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The Philippines: Economic and Political Culture


Country Map: The Philippines


The Philippines

The Philippines is a South Eastern Asian archipelago country sandwiched between the South China Sea, the Philippine Sea, and the Celebes Sea (Central Intelligence Agency, 2018). To its far west, is Vietnam, its nearest neighboring country, while Indonesia borders it to the South. The Philippines has a total area of 300, 000 square kilometers. As of July 2017, the Philippines had a population of 104, 265, 076, with an approximate growth rate of 1.57% (Central Intelligence Agency, 2018). The Tagalog form the biggest ethnic group, comprising of 28.1% of the population, while the Cebuano, Ilocano, Bisaya, Hiligaynon, and Bikol ethnic groups form 13.1%, 9%, 7.6%, 7.5%, and 6% respectively (Central Intelligence Agency, 2018). The Waray group forms 3.4% while other smaller ethnic groups form the remaining 25.3% of the population. A majority of the population is aged between 25 to 54 years, with children aged 0 to 14 years comprise the 2nd largest population size (Central Intelligence Agency, 2018).

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The Philippines is governed by a presidential republic type of government which is headquartered in Manila (Central Intelligence Agency, 2018). The president is elected directly by the people as mandated in the constitution and can serve only serve one 6-year term. Elected and sworn in in 2016, Rodrigo Duterte is the current president of the Philippines. As of 2017, the Philippines had a nominal GDP of 313.60 USD, with a purchasing power parity at 7599.19 USD and a GDP per capita of 2988.953 USD (Trading Economics, 2018). According to the World Bank, (2018), the annual GDP growth stands at 5.06%. Philippines’ official currency is the Philippine peso. The official language is Filipino, backed by English, and the various ethnic dialects (Central Intelligence Agency, 2018). A majority of the population are affiliated to Christianity, with 82.9% being Catholics. Muslims come second, forming 5% of the total population. The other religions form the remaining percentage.

Philippines was initially a Spanish colony in the 16th century before being assumed by the US in the late 19th century in the aftermath of the Spanish-American war (Central Intelligence Agency, 2018). While it later becomes an independent commonwealth prior to the start of the 2nd world war, the country was again controlled by the Japanese on the advent of the war. An American-Philippines collaboration liberated the county once again, leading to independence in 1946. The country has had relatively tumultuous bouts of political instability, characterized by coups. However, under the presidency of Fidel Ramos on his election in 1992, the country experienced significant political and economic stability (Central Intelligence Agency, 2018). Successive governments have since maintained this level of stability albeit corruption. Philippines affiliation to the United States from the past is attributed to the various international security threats while local insecurity challenges, especially in the southern part of the countries emanate from decades of unending political differences and ideologies from the past century.

According to Worcester (2015), the Philippines is deeply rooted in centralism. While there are local governments in the spirit of a unitary form of governance, the national government controls a significant part of the day to day political issues. There is no clear definition of central and local relations, and the local governments to some extent can only be considered ceremonial. Such was the political organization during the Spanish dominance prior to liberation, where local forms of governance had little or no autonomy (Worcester, 2015).

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As provided in the constitution, the Philippines government is divided into independent systems consisting of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary (Philippine Information Agency, 2018). The executive houses the president, the vice president, and the cabinet. The president is the leader of state and government, as well as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces (Philippine Information Agency, 2018). This wing of the government generally carries out or executes the law. The legislature is the law-making wing body of the government comprises the Congress, that is split into the Senate and the house of representatives (Philippine Information Agency, 2018). The Senate houses 24 senators elected by the eligible public voters. The house of representatives has a maximum of 250 members elected from various legislative districts in the provinces, cities, and the Manila Metropolitan Area (Philippine Information Agency, 2018). The legislature settles down legal controversies in the country. It also evaluates laws and interprets them in accordance with the constitution. The legislature is made up of the supreme court, the lower courts, regular courts, and the Muslim courts (Philippine Information Agency, 2018).

