« Avant la fin du monde, la fin du mois ! »

Les citoyens suisses ont refusé l’interdiction des pesticides et les taxes climatiques, mais accepté les mesures anti-terroristes et l’élargissement des pouvoirs du gouvernement. Le pays se retrouve divisé entre villes et campagne comme jamais auparavant. Comment, pourquoi ? On vous dit tout.

Are Chinese the Jews of Asia?

The five wealthiest business moguls of the Philippines
Any listing of the country’s wealthiest men and women will show almost exclusively Chinese last names. Chinese-Filipinos form both an ethnic community and a separate economic class.

To say that China is a growing concern in the Philippines is an understatement.

Let’s start with the sovereignty dispute over the West Philippines Sea / South China Sea. That whole area, of the highest economical and strategical value, has been recognized by a decision of the United Nations’ Permanent Court of Arbitration as belonging to the Philippines, but China couldn’t care less and has stealthily militarized several atoll and is using its militia, disguised as fishermen, to keep actual Filipino fishermen out by any means necessary, including harpooning their boats and sinking them.

The balance of power is so overwhelmingly unfavorable to the Philippines that the Duterte administration has been accused of defeatism and of collaborationism by Philippine nationalists – a situation reminding me of my native Switzerland, where the government has been increasingly bending over backwards to abide to every new requirement and threat coming from the European Union rulers.

Then there are the colossal Chinese investments in the Philippines, both from private companies and from State agencies (essentially one and the same): billions and billions in loans and infrastructures that will never possibly be paid back and whose interests could forever submit the Philippines to China’s grip, effectively undermining the country independence and siphoning its wealth away.

I should mention also the estimated 150,000 illegal Chinese workers in the Philippines, most notably in the oversea online gambling business, which is extremely popular but illegal in China. These weren’t very popular even before the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, which obviously didn’t help.

And last but not least, there is the Chinese Filipinos problem.

The definition of Chinese Filipinos according to Wikipedia seems somewhat blurry. Strictly speaking, only 2% of Philippine nationals have one Chinese parent, but as much as one out of four have more distant Chinese ancestry. Descendants of Chinese who migrated during the 19th Century onward through intermarriage still retains much of Chinese culture, customs, and work ethics, and are nowadays in complete control of about 70% of the Philippines’ economy, owning own all the largest shopping malls, supermarkets, hotels and fast food chains, in addition to every major bank, media, construction and real estate company.

Any listing of the country’s wealthiest men and women will show almost exclusively Chinese last names. Chinese-Filipinos form both an ethnic community and a separate economic class, the wealthy commercial elite dominating the poorer Filipino working and underclass. Most posh, walled-off enclaves in major cities are populated in majority by ethnic Chinese.

“Chinoys” moguls often create joint ventures with mainland Chinese companies and are accused of  reinvesting in China most of what they make in the Philippines, contributing to a money hemorrhage. And in the current context of increasing military tension with China, the loyalty of Chinese-Filipinos is very much questioned, as they are more and more seen as infiltrators and double agents, working for the enemy from the inside.

Unsurprizingly, this reality is nurturing a strong feeling of resentment and exploitation among indigenous Filipinos.

Doesn’t this all seem uncomfortably familiar? Though on a different scale, European Jews have had to face essentially the same accusations and suspicion for centuries, and are nowadays unquestionably over-represented among the wealthy and the powerful. On the other hand, Israel’s total lack of concern over UN resolutions and international laws, and its colonizing of occupied territories could be seen as somewhat similar to the attitude of China. Now if we imagine Israel having not 8 millions, but 1,5 billion citizens… that is the situation that the whole South-East Asia (and, to a lesser extent, the whole world) is facing.

Different, but same-same

En passant

After I read this article’s conclusion, listing the main problems plaguing Philippines politics right now, I thought of the situation in Switzerland. Radically different for sure (we don’t have extrajudicial killings), yet feeling just as gloomy. The Swiss list could go something like this:

The seething resentment of the poor over the booming price of healthcare, the simmering anger over the administration blind obeisance to the EU, the anguish over the continuous flood of illegal African migrants, the betrayal engendered by the government and the courts refusal to apply democratic decisions, the growing fury created by the totalitarian racket of traffic laws, and the gloom caused by the pension funds coming bankruptcy.

Different continents, same dark clouds.

