable organizations beg help from foreign governments and aid institutions.

When President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visits the United States, she appeals to Filipino-Americans to help their suffering brothers and sisters at home. She has made the same pitch to Filipino domestic workers in Hongkong.


Are the realities of social injustices really negative? Calling them so is an expression of shame and a suggestion to avoid or deny them instead of resolving to erase them. If dirt is in the face, wipe it off – not hide nor deny it nor make excuses.

The real negative in the Philippines is corruption and its serious political, economic, social and moral ramifications involving both the government, the private sectors and, in some instances, those marks of “physical progress”. These have deeply scarred the national image.

And, one negative to be deplored is the perception that by highlighting the so-called “positives” the country will be relieved of the so-called “negatives.” This is what Malacanang wants media to do. This, too, is what Mr. Martin is suggesting. No matter how well-meaning, this is a kind of hocus-pocus that will not work.

Mr. Martin concludes: “Next time you travel abroad and meet business associates tell them the good news. A big part of our problem is perception and one of the biggest battles can be won simply by believing and making others believe.”
By all means, tell the whole world about the “good news”. But that a “big part of our problem is perception” and the best way to get over it is “simply by believing and making others believe” is a fallacy -- Mr. Martin’s hocus-pocus.

And his clincher: “This message is shared by good citizens of the Philippines who persevere to hope and work for our country.” Excuse us, sir. Are media people who report the so-called “negatives” and those who talk about them not good citizens?

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