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Will RP Become A Failed State?

December 18, 2009

I spent the better part of four hours early today taking in the 2009 reports on the Philippines from the American think tanks Fund For Peace and the Foreign Policy Institute’s Failed States Index.

I will not burden you with the full accompanying reports from the two entities (see the links here) but they point to imperative social and governmental actions for our political leaders, policy make rs, and all Filipinos.

Particularly telling is the assessment in the failed stated index that the Philippines is in the category of failing states and that vital reforms do need to be undertaken in a broad range of socio-political concerns, foremost among them in human rigjts, public health, education, and governance.

In a quite chilling tone, the failed states index summary opens with this warning:

It is a sobering time for the world’s most fragile countries—virulent economic crisis, countless natural disasters, and government collapse.

While not singling out the Philippines, the reports also note:

•    Few states fail by chance. Accidents of geography and history play a certain part, but so do corruption and mismanagement.
•    Failed states have two defining criteria: They deliver very low quantities and qualities of political goods to their citizens, and they have lost their monopoly on violence. Nation-states on the cusp of failure are either “weak” or “failing”—but not “failed.”

The map above from the FSI 2009 report shows how the Philippines ranks 53rd among 177 countries.

As the introduction to the 2009 report notes:

… the global recession is sparking fears that multiple states could slip all at once into the ranks of the failing. Now more than ever, failed-state triage could become a grim necessity for world leaders from the United Nations and World Bank to U.S. President Barack Obama’s White House.

That the Philippines is now being ranked as being “in danger of failing” says volumes given how our society is a little more than four months away from national elections that will replace the hugely unpopular, and scandal plagued reign of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Congress is about to pass the national budget for 2010 totalling PhP 1.42-trillion.

I cannot but wonder how our leaders will use the money to reverse our status as a state in danger of failing.

Equally telling is the Fund For Peace overview on the Philippines.

With due credits to the agency, here it is in full:

Social Indicators

The score for demographic pressures improved slightly from 7.0 in the FSI 2007 to 6.9 in the FSI 2008.  The population growth rate is 1.728%, and there is a youth bulge, with 34% of the population below the age of 15. Although the Philippines is made up of over 7,000 islands, the majority of the population lives on just 11 of them. In addition, the country faces severe environmental degradation including soil erosion, air and water pollution, and uncontrolled deforestation. The score for refugees and displaced persons remained constant at 5.7 in both the FSI 2007 and the FSI 2008. There are about 300,000 displaced people as a result of fighting between government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf rebel groups. Floods and mudslides have also contributed to the number of IDPs. The indicator for group grievances decreased from 7.2 in the FSI 2007 to 7.0 in the FSI 2008.  In January, a body found in a remote area was confirmed to be that of Abu Sayyaf leader Khaddafy Janjalani, raising questions of the group’s ability to continue fighting with full strength. In April, however, the military announced it was increasing its offensive against Abu Sayyaf after the group beheaded seven Christian hostages. The country continues to suffer from a severe brain drain, causing the score for human flight to worsen from 6.7 in the FSI 2007 to 7.2 in the FSI 2008. The net migration rate in 2007 was -1.47 migrants per 1,000. The medical sector is in dire need of trained professionals, as many nurses and doctors leave the country seeking better wages.

Economic Indicators

There is widespread inequality in the Philippines, causing the score for uneven development to remain high at 7.6 in the FSI 2008. The wealthiest 10% of households earn 31.2% of the national income, whereas the poorest 10% earn only 2.4%. Thirty percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The score for the economy increased from 5.8 in the FSI 2007 to 5.9 in the FSI 2008. Although the economy grew at a rate of 7.3% in 2007—the fastest rate in three decades—the country is still burdened with a large national debt and relies heavily on the billions of dollars sent home each year by the huge number of Filipinos working overseas.  Although President Arroyo has made progress in boosting macroeconomic stability, more sustainable revenue sources are required in order to gain longer-term fiscal stability. The services sector accounts for approximately 55% of the GDP and grew by 8.7% in 2007. With over 3 million visitors from overseas spending more than $5 billion, the tourism industry hit a record high in 2007, driving a 15% growth in air transportation. In addition, mining and quarrying grew by 25%.

Political/Military Indicators
The indicator for legitimacy of state worsened slightly from 8.2 in the FSI 2007 to 8.3 in the FSI 2008.  Violence surrounded the May parliamentary and local elections, and during the three months of campaigning that led up to the election, over 120 people were killed.

In September, ex-President Estrada was found guilty of massive corruption and sentenced to life in prison. Shortly after, however, he received a presidential pardon. In November, there was a failed coup attempt by renegade soldiers who were on trail for a failed mutiny on 2003.

The score for public services remained constant at 5.9 in the FSI 2008. Six years of primary education are free and compulsory and four years of secondary education are free but not compulsory. Attendance rates in 2007 were 84% for primary education and 58% for secondary education. The adult literacy rate was only 73%. Access to healthcare was also insufficient. The Philippines has only 115 doctors per 100,000 people and many of these doctors are located in Manila, leaving many of the country’s rural residents without access to healthcare.

The score for human rights also remained constant at 6.8 in the FSI 2007 and 2008 as there continued to be instances of abuses committed by the police and by members of the various insurgent groups. Additionally, in 2007 there were numerous cases of extrajudicial killings and disappearances. Increasingly, a greater connection has been established between the military and political killings.

Some human rights groups claim that since President Arroyo took power in 2001, over 800 activists have been killed. The indicator for the security apparatus improved from 7.6 in the FSI 2007 to 7.4 in the FSI 2008, although the military is still suspected of acting with impunity and committing political killings. External influence remained at 6.9 in the FSI 2008 as the U.S. military continues to provide assistance to fight insurgent groups. In 2007, the Philippines received $145 million in foreign assistance from the U.S.

President Gloria Arroyo won reelection in 2004 after first taking power in 2001 in a bloodless four-day “people power” popular revolution that overthrew Joseph Estrada following his impeachment trial over corruption.

Despite calls for her resignation in mid-2005 over alleged vote-rigging, she survived an impeachment attempt in September 2005, although her power was considerably weakened.

The Philippines has armed forces of 106,000 troops and an additional 84,000 paramilitary troops. There have been isolated incidents of civilians killed during counterinsurgency operations, and the military is known to act with impunity and commit political killings.

The police force was corrupt, inefficient, and accused of human right abuses, including unlawful killings, torture, excessive use of force and soliciting bribes.

Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judicial system was corrupt and inefficient and wealthy or influential offenders often enjoyed impunity.

The civil service was fairly efficient, although there were some instances of corruption.


On the whole, the Philippines is relatively stable, although the Muslim and Communist insurgencies are a serious issue and have worsened in recent years. High inequality combined with extreme environmental degradation in some areas also made life extremely difficult for the country’s rural poor. The public’s trust in government has also been seriously damaged by the fraud allegations and continuing institutionalized corruption.

Copyright (C) 2009 The Fund for Peace

I’m leaving this post open-ended and letting our readers draw their own conclusuions or prognosis for where we may be head in 2010.
Paging the presidential aspirants.

Looking forward to 2010 with hope and trepidation.


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