Members of the Manila Stock Exchange solemnly met last week to consider ways to start over. As they sadly scanned the charred and blasted city, they knew they were starting from scratch.
The City. In Manila's modern business district only two buildings were undamaged, and these had been looted of their plumbing. The few other partially damaged buildings might be used for business purposes during good weather, but not during the rainy season, when the rain and dampness would spill through their burned-out façades.
Until the Manila Electric Co. plants could be rebuilt, a feeble flow of power was being supplied by Army portable generators. Manila Electrics local plant was almost rubble, its two hydroelectric plants outside the city were still in Jap hands, and reported heavily damaged. Manila Electric's president, J. C. Rockwell, who had been interned at Santo Tomas, gloomily estimated that it would cost $6,000,000 to restore the city's prewar electric supply of 42,000 kilowatts. As of last week even that was academic. New equipment must be shipped in before the job can be done.
In the shopping districts and residential sections, shopkeepers had no goods to sell, were unlikely to get much in the predict able future. Black markets did a lively business, at fantastic prices. (Eggs, on which the ceiling price was set at 3 centavos, were selling for 50.) The Army did what it could to relieve the food shortage, was distributing 800,000 lbs. of food a day in Manila, sending a similar quantity to outlying districts.
The lack of goods had a depressing effect on morale. Many who were needed to help clean up the city refused to work. Their attitude: Why work? There was nothing to buy.
The Hinterland. In other liberated areas of the islands, conditions were not much better.
There was no transportation for the delivery of food from the farms. Members of the Philippine Motor Transport Association appealed to President Sergio Osmeña's Government for help. Early in 1941 they had turned over to the U.S. Army some 2,000-odd busses. Now these were gone, and unless new busses could be brought in, highway travel would remain at a standstill.
The Assistant Philippine Sugar Administrator gravely warned of a probable sugar shortage in 1946. The jungle was closing in on many sugar plantations abandoned during Jap occupation. The midget railways that hauled cane from the fields to the mills had been carried away by the Japs.
The important gold and copper mining industries were badly hurt. Mining machinery will be needed. Mining men fear that many shafts in the mines have caved in, would be costly to reopen.
These were only a few examples of the physical wreckage left in the vacuum created by war.
The Future. But the Stock Exchange members last week were deeply shocked by a graver damage that war had done to Philippine business. Most businessmen were old, tired and shaken. There was no clear goal ahead, and many men wondered whether they would use the war damage reparations they will eventually collect to re-establish industry and plantations.