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Depiction of Different Events in Renato Constantino’s the Philippines: a Past Revisited

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Renato Constantino’s The Philippines: A Past Revisited contains a specific chapter on the American expansionism, Social Darwinism and the clash of the industrial north versus the agricultural in the United States that swept beyond just its thirteen colonies. The slaughtering and enslaving of “inferior races” (Negroes, Native Americans, Asians) are justified by supporters of American expansionism as the fulfillment of the American peoples’ destiny. The Philippines came under the U.S.’ radar as stepping stone by the time it started eyeing China, which had become a bonanza for imperialist Europeans. The assumption that the Filipino people were practically pleading to be colonized by the Americans was a very attractive prospect, mainly because of the imperatives of trade, international power politics and the asserted interest of powerful sectors from the American business.

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Constantino then displays the use of statistics in deducing the triumph of American business, eventually culminating an attractive economic climate (to Europeans, that is) with legislations all amounting to free trade. A 10-year gap comparison showed that there was a dramatic increase in the U.S. share of the total value of import and export trade to 41% in 1910, compared to the 11% rate in 1900. It increased even more to 65% by 1920, and then to 72% by 1935. The Philippine purchase of its imports had also risen from 9% in 1899 to 64% in 1933. What was the meaning of these figures? A quick economic history study was done (i.e. studying economics with a certain disposition of a historian’s interpretation) by looking into a brief survey of the production and investment aspects of major agricultural exports to show the influx of American capital.

First, the sugar centrals were all established by the free trade-driven American capital, and were mostly American or Spanish-controlled. Sugar production rose by 200% from 1920 to 1934 because of the increase of areas designated to plant sugar canes in. Sugar exports from the Philippines to the U.S. quadrupled in amount. Second, the copra production increased when the Philippines became the only copra producer for world trade by the time of World War 1. It was demanded in high amounts for explosives, so the exports were increased by 223% from 1920 to 1930. Third, the Philippine cordage exports to the U.S. were increased by 500% also from 1920 to 1930. This was interpreted as the result of the hemp bonanza that was another monopolistic mechanism executed by wealthy American cordage manufacturers, who were getting raw materials exceptionally cheap and were still depressing the prices they paid the Filipino farmers for hemp. The $170 per metric ton in 1902 was decreased to $97 per metric ton in 1911.

What do these figures all add up to, considering the Philippine economic experience under American colonial rule? Constantino’s main assertion is that all these figures explicitly pointed to a disadvantage towards the Philippines, because it was merely a raw material producer to industrializing nations. Buying the finished products had a far more expensive price than the drastically lower prices they had sold their raw materials for. American business had nothing less than very commanding positions in the Philippines’ major export industries as well as other economic fields of the country.

The statistical data comparing the increase of export, import and manufacturing gathered by Constantino proved to be both significant and meaningful, showing huge gaps between a certain time span that prove a relatively more objective reality of the Philippine experience under American rule, specifically in the economic aspect.

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