Democracy in the Philippines Essay
The two questions to be answered and to form the main topic of discussion for this paper deal with democracy and the forms of government in a democratic society.
Chosen for an interesting topic of discussion is the country in the Philippines, as compared to the United States and its form of government.
The Philippines is chosen because of its unique background, the country having experienced two colonizers, one of which is the United States. The presidential form of government is a legacy of the American colonizers, while the Spaniards introduced Christianity.
Up to the present dispensation, the Philippines is a democratic society with a presidential form of government.
Over the years, there were attempts to change this form of government to parliamentary, but since the Filipinos have become accustomed to it, they have made their intention to oppose any move to change the status quo.
The second question is about a scenario which touches on Philippine tourism. The unique Philippines setting, with backdrops of heritage sites, unique architecture, beautiful scenic spots and islands the likes of the Caribbean, makes our scenario another interesting point of discussion.
Democracy in the Philippines Setting
A country whose people cherish democracy like the United States and Great Britain is the Republic of the Philippines. Filipinos are champions of democracy.
They introduced the term people power in the dictionary as a peaceful revolution when in 1986 they marched in the streets and opposed the guns and tanks of Marcos with their rosaries and flowers as peace offerings. Hours after that, Marcos fled to Hawaii.
The Philippines has a presidential form of government copied from the U.S. model. The branches of government, the bureaucracies and institutions are all U.S. made.
Democratic elections are being held for the president down to the barangay captain who is the head of a barangay, the smallest political unit.
But the democracy the Filipinos now cherish is the result of the sacrifices of heroes who fought in the battlefields of Bataan and Corregidor and the so-called ‘death march’ during World War II. (Canlas, 1999, p. 63)
In a presidential form of government, the people elect the president and vice president, and members of Congress. There are differences however in the manner of elections and the election of the higher and lower positions in government.
The Philippines is a multi-party system while the United States is a two-party system. The two parties are the Republican (GOP) and Democratic parties.
The executive branch in Washington is controlled by the party in power while in the Philippines the president can appoint cabinet secretaries who do not belong to their political party (Fernandez, 2007, p. 169).
More changes came in the style of governance in Washington, like instituting checks and balances within the executive branch itself. (Waldman, 1976, p. 260)
There are attempts to change the form of government from presidential to a parliamentary form of government, and this is through charter change.
But the people and the political leadership, along with the strong political opposition, are still not decided and there is a growing debate over this matter. I believe the Filipino is not ready yet for a parliamentary form of government.
Travel and Tourism Scenario
Travel is an important human activity which affects our understanding of the world and our existence.
It is for this reason that we want to see and witness only the beautiful and pleasant things in the places we go, although there are people who want to see the bizarre and the unexpected.
In other countries, there are communities, human activities, wonderful things, or phenomena that we would like to personally see with our own eyes.
We want to record, write them down and video-tape them for posterity sake. Others consider them as part of their legacy to their children and grandchildren.
An outcome of travel is tourism, or shall we say, travel is a product of tourism. These two have become quite reciprocal, but I can consider it as synonymous.
Our organization considers travel and tourism as one. And our organizational policy must coincide with the policy of the country we conduct business with or guide travelers and tourists for the places they want to see and come in contact with.
We look at the Philippines in Asia with special attention because of its potential as a tourism destination which remains untapped for various reasons we would like to discuss here.
How the people and the government reacted to changes in the course of the country’s existence is an interesting point for discussion, considering that the political upheavals of this particular country influenced tourism policies.
The scenario created in those upheavals and history formed into what the country is today.
The Philippines is a developing country although in some respect it has been observed as more developed than some countries in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Politics and the quest of a few greedy politicians for power have put it in a stagnant position, perhaps deteriorating during the time of Marcos, who ruled with impunity and countless human rights violation. (Beirman, 2003, p. 254)
Our organizational policy we introduced in the Philippines is the same as the policies we introduced on other countries, i.e., we wanted to be a part in promoting tourism in the country by promoting the various tourist and scenic spots, heritage sites, the culture of the people, and other places of human-interest.
We have been in this business for some time now, and we know how to promote our business by promoting others.
Networking is part of our activities. We have always consulted government agencies in our promotional campaigns. Thus, we took some time contacting the tourism offices of the Philippines of which they were also happy to help and partner with us regarding our organizational policy.
