Sunday, March 12, 2017

PH is a product: “It’s more fun in the Philippines”

“Win your own ‘Philippine Experience’ . . . Some people need to be inspired to travel, others travel to be inspired… We’ve been following British band Skinny Living across a 10-day adventure, as they experience various aspects of Filipino life. It’s impossible not to envy the trip, and so we are giving you the chance to win your own ‘Philippine Experience’. The trip includes 2 return flights, accommodation and embarking on the very same trip we’ve featured in our new film series. All you need to do is answer the question: What colour was the bus taking Skinny Living into Palawan?” []

Indeed, that’s from a website out of the UK. And it’s a small world, the wife and writer while enjoying cocktails and the setting sun on Lagen Island recently sat next to the table of the British lady (and her partner) that won her own ‘Philippine Experience.’ “Boracay which was the first leg of our visit was great, but Palawan is heaven.”

As some would know, the writer has been showing his Eastern European friends the ropes of innovation and global competitiveness. And whenever he is presented an idea, they would always interject, “This is ‘the Apple’!” Because the mantra that has evolved within the team is: “If it’s not ‘the Apple’ forget about it.”

Applied to Philippine tourism – or PH as a product – “If it’s not Palawan, forget about it.” Consider the other “products” in our portfolio or stable: “MAP is presently studying a draft statement for the expeditious construction of the common train station on EDSA. Here are excerpts from the draft statement:

“The (common) site is an optimal solution as it will be situated between the large shopping malls, favoring none while being fair to both and much more to the commuting public. The Agreement is most laudable as it represents an important breakthrough in the almost decades long impasse in the construction of a vital mass transportation hub in Metro Manila and coming so soon after the Duterte administration took over.” [MAP priority issues, Elfren S. Cruz, BREAKTHROUGH, The Philippine Star, 9th Mar 2017]

We are probably happy and proud that this project is finally moving forward. Yet, “decades long” would characterize our infrastructure development initiatives. Recall NAIA’s Terminal 3. “Are infra plans just all talk(?),” Boo Chanco, DEMAND AND SUPPLY, The Philippine Star, 24th Feb 2017. “My friend, Budget Secretary Ben Diokno is at it again. Sec Ben keeps on talking about the Duterte administration’s plan to spend as much as P8 trillion on infrastructures over the medium term. But eight months into their watch, it had still been all talk.”

Let’s get back to Apple, and here’s the perspective of a third-party analyst: “When the iPhone rocks up with something new, the chances are that a similar feature or technique has been seen in competing hardware and Apple has refined the tide. Iteration and implementation are its superpowers, not innovation. Faced with the choice of going with a major update and new technology that has more risk or going with a smaller more incremental update with technology that has been proven in the commercial space that offers lower risk, Tim Cook’s Apple has historically chosen the safer option.” [Ewan Spence, New iPhone 8 Delays Reveals Apple’s Risky Decision, Forbes, 7th Mar 2017]

Translation: iteration and implementation can be a competitive advantage – which, in fact, isn’t restricted to pure innovation. Recall Apple didn’t come out with the iPhone 1 to say, this is it, the be all and end all. It’s an open secret that currently they’re gearing up for the latest iPhone, the iPhone 8.

Which can’t be equated to “materiales fuertes.” Nor to absolutism or ideology, omnipotence and holier-than-thou. On the other hand, consider our perspective on the jeepney. Try backward-looking instead of forward-looking. Does it explain why we’re still in our dark ages?

“Why Perfect Is The Enemy Of Good: Why obsession with perfection can paralyze,” Alex Lickerman M.D., Psychology Today, 26th Jun 2011. “The irony, of course, is that while ‘perfect’ may exist as a concept that impels us to keep trying to better our work, any judgment that we've achieved it in any particular instance remains entirely subjective and therefore by definition imperfect. This almost certainly explains why we can judge something perfect one minute and then hopelessly flawed the next without making a single change . . . The quest for perfection also leads to dithering . . .”

And that’s how we get lost in translation. “I read through most of the interesting parts of the Arangkada airport paper. Extensive and comprehensive as it is, it failed to give a clear prescription for DOTr, the implementing agency. They suggested so many things to do but no priorities have been set in terms and language so clear a bureaucrat can’t deny not getting a clear path of action.

