From the podium

From the podium


His Excellency Teofisto Guingona (Vice-President and Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines)

Mr Chairman,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we meet today, there are ominous clouds on the horizon. The condition of the world has deteriorated in all aspects around which we have gathered as heads of our respective countries. Environmental threats to the planet, poverty and hunger, inequity in sharing the fruits and benefits of the earth's bounty and the preservation of our natural wealth for the benefit of our future children.

The threats to the planet's ability to sustain life have remained, no progress in the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), in destruction of forests, soil, marine resources, no let-up on pollution, no stem to the further growth in unsustainable production and consumption.

Mr Chairman, in preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development, meeting as a preparation committee to prepare for the World's Summit on sustainable Development - Rio + 10, had its fourth and final meeting in Bali last week. That meeting was to have threshed out at high level meetings the elements of the Implementation Plan for the next decades and it was hoped the results of those conferences would come up with agreed courses of action that the heads of countries would ratify in Johannesburg.

The reports I have received from my country's delegation to that meeting are a source of concern that the political will does not exist enough to deal with our lack of performance on our previous ledgers. Out of 153 paragraphs in the proposed Plan of Implementation, a mere 70 passed without reservations. The major disagreements were precisely in those areas most critical to our tasks of eradicating poverty, providing security for food and health, sustainable use of the planet's natural wealth, stopping and reversing the destructive pattern of production and consumption from which the threats arise.

I am disturbed, Mr Chairman, that an implicit assumption seems to underline the opposition of certain rich countries to a reaffirmation of commitments to the setting of timebound targets for resources applied to direct assistance to developing nations, to build capacities in order to eradicate poverty, provide food security, restore resources.

With the establishment of the World Trade Organization and the Agreement in Doha, it seems that the main reliance for achieving all of these vital targets should come from trade, the free flows of private investments, particularly foreign direct investments. But the challenge is in perception. A noted Professor of Economics of Columbia University said: "WTO is an association organized by rich developed nations for the benefit of rich industrialized nations". We trust that the ongoing WTO negotiations will prove that perception wrong.

Mr Chairman, let me briefly in a few broad strokes share the experience of the Philippines. Our country is an archipelago, the second largest in the world after Indonesia. An archipelago, Mr Chairman, is a microcosm of the planet. Our seas are seven times the area of our land. Our geography is made up of fragile ecosystems that range over some two million square kilometres of coastal and offshore waters. Some ten million hectares of farmland of which only about 15 percent are rich alluvial plains and the rest are mid-level to high level steep areas.

We are the microcosm of the world as well in our constituent communities and, like the planet, we have a spectrum of communities at different stages of development. We have highly developed communities with lifestyles that approximate the unsustainable patterns of consumption and production of industrialized countries. We have the least developed communities that include remote, hardly commercialized rural communities and food-gathering tribes. We have small islands developing, as well as land-locked communities.

Our dependence for development, Mr Chairman, fringes on colonial investments in export-oriented industries started early in our history in mid-19th century when plantation culture and processing of agricultural products into intermediate materials, raw sugar, coconut products and hemp were started.

We are concerned with food security. Sugar, for example was introduced early in some of our rich alluvial lands on the river basins where rice used to be the main crop. In an island called Panay in the early 1800s, the intensive agriculture made possible by abundant waters and rich volcanic soil had already created a commercialized and urbanizing society. The city of Iloilo in the mid-1800s had a growing textile industry with as much as 60 000 spindles. Iloilo was a city equal to the large cities of Europe of the period. Then, from about 1880 modern sugar mills were introduced by foreign direct investments. Rice lands were converted to sugar. Export trade boomed - the support services for exports, banking, insurance, ships-brokerage thrived. But, after a decade or so, there was famine in Panay, hunger, poverty. Export trade at the cost of local food security.

But that was history. Today, the Philippine Republic in its 46 years of independent existence has suffered 15 cycles of booms and bust and is now just recovering from its 16th crisis. The highly developed metropolitan areas are only marginally linked to the larger rural agricultural, fisheries hinterland. The focus has been on exports that are linked to domestic industries. Most of the components of exports are directly imported: as fabrics for garments, components of computer chips, except for the products of our agriculture. But these are largely exported in unprocessed forms or in enclaves that have little further links with the rural communities.

For 1994, the tables showing the extent of inter-industry purchases and sales of production sectors in the country and the amounts of incomes paid to local communities showed very little inter-industry linkages among sectors. As for community income, the entire export sector, those industries which exported over 50 percent of their production, generated a meagre 4.6 percent of community incomes in 1994. Some became very rich; many remained very poor.

At the same time resources of land, timber areas and mineralized properties were appropriated by the most highly developed metropolitan communities, either to produce products for direct export, to provide food and other agricultural materials for their constituencies, or to absorb the tonnes of waste generated by their production and consumption activities.

Capital and prime managerial and technical talent became concentrated in the sectors producing for export or on the services directly linked to exports.

This imbalance bred a bias against agriculture and fisheries: no support services, no sustained seedlings, no post harvest facilities. The banks did not want to invest in agriculture, the financial institutions shunned fisheries and our small farms for local consumption, the local processing of food, storage, transport, milling were starved of capital and trained human resources. Even Government budgets were largely drawn to the infrastructure needs of metropolitan production and consumption patterns away from agriculture and rural development.

The large rural areas - the least developed communities, the small island developing communities, the land-locked communities are drained of natural, financial and human capital. Growing populations were forced to migrate to the metropolitan centers and from the metropolitan centers abroad to other distant and foreign lands. But, the lack of jobs there forces large segments to fall back on the so-called informal sectors in the cities and towns. Informal artisan work and small trading have become the largest sources of livelihood of urban populations.

The result: lack of food, lack of adequate farms and fisheries, lack of sustained progress. The Philippine Government today responds. It is responding by having the modernization of the lands, to empower farmers and fisherfolks, to teach them how to grow new high value crops, and to observe methods of how and where to utilize marine resources.

We will do our best, Mr Chairman, but we ask the developed nations to reject the perception of men like Professor Stiglitz who said that the WTO is a game whose rules are made by the rich nations for the benefit of the rich nations. We are poor and you are rich – level the playing field! Recognize special and differential treatment! Do not impose subsidies for exports. Do not dump products that kill our farmers and fisherfolks. Do not, in the name of free trade, deny us time to integrate our resources, and having integrated them, deny us access to your rich markets. Let us, in the name of globalization, fight hunger, fight poverty together through a level playing field.

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