MANILA, December 14, 2004 (STAR) By Wilson Lee Flores (We want to be first; not first if, not first but; but first! – US President & Pulitzer Prize-winning writer John F. Kennedy)

(Know yourself and know your enemy, then in a hundred battles you shall have a hundred victories.– Sun Tzu, Chinese strategist, 2,500 years ago)

(When you fear a foe, fear crushes your strength; and this weakness gives strength to your opponents.– William Shakespeare)

Why do we bury our heads in the sand like ostriches, fear or doubt that the Philippine economy has the potentials to become No. 1 in ASEAN? Why is it that our society has been so overwhelmed by this age-old culture of pessimism – caused by 333 years of psychological bludgeoning by Spanish colonizers, that we drown in talks on how to survive instead of winning?

Why is it that most of the goods in Divisoria and our malls are imports? When shall we vow to produce more and aggressively export to the world? Why is it that our eloquent politicians are only blabbering loudly on headline-grabbing issues like log ban, but few are raising the alarm bells at the closures of so many major factories and the conversion of numerous warehouses into badminton courts?

Why wallow in self-pity, fatalism, trying to just plug the holes of our government budget deficit, how to prevent international credit ratings downgrade, how to solicit more international aid for typhoon victims? Why awaken the whole society, plan and act boldly to make the Philippine economy self-reliant, investor-friendly and globally-competitive?

In competitive sports, isn’t aggressive offense the best defense strategy? Shouldn’t we help the Philippine economy be more efficient, wipe out mass poverty and be a Manny Pacquiao slugging it out against the best economies of the west and Asia? Instead of just targetting 10 percent, 20 percent or 30 percent yearly tourism growth, why not aim high and vow to vanquish our neighbor Thailand as ASEAN’s No. 1 tourist destination?

Instead of pessimistically worrying about the rise of new global power China, SGV Group founder Washington SyCip, JG Summit Holdings founder John Gokongwei Jr. and shipping tycoon Endika Aboitiz recently told the Philippine STAR that we should learn to embrace this wave of the future, make preparations to cash in, learn Mandarin and ensure that the Philippine economy profits from close trade/investments ties. Why do we allow India to corner the lion’s share of US outsourcing billions, why not leverage our being America’s only former colony and boost our English-language education nationwide in order to become the world’s No. 1 outsourcing power?

Anvil Prize For Global Competitiveness

At the recent December 4 annual election of the Anvil Executive Club held at Rockwell Club in Makati, the new set of 17 officers immediately approved numerous new projects including canceling the annual Christmas reception so funds raised would be donated to the typhoon victims and our proposal for the Anvil Prize for Global Competitiveness. The officers went late at night to the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) headquarters in Port Area, Manila to immediately give the check to PNRC Chairman Richard Gordon and to pledge more support for their efficient relief efforts.

After our election as president, we nominated Confederation of Garment Exporters of the Philippines (CONGEP) president George Siy and steel industrialist/Manila Bay Rotary Club past president Jeffrey Ng to be co-chairmen of this Anvil Prize, which seeks to honor individuals, groups, corporations or institutions promoting a culture of Philippine global competitiveness. Other newly-elected officers of Anvil supportive of the innovative Anvil Prize for Global Competitiveness include EVP Roy Chua (who will organize the First Anvil Golf Cup and the First Anvil Badminton Open in 2005), VPs Danny Ching and Alvin Uy of Ortigas Home Depot, directors Bernard Go of Contract Designs Furnitures, Ronald Alan Ko, William Co Villanueva, incoming PAREB real estate group national president Bobby Sy, Wilfred Co of Robinson Handyman/Do It Best, Michael Chenglay, Jeffrey Cobankiat, Mark Sy Cabilangan, Eduardo Cobankiat and Charlton Ng.

Anvil Executive Club is an organization that molds future leaders not only in business and industry, but also in different professions and civic causes. The focus is on promoting traditional Confucian values, entrepreneurship and professional excellence. Instead of surrendering to the onslaught of globalization, giving up, migrating to greener pastures in the west or other parts of the globe, the consensus of the Anvil officers and members is to help reform the Philippine economy to become more globally competitive.

Past Anvil officers include Michael G. Tan of Asia Brewery and David Chua of Cathay Pacific Steel Corp., both of whose fathers were past presidents of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry Inc. where they are now active; real estate businesswoman and PACES founder Elena Tanyu Coyiuto; Philippine Amalgamated Association of Supermarkets (Pag-Asa) president Steve Cua; Ateneo math whiz Prof. Dr. Queena Lee-Chua, flour mill businesswoman Aileen Uygongco-Ongkauko, Philippine Association of Electrical Industries president Peter Go Mangasing, and others. Can these and other Anvil officers help propagate a spirit of dynamic competitiveness, so that our many obsolete and inefficient Philippine industries will not perish but become future world conquerors and top exporters?

