Situation and cooperation

Stilt houses in the Philippines

Positive economic developments, mostly in the electronics industry, in services and telecommunications have so far brought no lasting improvements to the lives of the overwhelming majority of people. The emergence of an active middle class is hindered by the influence of powerful clans and by the emigration of well-educated skilled workers and people with higher education degrees. Currently, some 10 million of the country's citizens – around 10 per cent of the population – are working abroad.

Poverty and corruption

Rice terraces in the Philippines

About a quarter of the Philippine population is living below the national poverty line, and around ten per cent are extremely poor, meaning they have to make do with the equivalent of less than two US dollars a day. About one third of the population make their living from agriculture, most of them as subsistence farmers. Productivity in the agricultural sector is low, as the country has so far not succeeded in implementing effective land reforms.

Sustained poverty reduction requires, above all, higher government revenue. Foreign investment in the Philippines has increased, but many domestic and international companies are still hesitant about investing because of widespread corruption and nepotism. Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index ranks the country 95th out of 168 countries (2015).

A jeepney, a popular form of public transport in Manila, Philippines

The Philippine population is young and growing rapidly – by about 1.6 per cent every year. The influence of the Catholic Church prevents sex education in schools and public debate about reproductive health issues. Child and maternal mortality is comparatively high. The Philippines has neither adequate education and social welfare systems nor sufficient jobs. The primary education system is overstretched and especially among the poor sections of the population there is still a high number of school dropouts and a high rate of illiteracy. The official unemployment rate is 7 per cent (2015), but a further 23 per cent of the labour force is considered to be underemployed.

Human rights and conflict

Since the end of the dictatorship of President Marcos in 1986, the human rights situation in the Philippines has improved significantly. However, serious human rights violations still occur. The army and the police have been accused of arbitrarily arresting people and carrying out murders. Nonetheless, as a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines has entered into an obligation to improve the human rights situation. In 2006, the Philippines was the second Asian country, after Cambodia, to abolish the death penalty. In 2010, it adopted an anti-torture act. In 2011, the country was elected onto the UN Human Rights Council. It is also a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

For decades, separatist groups in the Philippines have been fighting for an independent Muslim state. Peace talks had already taken place in the past between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and its splinter group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the Philippine government. Another unresolved conflict exists between the government and the armed Communist New People's Army (NPA), which is active throughout the country.

Since the 1960s, the two conflicts have claimed more than 100,000 lives. They take up huge amounts of state resources that could otherwise be used for the country's development, and they deter both tourists and investors.

Environmental protection and energy generation

Tree logs waiting for their transport

The ecological diversity of the Philippine island state is severely threatened. Deforestation, the decimation of coral reefs and of fish stocks as well as an extremely high level of air and water pollution are the consequences of excessive use of natural resources combined with a lack of environmental protection measures. The overexploitation of nature can be explained in part by the extremely inequitable distribution of land and high population growth.

However, the people of the Philippines have recognised the potential that a healthy environment offers – not least with regard to the growth in tourism and the use of renewable energy. Recent years have seen the passing of laws on the promotion of renewable energy, on climate action, and on the protection of biodiversity. Renewable energy sources are already contributing to the Philippines' power supply and are to be further expanded.

Development potential

One industry that has particularly good development potential is the service sector, specifically telecommunications. There is also great potential in mining, as the Philippines has large deposits of gold, copper and nickel. The economy could also benefit from further increases in tourism. Another particularly promising area is the expansion of renewable energy. The focus is on geothermal energy, wind power and hydropower, as well as solar energy.

Priority areas of cooperation

Germany is one of the largest bilateral donors to the Philippines alongside Japan, the USA, Australia, Canada and Spain. After the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, the EU is the Philippines' most important multilateral partner.

Financial cooperation with the Philippines has been suspended since 2009 because the compensation demanded was only paid in part after the government had expropriated a terminal at Manila airport financed by a German company. The resumption of Financial Cooperation will be considered by the German government only when a solution has been agreed with the Philippine government.

German cooperation with the Philippines concentrates on peacebuilding and conflict transformation. It focuses mainly on the Caraga region on Mindanao, the country's second largest island.


A planning workshop as part of the COSERAM project to improve the living conditions in rural areas

The German government has been involved in a successful programme on Mindanao entitled Conflict-Sensitive Resource and Asset Management (COSERAM). This programme will until the end of 2018. After the conclusion of a peace accord between the government and the local rebel movement in late 2012, it has now become possible to expand the peacebuilding activities in the conflict region.

Political and social conflicts are frequent in the Caraga region in north-eastern Mindanao. The cause of the conflict is the unequal distribution of land and the unequal access to natural resources and basic services. Of the two million inhabitants of the region there are nearly 300,000 members of indigenous groups, who are particularly disadvantaged.

The region's economy is based on use of forests and agriculture. There are also rich natural deposits of minerals in the region. Despite these resources, it is among the poorest in the Philippines. The entire ecosystem and its biodiversity are endangered by economic interests. The knowledge and practices of the indigenous communities, which make up a majority of the population here, are not being considered appropriately.

Through COSERAM, the German government is supporting local institutions in using local natural resources and assets peacefully, sustainably and for the benefit of the local people. Efforts are also being made to boost the dialogue with all stakeholders in the conflict so as to reach a lasting settlement. In this way a contribution is being made to addressing the underlying causes of the conflict.

Fit for School

Fit for School programme: Children brushing their teeth

Health, education and access to water and sanitation are among the rights of every child. Many children in Southeast Asia, however, are still denied these rights. They suffer from diseases that could be avoided through simple hygiene measures. Through "Fit for School" the German government supports the ministries of education in the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos, to improve water and sanitation systems at schools and to increase hygiene levels by integrating handwashing and brushing your teeth as group activities into daily school life.

"Fit for School" is co-financed by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and has received a commendation from the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Typhoon Haiyan: Assistance for people in the disaster areas

Devastation in the city of Tacloban after typhoon Haiyan.

On 8 November 2013, typhoon Haiyan made landfall on the Philippines. It is thought to be the strongest typhoon ever recorded. The storm and the metres-high waves it caused devastated the south-eastern regions of the Philippines in particular. Several thousand people died. Local infrastructure was destroyed. According to United Nations estimates, more than 13 million people have been affected by the typhoon, including more than 5 million children.

The German government has provided a total of 22.5 million euros in humanitarian emergency aid and for medium-term and longer-term reconstruction and disaster preparedness measures.

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