Masinloc,Zambalesjf1340 14is what I see when I look at the Philippines today. For sure the Filipino capacity to play it by ear is a strength in many situations, and might have been one of the things President Duterte was a master of when he ran his City of Davao, if one is to believe the stories from there. But at national level, things look very different. Especially in three key areas: foreign policy, trade policy and internal security. Lots of shifts just in three months, no real consistency to be seen YET. What makes it worse is that nobody else seems to really have any idea of where things should be going from now on.

It is good to question assumptions – many of the assumptions made by intellectual and political elites in the past decades were simplistic. But to just go in the opposite direction of what was blindly done before is not a real solution. It might be that the reasons for all of this are simple, and I shall venture some possible explanations from my point of view:

  • The Philippines was not a nation when it was formed by colonialism (link). Mindanao was only truly added in American times. Geography and linguistics play a major role in fragmentation.
  • The national elites took over a political and economic apparatus formed by colonialism. Both money and power were centralized (link). The provinces a source of votes and resources (link)
  • Most Filipino elites were like the usual turncoats one sees in Congress today, even when it came to foreign powers. They went for the best bet at the time: Spain, America, Japan.. (link)
  • Concepts of what the nation means have widely varied. One only needs to look at how political and thought leaders have explicitly and implicitly defined it (link). A thin foundation?
  • The people themselves have little continuity of being (link). Fads and fashions are often blindly followed. Ideas parroted without understanding, traditions forgotten, next opportunity..

Some of the manifestations of this syndrome can be seen in what has happened in recent history:

  • In 1991, American bases were made to leave. But there was little continuous effort to really build up external defence capability from then, or national policy.
  • The Philippines benefits from business process outsourcing, and from overseas foreign workers. Little own economic, technological and entepreneurial capability.
  • Growth came but was insufficiently managed – neither in terms of public transportation, roads or spreading the wealth. Growing inequality fostered drugs and crime.

There is an old adage which fits many situations: “do first what is necessary, then what is possible, and all of a sudden the impossible happens”. But to do that takes patience and perseverance.

The previous administration may have done too little of what was immediately necessary for the people in some aspects like traffic jams and public transportation. The present administration may be doing more than necessary in fighting crime, and less than necessary in other important aspects – we shall see. But the risk remains that Philippines will still yet remain – a nation adrift.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, M√ľnchen, 24. September 2016