The Myth of Mar Roxas, And The Philippine BPO Industry

Nobody ever said, “When I grow up, I want to work in a call center.” Everyone is saying “I want to be a pilot, a ballerina, a soldier, a doctor, a teacher, an engineer, a therapist, a model, a magician, a dentist, a scientist,” and any other profession not named “call center agent.” [*]

The latest load of garbage floating around Facebook. Has been this crap about 2016 Presidential aspirant, Mar Roxas, being the so-called “Father of the Philippine BPO industry.” Let me give some of you a little of what I call, Insider information.

The so-called BPO industry had already landed here in early 1996. And by the early 2000’s, saw itself become more entrenched. Especially since India had lost its legendary hold on it. And one of the reasons was their very intense accent. While this may not sound like a bad thing to some. Many Americans – after a few years – began questioning, “Why, whenever I call a service line. Be it everything from my credit card, to a computer, and everything in-between. There always seems to be a Hindu on the other end of the line?” Over time, the big corporations began getting curious feedback. This prompted them to start looking at the “why” about it.

They had reached the conclusion, most Americans felt more comfortable with a “voice of their own” on the other end of the line. And along the way, this was where the Philippines came in.

From a western perspective. Filipinos don’t have much of a noticeable accent in their voices. Especially with English itself. Almost ALL Europeans have one. As well as most Asians. And most will not argue this statement as being anything but true.

AT&T, JP Morgan, Chase and Expedia, all use Philippine call centers.
AT&T, JP Morgan, Chase and Expedia, all use Philippine call centers.

Then comes the classic, money game of less overhead. Which of course, is salary first. And then the vested costs. Such as building space rental. As well as infrastructure. An so on. Now here is where it gets interesting. All this is at possible risk in the next few years. And for a number of reasons.

First. Voice and data infrastructure. The Philippines has let theirs fall apart over the last 8 years. This is obvious, since all one has to do, is look at the endless array of domestic customer dissatisfaction.

Second. Alternative locations are now already being considered. South Africa. Poland. Estonia. And even Czechoslovakia. Are filling the need as the “new and improved” corporate hot spots for this market. Primarily because of their more solid voice and data infrastructure. As well as offering a more competitive, open door business environment.

Mar Roxas Crossed ArmsAnd lastly. The biggest possible nail in the industry’s coffin. Automation. By reducing the need for a “live body” on the other end. Many analysts believe in the next 3 to 5 years. Call centers, especially in the offshore sense. Along with the typewriter. May very likely become just another relic of the past.

Sad story. And on many levels, is filled with truth. It’s this writers personal benefit of being directly involved with the state side banking and IT portions of that industry. Which for me. Dates back to 1994.

So while he may have pushed the “Make IT Philippines” promotional idea in 2003. Whatever direct hand Mar Roxas had in the grand scheme of things, if any. At best, was minimal.

[*] By Carla Custodio, Makati City

Jacques Phillip

As an ExPat living in the Philippines. I have found it relatively fun and exciting to have been given the opportunity to live among such wonderful people.

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10 thoughts on “The Myth of Mar Roxas, And The Philippine BPO Industry

  1. Outsourcing = Slavery

    There’s a lot of debate right now in North America about OUTSOURCING. What’s outsourcing – well, a company like AT&T, for example, has a customer service line, with people answering the phone all the time giving technical assistance and so on – so they have a choice of paying 100 people to answer phones in the U.S. for say $8 per hour (around minimum wage), or, now that the world is made smaller by satellites and the internet and so on, they can pay 100 people in INDIA to do the same job, only for $2 per hour. 

    See in India, they don’t have the same laws for minimum wage, and AT&T, being an INTERNATIONAL CONGLOMERATE, isn’t subject to any ONE countries laws.  It can pick the laws that suit it best.

    And of course, then the competitor company, Bell, hasn’t much choice but to do the same, not if they want to compete.  So they do too.

    Its not too long before ALL the phone support technicians are working oversees, and there are no such jobs like these in North America.

    The same can be said of a whole list of jobs that are outsourced to other countries, particularly manufacturing jobs, and jobs that don’t require a college education.  A company can get around higher wages, unions, health benefits, pensions, and so on, by making all its products in China, rather than here in Canada.

    The same can be said of hiring migrant workers – which happens all the time in the United States, particularly California.  Mexican workers are used instead of American citizens because the owner doesn’t need to pay these workers minimum wage.

    Most people see a problem here, a big problem.  The problem, as they see it, is that these other countries are taking OUR JOBS!!  Its viewed as a big ECONOMIC problem. 

    But its much more than that.  I find myself ASTOUNDED as I hear politicians and news media pundits arguing about outsourcing, that it hasn’t occurred to anyone that outsourcing – is actually a form of SLAVERY.


