New Internationalist


October 1981

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BRANDT REPORT [image, unknown] Country profile: Philippines

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Leader: President Ferdinand Marcos

Economy: GNP is $600 per person per year.
Debt service repayments as % of exports: 12.6%
Main exports: Copper, sugar, coconut products, timber, gold, fruit.
Rate of inflation (average 1970-79): 13.3%

People: 46.7 million/Town dwellers: 36%

Health: Child mortality (1-4 years): 0.6% (Sweden 0.1%)
Daily calorie availability(1977):
Access to clean water: 43%

Culture Religion: Over 85% of Filipinos are Christian, mostly Roman Catholic. 5% are Muslim and a small proportion are animist.
Ethnic groups: the population is of Malay origin.
Language: The national language is Pilipino.
English is also widely spoken.
Previous colonising powers: Spain from the mid-16th century until 1898; the US from 1906 until 1946. The country was occupied by Japan during the second world war.

Figures from the World Development Report World Bank 1981.

A COLLECTION of more than 7,000 palm-fringed islands — only a few hundred of which are inhabited — the Philippines’ long history of Westem domination makes it unique in Asia.

Partially colonised by Spain from the mid-l6th century (the Muslim island of Mindanao was never conquered), the Philippines was also the scene of Southeast Asia’s first major anti-colonial rebellion. Having defeated the Spanish, the Filipino nationalist movement found itself embroiled in an equally bloody conflict with the US when Spain sold the country to Washington in 1898.

The Americans won — and so began a cultural and political reign that persists still — despite the Philippines’ independence in 1946. US corporations have invested massively in the Filipino economy and Clarke Base, one of the US’s largest military bases in the world, covers over 50,000 hectares.

Today, the capital of Manila is a city of concrete, hamburgers and hoardings. Japanese and US multinationals peddle their wares from every billboard. Almost every advertisement — apart from those selling the local gin and beer — is in English. It is a lively, colourful country — with an unlikely mix of Catholic fervour, a passion for beauty contests and consumer goods and a deep-rooted, intransigent class system. These three influences have reached out into the most remote mountain areas. Each village has its own church, each its own corrupt mayor, each its lorry load or airlifted supply of coca-cola.

Ferdinand Marcos presides over it all. He has governed without interruption since 1965 and his presidency — more accurately ‘dictatorship’ — has been associated with nepotism, rising inequality, and a growing military. In fact the army has grown six-fold to 250,000 since 1972, when Marcos first introduced martial law to cope with the rising opposition to his government’s policies.

Finally, in January this year martial law was lifted in response to many pressures not least because the Pope refused to visit the country under such circumstances.

But nothing much changed. The President simply used his exceptional powers to extend his own rule, enshrining in a redrafted constitution the same strictures that characterised the old military government

Today, the main opposition is the illegal National Democratic Front and the clandestine New People’s Army — which has considerable support in the countryside. In the south, the Muslim Moro People’s National Liberation Front has been fighting its own guerrilla campaign since the 1960s.

However, the Catholic church is potentially one of the greatest influences for change. As in Latin America, there is both a conservative and a ‘liberation’ church, the latter being the only relatively safe ‘front’ for resistance in the country. But with three quarters of the army’s generals hand-picked from Marcos’ home region, his regime looks safe for at least a few more years.

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A few rich families dominate political and economic life.
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Heavily dependent on foreign companies and US aid. Huge World Bank and other loans.
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Moderate discrimination, but involved at most levels.
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[image, unknown] Effective right wing dictatorship. Nominally democratic. Opposition illegal.
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At 88% is very high. Higher proportion at university than UK!
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Getting worse. 6,000 political detainees since 1978.

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‘62 years. Health facili¬ties mostly curative, expensive and urban.

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Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 104 This feature was published in the October 1981 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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New Internationalist Magazine issue 104
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