Do politicians care about the BPO industry?

By Anthony O. Alcantara

Of course they do. They wouldn’t want to antagonize anybody at this point.

In a recent panel discussion during a general membership meeting of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP), they shared their ideas about how to catapult the industry into greater heights of success.

Congressman Mitos Magsaysay, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, and former Councilor of Manila Greco Belgica, all senatorial candidates, displayed a supernatural ability for engaging rhetoric, humorous anecdotes, and perhaps a few intriguing ideas.

Cong. Magsaysay said the first thing to do is to build better infrastructure – better telecommunications facilities, good roads and bridges, cheap and stable electricity.

For her, since BPO companies need “a lot of land”, enticing investors to the provinces is a good idea. Everything is cheaper there – land, labor, cost of living. It certainly makes good sense if the manpower supply is adequate.

She also emphasized the need for consistency in policies. Which was a nice segue to her barb against the present administration which, she says, suffers from a poverty of consistency. For example, the abolishment of the Department of ICT, which Mitos wants to resurrect.

Unusual ideas

Greco Belgica, who, if elected, will be the youngest senator at 35, proffered some unusual ideas.

He wants to abolish the pork barrel fund. And he plans to turn this porcine source of corruption into a potentially liberating tuition fee voucher fund. Any student can get his voucher, bring it to any university in the country, and say, “I want to study here.”

Of course, passing the entrance exam is probably the hard part. Anyway, more educated students means more warm bodies for BPO companies.

Flat rate tax?

Belgica is also for a “non-interventionist” government, believing that it will encourage BPO companies to flourish. He’s proposing a flat rate tax, too. Tax breaks and tax incentives will still be there. But after five years, there will be a flat rate tax of 10 percent. No other taxes will be levied whatsoever. Indeed, Belgica, who is a pastor and businessman, made it sound so simple and elegant.

Cayetano, for his part, wants BPO companies to “go up the value chain”. He makes a comparison with manufacturing.

Decades ago, it was the US who produced original electronic products and Japan produced the copycats. But then Japan eventually came up with Sony and Sanyo. Then Taiwan used to copy Japan. Now they have Acer and Asus.

He cited animation and software engineering as part of this “moving up the value chain”. Perhaps foreign languages are next for call centers, he mused.

Preventing brain drain

No doubt, Cayetano believes in the importance of the BPO industry and its role in stopping people from leaving the country.

With statistics carefully memorized and calculated for effect, Cayetano blurted out the dismal state of education: for every 100 children who go to Grade 1, only 86 go to grade 2, and then only 23 eventually go to college, and a mere 15 percent of this number graduate with a degree.

Aside from education, he also sees the need for the revival of “Buy Filipino”. During the discussion, he showed the BPAP members his shiny, elegant, and expensive-looking shoes made in Marikina. For most of the people in attendance, they could pass for a Louis Vuitton at 20 feet away.

Raising Filipino quality

Indeed, Cayetano believes there is a need to change how Filipinos think about locally made products. Starting with shoes.

His parting message consists of a story. To paraphrase, 30 religious leaders gathered together to bring about change in their city. So they prayed and prayed and fasted and fasted. Eventually, they found their perfect candidate – righteous, incorruptible, honest, incapable of wrongdoing and stupidity.

Unfortunately, the candidate lost by 30 votes. All because the religious leaders did not vote.

For the audience, the point was understood, and they’ll remember not to pray too much. They will probably be praying, too, that these candidates will keep their word if they win.



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