Political culture in the Philippines at the turn of the 21st century was characterized by the popularization of the World Wide Web and the advent of digital and electronic technologies. This is said to have influenced the operations of the people power revolutions (EDSA), who utilized emails, and cell phones to mobilize and communicate (Montiel, 2018). Philippines political cultures and traditions have also been founded on social structures that depend on groups to motivate political courses. In particular, peer groups have been always been given a strong preference for pursuing economic and political ambitions. The Philippines society is also based on a collectivist culture (Montiel, 2018). This culture has always availed the traditional political influence used since the colonial times; a patronage and personalistic style of governance and leadership that can be identified in the modern-day Philippines. Through these styles, a new mutation of influence and culture has emerged, drawing much emphasis on material wealth, money, criminal networks, blackmail, and coercion (Montiel, 2018). It would be unsurprising to trace back societal problems such as crime and drug syndicates to the political leaders and the government or military in general. The various existing sets of political have further laid down the emergence of new structurally embedded cultures where two groups, the small elite and the marginalized, feed on each other’s conditions (Montiel, 2018). Wealth and resources are in the hands of a few elites, while a majority contend with poorer conditions. According to Montiel (2018), a majority of Filipinos have a culture of dependency as necessitated by poverty, waiting for a patronage political figure to mitigate their pleas, albeit temporarily. One’s social status ultimately dictates the political culture.

Based on the political culture described above, it is evident that the major political actors in the Philippines are the politicians, their spouses or associates, the political staff, and the local political figures in the local grassroots areas (Montiel, 2018). The Muslim leaders are also big players in the political setting, though they have informal authority usually mandated by the state (Montiel, 2018). In their local setting, however, they are influential and equally respected. Sometimes, they run for formal elective positions to earn official recognition as a symbol of power and authority (Montiel, 2018). Power is harnessed through developing personal relationships and connections with people of higher political or social influence. This connection is useful in access to privileges and favors. Montiel (2018), further points that despite their illegitimacy, these power connections are acceptable and widely sought after, even when the end goal will lead to abuse of power, inequality, and social segregation.

Among other quarrels, Philippines disputes the ownership of the Scarborough Reef and the Kalayaan Islands, both claimed by China and Taiwan (Central Intelligence Agency, 2018). These disputes are however suppressed by various declarations to foster peace. Internally, Philippines deals with threats from several troops and insurgents including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the New People’s army (Central Intelligence Agency, 2018). These groups have been in constant fights with the government troops, leading to refugee situations, especially in the southern part of the country. they present a wider history of recurring conflicts and violence in the country since the turn of the century.  As a result, those affected have plunged into deeper poverty, and insecurity. Another major concern is the emerging use of illegal drugs such as marijuana (Central Intelligence Agency, 2018). The president also recognizes corruption and criminal activities as the most pressing issues in the modern-day Philippines. A declared war on criminal activities has particularly led to the extra-judicial killing and the separately, the attack on drought-stricken indigenous people. The Human Rights Watch (2018), further cite emerging issues such as reproductive health rights, children rights, and HIV/AIDS.


  • Central Intelligence Agency. (2018). The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved from
  • Human Rights Watch. (2018). World Report 2017: Rights Trends in Philippines. Retrieved from
  • Montiel, C. (2018). Philippine Political Culture and Governance. Retrieved from
  • Philippine Information Agency. (2018). Three Branches of Government. Retrieved from
  • Republic Of The Philippines. (2018). The Executive Branch | GOVPH. Retrieved from
  • Trading Economics. (2018). Philippines GDP | 1960-2018 | Data | Chart | Calendar | Forecast | News. Retrieved from
  • Worcester, D. (2015). The Philippines: Past and Present (Volume 1 of 2) (1st ed.). Jefferson Publication.
  • World Bank. (2018). GDP per capita growth (annual %). Retrieved from


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