MANILA, JUNE 30, 2007
(STAR) BUSINESS & LEISURE By Ray Butch Gamboa - We really should start assessing the pros and cons of carrying our sense of nationalism to the extreme, farther than necessary for our sense of pride as a people.

Several years ago, English was our medium for education. That did not detract from our respect for the Filipino language – we still had it as a major subject and, over the years, social science subjects became “Filipinized” as well. I personally think this move was still relevant, but overhauling the entire system to convert to the Filipino language as the general medium for education in our schools and universities?

We should seriously re-think that. First of all, our regional differences make that impractical. And if we’re talking impractical, how do we go about this when we talk about science and technology, the principles of which are generally in English. All the textbooks from where our teachers base their teaching materials, all the seminars and conferences they attend to upgrade their knowledge – all these are English-based. Do we now have to initiate a special course to Filipinize all the terms, etc for all teachers?

And what about the classics? The nuances of language cannot be translated, and appreciation of literature from other countries is a joy that cannot be replaced by mere translation.

Businessmen I have talked to are wary of the length some nationalists are daring to go in this particular issue. They are one in saying that we have lost our edge as a nation in business and labor in the past eight years because of the shift. Americans used to be aghast that we could speak as well, if not better (grammatically at least) than some of them. The same cannot be said for our neighbors in Thailand and China, where even street signs are not translated to English for the benefit of tourists. We enjoy this same edge with India where most everyone speaks English well because of their British heritage. Now, that is one country that is heavily competing with our own labor force in the call center industry, although we still have a very slight edge here. Because of the nuances of the Indian language, there is a peculiarity that gives the speaker away, no matter his mastery of the English language as a medium. For most employers, though, this peculiarity is hardly a matter for consideration.

Let us not undermine the capability of the Filipino worker. In fact, let us enhance the edge we have.

More reciprocity agreements

Coffee time with interesting businessmen can really take most of my afternoon, especially when controversial topics come up. We recently got to talking about the local airline industry, and these businessmen friends have only this to say – forget about too much protection for our local airlines. They are talking about over-protectionism.

Their thoughts on this are that if we open our skies—yes some of these airlines would eat into our natural market of OFWs, but then it would also make travel from their country to ours a lot easier, than for others, taking a longer route, just because these airlines have limited landing rights in our country. As far as the possible reduction of the OFW market, then let the market forces play. We have the advantage of understanding better our culture in creating better promos and other marketing strategies. We shouldn’t be beaten in this game. And besides, let’s give our OFWs the privilege of having the choice of what airline to take—so said many of the caffeine addicts.

More capital influx

Our Constitution allows very limited real estate ownership by foreigners, and this remains to be one of the many stumbling stocks for foreign investors. I am not batting to fully open up ownership for foreigners, as this can be very dangerous. There is potentially big money here, and given our culture of corruption in most government agencies, the entire country can be bought off in 10 years time, a not a square inch of land will be left for Pinoys. Seriously though, at this point, maybe we can determine the limited options that we can have with regard to this provision. I personally believe that we can open up a bit more here. Owning a condominium unit or a house cannot possibly pose a danger, or provide a precarious window. They can’t even bring these with them when they leave, so why the stringent rules. Tracts of land needed for the business the investment is intended for can be sold to the corporate entity limited to only what the project actually needed.

A review is in order because the timing is just right, now that investors are looking our way. China and India are fast industrializing, too fast in fact. Labor costs are thus escalating rapidly there as well, together with cost of living. The Philippines is now emerging as the more viable area for foreign investments in the region, so let us encourage these investors with more tax incentives and less stringent rules. The time is definitely now.

Infrastructure for tourism cum other beneficiaries

Alongside Secretary Ace Durano’s laudable projects on tourism, there is immediate need for logistical support. There is definitely need for more infrastructure, but I hope plans for this go even farther to benefit not just tourism. To be sure, our tourism efforts will go to naught if we do not have good roads, and more roads, overpasses. Skyways. All the good secretary’s efforts will just be wasted if the DOTC will not lend 100 percent support here. But we can also look beyond just the tourism aspect. These roads should be able to benefit agriculture as well. Think of the farm-to-market aspect of agriculture, for example, when building these roads. Good planning will redound to maximized use of these roads, longer life span for the infrastructure, and less waste of taxpayers’ money in the long run.

Mabuhay! Be proud to be a Filipino.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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