The Philippines and ASEAN amidst US-China conflict

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

The current escalating tensions in Asia-Pacific posed many grave and even imminent dangers to the peace and security of the 10-member ASEAN economic community. Aside from COVID-19 and climate change, the threats of war present great disruptors of economic development. On top of the war in Ukraine, troubles in Sri Lanka, recurrent Israeli-Palestine conflicts and tempests in Myanmar, the saber rattling and military posturing by Beijing and Washington on Taiwan and Japan can derail the ASEAN growth trajectories.

We are discussing these developments in Asia, from the academic point of view here in our lecture tours in Lisbon, Portugal, and Barcelona, Spain, in addition to the 15 other colloquiums we held in London, Paris, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and other EU member states, after the academic safari in the north, south and central America. Our conclusions are expressions of deep concern and even apprehensions. US President Joe Biden's search for a major achievement in Asia as a ticket to the November midterm polls, as well as China President Xi Jinping's obsession to get an unprecedented third term in the 50th National Congress of China's Communist Party are pushing Asia Pacific to the brink of a nuclear war.

The IMF 2022 figures show that the 10 member nations have a combined population of 653.655 million and a combined nominal $GDP of 3.655 trillion and as well as an average nominal per capita income of $5,428. It has a combined GDP PPP of $10.131 trillion and a per capita GDP PPP of $15,082. In terms of nominal GDP, the best performance was that of Indonesia, $1.289 trillion, followed by Thailand with $522.012 billion, and the third place goes to Malaysia with $439.373 billion, and fourth place is Singapore with $424.431 billion. The Philippines happily lands in the fifth place with a Nominal GDP of $411.978 despite all the disruptors. Closely trailing us is Vietnam with $408.947 billion.

As usual the least performing economies are Myanmar, $69.262 billion; Brunei, $35.555 billion, Cambodia, $28.020 billion and the lowest Laos PDR with $17.347 billion. In terms of population, the biggest is Indonesia with 274.859 million, followed by us, with 110.489 million, then Vietnam with 99.223 million, Thailand with 70.078 million, Myanmar with 53.886 million, Malaysia with 33.782, Cambodia with 17.147 million, Laos with 7.481million, Singapore with 5.743 million and Brunei with only 463,000. Because of the high population, nominal per capita suffers: The highest is Brunei with $79,816, followed by Singapore $79,575. A distant third is Malaysia with $13,268 followed by Thailand with $7,448, and Indonesia, with $4,690, Vietnam with $4,121, the Philippines is a poor seventh placer with only $3,686. The lowest performers are $Laos, 2,318; Cambodia, $1,842, and Myanmar $1,285.

The Philippine performance are as follows: second to Indonesia in area, second in population also following Indonesia, fifth in nominal GDP trailing the best four performers Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. We are only seventh in nominal per capita. The Philippines used to be better than Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam and was racing with Malaysia in terms of economic growth. But bad leadership, bad government policies, poor infrastructure, high cost of electricity, and bad perception of government efficiency and corruption brought our country down. Many foreign investors have left our country for Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. We are only good at supplying manpower.

The highest investor confidence translated into direct foreign investments is always dominated by Singapore followed by Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. What's wrong with us? We know the answers and most of our setbacks are man-made and can be managed if we have the right government politics and a competent economic team of both the public and private sectors. Our country is always the one with highest potential but among the lowest performers.

We have the best people but we need leadership competence, commitment, and conscientiousness in the government and the business and industry sectors I hope that we can see evidence that we have these today. The jury is still out. The honeymoon with the new administration is not yet over. Let's see.


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