Duterte’s anti-US rants are putting the brakes on BPO’s $30-B growth, PH’s golden goose – Bernard Ong

President Rodrigo Duterte has made several strong remarks against the United States – threatening to curse US President Barack Obama at the prospect of the latter bringing up the killings in the Philippines, telling Obama to “go to hell,” making statements about “breaking up with the US,” and stopping the joint US-PH military exercises.

Despite warnings about his statements possibly affecting the country, Duterte said his mouth won’t bring the country down. But Facebook user Bernard Ong has a different opinion. According to him, Duterte’s rants against the US threaten the growth of the multi-billion business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

Ong first described what the BPO industry is like today and how much revenue it is making for the Philippines.

“BPOs are estimated to generate $25B revenues in 2016. Rapid growth was originally forecast to reach $55B revenues by 2020. That $30B additional revenues (roughly 1.46 trillion) is greater than any growth possible from any other business sector,” Ong wrote.

“Simply put, BPO is the goose that lays the golden eggs. And most of those eggs are bound for the US market,” Ong added.

Ong also emphasized the importance of the BPO to the state of Philippine economy and employment.

“The beauty with BPO is that most of its cash is distributed to local labor – it enriches not just the corporations but the employees. Our decades-long boom in condos, cars, shopping, dining, financial products springs from the BPO well,” Ong said.

He pointed out how the US is the Philippine BPO’s “biggest service export market.”

“77% of our BPO revenues come from US. Our language & culture (pre-Duterte) makes us particularly suitable for serving that market,” Ong added.


However, it looked like Duterte’s rants are putting a halt to the BPO’s growth.

“Duterte’s rants against the West in general, and USA in particular, are putting the brakes on this $30B growth. The friendly language of Filipinos has now been replaced by “putang-ina” and “go to hell” (post-Duterte). He is on the front pages of media around the world mostly every day. Outlets like Guardian, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Bloomberg are read by decision-makers who make the ultimate call to invest, or outsource, or stay out,” Ong said.

Ong also attached a GMA News Online’s article on October 10 about the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham)’s statement about foreign investors putting their investments in BPO on hold after hearing Duterte’s anti-US remarks.

Far from being taken “out of context” or “misquoted,” Ong emphasized that Duterte was quoted verbatim in English.

“At best, assuming he is just joking – Duterte is the world’s top clown. At worst, assuming he is serious. Duterte is tied with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un as the world’s top rogue. Kim leads Duterte in the charm department – winsome smile & unique hairstyle – plus has a few nukes to boot. But Duterte beats Kim in frequency, bitterness & absurdity of rants,” Ong said.

And if Duterte won’t stop with his rants? Ong only had dim predictions about what might happen.

“If Duterte doesn’t shape up, or shut up, we lose the goose that lays our golden eggs,” he said.

What if Russia and China become the Philippines’ more prominent allies? Ong said both countries don’t really have an urgent demand for outsourcing jobs to the Philippines because they both have surplus labor.

In terms of supply, Ong said that the few Filipinos who speak Chinese in the country are busy with their own livelihoods in Binondo and Greenhills and there are practically now Russian speakers around. Moreover, China is likely to get their BPO services from the bilingual populations of Vietnam and Cambodia.

“No Chinese goose. No Russian Goose. One of Asia’s fastest-growing economies sunk by one man’s poor grasp of math, economics, diplomacy and pre-school level basic manners,” Ong said.

“Drugs is not the Philippines’ biggest problem. It is Ignorance – at all levels, including the top,” he added.

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