In the Philippines, Facebook IS internet

Internet neutrality is slowly disappearing everywhere, but in the Philippines it is already dead and gone, it probably never even existed. There are only two telecom companies, Globe and Smart, resulting in a bad duopoly situation. For no reason, I am with Globe, but I am pretty sure Smart is just as bad. In Port Barton, coverage is so poor it is impossible to go online for most of day time – except, strangely, Facebook. Facebook is nearly always accessible. Basically, Facebook IS internet for Filipinos in rural areas, that is all there is to see online. Why? The only explanation I can come up with: Facebook has secured a priority deal with the telecom duopoly, that enables it to be the only site millions of Filipinos can see on their phones every day. Also, when you buy a “load” (ie, buy data for surfing and/or phone credit – in a place like Port Barton, where there are no landlines, prepayment is universal, I have never met anyone having a phone subscribtion), you are sometimes offered a “freebie” of 1 extra GB – but only with a very limited choice what you can use this data for: it’s either Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Viber, or some games like Pokemon. Choose one and that’s it. Freedom of choice? No, that one is not available, sorry.

I wrote this about 2 months ago for my blog, but never finished and published it. Today I stumble upon this interesting (though very biased) article, that confirms and explains what I had noted. Wether President Duterte can, or can’t, be considered a “dictator” is another matter entirely, but let’s say that even though I think it excessive to say the least, since I am no longer in Port Barton and therefore have daily access to newspapers and wikipedia, my own views have naturally become more nuanced – which kind of proves the article’s main point.


Knocked down, but getting up again

FINALLY I am able to leave the nightmare that Kapares had become behind me. It was a good lesson, though a pretty expensive one, and I learned a lot. First of all, I learned that you really, REALLY should be careful who you associate yourself with. My former associate’s real passions (and I’m sure he will keep pursuing them for the rest of his life them now that he is finally free from that evil foreigner who tried to make him actually DO stuff) are sleeping (mostly), drinking, hanging out with his broadened family, and bossing around these poor boys he gives shelter to. Out of all these activities, only the last one was of any use to Kapares, though I was never comfortable with it. He is easily the laziest person I ever met (and I’m far from being a stakhanovist) – I once saw him literally stomp and cry because he had to do some work (he was drunk of course). He hates Puerto, never went to El Nido, never left Palawan; he will never try anything new, or different, or change anything. His only loyalty is to his family.I wonder if Fililpinos like him, with this attitude, aren’t at least a part of why the Philippines have been left behind economically these last decades. Luckily, I also think this “small town, small mind” mentality will soon be a thing of the past here.

That guy was an extremely unlucky choice of a partner for sure, but I am guilty too, of course. Of taking what seemed the easier and cheaper (ha, big mistake) way at the time. Of deciding at first to trust and not get too involved in the daily operations (biggest mistake ever). Of wanting to believe that a proper partnership involved mutual respect and honesty. All this naive, egalitarian bullshit.

I learned that if you pay, you call the shot. Keep an eye on everything. Have everything properly documented (having all receipts to my name and religiously keeping them was probably my only smart move). Don’t be too nice. Don’t trust anyone without knowing them well – and even then.

That means also, do not buy anything yourself, you will pay twice as much as a Filipino. When dealing with contractors, remember that a set date, an appointment, a deadline don’t mean anything. “Yes, tomorrow morning” can mean “maybe one of those days”, or “no, never”. On the administrative front, having all clearances, permits and registrations doesn’t mean that your business won’t be declared illegal at some point. Conversely, not having any of these doesn’t mean that your business will be closed either… It’s might still be about who you know, and possibly what you pay, though this seems to be changing/ The days of “build / open first, ask permits after” seem well and truly over with the closing of Boracay and partial destruction of El Nido beachfront. I don’t know anymore, actually. Maybe it’s just that everything is always in a transitory state here.

The more you stay here, the less much of what is happening makes sense, the more troubled times seem to be. Trying to set up a business is not easy, particularly when you have zero experience, in a totally foreign and different country, with laws to prevent foreigner to set up businesses on their own. But I console myself remembering that setting up a business in Switzerland would have been forever out of my reach. And that I’ll be much smarter (though poorer) next time. Onward! 

It could have worked out though…  

The long and widening road

Kapares Bar & Restaurant, since 2017 (until 2018?)

One week ago, Kapares Bar & Restaurant was blessed by Port Barton’s priest, then officially open with a big party. There was lechon (full roasted piglet), lots of rum-coke, live music, fire dancer, the whole package. It was a great opening party. The barangay officials were all invited… and yet we have no business license, no mayor permit, none of the authorizations that a respectable business is supposed to have.

Indeed, the normal procedure in the Philippines seems to be: open first (provided you have the barangay clearance, which is the one you can’t do without), then register with the different administrations. There is nothing exceptional in our situation. The problem is, as it is now, we know we will never get these authorizations. Unless we tear the whole café down. Only once all of it is leveled will we be within the law.

