Can you think of any one thing that the Philippines is really a world leader in? Honestly, I can’t. I feel bad about that too. I love the Philippines, it is my home after all, and has been for over 8 years now. But, as much as I want to find something, I can’t think of a single category where the Philippines is a world-class player in the field.
Fifty years ago, the Philippines was a World-Class producer of rice. They produced very high yields of rice, and even exported rice. The Philippines became the home of the International Rice Research Institute because of it’s World-Class status in the production of rice. Those days have passed, though, and the Philippines is now the biggest importer of rice in the world, having to bow down to countries that can supply food for it’s people. It’s sad.
In what fields, today, is the Philippines a player, a country to be emulated, a place that people look to with envy? There are markets where the Philippines wants to be such a player, but it isn’t happening yet.
Tourism. The Philippines has always dreamed of being a world hot-spot for tourists. There are always new resorts popping up. New tourist attractions. New promotions being run to attract tourists. But, does any of this ever seem to pay off? No, unfortunately. The truth is that traveling to the Philippines is hard to do. I’ve written about this many times before, and a lot of people always comment in agreement. The resorts here tend to be sub-standard to what is found in other countries, and also priced higher, often much higher. In many parts of the Philippines, pollution is a problem (air pollution, litter, polluted water, etc, etc, etc.) and that turns tourists off. Air travel to the Philippines is expensive, due to a lack of competition (no open-skies policy). It’s nearly impossible to book hotels and such via the Internet, which is the method of choice for people all over the world in 2008. I believe that the Philippines could be a World-Class destination, but it will take work, hard work. It will take determination, and it will take co-operation. Can all of these things come together to make the Philippines a World-Class tourist destination? Maybe, maybe not. I am not hopeful.
How about making the Philippines world-class in some other areas? Make it the world’s number one fishing destination? Oh, I forgot, overfishing has left the waters virtually fish-less, and even the commercial fishermen now have to go fish in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. How about making the Philippines a world class eco-tourism destination? Oh yeah, litter, pollution, commercialization. Hmm… How about a world-class medical tourism destination? Oops….. recent cases of doctors not taking their practice of medicine seriously have downgraded the public view of medical service in the Philippines. How about the Philippines being a world-class anything? Frankly, it can be done, if people are willing to work for it!
My personal opinion is that the President of the Philippines (not necessarily Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, just whoever happens to be the President at the time) needs to go on a crusade to make the Philippines a World-Class something. Pick an industry and do it! Set a time of like 5 years or 10 years, and put the country’s resources to work to make that area into what it has the potential to be! For example, let’s say that Palawan could be turned into an eco-tourism site. Focus all of the government and private sector efforts possible toward the goal, and get it done. Make sure that it is clean. Make sure that it is unspoiled. Make sure that the proper types of facilities are built (and build them to world-class standards) and then promote it. Promote it to the world. Put people to work to show the friendliness of the Philippines to the rest of the world. Offer a World-Class eco-tourism experience in Palawan. Don’t just go with the local knowledge of what should be there. Send out teams to current world leading areas of eco-tourism and see what they are doing. Emulate them. Heck, copy them if that is what must be done. But, make it World-Class. If the whole experience works out and the Philippines can make itself a leader on this particular case, then choose other targets to shoot for in other parts of the Philippines.
I want the Philippines to stop shooting for “good enough” and shoot to be the best. Right now, honestly, I can think of no category where the Philippines is even trying to shoot for anything above mediocrity. That’s not good enough, and frankly, the results that the Philippines experiences in world markets is a sure indicator that what is being done is not good enough.
Bahala na. Pwede na. Wipe those expressions right out of the national mindset!