The Philippines is a nation sitting on the edge of Southeast Asia, consisting of 7,641 islands scattered across 300,000 square kilometers. Remarkably, the country is undergoing a transition from a largely agricultural market to a service and manufacturing based structure, being home to the world’s 10th fastest growing economy.
History of the Philippines
Centuries of Spanish colonization had a profound impact on the Philippines Islands. Catholicism was cemented as the dominant religion and it’s capital, Manila, becoming a hub for trans-Pacific trade, particularly with the Americas. Spanish influence came to an end when the islands were ceded to the United States, although at the same time, nationalists had declared independence, commencing a war of liberation in 1899. The indigenous attempt at independence however, was unsuccessful, as the United States annexed the territory and imposed English as the official language, removing the Catholic church from positions of power in 1902.
American rule followed until the outbreak of the Second World War, when the Japanese occupied the Philippines from 1942 until 1945, implementing a system of forced labor and comfort women for the occupying soldiers. The Americans, under General Douglas MacArthur, retook the islands towards the end of the war, landing over 170,000 troops on the island of Leyte.
Importantly, the native Filipinos had co-operated with the United States with the promise of an independent state after the war. The United States has been ally of the Philippines since independence, although this relationship has often been tested throughout the decades.
The strategic location of the Philippine Islands has made it a trading hub for centuries.
Politics in the Philippines
In 1946, the Philippines became an independent republic, but the path towards democracy has been rather inconsistent. Between 1965 and 1986, Ferdinand Marcos ruled the country under a kleptocracy, amassing a huge amount of personal wealth for himself, torturing and silencing his opponents. His regime collapsed during the 1986 People Power Revolution, when democracy was restored following the assassination of politician Beningo Aquino Jr, which caused public outrage. Rodrigo Duterte is the current president of the Philippines.
Contemporary Philippines has experienced challenges and success as the nation entered the 21st century. Environmental issues have plagued the country, particularly in regards to water sanitation. The Pasig River running through central Manila is considered one of the most polluted in the world, with industrial waste and other untreated sewage contaminating water sources.
Deforestation in the Philippines has also effected the country drastically, with forest cover halving throughout the course of the past 100 years. This has led to 46 species considered to be endangered and 4% have been eradicated already. Air pollution has acutely effected many of the urban areas of the Philippines, with the capital Manila being particularly pretentious.
People of the Philippines
Brain drain has had an impact on the Philippines too. A highly educated workforce has sought better opportunities overseas, making Filipinos one of the largest overseas diaspora groups in the world. For many Filipinos, it is more lucrative for doctors to be demoted to nurses overseas, or to become domestic servants for families in wealthier countries rather than to seek employment domestically.
Poverty is also rife in many parts of the Philippines. As a strategically located country with an educated workforce, poverty in the country has mainly been assisted by corruption, crime, money laundering, a lack of investment into public services and a kleptocratic way of governance. This has led to a particularly problem in terms of wealth inequality, with prostitution, sex tourism, crime, and drug peddling becoming commonplace in the poorer regions of the country.
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