Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 2, Number 1                   February 10 - 16,  2002           Quezon City, Philippines

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Global Corporate Oligarchs in Arroyo’s Board of Advisers

It was not for nothing that 13 of the world’s leading corporate executives, neo-liberal ideologues and foreign policy figures were hired by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to join her ‘International Board of Advisers.’ Their ‘advisory’ positions may just be a cloak for multinational corporate expansionism in a country that has yet to find relief from economic slump and coup threats.


The momentum for globalizing the Philippine economy has been boosted in this week’s revelation by Roberto Romulo, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s senior international adviser on international competitiveness, regarding the formation of a 13-member International Board of Advisers (IBA). The board, Romulo said, will advise the president “on how to improve the country’s global competitiveness and to generate endorsements of the country’s economic program.” It was the same board, Romulo said, who proposed to Macapagal-Arroyo to hire former New York Mayor Rudolph Giulani, as presidential consultant on peace and order.

The formation of IBA was, however, first announced by Macapagal-Arroyo during her state visit to Washington in November last year. In New York, she met the American members of IBA led by Maurice Raymond “Hank” Greenberg. Before that, in mid-September, she had met with Japanese advisers, Minoru Makihara, chairman of the Mitsubishi Corporation and Junichiro Miyazu, president of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation.

The advisers – Americans, Japanese and British who are said to be big names in global industries, neo-liberal economics and foreign policy – are giving their expertise for “free,” Romulo said. But, as the president herself said, they are “so rich…They have big investments in the Philippines.”

Romulo, considered a leading architect of globalization for the Philippines, has played a key role under the previous administrations. His close affiliation with government and global corporations gives him a power niche through which he is able to influence the government’s economic program specifically on its globalization thrust.

Crucial U.S. ally

It is upon him that Macapagal-Arroyo, a strong advocate of globalization, relies to “restore investor confidence, build bilateral and multilateral economic support for long-term development and raise the country’s importance as a crucial U.S. ally in regional security in East and Southeast Asia.”

As “senior adviser on international competitiveness,” Romulo has reportedly eclipsed powers of Vice President and Foreign Secretary Teofisto Guingona. In effect, critics said, his designation has been clothed with some special authority to decide on major foreign and economic matters without being accountable to no one except perhaps the president. He is also, in effect, the conduit of certain multinational groups who either maintain large investments or are eyeing some major business opportunities in the Philippines.

Through him, Macapagal-Arroyo provides the link where “economic advice” is used by global corporate executives to ensure the country’s compliance with globalization prescriptions while strengthening their strong presence in the country. In short, while the international advisers’ services, as claimed by Romulo, are “free” their membership in the board gives them, their corporations and their governments long-term benefits in the country.

To underscore this point, some facts on who these advisers are and the interests they represent are in order:

Greenberg-Romulo connection

There is, first of all, Greenberg, chairman and chief executive officer, American Insurance Group (AIG). AIG’s Philippine affiliate is the Phil-Am Life Insurance, one of the country’s top multinational corporations. The board chairman of Phil-Am is Romulo himself.

AIG is the world’s leading U.S.-based international insurance organization with consolidated assets of $165 billion and has extensive insurance operations in Asia, including India and China.  In 1997, $1.7 billion, or more than one-third of the company's pre-tax profits, came from its Far East interests. Despite the economic uncertainties, Greenberg said his company remains bullish on Southeast Asia. "We haven't lost faith in the region," he once said. "We believe in the region very strongly."

According to Lyndon LaRouche of the Executive Intelligence Review, AIG, one of whose board members is Stephen Bosworth, former U.S. Ambassador to Manila and another American member of Macapagal-Arroyo’s board of advisers, has strong connections to the U.S. intelligence community.

LaRouche, an economist who also heads the “LaRouche Democrats,” said AIG, “was the key immediate interest behind the coup against Marcos.” In an RMN radio interview in last year, he identified AIG “with its resources back in Washington, as well as New York, as the driving force behind the coup against Marcos.” Bosworth was the U.S. ambassador when the rightist coup against Marcos was engineered but aborted, leading to the EDSA civilian uprising.

Power deregulation

In a website article, “Re-Regulate Energy, Restore the General Welfare,” LaRouche also accused AIG of conspiring with other U.S.-based multinational corporations, U.S. President George W. Bush’s circle of financiers and energy companies, as well as with Meralco of the Lopez family and the camp of former President Fidel V. Ramos in the drive to deregulate the Philippines’ electric power industry.

First to benefit from this power industry deregulation was Mirant Corporation, whose chief executive officer, Marce Fuller, is also a member of IBA. The U.S.-based corporation was the first to board the country’s energy power privatization with all its five plants under long-term energy conversion agreements with the National Power Corporation (NPC).

Mirant’s five power plants are found in Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro; Sual, Pangasinan; Pagbilao, Quezon; San Ildefonso, Bulacan; and Navotas, Metro Manila.

The firm’s power interest in the Philippines is so crucial as its power plants in Luzon – principally Sual and Pagbilao - serve the energy needs of more than 40 million Filipino consumers.

Recently, Miyazu’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) reached an agreement with the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), the country’s largest telecommunications carrier, and its major shareholder First Pacific Company, Ltd. (FPC), to acquire a 15 percent stake in PLDT. NTT’s total investment in Smart amounted to US$372 million, representing about 37 percent of the telecom giant’s total outstanding common shares.

Its stake in PLDT gave NTT a strong foothold for further developing its worldwide Arcstar-brand telecom services and strengthening its capabilities for developing international business in the Philippines and Asia.

Another adviser is Gerard Corrigan, managing director of Goldman Sachs, a leading investment house which is said to be eyeing the Philippines’ “asset management and disposition business” – the acquisition of non-performing loans and mortgages and idle assets.

Other members

The other members of the IBA are former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating; Dr. Victor Fung, chairman of the Hong Kong-based Li and Fung Group; Maarten van den Berg, chairman of Lloyds TSB Group; Ambassador Bosworth, now dean of Fletcher School of Tufts University; and Anthony Burgmans, chairman of Unilever.

Romulo, on the other hand, served as foreign secretary of President Fidel V. Ramos in 1992 but resigned in 1995 to become chairman of PLDT. Aside from serving as chairman of PhilAm, the local affiliate of Greenberg’s AIG, Romulo is also chairman of Equitable Card Network, Inc., InterPharma Investments, Ltd. (Zuellig Pharma), and PETPLANS, Inc.; vice-chairman of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), which is also a member of Code-NGO, now the object of a Senate inquiry for alleged Peace Bonds scam.

Aside from being the founding chairman of the APEC Business Advisory Council in 1996 and chairman of the e-ASEAN task force, Romulo also heads the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council  (PECC). These groups – composed of global chief executives – advise Asia-Pacific chiefs of state and economic ministers on the imperatives of globalization in the region. Bulatlat.com

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