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Fixing Our Business With The Koreans
 
By Elson T. Elizaga
 

Many opinion articles have been written about the Hanjin withdrawal. When I thought of joining the fray , I knew I have jumped in the bandwagon too late. But perhaps I should share my view on the subject, since aside from the fact that I know of another Korean investor in Phividec, friends told me I look Korean.

Several reports alleged that Hanjin proceeded with the construction of their facility even though it had no business permits.

But it appears to be the fault of someone else: I heard mayor Paulino “Oloy” Emano of Tagoloan being interviewed on-air. He said he allowed Hanjin to proceed with the construction of their facility while Hanjin’s Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) and other business permits were still being prepared. That’s the same as saying Hanjin had no ECC and other permits. Oloy said he did it as a gesture of “goodwill”.

Later on in April, the mayor issued a cease-and-desist order because Hanjin had no ECC. Such a shift in policy must have been immensely exasperating to Hanjin.

I don’t know what happened between the friendship of Emano and Hanjin officials, but this case appears to reveal what Alvin Toffler describes as a First Wave society in the Philippines – an agricultural, feudal society where relationships are largely personal and informal. The leader of this society is respected like the father of a large farming family.

This sense of informality contaminates other sectors of society. Broadcasters of Bombo Radyo and  even some opposition politicians describe any mayor as amahan sa katawhan (father of the people). Manny Pacquiao also referred to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as “ina ng bayan” (mother of the country). These titles have subliminal implications. The idea suggests that the rest of the population are dependent children who are better off if they obey. The relationship is personal, bound by verbal rules. The mayor, thus, is above written law.

Highly industrial Second Wave societies and information-based Third Wave societies, however, are strictly governed by law. Here, the leader is not revered as a paternal authority, but a mere executive of the law. He can be replaced anytime if he defies the law.

Although South Korea has vestiges of agricultural relations, it is largely Third Wave, with 63 percent of the 43 million people using the Internet, compared to 6 percent in the Philippines, and we’re not even entirely broadband. South Korea is strictly legal: Two presidents found guilty of instigating a coup and accepting bribes were jailed. And today, the Korean president and his entire Cabinet have offered to resign because of widespread opposition to US beef imports.

Toffler was a consultant to Kim Dae Jung, as he was to Mahathir Mohammad, Mikhail Gorbachev and Zhao Ziyang.

No Philippine president has consulted Toffler at all. In 2000, I met Malaysian teachers of teachers who told me that their government was using the Internet for education at a time when President Joseph Estrada was planning to have online gambling. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo spoke about the importance of creating knowledge-based societies at UNESCO, but issued a decree to stop government officials from reporting to Senate investigations.

Politicians like Vicente Yap Emano of Cagayan de Oro are largely First Wave and feudal. They are adept at dealing with poorly educated communities but immensely awkward in the presence of diplomats. Emano boasts of having visited Harbin, China frequently. That is true but that is all. Chinese officials were baffled because he kept to himself in the corner.

As early as 2003, the defunct radio station DxJR kept an audio recording of Emano when he told a business company to proceed with a project even though the business permits were not yet completed. Years later, he gave verbal permit to Ayala Land to proceed with constructing a subdivision in Indahag when the company had not yet acquired an ECC. In India, he gave a similar assurance. This year, his brother Oloy did the same with Hanjin.

Such illegal practices are pre-industrial and would create more problems in the future. Having the largest industrial estate in the Philippines is not sufficient for us to become a truly developed city or province or state. There has to be a shift in our thinking. In the 90s when Fidel Ramos was President of the Philippines, Time magazine described our country as an emerging Tiger of Asia, but warned that everything could break down if the rule of law is not followed. Lawyers are products of Second Wave culture, and lawyers like Cagayan de Oro mayor Constantino Jaraula and Misamis Oriental governor Oscar Moreno would do well to heed that advice.

We need executives, not fixers.

June 6, 2009: Governor Oscar Moreno says Hanjin eager to resume P2-billion shipbuilding project in Misamis Oriental
 
June 13, 2008. Updated June 6, 2009. The author was information officer of the Department of Trade and Industry of Region 10 for eight years. Copyright © Elson T. Elizaga.