Former Anvil director Berck Y. Cheng first met his bride Lisa Y. Gokongwei of Summit Media/Entrepreneur magazine at an Anvil event. An Anvil member told us, instead of Summit Media licensing foreign periodicals like Cosmopolitan, Entrepreneur, Seventeen and FHM, maybe Lisa and her staff can export to the West their own homegrown brands like Preview or Yes magazines instead? A former Anvil member is Agriculture Secretary Atty. Arthur Yap; can his tenure possibly see the day the Philippines will again export agriculture like sugar and other commodities like decades ago? Another former Anvil member is Chamber of Thrift Banks past president and Asia Trust Bank president Dionisio Ong. Ong actively espouses the idea that encouraging small and medium-scale entrepreneurs with world-class quality standards is the true hope of the Philippine economy.

Better Math For Global Competitiveness

Did you see the recent comic episode in Sen. Jamby Madrigal’s "Pythagorean theorem" and "elasticities" jargon in discussing cigarette tax issues, causing other senators to laugh in bewilderment or suffer from headaches? Was Madrigal making sense or just spewing out fancy theories to impress the gallery? How come most of our politicians in the Senate appeared like clueless students who just flunked algebra exams?

This column recently received an e-mail from the Mathematics Trainers’ Guild, Philippines (MTGP) asking assistance for private sector sponsorships for their hosting of the 2005 Philippine Elementary Mathematics International Contest (PEMIC 2005), a five-day competition set for May 2005. Government supports this major project through the Department of Education and the Department of Science & Technology, but these state agencies are unable to give financial support.

PEMIC 2005 hopes to gather over 50 teams, including those from Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, USA and Vietnam. The math trainers of the country are inviting sponsors to support this major event, which seeks to promote the country’s international image and to elevate the mathematics standards of Philippine schools to world-class levels. Interested sponsors can contact Dr. Eduardo de la Cruz at 734-7371 or text 0917-3502686, or Roberto Degolacion at 0917-3246302. The vice president for internal affairs of MTGP is Lucy O. Sia, my former trigonometry math teacher at Grace Christian High School who is legendary for being quicker than a calculator in solving the most puzzling math problems mentally.

One of the best ways to promote global competitiveness in the Philippines is to upgrade mathematics education nationwide. How can we ignite a national entrepreneurial revolution of many of our people, even our politicians who control the state coffers, do not know how to count well? How can we have economic progress, industrial growth and technological innovations if we do not mass produce more engineers and technical experts proficient in mathematical principles?

Beyond Survival

Societies and individuals should work and dream beyond mere economic subsistence and survival, but aim higher for excellence. After the European Jewish refugees and others fought a guerrilla war against the British colonial regime and resisted attacks by Arab armies, they went beyond survival and sought to build a vibrant free enterprise economy in their democratic state of Israel. When Lee Kuan Yew-led Singapore was kicked out of Muslim-ruled Malaysia in the 1960s, their leader shed tears on national TV but worked not only for survival of the resource-poor city-state but built it up into a world-class economic powerhouse.

After the South Koreans fought back the Communist hordes invading from North Korea in the 1950s with the US, Philippines and aid from other UN allied nations led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, they not only worked for survival of their war-torn nation. They dreamt and built up South Korea into a mighty industrial power rivaling former colonizer Japan in ship, steel, automobile and electronics exports globally. When the Chiang Kai-Shek regime was booted out of mainland China by the Communist revolution of Mao Zedong, resource-poor and backward Taiwan province under the Kuomintang/Nationalist leadership pursued a policy of national self-reliance. Taiwan not only survived Cold War era threats and diplomatic isolation, the dynamic free enterprise economy has prospered to become a globally competitive world leader in information technology (IT) and high-tech exports.

We should demolish our society’s age-old culture of pessimism, go beyond survival of the Philippine economy with dependence on OCW dollar remittances, but we should export more and woo more tourists into our shores! We shouldn’t just be fixated with log ban debates, but implement an aggressive reforestation campaign so that we can someday revive the once robust Philippine lumber export industry, inspired by the US example of efficient forest management. Instead of only shouting with sound and fury for less corruption and less pork barrel funds to solve the government budget deficit, let us woo more investors, encourage the launching of new enterprises, support existing firms, so that the state can collect more tax revenues!

Fearless and bold offense – not pessimism and fatalistic surrender – is the best defense against the onslaught of globalization. We do not have the luxury of time to delay far-reaching socio-economic reforms. We must shape up and compete, or we shall stagnate and be left inexorably behind. Let us make the Philippine economy more efficient and globally competitive!

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Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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