Breeding ground

This was first posted on Jul 22, 2010 8:32 PM as “Breeding ground” on

A source from the financial sector once told me about his concept of the Philippines as a “Farm Economy.” No, he wasn’t talking about agriculture. He was talking about nurses and maids.

In this Newsbreak article I wrote in 2004, I described his theory that this Southeast Asian country could benefit from exporting professionals, professional nurses included, since we are not competitive anyway in the export of finished products or raw materials. The lower cost of doing business in neighboring China, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc. etc., not to mention the high cost of electricity here, have all but killed our chances in industrial sector, which has long succumbed to the “race to the bottom.”

Swallow our pride and face the reality, the source said. We are better off breeding maids and nurses, than relying on the financial viability of putting workers on a production line. After all, providing service—here or abroad—fits our culture of caring and being hospitable. Clap clap, and pat on the back.

Nonetheless, “farm economy” is just another phrase to describe an existing—and already thriving—trend. Sociologists, economists, labor exports have all coined a term or two to show different facets of the diaspora. Remittances from Filipinos working overseas continued to grow year-in year-out that not even the global financial crisis triggered in 2008 has made a dent on the money being sent home by these “unsung heroes.” Their remittances continue to fuel the local economy’s fragile growth.

A part of me has accepted that these countrymen have greener pastures to pursue and a different world to conquer. Heck, even my own sister is based abroad. And she seems to like it there. For the past 15 years, she has lived in 2 countries oceans away from us.

However, the news about the geologists and weather forecasters joining the diaspora were unsettling.

In this Newsbreak story, Carmela Fonbuena wrote that Filipino geologists have been lured by higher paying jobs abroad as mineral prices reached the cycle’s peak. Mining experts at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau has been whittled down to 4 in 2008 from 24 in 2003. “For experts with doctorate degrees, the MGB offers a measly P24,000. In a local private company, they get P150,000,” the article noted.

The result? Regulating one of the country’s most contentious—but potentially economically rewarding—industries have become a major challenge. Mining cases filed by various groups—mostly by environmentalists and local governments that host the mining sites—have continued to gather dust in the government office.

At the time of publication, I was not that affected. Mining is too controversial with many warring parties with diverse interests and agenda, but global case studies have shown that the industry’s effective economic impact to the country is disputable.

Between the geologists and the weather forecasters leaving the country, however, the news about the latter is more personal.

After all, the Philippines is battered by over 20 typhoons a year, no thanks to our archipelago’s position in the map. We are just above the equator, which pushes the swirling winds to our direction, and on the fringe of the mighty Pacific Ocean, which breeds most, if not all, these typhoons. In fact, Vietnam and Cambodia have to thank us for catching all these typhoons and giving them a preview of the potential damage that awaits them!

In other words, I want a reliable person or a group warning me beforehand that an inter-tropical convergence zone is looming or has progressed into a hazardous weather disturbance. (I don’t feel the same way with minerals underneath my place. But that’s just me. We don’t have enough to attract miners.)

The wrath of Typhoon Ondoy, which submerged my car and almost two-thirds of the metro, is still too fresh. When it hit the Philippines in September 2009, weather bureau’s Nathaniel Cruz was the face and voice that I hung on to as we tried to make sense of where Ondoy was going and how long it was staying.

As we enter the rainy season again, this story said Nathaniel Cruz has joined the diaspora. He has gone to Australia, likely to do the same forecasting job that he did for years with our weather bureau, Pag-Asa.

I couldn’t fault him searching for greener pastures (Australia’s not likely greener, but the pay’s more than his P37,000 a month here). Apparently, he is not alone. Others have left before and some will likely follow his footsteps to a, well, more financially rewarding job.

Nonetheless, that news hurts.

I hate that a country battered by typhoons every year has become a breeding ground for weather experts that other countries not as badly hit with that many typhoons can source from. I don’t want that Mother Nature gives all these weather-related risks that Filipino forecasters could hone their expertise on but citizens of other countries will benefit from.

I don’t want a “farm economy” anymore.

3 responses to “Breeding ground”

  1. Interesting blog, Ms. Lala! 🙂 Mind if I link you to mine? Miss you!

    1. Anyway, you had a good “breed”-ing

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