    See there are actually two kinds of slavery that can exist, and we see both of them right in the Bible itself.  The first one is the one that everyone knows NOW is wrong; that’s the kind of slavery where one person OWNS another person.  This is the kind of slavery that was going on in Egypt during the time of Moses, and the kind of slavery going on in the U.S. during the time of Abe Lincoln.

    But there’s a second kind of slavery – its called INDENTURED SLAVERY.  You see, if a Simon was in debt to Jonah, what he could do is go in to slavery, he and his family, working for Jonah for NOTHING, only it wasn’t really for nothing, because he was working to pay of his debt.  AND the Old Testament is very clear that such arrangements could only be temporary, that eventually such debts HAD to be forgiven, for as God said, “you too were once slaves in the land of Egypt, and I freed you.”

    Basically this second kind of slavery is not about ownership of human beings – its about creating a system where one person can be less entitled to the basic necessities of life than another person, even while doing the SAME WORK.  Basically its about pay inequity.

    And its not fair.  It isn’t just.  It implies that inherent INEQUALITIES in the way people are treated are just fine.  But they aren’t fine. And it inevitably leads to a slippery slope to the OTHER kind of slavery, where people ARE owned. 

    I mean, I don’t understand how bringing up Mexican migrant workers to work SLAVE WAGES in a field all day is justified, by saying that its okay to give them work that Americans won’t do.  Why won’t they do it?  Are Americans too good for it?  These people are human beings.  If they are being brought up to work in a field, they should be PAID California minimum wage, even if they’re not American citizens.

    And workers in a Beijing factory should be paid MINIMUM wage, at the very least – equal pay for equal work. It’s a MORAL issue.  It’s a matter or JUSTICE.

    Its the companies themselves that are acting unjustly and immorally, and those who benefit from them. It is they that must change their practice.


    As economies and nations become dependent on these levels of inequity, they put themselves in jeopardy.  The Egyptians, the Romans, these societies all had economies built on two tiered systems, on slaves and freemen.  And they fell.

    All humans, regardless of nationality, are ENTITLED to equal work for equal pay.  Any company, and any society filled with companies, that chooses to ignore this fact, are not only acting in a morally precarious fashion, their also setting themselves up, for a time when those weak that are being taken advantage of will one day demand the rights to which they are entitled, as they INEVITABLY will.  That’s when the warnings of the prophets come true, when we see the world get turned upside down.

    1. The cost of living is different in the Philippines and in the US. Though the argument can be made that call center workers in the Philippines could be paid higher, I wouldn’t call what they do slavery. After all they do get benefits like medical and dental and slaves aren’t entitled to that.

      Source: I’ve worked in call centers in both the Philippines and the USA

  2. Czechoslovakia talaga? It has been called Czech Republic and Slovakia, respectively, since 1993. Sarap sanang i-share nito, if not for that embarrassing error. 🙁

  3. The title of the article is supremely misleading. Nowhere in the article does it debunk the contributions Mar has made to make the Philippines the BPO powerhouse that it is now. Yes, there are risks that the industry may not continue to grow. That is the nature of every business. But you cannot dispute the fact that the BPO industry has provided, and continues to provide, employment to hundreds of thousands of our countrymen. And Mar had a direct hand in that through his establishment of the Contact Center Association of the Philippines while he was DTI secretary, through his lobbying in Congress to make buildings and floors of building ecozones (thus allowing BPO locators to be exempt from national and local taxes and paying a reduced income tax rate), etc.

    1. Nice try Gigi. But we BOTH know that ANY industry, that is tech related or based. Is in fact, nothing short of a fad. Your pathetic leaders continue to sell the BPO industry as if it’ll live forever. Numerous tier one jobs, the world over, are already in the process of being phased out in favour of the growing robotics. And those that aren’t. Are already shifting to the more advanced locations in Africa and Europe. So go ahead and praise your boy all your heart desires. The fact remains, that the Philippines, has once again allowed itself to fall into another dependency trap.

  4. You’re just denying Mar’s contribution at your very best.. Stop this hypocrisy out of your self righteous hatred towards him… Accept the fact, he made it happen… How ungrateful of you to make this article… Crab mentality is real..

    1. And how utterly stupid you are, for still believing this bullshit. Go do some ACTUAL homework of your own, instead of being just another Yellow Dye #5 nitwit, who treats whatever they tell you, as God’s gospel.

  5. I have searched the internet on this issue. So far Mar Roxas is listed as one of the key players in developing this industry. Perhaps ‘Father of BPO’ should come as a hyperbole, but his contributions were not minimal either (as far as a lot of articles say). This article however, has a headline that leads you to believe it will debunk the Roxas-Father of BPO-Myth, but it just states that his contributions were minimal, without any explanation as to how that conclusion was arrived at.

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