“Some of the things the Arangkada airport paper recommended are so obviously needed and have been discussed publicly ad nauseam. Bureaucrats have heard it all before in one form or another and are bored by now.” [Airport options, strategies, Boo Chanco, DEMAND AND SUPPLY, The Philippine Star, 17th Feb 2017]

From Arangkada let’s move on to the “MAP priority issues.” If PH is a product, and if we are to attract investors, how can we think in terms of “iteration and implementation” a la Apple?

“During the meeting of the MAP National Issues, the group decided it would focus on five of the 12 measures and agreed to prepare position papers on each of the five issues. These five reform measures chosen for a more detailed discussion included: Cc); comprehensive tax reforms; telecom reforms; emergency measures for the traffic and transportation crisis; and, the BOT law amendments.” [Cruz, op. cit.]

If PH is a product, committed to the mantra of iteration and implementation, do we want the product out the door sooner than later – and not lag our neighbors in energy, infrastructure development and industrialization, being critical building blocks of a development platform, with due respect to the Neda pillars?

We must have an overarching vision of the product that is PH! Despite Palawan, our neighbors attract much, much more tourists than we do – like they attract much, much more investors than we do.

For example, we must aspire to be the fastest developing country in the region if we are to be the next Asian tiger, with due respect to Neda and MAP.

With a beacon like that, we will be guided in our efforts to prioritize amongst competing initiatives. The converse is “crab mentality” sets in. Especially when we have yet to learn “the power” inherent in “collaboration and teamwork” (and the rest of the 21st century skill sets discussed in recent postings.)

To Juan de la Cruz, power resides where? In hierarchy? In political patronage? In oligarchy? And every time we say we want to prioritize, we rely on our intellect. Because our instinct is to look inward instead of outward – and benchmark.

How do we become an Asian tiger – the fastest developing country in the region? That is the question we must be asking ourselves constantly, not confined to our comfort zone – all these decades – that our neighbors left us behind.

“There is so much money, so much wealth that FDIs (Foreign Direct Investments) are not needed . . . The guest speaker was Rep. Joey Salceda of the second district of Albay, vice chairman of a number of congressional committees – appropriations, climate change, economic affairs, local government, ways and means, among others.” [It’s inequality, not poverty, Gemma Cruz Araneta, Manila Bulletin, 8th Mar 2017]

With due respect to Rep Salceda, can we overcome the following governed by the above premise? “The Philippines has done well in services and remittances. There are potential gains waiting for tourism, given the low tourist inflows, but the Manila airport and infrastructure need fixing.

“By contrast, the Philippines has much catching up to do in terms of goods exports. In 2015, industrial and mineral exports were only $53.8 billion as compared to $117.2 billion for Indonesia, $138.3 billion for Vietnam, $167.1 billion for Malaysia, and $177.3 billion for Thailand.

“The country’s agri-food export base is even weaker. In 2015, its agri-food export was only $4.8 billion as compared to $23.7 billion for Vietnam, $25 billion for Malaysia, $33.1 billion for Indonesia and $36.3 billion for Thailand. Philippine farm productivity, diversification and agri-food processing also trail their Asean peers. Low productivity and limited diversification impact on the raw materials supply of processing industries.” [Benchmarking Asean export drivers: How is PH faring (?), Rolando T. DyPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 6th Mar 2017]
Do we realize how deep in the hole we are? Notwithstanding that it’s more fun in the Philippines? 

“Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.” [We are ruled by Rizal’s ‘tyrants of tomorrow,’ Editorial, The Manila Times, 29th Dec 2015]

“As a major component for the education and reorientation of our people, mainstream media – their reporters, writers, photographers, columnists and editors – have an obligation to this country . . .” [Era of documented irrelevance: Mainstream media, critics and protesters, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 25th Nov 2015]

“National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country’s natural endowments, its labor pool, its interest rates, or its currency’s value, as classical economics insists . . . A nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade.” [The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990]

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” [William Pollard, 1911-1989, physicist-priest, Manhattan Project]

“Development [is informed by a people’s] worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership . . .” [Frederic Laloux, Reinventing organizations, Nelson Parker, 2014]

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