We explained that promoting tourism in the Philippines is part of our agenda as a travel agency. Regular consultations have been conducted ever since. We have offices and people in the field, and quite a number of these are in the islands and beautiful places in the country.
We looked forward to promoting the entire archipelago of thousands of islands, the scenic spots, the baroque churches and unique architecture imported from Spain, Greece, and other European countries.
We also noted the uniqueness of the people, the different tribes and ethnic groups, and a ‘new’ race, which can be said as a blending of the east and the west.
Some of its women are holders of international beauty titles, and the workforce is composed of professionals and extraordinary artisans who have gone to different parts of the world to introduce their skills, talents, and professionalism.
To indulge in the Philippines and its people is a unique experience for us as a business organization and as career travel agents whose clients are the peoples of the world.
We consider ourselves and our organization as global, but we know we always want to ‘localize’ our operations to be successful in our business.
With these unique tourism attractions, we also outlined our policies for the country. Promotion and advertising are a part of our policy, but first, we also made it clear with the government agencies we have dealt with, that our organization also have to promote our travel agency.
The activity is reciprocal – we would promote the country, and they can help us by endorsing our agency. That said, we also enumerated objects which were really of interest to our country of destination, the Philippines.
Tourism is one of the major dollar earners of most countries in the world. It is also one of the largest industries in the world when it comes to output, investment, and employment.
Tourism cannot be talked about without mentioning other subjects involving contemporary culture which is influenced by globalization, multiculturalism, transnationalism, and so forth. (Ness, 2003, p. 3)
Tourism is a mix of cultural, economic and political factors (Burns and Novelli, 2007, p. 1), but there is now a renewed focus on it with the emergence of what is called international tourism (Huybers, 2007, p. 5).
The Philippines is an archipelago of thousands of islands, inhabited by many ethnic tribes and people who have experienced colonization from the Spaniards down to the Americans. Filipinos, young and old, know their heritage.
There are ethnic tribes in the mountains, but for those who have settled in the cities and suburban areas, they look like quite similar with their foreign ancestors – different colors of skin like white and brown but fair skin, blue and black eyes, and women with unique beauty, said to be of world class.
Because of the country’s historical background, it has formed its own unique culture but a government based on its experience with two colonizers.
The Spaniards were responsible for the Christianization of the Philippines while the Americans introduced democracy and the presidential form of government. (Schirmer & Shalom, 1987, pp. 1-2)
The presidential form of government was passed on to history by the U.S. during the time of General Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Philippine Republic in 1898, then during World War II, to the time of the dictator, and now the present leader, Benigno Aquino III, son of martyred political leader in the 1980s, Benigno Aquino Jr., who was killed during the Marcos era, and Corazon Aquino who succeeded Marcos after the people power uprising. (Official Gazette, n.d.)
To talk about Philippine tourism and the policies imposed upon it by the government and the people means to speak about its rich history, the culture, and the people.
The people experienced two colonizers and have ingrained in their national psyche the so-called colonial mentality. But they are happy and hospitable people. It is a common public policy to smile and be hospitable to any foreigner who comes in and visits one of their islands.
The Filipinos are a proud race. They smile when they see a tourist. That is tourism public policy number one, and the beginning of a scenario we would like to talk about.
The sad note, however, is this. The Philippines has a big portion of its population in poverty, and so promoting tourism is sometimes distracted with the slums and squatter colonies right in the heart of Manila.
Some laws of the country protect squatter colonies; they cannot just be sent away and their shanties demolished. Laws and regulations are most of the times ignored by ordinary citizens and motorists, and law enforcement is weak. Laws are not strictly enforced.
There are smoke belchers, illegal loggers and other environmental violators, and the government is infested by corruption. But the public sector sees the significant role of the tourism industry in the growth of the economy by providing local employment. (Bloom, 2009, p. 16)
Our organization sees tourism as a flourishing industry in the Philippines and an attractive business venture because of its beautiful scenic spots, baroque churches, white beaches, and various heritage sites, a legacy of the hundreds of years of Spanish colonization, and subsequent American colonization which led to Philippine independence on June 12, 1898.
However, the Philippine tourism industry has passed through various stages of decay and then development.
If public policies had been enforced to the letter, the Philippines could have been the number one tourist destination in Asia because of its rich heritage, historic spots, rich natural resources, and a hospitable people willing to receive any guests who have entered into their shorelines.
