Filipino Fiasco

The situation in the Philippines is starting to feel a lot like that of Turkey from July of this year: A paranoid leader turned strongman seeks to exert his supreme dominance over a democratic nation.

Will the country stand back while Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte effectively declares martial law? Or will the army — no fan of China — assert itself and ironically return law and order to the nation by overthrowing a budding dictator?

There are more than 30 EMS companies in the Philippines, the largest of which include IMI, ranked 28th worldwide in EMS revenue at $800 million last year, EMS Components Assembly ($110 million), and Ionics ($63 million), which has seven plants there.

Other major players with smaller operations include Siix, Celestica, Cal-Comp and Wistron.

Although US-centric for decades, the Philippines under Duterte are pivoting toward China. US companies have invested nearly $5 billion in the country; even if they no longer feel welcome, extracting that won’t be easy.

Either way, politically the Philippines are a complete mess. Duterte has taken a stable nation and completely disrupted it, without any clear end-game. If his goal was to expand his nation’s markets and hedge its bets — understandable, given their neighborhood — he could have done so in a much simpler fashion. As it stands, he has alienated many of the Philippines primary trading partners, and for what? Business partnerships don’t have to be a zero-sum game. He could have ramped his dealings with Beijing without destroying his relationship with Washington.

Duterte likes to rail against the West for being what he considers corrupt and hypocritical would-be overlords. His own military very well appreciate the security the West historically has provided, however. His words might play well with the public, but he could very well pay the price with his life.


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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow