In the glow of a tropical dawn, B.F. Goodrich's corporate Beechcraft sweeps in over the copra boats lying motionless in a small harbor and settles down on a grassy airstrip.
As the plane taxis to a halt, two Philippine soldiers carrying automatic rifles step stiffy from the rows of rubber trees that line the runway.
In the wide corporate realm of the B. F. Goodrich Co., the multinational tire firm's rubber plantations here are only a tiny dot. The three estates, totaling 7,500 acres, are not even memtioned in the company's most recent annual report.
But Goodrich's plantations on Basilan are located in the midst of a bitter civil war. The soldiers at Goodrich's private airstrip are a reminder that the company collects rubber here only under the protection of the Philippine Army.
Five years ago, two of the three plantations were overrun by Moslem rebels. At least 19 local employes of Goodrich have been killed in the continuing unrest. Guerrillas still move about in the nearby mountains.
The More National Liberation Movement, which is fighting for autonomy for the southern Philoppines, has accused muitinational companies of "exploiting our resources hand-in-hand with the government" and has warned that they operate here at their own risk.
Menacing as those passionate words sound, they do not fundamentally threaten B. F. Goodrich.
As a modern multinational company, Goodrich operates in many countries, a fact that makes it virtually invulnerable to local hazards.
Its diversity, versatility and flexibility are a major source of its strength.
Goodrich is in Baslian to obtain rubber for its tire plant outside Manila. But if supplies were cut again, Goodrich's Manila plant could obtain natural rubber from its plantations in western Liberia, or it could buy it on the open market in Singapore.
Goodrich subsidiaries manufacture tires and related products in Brazil and Colombia; make chemicals in Australia, Belgium, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Venezuela and maintain insurance, financial and trading companies in Bermuda, the Bahamas and Panama.
The forces driving the postwar expansion of Goodrich and other U.S. businesses were economic, social and political. As American influence and power spread to Asia and Africa, U.S. companies naturally followed.
The U.S. government strongly encouraged this development with tax incentives, loans and political leverage.
In the 1960s, for instance, federal loans went to Goodyear for plant expansion or investment in India, Turkey and Colombia. And from July 1974 through 1976, former treasury secretary William E. Simon repeatedly urged Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and other Egyptian officials to issue a license to Goodyear for a tire plant in that country. In April 1977, Goodyear announced that such a license had been granted.
The U.S. government and the companies saw vast opportunities in improving American access to raw materials an markets, but it was often the developin countries themselves that provided the most lavish inducements.
Newly independent developing countries felt U.S. and Eurpoean compaines would provide immediate imployment for thousands of workers, help them gain access to the technology needed to build their own basic industry and would aid them in cutting their import bill by substituting locally made products for foreign goods.
U.S. businessmen recall the 1950s and 1960s as the halcyon days of submissive governments and docile labor forces.
An official of General Tire of Akron relates how the general manager of the company's Chilean plant used to speed up the production line by walking through the plant with a pocketful of change, handing coins to the workers.
"We were just minting money in Venezuela, Chile, Mexico, you name it," he said.
In the Philippines, the inducements included reduced income taxes, land, protection against foreign competitors, export incentives, tax credits on equipment purchased locally, tax exemptions on imported equipment and tax deductions for worker training.
By 1960, Goodyear, Firestone and Goodrich were producing all the tires needed by the Philippines at local plants employing Philippine workers.
The Philippines is typical of a country that became a haven for foreign investors in that period.
Executives of the multinational tire companies make no mystery of the chief attraction of foreign investment: high returns in a "protected" business environment.
The profits and return on investment of individual foreign subsidiaries is seldom disclosed, even by companies with public stockholders, which report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
It is known that subsidiaries of all American firms earned $19.9 billion on investments of $148.8 billion in 1977 -- a return of a healthy 14 percent.
In the 1960s. businessmen say the profit percentage was often much higher. Generous concessions sometimes resulted in overseas subsidiaries paying for the initial investment in three or four years.
