Obama win seen to affect local BPOs

By Recto Mercene, BusinessMirror

Posted at Nov 08 2012 06:57 AM | Updated as of Nov 08 2012 07:29 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The re-election victory of US President Barack Obama has reignited apprehensions that the US Congress may finally approve a bill which, if passed, would greatly diminish the flourishing business-process outsourcing (BPO) industry in the Philippines.

And a statement of US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas Jr. on Wednesday seemed to drive home the point even more.

“President Obama’s job is the same as President Aquino’s job, to provide jobs to Americans, just as President Aquino’s job is to provide jobs for Filipinos,” he said when asked about the “Bring Jobs Home” bill sponsored by Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who is running for re-election. The Democrats hold a narrow majority in the US Senate, according to the latest election results. The Republicans control the House of Representatives.

The bill was among “to-do list” for Congress that Obama unveiled earlier this year. Senate Republicans prevented the measure from reaching debating stage. The bill also is opposed by some large US business groups.

The Bring Jobs Home Act would provide a 20-percent tax break for the costs of moving jobs back to the United States and would rescind business expense deductions available to companies that are associated with the cost of moving operations overseas, according to newspaper accounts.

The information technology-BPO industry’s is one of the country’s economic pillars, employing 493,000 Filipinos and is expected to grow to 567,000 in 2013, according to Benedict Hernandez, president of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines.

He said the industry is one of the most dynamic and progressive sectors today and its growth in the last six years was five times higher than the average employment growth in the country.

“This means that employment opportunities in the voice industry is more lucrative compared with other industries,” Hernandez said.

Jojo Uligan, executive director of Contact Center Association of the Philippines, said the BPO’s voice sector was also better paying than other sectors.

“An entry-level position that typically requires a fresh college graduate or undergraduate can have a basic monthly salary of about P12,000 to P13,000. This is 38 percent higher than the basic minimum of P9,000,” Uligan said.

But with Obama’s victory, this rosy opportunity for Filipinos, especially to new graduates, may be coming to an end if the US president pursues the passage of the Bring Jobs Home bill.

During the campaign, Obama was criticized for being unable to provide jobs to some 3 million Americans, which partly explains his narrow victory over Gov. Mitt Romney.

Many Americans have suggested to Obama to bring back factories and jobs that have been outsourced to other countries, especially to China, India, the Philippines and elsewhere.

Thomas made the statements during the “2012 US Election Watch,” which he presided over at the SM North Edsa in Quezon City.

Invited to the occasion where students from various universities in Manila, World War II veterans, members of the media and officials of Quezon City hall.

At least 2,300 participated in a mock election and the result showed that 74 percent voted for Obama, while 24 percent went for Gov. Mitt Romney.

Ambassador Thomas said he was proud to be an American and to participate in the election held once every four years.

But the US envoy said there were other benefits for Filipinos of Obama’s re-election.

“Clearly, it’s a demonstration of democracy. The importance of democracy, how democracy is better than any form of government, despite its warts,” he said.

Thomas added that the Philippines is right to have a democracy, adding that there were 30 Filipino-Americans running for office in this American election.

“That is not happening in other countries,” he said.

“We share with the Philippines a privilege that unfortunately many people around the world do not have; the right to freely choose their leaders.”

He said that right has come at a high cost, paid by millions of Americans through the centuries, who fought and died for that right.

He mentioned Nathan Hale, a hero of the American Revolution, who reportedly said, “I have one regret and that is I only have one life to give to my country.”

Thomas said Filipinos also have one such personality, Ninoy Aquino, who said, “The Filipino is worth dying for.”

“Today that commitment to freedom continues, you all demonstrated that during People Power at Edsa.”

He added that when people talk about America, they mostly talk about military and economic power, but said that “what’s important is the right to vote, and we have that right.”

 The ambassador thanked the Filipinos for donating P10 million to the victims of Superstorm Sandy. He said his mother was also a victim of the superhowler. 

Later in the day, when Obama’s victory became apparent, Thomas said, “Now its time for America to leave the rhetoric behind and get to work for the good of the country.” He said he was proud to continue working for Obama and would also have been proud to work for Romney “if he had been elected, because that is what democracy is all about. It’s our duty to respect the will of the people and work for whomever the people have set.”