Maritime advice for government-targeted corporations

"Batten down the hatches."


Many Filipinos are confused and perplexed regarding the negative treatment that some prominent business enterprises are currently receiving from the government. But undoubtedly the most confused and surprised of all are the thousands of men and women employed by those enterprises. All these years they have thought that they were employed by law-abiding and God-fearing institutions; now the government is telling them that their employers are owned and operated by plunderers and economic saboteurs. They are reduced to asking themselves: “Are these the kinds of people we have been working for all these years?”

What instruction should these beleaguered corporations—all of whom are among the largest and most respected business enterprises in this country—give to their work forces in the face of such ferocious treatment at the hands of the government? They should borrow the instruction that the captain of a ship gives to the crew when the ship is headed in the direction of, or is about to be hit by a big storm: “Batten down the hatches.” To non-maritime folk that means securely closing all the possible means of water entry into the ship so that the ship is watertight and can stay afloat.

Battening down the hatches is the most sensible action that the beleaguered enterprises can take in the face of the current government campaign against the Philippines’ Big Business, which is without precedent in the history of this country. In the face of the biggest sea storm that it can experience—the wrath of the President of the Philippines—the principal duty of a Philippine corporation is to stay afloat and not sink beneath the waves. That will entail having to absorb—to the greatest extent possible—the unrelenting onslaught attacks of the Chief Executive. “Just keep the ocean’s water from getting into the interior of the ship” should be the instruction given to the ship’s complement. To weather the storm should be the corporations’ strategy; the current storm, like all storms, will eventually pass.

Pursuing the opposite strategy—fighting the government for every yard of ground, as in trench warfare—would be valiant but impractical. The people at City Hall have the ability to level one charge after another at private-sector entities and personages they dislike; if Offense A proves to be legally untenable, there is always Offense B, and if that also proves to be a losing battle, there is Offense C, and so on. The battle against City Hall can often be won, but it is almost always bruising and exhausting.

“Survive and live to fight another day” should be the beleaguered business enterprises’ mantra for a near term that is getting closer by the day. Being merely defensive and choosing to just parry the governments’ blows may appear cowardly and obsequious, but it is the way to ensure survival for the “another day” when they will be able to wage a lawful and less unfair fight. That day is not too far off.

The vicissitudes that the government-targeted corporations are experiencing shall pass, like most of the bad things that this country has undergone in its lifetime. There will be a reckoning and a return to just governance. Until that day comes, those corporations should—to repeat—batten down the hatches and keep the government-created waves from sending their ships down to the bottom of the sea.

That’s an excellent piece of maritime strategy.

Topics: Business , Maritime , Rodrigo Duterte , Philippines , Corporation
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