Friday, July 17, 2009

hanjin issue

Editorial: What’s going on?
from Business Mirror

REPORTS that a little-known South Korean firm had managed to lease thousands of hectares of land in Mindoro Oriental, in a deal known only to some local officials but not to the departments of agriculture or environment, is certainly cause for alarm.

While it’s state policy to encourage foreign investors to set up business in the country and thus provide jobs, especially in a time of crisis, the benefits from such large-scale contract farming with nebulous terms remain unclear. In fact, if the worst fears of farming communities come true, such a deal could even impact on the food security of local inhabitants.

Even more alarming is that several similar arrangements are reportedly being forged in many parts of the country, and in many cases those in government who should know about them are either in the dark, or not serious about their regulatory duties.

We are not surprised, meanwhile, that in several recent controversial cases involving the exploitation of natural resources, South Korean firms are involved. The “Korean invasion” is for real, make no mistake about it, and while Filipinos are good neighbors and hosts, it’s time to look into the seemingly unstoppable muscling in of some Korean interests into various sectors and areas. For instance, the new “gold rush” area in a part of the Compostela Valley—site of the famous Diwalwal gold rush—counts scores of Korean prospectors among the hundreds flocking to the place, mostly unregulated.

The argument may be made that it’s good that foreigners are making a stake here and investing their money for business. Yet it behooves government agencies concerned in every case to make sure the benefits from allowing foreign business to operate here far outweigh the negatives—that is, that “dirty money” from organized crime isn’t laundered in Philippine-based operations; that the ventures are fair to the host communities and will not degrade the environment; that the foreign employers create a substantial number of jobs and follow local labor laws strictly (think Hanjin and its slew of cases in Subic); and fundamentally, that these ventures don’t infringe on the Philippine Constitution.

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