This absurd situation is due to an even more absurd law, stating that ALL roads should be 15 meters wide, with 5 more inconstructible meters on each side. This is a response to the situation in El Nido, the booming tourist destination of the island, where narrow streets are chronically blocked by a continuous flood of tricycles, vans, SUV, jeepneys and trucks. Therefore the municipality of San Vicente (of which Port Barton is a barangay) decided to plan ahead, in order to avoid that situation in the future. Which is probably a very good idea if applied to the truly colossal development plans for nearby Long Beach (basically turn 17km of untouched beach and coconut trees into Little Florida). But no one would imagine such a legal disposition applied retroactively to ALL roads, including the inner streets of a small fishermen village like Port Barton, of course… right? Right??

As unbelievable as it seems, the same municipality that is unable to provide electricity for more than 6 hours a day, unable even to cover the muddy dirtroads we call streets, is totally decided and has the means to implement an absurd widening of those same mudroads. Even if that implies that ALL shops, restaurants, and many habitations have to be (at least partially) leveled. Even though there is only a few motorbikes and schoolkids on these roads at any given time. It’s so absurd still can’t believe it.

And indeed that situation is so surrealist, that even though it was in the air for a long time, nobody could really take the threat seriously. Myself I decided it would never be implemented and went on. Surely they would come to their senses. They could not basically want to close down all Port Barton, turn it into one big construction site for at least one whole touristic season, only to have a beautiful, leafy, picturesque village turned in a kind of mini Los Angeles with 25 meters-wide highways?

Actually, yes, that is exactly what they are planning to do. They have started to hand cease-and-desist orders, and a few restaurants are condemned and will not open this coming season. Most owners will not invest into moving back their whole place 5 meters either, so who knows if or when they will ever reopen.

Kapares is of course within the 5 meters where nothing can be built, so we know that at some point – in a few weeks, months, hopefully next season, who the fuck knows – we will have to tear down our brand new roof and turn our nice, cosy restaurant into a flat, basic, empty outdoor terrasse. Because everything has to be removable, we would only be allowed beach umbrellas, which do not provide shelter here, neither against the burning tropical sun nor against tropical rain showers.

Funnily enough, another similar, new law stipulates that nothing can be built on the beach within at least 35 meters from the high tide level (San Vicente wanted 50 meters, but that disposition is still disputed). Which in Port Barton means that ALL beach front resort should be dynamited. And in some areas, between the 25m-wide road and the 35m-wide beach there would probably remain just enough width to put a small (removable) beach hut.

I have to say, even now, I am still skeptical – it is not only a few foregners-owned businesses that are concerned, but ALL Filipinos-owned shops, restaurants, acomodations, and actual family houses, too. I can’t believe that the locals will just accept to lose their source of income, and in most cases all they own. I am still waiting to see what will happen.

Retirer son 2e Pilier en cas de départ définitif de la Suisse

This week’s update will not be about my progress in the Philippines or the lack of it, but about the requirements and process to obtain your 2e Pilier savings when leaving Switzerland. This topic being of interest to Swiss citizens only, this update will exceptionally be in French, also because there are too many Swiss administrative terms (offices des poursuites? controle des habitants?) that I wouldn’t know how to translate.

La procédure pour retirer son 2e Pilier en cas de départ définitif de la Suisse est à la fois relativement simple et assez compliquée. Simple parce que c’est un droit (plus pour longtemps sans doute) et que les documents à fournir au final sont peu nombreux, et compliquée parce qu’il est nécessaire de bien s’organiser à l’avance, de se renseigner et de ne rien négliger pour que chaque étape se passe sans problème.

Nota bene: la procédure qui suit et en particulier les documents exigés concernent le canton de Neuchatel, qui semble etre l’un des plus maximalistes et tatillons en la matière.

  1. Faire transférer son 2e Pilier

La première chose à faire, si vous êtes employé, est probablement de donner votre démission. Parallèlement, ouvrir un compte dans une institution de libre-passage. Pour des raisons fiscales, choisir une caisse ayant son siège dans le canton de Schwyz. Quand la caisse versera le montant sur votre compte a l’étranger, l’impôt sera nettement moins élevé que dans n’importe quel canton romand. Pour ma part j’ai choisi Liberty et ne peut que recommander leurs services.

Une fois le compte de libre-passage ouvert, demander au responsable du fond 2e Pilier de votre employeur d’y transférer votre avoir (sans mentionner votre intention de quitter le pays).

  1. Déclarer son départ

Se rendre au guichet du contrôle des habitants de la commune de domicile pour signaler votre départ définitif, environ un mois à l’avance (se renseigner pour ces délais, qui peuvent varier d’un canton a l’autre). Il vous sera peut-être demandé de montrer une preuve de départ, par exemple une réservation de vol. Il vous sera délivre une attestation. Avec celle-ci, dans la plupart des cantons vous devrez vous rendre le jour même au guichet du service des contributions et demander une taxation provisoire pour l’année en cours. Son calcul peut prendre entre deux et cinq jours.

