The Philippines is particularly vulnerable to typhoons, floods, earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. These disasters can easily set back hard won development and economic gains and can cause disruptions in communication and transportation. Some 24 typhoons hit the Philippines area of responsibility in 2013. On November 8, Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines with record-breaking sustained winds of over 195 miles per hour and sea level storm surges of over 13 feet. Over 16 million people were affected by the storm, including at least 6,000 dead and over 27,000 injured. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), primarily through its Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), has provided humanitarian assistance in response to natural and man-made disasters. In 2013, USAID provided over US$50 million in disaster assistance for Typhoon Haiyan. The Philippines is a democratic political system disguising an oligarchic society. In the mid-nineteenth century, a Filipino landowning elite developed on the basis of the export of agricultural products. This planter group was cultivated as part of the United States military and political pacification program. The democratic process imposed on the Philippines during the American colonial period remained under the control of this elite. The landowning class was able to use its privileged position directly to further its economic interests as well as to secure a flow of resources to garner political support and ensure its position as the political elite. This political dynamic remained basically unchanged at the outset of the 21st Century.
In 1960, the Philippines was slightly richer than South Korea. The Philippines had a slightly larger per capita gross national product (GNP) and a far larger base of natural resources. By the 1990s, however, Korea's per capita GNP was three times greater than that of the Philippines. In addition, South Korea's social indicators have shown greater improvement. Many different factors explain the divergence in development between South Korea and the Philippines. Some are unique to the individual countries. But what seemed to matter most was that the political and economic policies of South Korea over these 30 years were much more favorable to long-term growth and development than those of the Philippines. Foreign aid helped South Korea's development somewhat, but it arguably hindered the Philippines' development by reinforcing the government's political and economic policies.
The election of Ferdinand Marcos as the Philippine president in 1966 led the country down a path that was ultimately counterproductive to long-term development. Marcos pursued more inward-oriented economic policies than those pursued by South Korea. Marcos's policies produced aggregate economic growth initially, but in the 1980s the Philippine economy experienced a severe crisis, leading to substantial declines in per capita GNP. Moreover, the average rural or urban worker was far worse off at the end of the Marcos era than at its start. Corruption and self-aggrandizement on the part of Marcos and his family and friends contributed to the economy's problems. Reforms under Marcos's successors -- Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos -- made some progress in reversing the damage done by the Marcos era, but the Philippines' future, though promising, remained uncertain.
Renato De Castro has written that "The 400 families, who dominate Philippine politics and government since the country became independent in 1946, constitute the political elite. They have financed politicians (many of whom are members of their clans), and political parties, and purchased the loyalty of government bureaucrats and military officers. The elite act as rent-seeking political powerbrokers who support successive Philippine presidents and members of the Congress. In return, they require these national officials to provide them with local and national largesse, thereby compromising the state’s integrity and autonomy, and diminishing its resources.... The elite’s role as powerbrokers and their control of the legislature enable them to make the Philippine state a private instrument or a prebendal state. Such state is characterised by a formal political unit created by external recognition, territoriality, and legitimate monopoly of violence but nevertheless an empty shell that is controlled by those possessing force mejeure — the 400 families."
Bereft of any conventional military capabilities, the Philippines has no choice but to adopt a policy of conflict avoidance when it comes to the country’s external security needs. The AFP is poorly funded and is armed with antiquated equipment. In addition, only slightly more than half of the Philippines' naval ships are operational, and only a few air force planes are combat ready. Compounding the problem of inadequate equipment, the AFP's leadership has been accused of corruption and complicity with insurgent groups, although its primary mission involves counterinsurgency. In July 2003, junior officers staged an unsuccessful coup.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) consists of a 66,000-member army; a 24,000-member navy, including 7,500 marines; and a 16,000-member air force. Active forces are supplemented by 131,000 reserves. A joint service command covers five military areas. The 6,000-member National Capital Region Command, established in November 2003, is responsible for protecting the government against coup attempts. The president of the republic is commander in chief of the armed forces.
On 22 December 2006 President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pushed for a revised military modernization law to speed the upgrading of the Philippines' poorly-equipped Armed Forces. Arroyo said she was working with the military chief of staff to revise the guidelines of the law so that the modernization would be swiftly implemented in a transparent and graft-free manner. Once this is completed, "we will jump-start the process, being careful to be transparent and overtly discouraging the involvement of brokers and middle-men," she told military officers at the 71st anniversary of the armed forces. This is apparently intended to allay widespread perceptions of corruption within the 130,000-strong force. Arroyo also said that a finance undersecretary would be involved in the process because "we have many procurement (contracts) which are to be done, government-to-government". She did not specify which foreign governments she was referring to.
In 2006 President Arroyo stressed the modernization process was part of the government's campaign to defeat the communist insurgent New People's Army (NPA) by 2010, as well as other rebel groups like the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremists. Military chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said separately that the ranks of the NPA had fallen from about 7,400 in 2005 to 7,100 in 2006 as the government killed and captured more of the rebels, who have been waging a 37-year-old Maoist campaign.
The ongoing insurgency and other internal security threats have a negative impact on the economy and that the resolution of these threats will significantly improve the security environment and foster a climate conducive to economic growth and national development. The security threats confronting the country come from the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) or the Communist Terrorist Movement (CTM); the Southern Philippines Secessionist Groups (SPSGs), such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and break-away factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF); and terrorist organizations like the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).
These various threat groups have consistently demonstrated their capability to sustain their movement from quite some time and gain influence over target sectors. They have even established linkages with international allied groups for financial and logistical support. Likewise, they persist in undertaking selective guerilla operations and terrorist activities to create an atmosphere of instability.
Government-armed civilian militias supplemented the Armed Forces of the Philippines [AFP] and the Philippine National Police [PNP]; the AFP held operational control of Citizens' Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGU), and Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) fell under PNP command. These paramilitary units often received minimal training and were poorly monitored, tracked, and regulated. Some politicians and clan leaders, particularly in Mindanao, maintained their own private armies and at times co-opted CVO and CAFGU members into these armies. Human rights NGOs have linked state-backed militias and private armies with numerous human rights abuses, including the 2009 massacre of 58 people -- family members and supporters of a gubernatorial candidate, 31 media members, and six passersby -- in Maguindanao Province.
Military sources reported that 176 AFP members were killed in action during encounters with rebel and terrorist groups during the year 2010, 166 by the NPA and 10 by the ASG. During the same period, AFP operations killed 131 insurgents: 97 suspected NPA members, 23 ASG members, and 11 MILF members. Insurgents killed 11 PNP officers during the year, and the PNP claimed 44 NPA insurgents were killed in police operations around the country. The AFP also recorded 55 bombings during the same period.
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