We have witnessed it, and we can testify to the beauty of a country. Something has to be done, and we have promoted this country for all of its natural beauty.
Politics and perhaps greed by politicians marred the history of a great nation. From the literature, we can read that tourism was used for political purposes during the regime of the despot Marcos.
Tourism policies were concentrated on government efforts to gain support from foreign governments, especially during martial law which lasted for more than a decade.
There was no popular support or cooperation from the local community who had mixed feelings of fear, hatred, and remorse over the dictatorship. Human rights violations were rampant. Resorts, hotels and other business establishments were owned by cronies.
Rebel groups started to surface, and anarchy reigned. People power, led by Corazon Aquino, which was staged after the killing of her husband and opposition leader, Benigno Aquino Jr., led to the toppling of the dictatorship. Tourism was down at that time. (Gray, 2008, p. 369)
Similarly, the Philippines has a growing population and a bulging bureaucracy. There have been suggestions for it to adapt to the federal form of government.
The regional areas can become states with their constitutions, copy the U.S. model with states having their constitutions, and a supreme constitution.
Checks and balances in the Philippines seem to be not so effective, what with the rampant graft and corruption in the different branches of government as reported in the media.
The media, however, is also as effective in ousting erring officials. People power uprising seems to be the most effective way of punishing politicians who have erred in office and could not be ousted through legal means. (Mayton, 2009, p. 27)
The erring public officials could not be ousted because of the support that they still have in their political base or bailiwicks. Legal means seem to be not effective. But as in the U.S. model, the law is the people. In the EDSA uprising, the Filipinos spoke by denouncing the rampant graft and corruption. The U.S. model uses legal means because of its strong institutions, as mandated by the constitution and the people.
Corazon ‘Cory’ Aquino took over, and once again, her government used tourism as a tool to reassure the international community, particularly Japan and the United States, that she was in control and that her government had gained popular support.
There was a slight improvement in tourism programs though. The people showed support to the government and its programs, and the international community was convinced that there were peace and tranquillity in the islands.
Public policies for tourism centered on making the Philippines the ultimate destination of people seeking refuge from city life. Slowly, tourism was alive again. (Gray, 2008, p. 371)
However, the ‘honeymoon’ period between the new government and the new opposition did not last long.
Opposition to the new government continued to mount protests, a faction in the military staged coup d’états after coup d’états, making tourism once again a dream of people who always love peace. (Gray, 2008, p. 372)
At present, the new administration of President Benigno Aquino III, son of Corazon Aquino and martyred Benigno Aquino Jr., has some bright plans to jumpstart the tourism programs as envisioned by the newly created Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority formerly named the Philippine Tourism Authority. (Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, 2010)
However, tourism is at present going in an up-and-down trend because of terrorism and destabilization campaigns being staged by communist and secessionist groups from the south. Tourism in any country is always affected by threats of terrorism.
In the farther south, in Mindanao, there are various groups seeking to separate from the republic.
The Abu Sayaff group, which has links to Al Qaeda, the international terrorist group headed by Osama bin Laden, has been responsible for various kidnapping incidents involving tourists and businessmen, making tourism in the south down.
That portion of the country is supposed to be a tourist haven because of its natural habitats, but these habitats have become hiding places of terrorist groups. (Travelblog, 2006)
Unlike the other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines cannot rely much on tourism as a dollar earner. The government has to institute measures to promote tourism.
The country is blessed with beautiful scenic spots, the likes of those in the Caribbean; but there are spots which are still not developed. (Richter, 2005, p. 255)
The constitution of the Republic of the Philippines provides for the conservation of lands and tourist parks and the promotion of tourist destinations which may include national parks and other natural resources. (Constitutional Commission, 1986)
The national agency that is taking the overall supervision of tourism is the Philippine Tourism Authority, which has recently been revitalized with a new name, the Tourism Infrastructure, and Enterprise Zone Authority.
It was created by law to develop and promote tourism destinations in the country, but it is under the Department of Tourism headed by a Cabinet Secretary who reports directly to the President of the Philippines. (Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, 2010)
The agency is mandated by law
- to enhance private sector participation in the development of tourism infrastructure in the country;
- to implement privatisation efforts of some government facilities in order to contribute to the government income;
- to maximise collection efforts of the government by promoting tourism destinations;
- to maintain a pool of talented professional and skilled employees and managers to handle tourism. (Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, 2010)
The public policy remains focused on acquiring foreign reserve for the economy to flourish.
