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Filipinos And Their Stake in Barack Obama

January 19, 2009

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The 44th President of the United States is taking his oath of office today (The inaugural ceremonies start at 10.pm Manila Time.) with the whole world literally waiting for how the first black chief executive in America’s 200-year history will flesh out the change he promised his constituents could believe in.

Part of that Obama constituency are the Filipinos who’ve made America their home with the most conservative estimates saying there are 1.75-M Pinoys in the U.S. while US Ambassador Kristie Kenny giving the higher figure of  3-M.

So not only Manila will be looking to hear clearly what the new POTUS will say in his inaugural speech but those three million Filipino-Americans and their kin in the Philippines who trace up to three generations of blood relations in the US ‘mainland’.

The high stakes for Filipinos in the Obama presidency can perhaps be best gauged in the data showing how scattered they are in the 50 states, the volume of their remittances and the continuing migration patterns of Filipinos, with up to 40,000 of them gaining visas each year to either visit or settle permanently there.

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The Philippines with its colonial ties with the US having been written in blood during the last world war continues to be tagged as an “important ally in the war on terror” along with the trade ties that link the two cpuntries.

The Philippines has long been considered ”America’s outpost in the Far East” with the long line Filipino presidents routinely castigated by left-wingers and ‘militants’ as “American lackeys always assiduously courting Washington’s favor” and ready to take a call from the White House even at the oddest hours.

Even President Arroyo has been widely criticized for repeatedly seeking, and failing to get a meeting with Mr. Obama even as the US presidential campaign was winding down and after the Obama victory was a foregone conclusion.

In the end, GMA had to content herself with a phone call from the incoming US leader in the dead of the night.

Just how Philippine-American relations will fare with the Democrats, and a black president, in power will depend on the perceptions and analyes Mr. Obama will hear from his top advisers in the weeks ahead, along with the continuing stream of media reports on the goings on in Manila.

These range from the unresolved corruption controversies, the human rights situation, the use of American development aid, not least among them, the current brouhaha about the World Bank’s blacklisting of at least three Filipino road contractors.

There are also the charter change attempts, and the controversies in the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice.

The POTUS does already have his plate full about Philippine concerns.

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