[Viewpoint] Time to talk Philippines

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[Viewpoint] Time to talk Philippines

Why should a Korean newspaper devote precious column space to Pinoy-related matters? The answer is simple: Pinoys have a lot to share.

Consider this space as a way to provide relevant information to Korea.

The latter, after all, has given Pinoys overseas employment and foreign investments, among many other opportunities.

Korea may be globally known as the Land of the Morning Calm, but many Pinoys see it as the Land of Golden Opportunities.

Of course, it’s also endearingly perceived as the Land of kimchi and bulgogi, which Pinoys in South Korea can’t seem to get enough of.

Aside from their passion for food - Koreans are encouraged to eat adobo and balut - Pinoys have something in common with Koreans as both are known for being hospitable.

This time, however, allow the Pinoys to say maraming salamat (thank you very much) for the chance to share.

In case you don’t know, Pinoy is a colloquial word for “Filipino.”

We are definitely citizens of the Republic of the Philippines, but we have also practically become de facto citizens of the world (including Korea) as a result of labor migration.

Korea may only be an hour ahead of the Philippines, but it is seemingly decades ahead of the latter in terms of economic development.

Based on World Bank data in 2008, Korea’s gross national income per capita ($28,120) is about seven times more than the Philippines’ ($3,900). Despite the low per capita income, the Philippines strives to do better regardless of the crises and disasters that come its way.

Urbanization brings about individualism and indifference, and those in metropolitan areas in the Philippines are not an exception to this trend. But during times of emergency, you can expect Filipinos to unite and help each other.

As a result of Korea’s progress, migrant Filipinos are amazed by it upon stepping out of Incheon airport.

Even those in the Philippines are in awe of Korea’s beauty as they watch television shows like “Jewel in the Palace” and “Boys Over Flowers,” only two of the highly-rated Korean dramas shown in the Philippines.

And despite the fact that most Filipinos are not familiar with the Korean language, they still appreciate the singing and dancing talents of K-pop groups like the Wonder Girls and Big Bang.

In turn, Koreans have become familiar with the Philippines for a very practical reason. Seoul is 1,627 kilometers (1,011 miles) from Manila, making the Philippines one of the nearest and cheapest destinations for those who want to learn English.

Yes, the Philippine government always claims English as its comparative advantage, making Filipino workers “very marketable” to the outside world.

But just how marketable is the Philippines as an investment haven to Koreans?

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP; Central Bank of the Philippines) total net foreign direct investments in 2008 amounted to $1.3 billion, of which Korea accounted for $29.12 million.

Interestingly, Korea has a growing interest in the Philippine economy. Net foreign direct investments from Korea amounted to only $0.02 million in 2005, but it rose to $3.01 million in 2006 and dramatically increased to $14.46 million in 2007.

Korea is slowly getting to know the Philippines. Much as investments (both foreign and local) are necessary for Philippine development, labor migration is still the key to getting much-needed dollars.

Data from the Philippine Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) show that there were 8.7 million Filipinos around the world in 2008, and South Korea accounted for 0.9 percent of them (80,715).

Based on BSP statistics, remittances of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) deployed in Korea in 2008 amounted to $81.6 million. This was only 0.5 percent of total OFW remittances in 2008.

That the Philippines is largely dependent on overseas migration through the years is evidenced by a 171-percent increase in OFW remittances, from $6.0 billion in 2000 to $16.4 billion in 2008.

The Philippine National Statistics Office (NSO) reported that there were 1,292,899 deployed OFWs in 2008. This means that 3,542 Filipinos went abroad every day that year.

Migration indeed becomes a sorry reality as the Philippine economy fails to generate jobs for unemployed Filipinos, currently estimated at 2.9 million as of July 2009.

Given all these, you may ask: What lessons can Korea get from the Philippine experience?

How can partnerships be forged between the Philippines and Korea in a manner that can be mutually beneficial?

In what areas can both countries help each other to achieve their desired goals?

Much as a helping hand from an Asian neighbor is necessary to achieve Philippine development, we believe that Korea could learn a lot from the Philippine experience.

This is most especially true in the Korean mission to globalize not only its economy in particular but also its society in general.

We hope to provide some suggestions. We are the Pinoys in Korea, and through this column we are honored to share our experience with you.

Editor’s Note: Starting this issue, the column “Pinoy Voices” appears every Monday and members of PhilRPG (Philippine Resource Persons Group, an organization of Filipino professors in Korea) will take turns writing in this space.

*The writer is a visiting professor at Linton Global College of Hannam University in Daejeon.

by Danilo A. Arao
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