The economy now depends on overseas-Filipino-workers’ (OFW) remittances and the volatile markets of a few products such as sugar, pineapple, cotton, coconut, and electronic products, being exported to major countries like the United States. OFW remittances remain the lifeblood of the economy.
The present administration of President Benigno Aquino III has yet to prove how the government can push through with new economic reforms.
Political will is difficult to impose, but the government has shown strength in instituting reforms in the midst of mounting terrorist threats and travel advisories from at least six countries including the United States for their respective citizens not to travel to the Philippines, particularly the provinces in the southern portion of the country which are being threatened by secessionist groups.
The local government units are composed of provinces, which are governed by governors; towns and cities, which are under the leadership of mayors; and barangays which are governed by barangay captains. The centralized form of government had barriers in local governance.
This was amended through the passage of the law known as the Local Government Code of 1991. It pushed for local autonomy where local government units were given a chance to govern.
Local autonomy enabled local officials to govern with authority and responsibilities for the resources of their local areas.
The Code transformed the provinces, towns, cities, and barangays into self-reliant and active local government units (LGU) by providing power, authority, responsibilities, and resources. (General Primer, 1991)
The local government units have the responsibility to promote tourism in their jurisdiction. Our organization has penetrated in these local areas. We have coordinated with the local tourism government agencies so that we could conduct business and promote our product.
Tourists are also guided accordingly. In other parts of the world, we have promoted the different localities of the Philippines as tourist destinations.
Problems in policy implementation
Tourism policies have not been clear. Past administrations have had difficulties in implementing the policies, not for lack of professional and expert policymakers, but due to politics. The present public policy is to promote these scenic spots and make them major dollar earners.
This is with the support and collaboration of the public and private sectors. The government acts as a catalyst and to help in what the private sectors are doing for tourism. The strategy is to develop a closer partnership and cooperation of all stakeholders involved in tourism.
The World Tourism Organization has recommended that the government should not duplicate what the private sectors are doing in tourism so that there will be no overlapping of functions. (Cruz, 2005, p. 49)
There are instances that conflicts arise between the government and private sectors due to the following:
- The private sectors refuse to finance some projects because they don’t believe that it will generate profit, but the government has given it a go and has prioritized it due to its potential as a tourist spot.
- A tourism project has no more market potential, and cannot be sold; the government may be forced to buy it, but conflict arises when the government has not enough money to buy the facility.
- The government is forced to build low-cost “social tourism” which is devoted to the poor, the sick, and the aged.
- The government encourages private sectors to develop tourism activities through pilot projects. (Cruz, 2005, p. 50)
In areas where there are no tourism plans, the government identifies tourism opportunities so that the private sector can invest and provide capital.
The presence of beautiful ‘white’ beaches, mountains and thousands of islands, not to mention the declared UNESCO World Heritage sites, makes the Philippines an attraction to tourists from neighboring countries in Asia, Europe, and the United States. (World Heritage Convention, 2010)
Likewise, it has a rich cultural heritage that has never waned even during economic hardships, political upheavals, and natural calamities.
The eruption of the active volcano in Central Luzon, a major island where Manila is located, has produced new land formation, making the neighboring towns and cities a tourist attraction.
Our organization has promoted these places as a sight to behold. Once they were flood-prone areas but after the flow of ‘lahar’ (lava mixed with sand) coming from the volcano, the places seemed to have ‘grown,’ and the local folks have regarded it as a blessing in disguise.
Filipinos celebrate fiestas, holidays and anniversaries like they are a part of religious obligations. During Lenten season, the Catholic celebration of the Holy Week which observes and honors the Lord Jesus’ passion and death on the cross, Filipinos celebrate it with the actual crucifixion of some of their devotees.
Although this is not permitted by the Catholic Church, the penitents flag their bodies, and the climax is the crucifixion on a hilltop.
At least three penitents are crucified, their hands extended and the nails are pounded hard injuring the penitents who are tied to the three wooden crosses, commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the two criminals beside him, more than two thousand years ago. (The Oxford Business Group, 2008, p. 128)
The Filipinos observe fiestas and Christmases which attract tourists from around the world. Tourism spots are everywhere.
