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Home Sections Ecology and the Environment Organizing an OFW-led "Philippines, Inc." Economic Giant (Part 3)
Organizing an OFW-led "Philippines, Inc." Economic Giant (Part 3) PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Ecology and the Environment
Thursday, 03 May 2007 02:57

It is a given premise that the Overseas-Filipino contract workers and immigrants (OFCWI), especially Filipino Americans, have the necessary resources to implement socioeconomic projects in the Philippines and even in North America. But so far, nobody has come up with an answer on “how to do it” on a scale and urgency of a Filipino version of “The Manhattan Project.”

 

On May 17, 2003, Philippine President Gloria M. Arroyo spoke at the new Queen of Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles, California. She addressed a motley crowd of OFCWI, many of whom are now American citizens. She thanked the OFCWI for helping the Philippines by their remittances and shipments of Balikbayan boxes (BB). The President said that in 2002, the OFCWI remitted more than $10-billion (spelled with a B) and 70% of it came from the United States. Probably they sent also more-than a million BBs, each holding canned goods and personal effects in excess of $250, although the President did not mention this educated guess.

Indeed the Filipino-American community could afford to remit $7-billion or more annually to their kin and friends in the Philippines for it earns in excess of $42-billion per year. The census calculated that the 2002 mean household income (MHI) in the United States for Asian households was $70,047 annually. At a minimum of 600,000 Filipino-American households, the total community income is in excess of $42-billion. In fact, Filipino Americans should have a higher MHI, as they have more-than 500,000 nurses, 22,000 physicians and more-than 100,000 other medical-industry and healthcare professionals. All of these medical professionals – from anesthesiologists to dentists, nurses, pharmacists, physicians to X-ray technicians – earn in excess of $75,000 per year.

There was an incident at the end of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) regional convention in Little Rock, Arkansas, in March 2000. Then NaFFAA State chairperson Elsa Bayani and her husband, Tim, hosted a luncheon at their residence for out-of-town delegates before they were brought to the airport for their flights back home. “Ninang” Elsa was my “godmother” in the NaFFAA, together with my other sponsors, Dr. Joy Bruce of Miami, FL, and Gus Mercado of Dallas, TX. Ms. Elsa, who is a nurse, said that if only we could unite Filipino Americans, we could even organize our own airline and fly tens of thousands of Balikbayans (returning residents) to the Philippines on any given month. Many of the community leaders then present smiled graciously at Ninang Elsa’s suggestion. But I did not laugh, for she was telling the truth and a vision of what the OFCWI might be able to do if they could only get their acts together.

In 2003, I proposed in one of my “Reinventing the Philippines” essays for the Filipino-American medical professionals to organize what could become as one the biggest health-maintenance organizations (HMO) in the United States. And for the Fil-Am HMO to take over the Philippine hospital and medical industry, in partnership with the Philippine Department of Health, as Part II of the proposal. I even wrote about the viability of the Filipino medical professionals operating a fleet of hospital ships that would be sent to provide emergency medical care in times of natural or man-made calamities. And this was several years before Katrina laid waste to several land-based hospitals in the Big Easy of Louisiana.

The Filipino-American community is getting indeed organized, albeit slowly. Our physicians have organized a “Philippine Medical Association” that has now chapters in several cities in the United States. Our nurses have set up also a “Philippine Nurses Association” and one of its most-active chapters is found in Southern California. Our accountants have banded together to form the Philippine Institute of CPAs in the United States. Even Filipino-American lawyers are not far behind, for they have come up with a Philippine-American Bar Association. Even Filipino-owned travel companies in the United States have attempted to form an association of their own.

The first logical step is to form a federation of all of these professional organizations and regional or provincial federations. Because the OFCWI cannot even hope to unite the fragmented Filipinos in the homeland if they themselves are not united.

In fact I wrote in May 2000 that the NaFFAA ought to reinvent itself and become the “National Alliance of Filipino Federations of America (NAFFA).” Why? There are already Fil-Am federations organized much earlier, and many of them have more resources, than the NaFFAA. I said that it was time to turn the small “a” in the NaFFAA to a big “A” that would elevate small-scale projects to big sustainable undertakings. But the ruling clique in the NaFFAA did not want to give up or even share national leadership. And the clique’s refusal was anchored probably on its distaste for the ATIC policies that I championed. ATIC, as in accountability, transparency, integrity and credibility.

This mother federation of all Filipino-American federations should be set up first in Southern California. Because “SoCal” has the biggest concentration of Filipinos outside of the Philippines. If we cannot unite these Filipino-American professional groups and regional federations in “SoCal,” then nobody can do it on a national scale.

In fact the failure of the NaFFAA lies in its unsuccessful attempt to recruit Fil-Am organizations in “SoCal,” which has more than 500 associations registered with the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles. An amputee can count in his remaining fingers the number of associations in “SoCal” that has joined the NaFFAA.

The second logical step is to set up the proposed "Overseas-Filipino Monetary Fund" (OFMF), so that it can bankroll the setting up of economic projects like the Filipino-American version of an HMO in the United States and eventually in the Philippines. The OFMF can do the Overseas-Filipino modest version of "Japan, Incorporated" and perhaps organize a "Philippines, Incorporated" in the United States. If the OFWs in other countries can join the Filipino Americans, who earn more-than $42-billion per year in setting up the OFMF, it can be one of the biggest development-and-investment funds in the entire world. The OFMF can easily develop more "profit centers" by doing the OFW-version of a national credit union (and running a Visa or MasterCard operation for its members), consumers’ cooperatives, real-estate investment clubs, travel clubs and even a players’ club for the more-than one-million Filipino visitors to Las Vegas (Nevada) and the tens of thousands more who travel to Atlantic City (New Jersey). The Filipino Americans, the Filipino Canadians and the Overseas Filipinos in Europe, the Middle East and Asia do not realize that they possess the economic clout to become the dominant players in the Philippine economy. Imagine if the OFWs can turn half of their $15-billion or more remittances to the Philippines into an investment fund year in, year out.

(To contribute ideas on how to accelerate the Filipino “TMP,” please e-mail the writer at mediabcla@aol.com.)   ###



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