A study by the Philippine Ministry of Labor concluded that between 1967 and 1972, foreign companies of all kinds took out $3.45 in fees, royalties and dividends for every $1 they brought in as capital and technology.
Gov. Conrado Sanchez Jr. of the Philippine Board of Investments said in an interview the multinational tire companies had provided jobs, transferred technology and made a "positive contribution" to Philippine development. Board officials add, however, that the companies' profits have been "unusually high."
Investment Board figures show that Goodrich withdrew more than $1 million in dividends from the Philippines between October 1977 and November 1978. The 1977 earning-to-sales ratios of Goodrich, Goodyear and Firestone in the Philippines were 16 percent, 12 percent and 12 percent respectively -- considerably higher than the ratios of the parent companies.
Tire company officials say that in addition to high profits, another compelling reason for moving plants abroad is the opportunity to capture large, secure markets.
Multinational tire companies are often given monopolies by developing countries, or share these amrkets with only one or two competitors.
"The company becomes a precursor of technological change -- and they let the company work in a protected environment," says Goodyear International President Ib Thomsen.
Thomsen says such incentives make it possible for Goodyear to establish tire plants in small countries that would otherwise be viewed as marginal markets.
As a side benefit of the expansion into many new countries, the multinationals positioned themselves to take advantage of global variations in currency rates, taxes, interest rates, and raw material and labor costs.
Nothing caused more controversy than the multinationals' ability to "shop" for the lowest costing labor in a broad regional and international "market."
"Management finds that its power to close an entire operation in a community and transfer everything but the workers out of the country produces a marvelously obliging labor force," wrote Richard J. Barnet and Ronald Muller in their book "Global Reach."
When Firestone recently announced plans to close its plant near Basel, Switzerland, the workers offered to take a 20 percent pay cut, but were advised that not even that would save the plant.
Labor costs and the labor climate becaue a major factor in the leapfrogging of tire plants from one country or region to another.
In ordering Michelin workers to report for duty on Saturdays recently, President Francois Michelin reminded them that they were part of a world labor market that included industrious Japanese workers.
Michelin officials say labor costs and an "anti-union climate" was also a principal reason in that company's decision to invest more than $100 million in two new tire plants and a mixing plant in South Carolina since 1973.
Relatively low labor costs was one of the inducements that Morocco was able to offer Goodyear in persuading it to build a tire plant there in 1972.
The average hourly wage today for tire workers in Morocco is $1.30-an-hour (&lus a piecework bonus), compared with an average $8-an-hour in the United States.
"In Morocco, we don't have the great traditions of France or the United States," explains Hachemi Benani, national secretary of the Workers Union of Morocco (UMT). "Industry is a new phenomenon in our country. The entrepreneur is always thought to be right and notions of justice aren't the same."
The chemical workers union, a branch of the UMT, signed its first labor agreement with General Tire in Morocco in 1975 -- 13 years after General became the first American firm to invest in that country.
But Bennani contends that while tire workers in his country are half as productive as American workers, they receive one-sixth the hourly pay.
Many developing countries still have no minimum wage laws, and some outlaw strikes.
There are some signs of increasing militancy among foreign trade unions, but laws and government actions still often favor management.
President Ferdinand Marcos' imposition of martial law in the Philippines in 1972 brought an end to a bitter, year-long strike at Firestone. The company has had no serious labor problems in the Philippines since.
Even before Michelin saw the labor advantages of the U.S. Sun Belt, American companies such as Goodyear had begun to shift production to that region.
While Goodyear has been phasing out its plants in Akron, it has invested several hundred million dollars in expansion or new plants in the U.S. Sun Belt in Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee and Oklahoma.
Before shutting the company's last Akron tire plant Chairman Charles J. Pilliod Jr. noted that it cost $2 less to make the Goodyear G78-15 Power Streak tire in Gadsden, Alabama, than in Akron.
Pilliod strongly defends Goodyear's geographical diversification as being in the broader interest of the company's survival -- and, thus good for the U.S. economy and American workers as well.
"The worse crime a company can commit," he says, "is not to make a profit."