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Institutionalizing state interventionism, May, 1996

Institutionalizing state interventionism
By Manuel L. Quezon III

WHEN it was inaugurated on November 15, 1935, the Commonwealth of the Philippines found itself facing a daunting task accomplish the readjustments of the Philippine economy from that of a colony to that of an independent state. As Teodoro Agoncillo put it, “The Commonwealth was conceived as an experiment in self-government, an interim period of adjustment in the political, social and economic, spheres.”

The Philippines, during the American colonial period, operated as most other colonies did. It provided a range of raw materials with goods for its own consumption and that of the colony, not to mention the world. And so while American accomplishments in infrastructure and business were quite extensive, they were found to be wanting from the perspective of nation which aimed to be modern and industrialized.

Two trivial items help to illustrate the state of the Philippines at the time. Five days after the inauguration of the Commonwealth, the commercial transpacific flight from California, inaugurating a regular service which would continue until the outbreak of the war. And yet it would only be under the new government that the railroad line—which had existed since Spanish times—leading to the provinces, was extended to Legaspi in the Bicol region and San Jose, Nueva Ecija. And this, despite such herculenean feats as the construction, thirty years before, of the road leading to Baguio. The reason for this, of course, was the United States was eager to develop a market for American automobiles, but did not particularly care about giving a market to the British, who specialized in locomotives.