MANILA: Philippines maintained a foreign trade system that consisted of exports and imports of merchandise. After the 1960s, two game-changing alterations took place in the structure of international trade. They both involved a shift in the pattern of exports and imports. Now it was services brainpower and brown power no longer merchandise, that was being exported and imported.
The first game-changer was the establishment of Opec (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), which, because of the greatly enhanced price setting capability it gave them, sharply increased the petroleum-exporting countries’ earnings from their oil and gas exports. The petrodollar suddenly became a powerful currency, and the countries that had them—OPEC’s members—now had the wherewithal with which to embark upon ambitious economic development program.
The Middle Eastern countries Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait—now needed hundreds of thousands of foreign workers to construct their infrastructure project and industrial plants. And so was born this country’s bagong bayan, the overseas Filipino worker (OFW).
To be sure, the millions of Filipinos, men as well as women, wo have gone to work in the Middle Eastern coutnries and other OPEC members are not the original OFWs, nor have their Philippines-bound remittances been the first funds that this country has received from Filipinos working overseas. Those honors belong to the Filipinos who, after the colonization of the Philippines by the United States, went to Hawaii and the Western and Southwestern states traces of a Filipino presence have been found even in Louisiana to find work and earn money for the folks back home.
But the ‘Saudi phenomenom’ was something else altogether. Millions of Filipinos and Filipinas , engineers and other technical people and ordinary workers have found work in Saudi Arabia and the other Middle Eastern countries and have generated earnings that they have then remitted to their families in this country. Economists regard those remittances as national income from exports of labor. In 2017, the OFWs-remitted an estimated $22 billion to this country. And let us not forget the approximately 250,000 Filipinos who man the world’s oil tankers, cruise ships and other vessels. They, too generate very substantial service-export earnings.
The other game-changing alteration in world trade that I cited earlier is represented by foreign companies like Texas Instruments and Intel, which are leading members of the world electronics industry. Encouraged by the various incentives granting programs of the Philippine government, these companies began establishing, in the 1970s, plants for the production of semiconductors, microcircuits and other electronic products components.