Bernardo M. Villegas
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Rebalancing Strategy Should Include Spain (Part II)

          There are also lessons we can learn from Spain in the area of political maturity and good governance.  As the Financial Times story comments:  “Away from hard economics, there are other signs of change in Spain.  Recent election results show that voters are less tolerant of political corruption, and more reluctant to hand the country’s establishment parties the huge majorities they were accustomed to.  Spain has a minority government at the national level, forced to build consensus even for marginal issues.  Elsewhere, the Partido Popular (the rightists) and the Socialists have had to take on coalition partners, limiting the scope for abuses of power.  Some of the country’s darkest corruption black spots, such as Valencia, are under new management.”  As we talk about giving more local autonomy to the regional governments, even to the extent of adopting a federal form of Government, some lessons can be learned from the recent developments in the political scene of Spain.  The clamor for independence of the Catalan region, whose capital is Barcelona, may also make us more cautious about moving too fast towards federalization.

         Another sector from which we can derive some valuable lessons from the Spanish experiences is related to my personal advocacy for football (soccer) as a potential national sport.  With the launching of the Philippines Football League by the end of April 2017, the outstanding success of the Spanish League (called “La Liga”) may provide some leads to developing a successful national football league involving cities like Manila, Makati, Santa Rosa, Marikina, Cebu, Iloilo, Davao, Vigan, etc.  Already major Spanish football clubs like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, FC Sevilla and FC Espanyol have expressed interest in putting up academies for the training of children and the youth as well as of coaches and referees in the beautiful game.   Football in Spain, as well as in many European countries, is a multi-billion euro industry.  If our fledgling clubs and their potential business and other sponsors are able to strike close partnerships with their counterparts in Spain, we can accelerate the development of the Philippines Football League but, more importantly, the education of our children and youth in appreciating the unique attractions of this game which attracts billions of fans all over the world.  The so-called “instant gratification” culture of Filipinos who can only appreciate the high-scoring sports like basketball and volleyball should not be an insurmountable obstacle to developing interest in football if we are able to initiate a new generation of Filipinos at a very young age in the intricacies and excitement  of the art of playing football which goes much beyond the number of goals scored in every match.

         To go back to the original theme of this article, the most important lessons we can learn from Spain have to do with the tourism sector.  There are the food festivals that are already being replicated in Manila and other cities in the Philippines through such initiatives of the Spanish embassy as the “Madrid Fusion.”  There are the examples of “albergues” and “paradores” that numerous bed and breakfast facilities are reproducing in such places as Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Palawan, and the CALABARZON region.  Our beach resorts can benefit from environmental technologies developed in such famous Spanish attractions as the Costa Brava and the Costa del Sol.  In time, regions like Dumaguete, Siquijor, Camiguin, Guimaras, Sicogon, San Vicente (Palawan), San Juan (La Union), Baler (Aurora), and other paradise resorts can be venues for retirement villages like those in Palma de Mallorca, Ibiza, and the Canary Islands.  So that we do not have to reinvent the wheel, I suggest that Philippine investors in these tourism-related facilities should travel frequently to the Iberian Peninsula emulating the likes of Andrew Tan of Megaworld who has become a major personality in Philippine-Spanish economic relations.

      It would also help if some of our millennials (those born after 1982) and Generation Z (those born after 2000) can rediscover the utility of learning to speak the language of Cervantes.  In this regard, I am gratified to see an increasing number of high school graduates from the middle and high-income households choosing to do their undergraduate studies in Spanish universities like the University of Navarre in Pamplona, one of the leading private universities in Spain today.  I am also pleased to meet more and more yuppies in their mid-  to late twenties expressing interest in obtaining their MBA degree, no longer from the usual U.S. business schools, but at some of the leading “escuelas de empresa” in Spain like the IESE Business School and ESADE in Barcelona and IE in Madrid.  For comments, my email address is