If you go northward, you would be happy to pass by the ‘Hundred Islands’ in Lingayen Gulf, a constant feature in movies depicting World War II, but now a national park. But if you divert to the Visayas islands, there are several places attractive to tourists, one of which is Boracay.
The island is at the tip of the group of Islands, and it is equipped with fine ‘white’ beaches. It is also a constant scene of reality shows featuring local movie stars. Beaches of the world-class are sprawling everywhere in the Visayas and Mindanao.
In each of these tourist destinations, the local community has a big role to play in the promotion and catering to the needs of the tourists. Travel companies and guides also have a big role to play in the promotion of these tourist spots. (Philippines Board, n.d.)
Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan is a historical site because it is the site of one of the fierce sea battles fought between the Japanese and American forces reinforced by Filipino guerrilla forces. The Hundred Islands is not a hundred islands, although the number is approximate.
These places are the source of livelihood of most of its inhabitants, aside of course from fishing. (Hundred Islands National park, n.d.)
Being an archipelagic country, the Philippines has porous borders. The islands in the south, which are known as the ‘backdoor’ because they are not closely guarded and you can easily travel to other countries like Indonesia by way of a small commercial boat, are a tourists’ haven.
The Philippines has purged partnerships with neighboring Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, to make Davao, the ‘backdoor’ city, and surrounding places, as development areas. (Ness, 2003, p. 113)
Puerto Princesa in the island Palawan, itself a province and which is just near Davao, has also been developed, with the help of the UNESCO Development Programme.
The strategy involves community-based tourism in which the local folks, the young and the old, the public and private sectors, join hands to promote tourism destinations. (Gray, 2008, p. 375)
Still in the south of the country, in Zamboanga City, there are beautiful tourist spots being taken care of by residents. The city is inhabited by an ethnic group who speaks ‘Chabacano,’ a dialect which has some semblance to the Spanish language.
The city, however, is a melting pot because of the presence of other ethnic groups. Economic activity is very much alive in this city.
It is also home to the regional headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which keeps guarding the presence of kidnap-for-ransom groups and other criminal elements. Foreign tourists are advised by their respective governments not to venture into this city. (Travelblog, 2006)
The situation affects tourism. Over the past years, tourists from different countries had been kidnapped. Some were killed while others were released on ransom. It is the duty of the government to safeguard the lives of the people, local and foreign.
The local inhabitants, no matter how they want that tourism should improve in their community, could do nothing except rely on the government and to God for peace and unity.
The policy of our organization
Our organization has a big role to play in the promotion of this beautiful country as a tourist destination. We have recruited tourist guides who are well knowledgeable of the areas tourist are more attracted to go and see the places and human activities which can fulfill human interest.
The present government has a present policy of establishing tourism infrastructure through a close partnership between the public and private sectors. We have taken hold of this opportunity.
It has proven to be effective in developing tourism as a major source of income for the local folks and the government in the form of taxes. This is demonstrated in the various examples of public policies in the Philippines setting.
During a recent dialogue with a government agency in charge of promoting tourism, we have made some suggestions.
It is of great importance to any place or country to develop first the community, emphasizing on the capability of the natives or inhabitants to promote tourism and to have an active part in dealing or living with tourists and tourism. It has to be a part of their lives. Tourism can alleviate poverty.
The folks have to perform a hands-on role in formulating those policies because they are the ones directly involved. Tourism affects their livelihood, family, and the whole society in general.
Where there are tourists, there is economic activity. This close coordination between the different sectors of the community has proven to be effective in developing tourism as a major source of livelihood for the local population, and income in the form of taxes for the government.
The most recent public tourism policy the Filipino people are crying and pushing for is to allow the eight-division world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao to be a part of the tourist attraction; in fact, it has already happened.
The world champ, who has been hailed by the Filipinos as a hero, is a boxing phenomenon when he earned the eighth belt upon defeating former world champion, Antonio Margarito. (Sports Newscaster, 2010)
Our organization hailed this recent development in the country and has helped in promoting Pacquiao as another tourist attraction.
Our guides have been instructed to mention Manny Pacquiao and his hometown in Sarangani province. Pacquiao can boost economic activity and tourism, at the same time promote the Philippines and erase all the negative news about the country. This is what the Filipino people want.
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