  1. Régler ses impôts courants

Si votre canton l’exige, il faut obligatoirement payer ce montant d’impôt, idéalement cash au guichet, ce qui peut être tres problématique. Toutefois, il est aussi possible de demander, via le formulaire ad hoc, que ce montant soit déduit de votre 2e Pilier au moment du transfert sur votre compte à l’étranger. D’autre part, merveille du fédéralisme, seuls les impôts dus pour l’année en cours dans le dernier canton de domicile sont pris en considération. Imaginons par exemple un Monsieur Z qui n’aurait pas encore payé ses impôts 2017. Le 1er janvier 2018, Monsieur Z transfere (officiellement – un passage au contrôle des habitants et un nom sur une boite à lettres suffisent) son domicile du canton X au canton Y. Il annonce ensuite son départ a l’étranger pour le 1er mars. Monsieur Z devra s’acquitter des trois mois d’impôts, de janvier à mars, dans le canton Y. Et toute l’année fiscale 2017, due dans le canton X ? C’est bête, mais elle a momentanément disparue dans un angle mort du fédéralisme…

  1. Obtenir une attestation de non-poursuites

Cette étape (qui, encore une fois, dépend des cantons) peut être également s’avérer délicate. Toutefois, par une heureuse coïncidence, le particularisme helvétique décrit ci-dessus s’applique également aux services des poursuites, qui sont du ressort des cantons, communiquent mal entre eux et sont de plus en plus débordés. Par conséquent, imaginons que ce crevard de Monsieur Z ait des poursuites pour arriérés d’impôts et d’assurance maladie, comme toujours plus de Suisses, dans le canton X. Apres trois mois seulement, ces poursuites n’auront très certainement pas encore été transmises au canton Y, ou le guichet des poursuites lui délivrera une attestation vierge de tout montant – la seule qui lui sera demandée.

  1. Obtenir l’attestation de départ

Muni de la preuve du versement des impôts courants, de l’attestation de non-poursuites et du formulaire dument vise par les deux services (contributions et poursuites), vous retournez au Contrôle des habitants, qui vous délivrera le sésame – votre attestation de départ définitif de la Suisse.

  1. Obtenir une attestation de domicile a l’étranger

Une fois arrivé dans votre pays d’accueil, il vous faudra obtenir une attestation de domicile. Les exigences pour celle-ci dépendant évidemment des lois du pays, il est essentiel de bien se renseigner à l’avance (forums, sites des ambassades, etc). En Thaïlande par exemple, le Bureau de l’immigration exige un contrat de bail et un visa non-Touriste d’une durée minimale de trois mois. Un moyen pour obtenir un contrat de bail est de passer par Airbnb et de s’arranger à l’avance avec le loueur ; pour le visa, une inscription dans une école reconnue donne droit au visa Etudiant ; et le tour est joué. Mais encore une fois, tout dépend du pays d’accueil.

  1. Faire traduire l’attestation de domicile

L’attestation doit impérativement passée par un traducteur agréé, qui y apposera son sceau officiel.

  1. Ouvrir un compte dans le pays d’accueil

La aussi, il est utile de se renseigner à l’avance sur les conditions et documents exigés (par exemple contrat de bail ou facture d’électricité a votre nom, visa…) pour pouvoir ouvrir un compte bancaire dans votre nouveau pays (c’est généralement assez simple – rares sont les banques qui refusent de l’argent, par définition).

  1. Envoyer les documents à la caisse

Une fois réunis l’attestation de départ et l’attestation de domicile avec sa traduction, scanner et renvoyer le tout par e-mail a la caisse, avec également un scan de votre passeport et du formulaire dument complété, sans oublier les coordonnées complètes de votre compte. La caisse effectuera le transfert dans les dix jours. Et voilou !

Bien sûr, les choses sont un peu plus compliquées pour qui a été marié, aurait des enfants à charge ou en cas de départ dans un pays membre de l’UE ou ayant conclu des accords fiscaux avec la Suisse. Pour plus de renseignements je ne peux que recommander l’e-book Départ de Suisse et 2e Pilier, très complet (et son auteur propose des consultations a des prix très raisonnables pour les cas complexes).

En conclusion, si cette possibilité (assez inespérée, il faut bien le dire) de financer votre départ dans une nouvelle vie vous tente, il est probablement judicieux de ne pas trop hésiter – il est à peu près certain qu’elle ne subsistera plus pour longtemps.