Exploitation heightens as wealth increases
Wealth of the biggest bourgeois compradors in the Philippines have ballooned in the last few years. In 2018, the combined wealth of the top 10 richest individuals in the country reached up to $55.3 billion. This is because of the intensified anti-worker practices and brutal suppression of their struggles, as well as higher prices of their goods and services due to the US-Duterte regime’s persistence in carrying out pro-foreign and pro-capitalists policies.
In the last 11 years, Henry Sy Sr. was considered the biggest bourgeois comprador, with a value of $18.3 billion. Between 2016 and 2017 alone, his family’s wealth increased by 31%, from $13.7 billion to $18 billion. When Sy died, he was replaced by Manuel Villar, with a value of $5.5 billion. Even so, if the wealth of the richest Sy children are combined, their wealth still reaches $6.5 billion, higher than Villar.
Following Sy and Villar, the richest Filipino individuals include John Gokongwei, Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Lucio Tan, Tony Tan Caktiong, Ramon Ang, Andrew Tan, Eduardo Cojuangco, Enrique Razon and Isidro Consunji. Manuel Pangilinan is not on the list, but he presides over the country’s biggest comprador businesses.
Close ties to foreign capital
While the wealth of the big compradors increase, their companies’ ties to foreign banks and businesses also tighten.
Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) of the Tan Caktiong family is an example. The company went on a acquisition spree of fast food chains and restaurants in Southeast Asia, China, US and Mexico this past years. Using foreign loans and capital, JFC bought fastfood chain Smashburger in the US, Tortas Frontera in Mexico and Superfoods in Vietnam. JFC also bought Yonghe King (a noodle foodchain) and Hong Zhuang Yuan (congee foodchain) from its Chinese associates.
Like JFC, SM Malls and Lucio Tan’s real estate companies also have extensive interests in China.
Meanwhile, Manuel Pangilinan’s PLDT bought foreign internet and telecommunication companies. These include Phunware in the US and Paywhere and Appcard in Singapore. Pangilinan’s internet companies already have close ties with US companies like WhatsApp, Viber, Netflix and Google TV. Recently, the Ayala family acquired the C-Con Group, a German company which manufactures car parts.
The wealthier, the more miserly and brutal
These compradors rake in millions mainly through shortchanging their workers and/or grabbing resources and lands from the poor and farmers. Their companies are considered the worst employers in the country.
In the case of the Sy family, their billions mainly come from their SM Malls. Almost all workers in these malls are contractuals, receive low wages and are not paid overtime and night differentials. They are made to work for eight hours straight without sitting breaks. The cheapskate Sys even make them pay for their own uniforms.
Comprador companies not only pay miserable wages, they are also the most repressive employers. Last year, JFC laid off 400 contractuals after they demanded that they be regularized.
In 2017, Ramon Ang’s San Miguel Corporation (SMC) made the news when the homes of hundreds of urban poor families in Manggahan Floodway were demolished to give way to its infrastructure project in Pasig City. This year, fisherfolks in Bulacan are set to be displaced to give way to SMC’s airport project.
Also known for being evil are companies of the Consunji family which use soldiers and paramilitaries to attack and drive away Lumads and peasants from the mountains of Daguma in Far South Mindanao. After denuding Daguma, the Consunjis now want the land for plantation and to mine coal found in the area.
Companies run by Manuel Pangilinan are among the biggest, and thus, the most miserly and repressive in the country. In 2018, PLDT, the country’s biggest telecommunications company, laid off 8,000 contractual workers after they insisted on being regularized. The termination was the biggest single lay-off in recent years.