Below is an interview with Alan Jazmines, member of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Reciprocal Working Group on Social Economic Reforms, on issues regarding national industrialization as provided in the NDFP draft on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser).
The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)’s often repeated line is that “national industrialization is passe.” In gist, what is national industrialization, and how will the people benefit from it?
National industrialization refers to the development of manufacturing — from “micro”, “small”, and “medium”, all the way to “heavy” industries, and related economic developments in the country.
“Micro” industries refer to the mostly individual manufacturing of small volumes of products, that are hand-made (or with the use of very simple, light hand tools, like scissors, small hammers, and manual sewing machines), such as hand-made clothes, hand-crafted shoes, handicrafts, and other handicrafts. “Small” industries use a little higher level of tools, but are still at a very low level of technology, and still generally also operated by hand. “Medium” industries are at a higher level, needing higher skills and levels of equipment.
“Heavy” industries are at the highest level of technology and economic development, and generally set the over-all level of industrial development in a country. National development of “heavy” industries, aside from those at lower levels, has long remained very much wanting and is a must for the real and full development of backward, non-industrialized economies, like in the Philippines.
History has shown that fully-supported and developed national industries, together with genuine land reform, have been the pillars of genuine development, that enable industrialized countries to be independent of foreign capitalist powers, and thus be able rise on their own towards economic and social progress.
On the other hand, our country has for long remained quite economically backward, as there has been very little real and significant industrial development in the country. Our country urgently needs to catch up from its very low level of industrialization. Bulk of supposed “industrialization” attained in the country is actually just subcontracting or semi-manufacturing.
The very low level of industrialization in our country has been resulting in very little room for local employment. Thus, more than a dozen of millions now, have gone abroad as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), to earn there much needed income for the support of their families back home. The remittances back home of their earnings abroad has now become the number one source of income for people in the country. In the meantime, unemployment back home remains massive and continues to grow.
Another leading source of income for the country has been the business processing operations (BPO) and call centers. These are located locally by foreign operators to cheapen the salaries of their English-speaking and internet-proficient operators. These have no relation at all to real industrial development in the country, and are actually only serving U.S. and other First World businesses.
The rise in income, due to the upsurge of OFWs and BPO employment has tremendously increased commerce and merchandise in the country, but has nil effect in the development of industry and the real economy in the country.
In the meantime, the ruling regimes in the country have only been mouthing the promotion of “micro, small and medium industries” — unmindful of the urgent need for the prioritization of the development of more solid heavy industries.
What is keeping the GRP from implementing national industrialization?
During the period of the Filipino First Policy of the Garcia administration, the presidency was programed to giving full thrust to the industrial progress of the country, centering on the development of local heavy industries. This was implemented hand-in-hand with the policy of promoting Filipino ownership and replacing foreign ownership of industries in the country. The Garcia presidency’s Filipino First Policy gave strong support for the development of heavy industries, including the local manufacture of steel — in order to replace foreign control of the local steel industry and the whole economy, which has long been serving to block the country’s development of its own industries.
U.S. intervention, however, ensured the downfall of the Garcia administration and the waste-basketting of the latter’s Filipino First Policy. Under the baton of neoliberalization dictated by the U.S., with the connivance of other imperialist powers, the succeeding GRP regimes fully opened up the Philippine economy not only to imports, but also to foreign ownership of industries and other economic interests. Local big businesses blossomed, not actually due to local industrial development, but because of the prioritization and upsurge of commerce and merchandise.
Even as the Philippine economy is still trapped in semi-feudal and semi-colonial backwardness, what can the Duterte regime do to advance national industrialization?
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has been presenting to the Duterte regime a whole package of proposals for a comprehensive agreement for the development of national industrialization and economic development. Included in the package are substantive and concrete proposals for the advance of national industrialization with necessary responsible state intervention and protection, and the junking of neoliberal investment, financial and trade cages, that for decades now have been locked by the dictates and maneuverings of U.S. and other imperialist powers.
The NDFP’s package of proposals entails decisively breaking away from foreign monopoly control of the economy, developing the people’s human resources and the country’s independent economy, building government competence and efficiency, providing full government and people’s support to industrial and over-all socio-economic advances, and ensuring that socio-economic development would benefit the mass of the people.
Will the “Build, Build, Build” program, a cornerstone of the Duterte regime’s economic policy, genuinely uplift the conditions of the Filipino people? Why or why not?
It will not suffice to just depend on massive infrastructure building (as projected in the Duterte regime’s “Build, build, build” cornerstone program), for the national economy to develop. There may be immediate advances in infrastructure building, which would show some temporary increase in some economic activity during the implementation of the building. But such cannot replace the need for real and solid, long-term economic development, through national industrialization, as well as the need for other long-since awaited socio-economic advances (including boosting agricultural production and the interests of the oppressed peasants, through the implementation of genuine land reform in the rural areas).
How can national industrialization help in upholding people’s rights?
National industrialization would be of significant help in the independent, solid development of the economy of the nation, and of the rights and welfare of the people.
It would also ensure that the forces behind it and providing manpower to it, and also the people it should be benefiting would be given the necessary protection and advancement of their rights and interests.
How do you envision the protection of workers, and the advancing of their rights and interests in the NDFP’s national industrialization proposal?
Recognizing that the workers have a pivotal role in production — with production actually coming from their hands — workers should have a central role in national industrialization, with their protection guaranteed and their rights advanced.
More comprehensive labor laws in the interest of the workers should be worked out, with their democratic rights and participation in the setting up and operations of industries fully enhanced.
Workers’ unions, cooperatives and councils, and other forms of workers’ participation to ensure democracy in the operations of industries shall be guaranteed. Such should be further strengthened through the encouragement of and incentives for workers’ active participation in collective ownership, and in the actual operations of industrial enterprises, and also of farms run along capitalist lines.
Community-based cooperatives and community-run efforts, that support the program of industrialization and rural development, and that address the need of the people for affordable, quality and reliable goods and services, shall also be encouraged and protected.
Social services in education, health, housing, and social security are vital for the participation and well-being of the working people. These need to be also aligned with the program of industrialization and national development. Public education, health, housing, and social security systems shall be strengthened and privately-provided social services shall be supervised and regulated.
Would there be a role of the NDFP forces at the ground level in the move to implement national industrialization?
NDFP forces, including mass organizations at the ground level, shall contribute their knowledge, skills and labor power in the active promotion and support of national industrialization, including industrial development projects and the promotion of livelihood programs and activities at the ground level, and in helping in organizing the people and boosting their participation in these programs, both in the urban and rural areas.
NDFP forces, including mass organizations, shall also actively help in the promotion of these projects and programs, in the education and organizing of the people for the promotion, support and protection of national industrialization projects and programs at the ground level, and in helping resolve problems that may crop up in the implementation of these projects and programs.