The New York Times, June 21, 1874, p.9:|
THE PHILIPPINES.THE SOIL, PEOPLE, AND PRODUCTS...
From Our Own Correspondent.
MANILA, Monday, June 1, 1874
...The Philippine Islands are, in truth, one of the most considerable possessions of Spain, and can boast of a large commerce. This group—one of the groups in the Eastern Archipelago—is situated between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, near the rich islands of Borneo, Java, and Sumatra, and not distant from the Empires of China and Japan. Its geographical situation is between the parallels 5° 32' and 19° 38' of latitude, and the meridians 117° 21' and 126° 8' of longitude; and it has been styled by the eminent geographer and philosopher Rieszi the "Pearl of Asia," a title to which it can fairly lay claim on account of its advantages of soil and position.
The Philippines belong to Spain, and although 9,000 miles, more or less, from the mother country, under a tropical sky, rich by the variety and abundance of its productions, its resources if properly developed might enable it to become the most opulent colony of Spain, as much on account of its most advantageous position as the base of an extensive commerce, as because of the exceptional and wonderful resources it would open up to industry and skill.
A country nearly three times larger in extent than Cuba, as the Philippine Archipelago really is, consisting of no less than 9,000 square leagues of territory, with 5,500,000 of inhabitants scattered among its different provinces, blessed with a wonderful fertility of soil, and drained by navigable rivers emptying east and west into the Pacific and into the Indian Ocean, it can only lay claim to less than 12,000 inhabitants who occupy its capital... Of these inhabitants only 2,350 are Europeans and creoles, while the remaining 9,300 are Indians and half-breeds, and include about 350 Chinamen. The five millions previously cited, comprise the Malay race, or Indians civilized and subject to the Spanish Government, and these inhabit the towns and villages which lie between the sea and the mountains.
The remainder of the inhabitants of the Archipelago, some 600,000, are independent mountaineers of savage disposition who live in the centre of the different islands, hidden in the impenetrable fastnesses of the mountain ranges, running generally in a direction from north to south.
Manufactures cannot be said to exist to any extent in the Philippines, although in the suburbs of Manila and at one or two other places small founderies, a sugar refinery, distilleries, and rope-walks are to be found in lazy operation... Trade with the interior is quite active, and it would be with the exterior, if the products, unrivaled, perhaps, in the world, could only be properly presented to the markets of nations. The Spanish merchant marine engaged in this traffic comprises but six or eight small vessels, which for many years past leave Cadiz, Santander, and Bilbao direct, without altering their course or cargo, not even to take cinnamon, cloves, or other articles from the neighboring Spice Islands. This is attributed to the slight interest felt by the Spanish Government in legislating for the benefit of this colony and taking steps to promote the mercantile spirit necessary to bind and make colonial relations intimate and beneficial—or to ignorance.
The administrative elements of the Philippines should undoubtedly receive more attention from the Spanish Government, which now only spares small steamers and eighteen little gun-boats for their protection. These elements are: The Municipal Government, which differs from any other institution of its class; the regular clergy, to which is due the conquest and preservation of the Philippines and comprise some 1,500 persons born in the country, belonging to four different orders; and the Chinese colonists, now amounting to about 60,000 individuals, industrious, economical, and prudent to a degree, although despised and even hated.
The frequent changes among the principal officers of its Government—for Spain sends a Captain General and other high officials to this colony—is complained of as productive of troubles and as delaying the country's growth. Although the clergy is accused of a desire to block the wheels of progress, it is they who have hitherto done everything to help the islands onward.
As to the Chinese element, it is conceded that twice during the seventeenth century they could have risen because of the rigorous treatment received from agents of the Spanish Government, but their submission to the condition assigned them is in keeping with the qualities that make them the representatives of the real active force of the country.
The coolie requires special permission to enter and leave the islands. If he engages in trade he pays a tax nearly six times larger than that exacted of the creole or native, and if he wishes to open a shop he must obtain a license, for which he has to pay one hundred dollars. Withal, notwithstanding the tendency of the Chinaman to return to his native country—so strong a tendency that he desires even after his death to have his bones transported thither—in the Philippines he generally marries the daughter of the Indian native, thereby increasing the half-breed race, which is called there Sangley, and which is destined, for want of Europeans, to develop the immense resources offered by bounteous nature to commerce.
Still, the great question concerning agriculture is the want of labor. The native Indian can live almost without exertion, as the soil about him produces enough for his immediate wants, and he has no ambition to acquire riches, which, if he acquired them, he would not have the knowledge to use. And in this respect it is impossible for the Chinaman to act as his substitute. In vain are efforts made to induce the almond-eyed and pig-tailed coolie to engage in agricultural pursuits; his natural inclination is toward trade, and consequently the proportion between the Chinamen occupied with agriculture and those busied with commerce is as one to forty.
Therefore the landowner or planter has to depend upon the native, who is persuaded with difficulty to work by the day, or to engage for a long job; should he do so, the probability is that he would desert his occupation on the slightest caprice and when his services were most needed. For this reason most of the large plantations are uncultivated or let out in small lots.
Such a situation cannot but profoundly affect the development of the productive and commercial interests of the country. The mountains abound in minerals and valuable timber, which last can be cut in single pieces large enough for the keel of a 400 ton vessel. Near the forests the temperature is cool enough to warrant the cultivation of wheat, potatoes and other imported products; coffee grows readily in the hills, and the sugar-cane, cocoa, cotton, rice, &c., are of easy growth upon the plains.
Notwithstanding that commerce since 1851 has tripled, the progress of the colony is still far from what it should be. The value of the unrefined sugar annually exported to England and her colonies, Australia especially—about four-fifths of all that is made—is about three millions of dollars. The abacá, a special textile production of the country, and the peculiar kind of hemp used in making ropes, sails &c., is annually exported to the value of two millions. Two-thirds of this is taken by the United States. The finer part of the abacá is not exported, but retained to be woven with silk, the whole forming a material of which the natives make the finest cloths.
Foreign nations are represented by about seventy per cent. of the persons engaged in commerce, a fact to the discredit of Spain, in whose name Magellanes and Legaspis discovered and took possession of the islands some four centuries ago.
The first commercial relations were those opened with China in 1576. Then the Spaniards at Manila were allowed only the privilege of bartering the products of America against those of Asia; but the home Government deemed this traffic so prejudicial to the interests of the colony that it was restricted first to two vessels, and then to one, called the Acapulco.
In 1785 the Company of the Philippines was formed, with the monopoly of all trade with Spain, although it was open to all vessels under the Malayan flag. In 1789 commerce was free to all nations, and after the establishment of the English house, in 1809, at Manila, permission to settle and engage in commerce was, in 1814, extended to all other nations.
To-day England imports into the islands over £500,000 of cotton and mixed goods only. This almost covers the foreign importation, although much of it comes in Spanish vessels, which go to London, Liverpool, and Manchester in search of freight. The greater part of the Philippine vessels, 7,000 or 8,000 in number, with a tonnage of 160,000 in aggregate, and 50,000 to 60,000 seamen, consists of junks of the Chinamen, who are settled and trade in this archipelago. The total movement of trade is between $10,000,000 and $12,000,000 annually.
New life and vigor were given to commerce in the Eastern seas, the Asian ports, and the Philippine possessions by the opening of the Suez Canal, but much has yet to be done in view of the future which that new means of communication has opened to nations interested in problems of colonization...