Philippines Table of Contents
There are three dimensions to Philippine relations with Middle Eastern countries: oil dependence, Muslim separatism, and labor conditions for Filipino contract workers in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states. The Philippines required reasonably priced oil, and fluctuations in world oil prices caused serious problems for the Philippines, including politically incendiary strikes by the drivers of jeepneys, jeeps converted to carry passengers, which were a vital from of public transport in Manila. For this reason, the Philippine government was very conscious of the need to maintain amicable relations with Middle Eastern oil producers and of the effect that its treatment of the Muslim minority could have on those relations. Furthermore, although Moro National Liberation Force leader Nur Misuari lived and worked in Libya and Saudi Arabia, Arab leaders were reticent in their support for Misuari. In addition, as of January 1991, there were an estimated 495,300 Filipinos working in the Middle East, including 390,000 in Saudi Arabia, 2,000 in Kuwait, and 50 in Iraq. Those workers were a major source of Philippine hard currency earnings, but their presence also made the Philippines vulnerable to volatile changes in Middle Eastern politics.
As her administration entered its final year, Aquino could look with some satisfaction on her great achievements of restoring democracy and returning the Philippines to normalcy. The political system appeared to be stabilizing, as citizens and soldiers impatient for change pinned their hopes on national and local elections scheduled for 1992. The great unanswered question was whether normalcy was enough for a country with an underperforming economy, a semifeudal social system, and a rapidly growing population. Democracy faced one of its toughest challenges in the Philippines.
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The single best source for understanding Philippine politics and society is the new edition of David J. Steinberg's concise, insightful The Philippines: A Singular and a Plural Place. Bryan Johnson's The Four Days of Courage is a gripping account of the February Revolution of 1986. Raymond Bonner's controversial Waltzing With a Dictator provides a highly detailed account of what he sees as a symbiotic relationship between Marcos and various United States administrations. Articles by Benjamin Muego, David Rosenberg, and Gareth Porter in Steven Dorr and Deborah Mitchell's The Philippines in a Changing Southeast Asia offer valuable information on the Philippines' relationships with its Southeast Asian neighbors. The Aquinos of Tarlac, by Filipino writer Nick Joaquin, supplies excellent background material on President Aquino and her family, and an article by Stanley Karnow in the New York Times Magazine, "Cory Aquino's Downhill Slide," reports sympathetically but disappointedly on the Aquino presidency.
Gregg R. Jones, an American who spent time in the hills with communist rebels, reveals much about the guerrilla movement in his Red Revolution. Two detailed reports on human rights in the Philippines are Amnesty International's Philippines and Asia Watch's, "The Philippines." Everyday Politics in the Philippines, by Benedict J. Kerkvliet, gives villagers' views of political and social life, and a detailed, probing series of articles by John McBeth about the resurgence of provincial dynasties is found in the Far Eastern Economic Review. An insightful analysis of Filipino nationalism and how it is interwoven with religious imagery is contained in three essays by Ian Buruma published in The New York Review of Books.
For a year-to-year summary of political developments, the best sources are the annual survey articles appearing in the February issues of Asian Survey and in the Far Eastern Economic Review's Asia Yearbook. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)
Data as of June 1991
Philippines Table of Contents