It’s been a month ago since our PS180 (Philippine Foreign Policy) had a trip in the island of Bohol. The main objective of our trip was to “evaluate and assess the impact of the policies (treaties and agreements) that the Philippines engaged with other states and regional organization in the political, economic and social aspects. Basically, our main concern was to observe and understand the dynamics and effects of economic diplomacy in the LGU and how it helped the communities in the province of Bohol.
Economic diplomacy has long been one of the most vital and critical pillars of our country’s foreign policy. Since its inception in Marcos’ development diplomacy, it has been employed by ensuing administrations to attract foreign investments and gain foreign aids in our country from foreign states and international institutions and agencies. Its sole purpose is to foster economic growth and development for the country in order to address the looming problems in the society such as unemployment, poverty and social injustice.
However, the dynamics and processes in economic diplomacy have not been devoid of irregularities, malpractices and corruption by our high officials in the government. Few years ago, the controversial and dubious NBN-ZTE deal between China and the Philippines is a glaring example of how international agreements through economic diplomacy have been used as means by many politicians and businessmen for their own selfish ends. It is very disheartening and disappointing that the ruling elites in the government used it for their own self-interests while depriving the greater population of the benefits and opportunities.
Despite the lapses and deficiencies of our government, there are still instances in which foreign and local economic cooperation has improved the lives of grassroot communities in the countryside. In the succeeding pages, we will see how people organizations (PO) have been vital in pursuing development in their own communities. These POs are funded by international agencies through foreign aids such as USAID, AUSAID, among others.
The practices and experiences of people organizations in Bohol, particularly in the Municipality of Maribojoc, are definitely good cases at hand. These POs exemplify a working and efficient system in which there is close collaboration among all the stakeholders: the International agencies, local NGOs, LGU and the community through the people organizations.
It is very evident in these communities the impact of genuine economic diplomacy. It has provided stable and sustainable livelihood for the community. Furthermore, these POs have been the main catalyst of social change and development through a more participatory and responsive governance. The POs have been also significant as vanguards of local cultural and historical heritages. And they play as the main keeper and protector of the environment against the exploitative motives of indifferent businessmen. In spite of these crucial roles, like any organizations, POs also encounter significant challenges and problems in their own organizations and daily operations.
The fact that our country is still striving to cope from the adverse effects of the economic downturns and crises in the international economy, it is only rational that the government should step up to pursue concrete policies and actions to counter these problems. Depending too much on the remittances of OFWs is not a very wise decision because of its ambivalent nature, the involvement of POs in promoting development in the communities should be given more attention and importance because they provide alternative ways in helping stimulate the growth of our economy by creating new jobs, promoting tourist spots and providing new industries that have a substantial economic potentials. It is through these reasons that good practices and ways in these POs could be emulated by other LGUs in the country to ensure genuine and sustainable development for everyone.