KARACHI: “Speaking on bilateral relations between Pakistan and the Philippines now is quite timely as next year we complete 70 years of our diplomatic relationship,” said Philippines Ambassador to Pakistan Daniel Ramos Espiritu during his talk organised by the English Speaking Union of Pakistan (ESUP) at a hotel here on Tuesday.
Jokingly beginning his talk, titled ‘Is it modern liberalism or anarchism?’, by saying that when invited to speak by ESUP, he thought that they were some highbrow literary group expecting him to deliver a serious lecture on English philosophy, he was glad to learn that it was not the case.
On a serious note, he said that trade between Pakistan and the Philippines amounted to some $110 million some three years ago but it had now gone up to $250m. “Despite our 70-year relations, most Pakistani businessmen look to China, Turkey, the United Kingdom, etc. And when we do business, we also overlook Pakistan,” he said, adding that there was a need to make the people on both sides aware of the opportunities at hand in both countries.
“Our largest exports to Pakistan are auto parts and electronics and we import rice from Pakistan. In 2017, we imported $24m worth of rice from Pakistan,” he said while explaining that although the Philippines was self-sufficient in rice, modern farmers there no longer want to plant rice as they feel that the profit margin with rice is very low and they want to plant cash crops, which gives them enough money to buy rice from abroad. “Also,” he said, “the children of farmers are college-educated and they want to be businessmen instead of farmers.” He also said that they import a lot of pharmaceuticals from Pakistan.
‘Philippines is the fourth largest English-speaking country in the world’
Coming back to the English language, he said that the Philippines was the fourth largest English-speaking country in the world. Giving some background to that, he said that their country was “discovered” and colonised by the Spaniards in 1521 but they didn’t teach them their language. “They didn’t want to. Because if we knew Spanish, we would have read their laws to realise the law violations being carried out by them,” he said.
“The Spaniards colonised the Philippines to Christianise the people. Had they not done so, we would have been an Islamic nation like Indonesia,” he said.
Moving on, he said that the Spanish rule was followed by the American invasion after they took Cuba. He said that from 1819 to 1896 there was also the war in the Philippines against the Americans. Then when the revolutionary forces were defeated, they started guerrilla warfare against the Americans like what happened much later in Vietnam. Still, he said, the Americans were different than the Spaniards as they started instituting good governance. “And they let the Filipinos take over all offices. Thus the Congress was Filipino, the speaker there was also a Filipino as was the president of the country. The government departments, ministries were all run by Filipinos,” he said. “We were the Americans’ first experiment in nation-building,” he added.
“They set up infrastructure, highways, railways, seaports, communication systems, but most importantly they built schools. There were schools even in the smallest of villages and education was made compulsory. They also built universities. We read English literature, philosophy, etc,” he said, adding that it was how Filipinos know English so well.
“Even two-year-old toddlers speak English as do the farmers working in the fields. So I don’t see Filipinos forgetting English even in the next 100 years,” he said. “But while everyone in the country knows good English, the local language was also not ignored and allowed to flourish side by side.”
Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2019