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State

Capital

Philippines

Manila

Quezon City

Currency unit

Philippine Peso

Connections

AIDS

Democracy

SEA

Spain

 War

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

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History

A group of islands in which the main indigenous languages are of the Malayo-Polynesian family, related to those found in Indonesia. Apart from Spain and Portugal it is the only area where Christianity has replaced Islam as the main religion (except for a population in Mindanao). Islam came to the islands about a century before Spanish explorers and conquerors.

Part of the area belonged to the Muslim states of what is now Indonesia, including the Sultanate of Sulu, from which derives a claim by the Philippine government to the Malaysian state of Sabah (and a possible counter claim to Mindanao from Malaysia, Brunei or Indonesia).

The islands were occupied by Spain as a colony from 1565 until 1898 when they passed to the United States (after a war of independence from Spain in which the US promised to allow Philippine independence). The US then acted as colonial power from 1899 until 1940 when the Japanese occupied the islands. The US returned briefly in 1945 and formal independence was gained in 1946.

However the United States retained large military bases near Manila until 1992 and continues to influence the government strongly.

Spain ruled the islands with a similar system to Latin America. The land was divided into great aristocratic estates with poor peasant workers. This system was quite different from the pre-colonial system of loose clan groupings with weak chiefs - similar to that of the neighboring Indonesian and Malaysian islands.

Politics remains the business of the large land-owners who maintain a situation of large difference between rich and poor. This can be classified as a feudal system. Following independence there were elections but those elected were mainly interested in their own well being. Ferdinand Marcos was elected but in 1972 abrogated the constitution in an autogolpe and ruled by military power (Martial Law) and US support.

His dictatorship came to an end in 1986 when elections were won by his opponent Corazon Aquino, the widow of a Senator who had been killed by Marcos's agents. The Americans withdrew their support from Marcos. The military continue to be only just under civilian control and there are frequent attempted military coups. There is a high level of political violence and guerrilla activity from people alleged to be communists.

The United States retained large naval and air bases on the main island of Luzon from which it exerted power throughout the south east Asia and western Pacific areas. Successive Philippine governments went through the motions of negotiating these bases away, though at the same time needing the money they brought both in rents for the land and in the spending by the American services on local employees and in "Rest and Recreation" activities.

In June 1991 a long dormant volcano, Mt Pinatubo, erupted and made the two largest bases uninhabitable. This was the end of the large US military presence which had been used to support governments friendly to the US (including the government of Corazon Aquino). If the US leaves completely any government will need the support of either the people or the local military. This will increase the risk of a military coup. It has been suggested by some commentators that this represents the first real independence of the Philippines.

The Muslim rebellion in the southern island of Mindanao may have had support from Libya and more recently from Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. There is now American assistance in fighting the rebels of this area.

Languages

Malayo-Polynesian group

Tagalog & others

 

Pilipini (official)

 

English

Spanish is now rare.

 History

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Politics

Elections for president and Congress on the US pattern. However, the military are not entirely under civilian control and there have been many attempted coups by military officers.

The real power in the country is in the hands of feudal landowners many of whom have private armies of security guards. The situation bears some resemblance to Central America, especially El Salvador. Sugar plantations use up much of the best land so that there are many landless peasants - whose numbers increase as an effect of the Catholic ChurchÕs irrational policy of forbidding birth control.

The social situation has often been compared to European feudalism. Politics is in fact controlled by a number of Great families of whom the Aquinos are one of the biggest. An Aquino is currently president.

The former president, Corazon Aquino, the widow of an assassinated former opposition leader, also belongs to one of the wealthy political families who have monopolized politics since independence from the United States. When she took office she promised land reform but left it to the Congress, consisting of landowners. Turkeys do not vote for Christmas and nothing happened. Only a land reform would lead to real change in the country. She also promised respect for civil rights but episodes of killing and torture by official and semi-official forces continue to be common. There are Communist guerrillas whose fight is fueled by the great differences between rich and poor. Muslim guerrillas on Mindanao are fighting for their own autonomous state and have received aid from Libya.

Elections were held in May 1992. The results showed that the American-derived voting system does not produce a result satisfactory to a majority. There were several candidates for president but none got more than 23.5% of the vote. The victory of Fidel Ramos would have been more convincing if the French system had been used in which the winner has to show more than 50% of the votes cast in a runoff between the two top candidates in the first election. As Ramos had such a small share of the vote his legitimacy is likely to be challenged, perhaps in military coups or by left wing guerrillas.

He was succeeded in 1998 by Joseph Estrada, an associate of the former dictator, also elected by a small share of the total vote, who was made to resign by a popular uprising in January 2001, protesting against his gross corruption. He was succeeded by his vice president, daughter of a popular president of the 1940s.

Interesting reading

 History

 Politics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Economics

The Philippines have failed to enjoy the kind of economic growth enjoyed by other Asian countries. Some believe that the cause is that, as in Central America, land holding follows the Spanish pattern so that landless peasants predominate with landowners collecting rents or plantation profits. The result is a tendency to conspicuous consumption by the rich and poverty for the mass, with a low rate of saving and investment.

The dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos encouraged the enclosure (stealing) of traditional peasant holdings by plantation companies, some of them foreign, but also prevented investment by its tendency to loot the resources of the country and save them overseas. Marcos borrowed from the banks, including the World Bank for "development" which didn't take place. There is evidence of a cache of 1240 tonnes of gold in Switzerland which would repay the debts and might in itself account for the poverty of the country. This is looting to be compared with Zaire. If title by the government cannot be established it may go to the Swiss banks which hold it.

The repayment of the country's debts is the cause of increasing poverty as health services and education are cut.

Unless this pattern can be changed no growth will occur. Some have suggested that it is because there are few Chinese, a people good at saving and investing (away from home).

Member ASEAN.

 History

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 Climate

Green/Ecology

The surviving rain forests are being cut down by logging companies and by landless peasants trying to get new lands. The situation is as bad as in any country. The logged areas are rapidly eroding and disturbing the water balance. Floods and landslides are a result.

One of the results of global warming is increased rainfall with more severe rainstorms, another cause of flooding and erosion.

There is an AIDS epidemic spreading rapidly. Catholic policy (no contraception) leads to rapid population increase. This may be the country's most serious social and economic problem. As until recently in Ireland the Catholic Church has a great deal of influence over government policy. Could legislation to over-rule its irrational policies be passed?

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Climate

Human Rights

Bad for poor people.

Climate effects

Last revised 13/08/12


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