Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri yesterday said he is worried that President Rodrigo Duterte's statement on cutting Philippine ties with the United States could have a backlash on the BPO industry that brings the country $25 billion in revenues annually.
It could affect 1.1 million BPO jobs, said Zubiri, who was in Bacolod City for the MassKara Festival.
It could also cause the Philippines' losing its share of the US sugar quota, and markets for other products, he added.
Although the Philippines losing its US sugar quota share is possible, Zubiri also acknowledged that it may have a better long term effect locally.
He pointed out that sugar fetches higher prices in the domestic market than in the US.
But, on the president's shift towards China, Zubiri said the country should keep old friends while making new ones.
“I am one with former president Fidel Ramos in saying we can have an independent foreign policy without making enemies”, Zubiri said.
We have to try to lessen the impact of the president's statements in terms of the economy, he said.
“When one door closes you open another, but I was hoping we could keep all doors open for a stronger economy”, he said
“Our economic managers have to prepare for the worse, and hope for the best,” he said.
So far our economy is good with the Philippines set to achieve the 7 percent growth rate this quarter, he said.
He noted that the President's alliance with China has led to the reopening of its markets to the country's banana and pineapple exports.
In 2010 after the botched rescue operation of Hong Kong tourists at the Rizal Park, almost overnight the Chinese government scrapped quotas on the country's bananas and pineapples from Mindanao, and 30 percent of production were left to rot in the piers of Cagayan de Oro and Davao, he said.
Zubiri said he is happy the Chinese resumed buying bananas and pineapples last week.
He also noted Duterte's having sealed deals with China to boost the country's economy.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez yesterday said the Philippines and China sealed deals worth USD24 billion -- USD15 billion in investment projects and USD9 billion in credit facilities -- an increase from the USD13.5 billion figure in deals mentioned earlier, which is expected to create some two million jobs in the next five years.
Zubiri said he favors an independent foreign policy like the country's neighbors - Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – who are friends with all superpowers.
That is something to look up to and he hopes that will happen in the Philippines, too, Zubiri said.
Meanwhile, he said the Philippines' friendship with the United States transcends the leadership it now has, the president may be adverse with America now, but the next president in 2022 may be friendly with the US, he said.
“The friendship between our two countries goes back 70 years since WW II… our friendship will last forever,” he said.
The cutting of ties with the US is just an opinion of the president at this time, we will try to soften its impact as senators, he said.*CPG
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