From Paradise to Poverty

Why the Philippines is on the road to collapse
From the July 2001 Trumpet Print Edition

Philippines tourist brochures boast of the country’s golden beaches, breathtaking sunsets, coconut palms and the scent of Manila rum. However, far from being an island paradise, the Philippines is faltering under the steady strain of corporate corruption, political division, terrorism, riots, a sagging economy and volatile territorial disputes.

This strategic island land-mass, wedged between the South China and Philippine seas, is rich in natural resources and economic potential. Since the withdrawal of its Spanish masters in 1898, U.S. colonial rule up to World War ii, Japanese occupation and the MacArthur years, the Philippines has ridden a rocky road of economic and military instability throughout the 20th century. Why, at the dawn of the enlightened push-button, armchair age of the 21st century, is the Philippine nation faltering, fraying at the edges, spinning out of control?

Structural Problems

The Philippines was a founding member of asean in 1967, is a trading member of apec and has strong import-export ties to the U.S., Japan and the EU.Because of its economic dependence on its agriculture, electronics and tourism industries, it has been ravaged by the destructive forces of the 1997 Asian financial meltdown, the climatic devastation of El Niño and La Niña, and the kidnappings of its tourists by local insurgents, all of which have driven foreign investment from its shores.

Today, with the devaluation of the national currency—the peso—and an estimated $60 billion foreign debt, the country is only slightly less worse off than Indonesia, the financial basket case of Asia. While the world watches Indonesia spiral out of control, the ongoing Philippine financial and social sickness is turning terminal. As a result, over 5 million Filipinos have fled their homeland to find work abroad.

Since the fall of the Marcos government in the late 1980s, the assassination of popular opposition leader Benigno Aquino, and the short-lived Ramos government’s attempt to reverse the status quo, most efforts of this “democratic republic” to implement desperately needed economic and social reforms have come up short. “Infrastructure in the Philippines is famously shabby. Roads connecting regions are few and poorly made, and basic necessities such as power and irrigation are still lacking in many rural areas. To be fair, large strides have been made over the last few years. The government has, for example, liberalized telecommunications and privatized the water supply. Much more is needed” (www.stratfor.com).

The recent impeachment and imprisonment of film-star-turned-president Joseph Estrada on corruption charges has plunged the country into successive waves of violent street protests. A recent attack by Estrada supporters on the presidential palace was beaten back by Manila’s police and marines, but not before declaration of marshal law was threatened and a “state of rebellion” imposed by the newly elected government.

This nation of over 62 million people, over 80 percent Catholic with a Muslim minority, has wearied under the strain of a 32-year war with Communist guerrillas. That war recently culminated in the government compromising and withdrawing its troops from key areas of the country’s south.

A string of kidnappings of Western tourists by Muslim rebel group Abu Syyaf for ransom money has the new Arroyo government on the back foot. Vowing “no compromise” with the rebels, government forces have trekked into the jungles in largely unsuccessful attempts to stamp out the increasingly lucrative business of the kidnappers. Tourism is screeching to a halt as fearful Westerners search elsewhere for holiday locations.

Added to the above problems is the growing tension of a territorial dispute with China over the Scarborough Shoal, an oil-rich chain of islands in the South China Sea. Recent boarding of Chinese vessels by Philippines military have only heightened tensions between Beijing and Manila.

A Voice Cries Out

At the invitation of then-President Ferdinand Marcos, the late Herbert W. Armstrong, as an unofficial ambassador for world peace, visited the island archipelago of the Philippines in 1983. After a private audience with the president, Mr. Armstrong spoke to local politicians and business leaders about where world events were ultimately leading. In recognition of his efforts for world peace, Mr. Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Merit Medal for his assistance to the Filipino people.

Mr. Armstrong conducted a public-speaking campaign in Manila for all subscribers of the Plain Truth magazine. The campaign was labeled, “A Voice Cries Out.” Mr. Armstrong’s lectures, spoken to packed audiences of thousands, were videotaped and broadcast worldwide on his weekly television program The World Tomorrow. In that campaign, Mr. Armstrong strongly warned the Filipino people about the causes of their domestic troubles and their contribution to global instability.

Through Mr. Armstrong’s visits with the politicians and business leaders, his lectures to the public and his writing and broadcasting, the people of the Philippines received a powerful warning message of trouble ahead (Matt. 24:14). God, through that one voice crying out, warned the nation of the causes and effects of rebellion against the government of God, and made known the rich, abundant blessings and protection that flow from obedience to God’s law and government.

Recent events have proven that this warning was largely unheeded by all but a small remnant who had the ears to hear and will be rewarded with protection from the coming storm of tribulation (Rev. 3:10, 22).

Today, in the tradition of Herbert Armstrong, another voice cries out to the Philippines. Many Filipinos read this magazine. The voice of our editor in chief, Gerald Flurry, cries out each week, across the island nation, the advance warning of tomorrow’s news through the Key of David television program. Over the past decade this one voice has cried out to Filipinos—from their capital in Manila to the historic shores of Corregidor and the rugged hills of Baatan. This one voice forecasts what lies ahead for the Philippines.

Bible prophecy declares that in the turbulent years ahead the Philippines will suffer again under the economic and militaristic yoke of their enemies. Fears of China to the east and Japan to the north are well founded. The Philippines’ unusual geography (which comprises over 7,000 miles within its archipelago), low labor costs coupled with a people friendly to a fault, and declining Western support all have combined to open the nation up to foreign manipulation and exploitation.

As biblical descendants of Gomer, Filipinos will soon find themselves allied with their geographic neighbors in the greatest fighting force ever assembled. At the soon-coming return of Jesus Christ, this Eurasian force will be crushed and all Asia humbled by the mighty hand of God.

However, there is good news amid this prospect of terrible suffering. A new world order is coming that will result in the greatest prosperity the nation has ever known. Believe it or not, every Filipino will soon be given the choice to turn to God and learn His ways. War, corruption, religious animosity, terrorism and political division will finally come to an end. The nation will be reborn and for all time cross the threshold from poverty to paradise.