After almost half a century of suffering colonial subjugation, the Philippines was “granted” independence on July 4, 1946 by the United States government. More than seven decades hence, the country remains under US economic, political, military and cultural domination.
The US imperialists have perpetuated semicolonial rule in the country through successive puppet governments–from Roxas to Duterte, which invariably carried out the policy impositions of the US imperialists, as well as through armed suppression through the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Under US imperialist rule, the Philippine economy failed to develop productive capacity and remains under the yoke of American big corporations, banks and US-controlled financial institutions. The Philippine mode of production remains semicolonial and semifeudal.
For more than a century now, American monopoly capitalists have siphoned trillions of dollars of superprofits by plundering the country’s timber and mineral resources, extracting cheap agricultural produce and exploiting cheap and oppressed labor. The country has been relegated as a backwater exporter of cheap resources and low-value added good demanded by US industries.
Agricultural production remains primarily small-scale and backward, with large-scale production limited to export crops and under the control of feudal estates or multinational corporations. The Philippines remains without independent industrial capacity, with production linked to and geared towards the so-called “global value chain” of US and other international monopoly capitalists, producing or assembling mostly electronic components, but incapable of producing steel, basic machineries and tools necessary for steady expansion of production.
Local manufacturing capacity is limited largely to food processing. Because of lack of productive capacity, the Philippines remains dependent on importing electronic components for semiprocessing, vehicles and vehicle parts for assembly, cellphones and communications equipment, computers, basic steel, capital goods, machineries, construction materials, hand tools and so on. Practically everything is imported or is dependent on imported components. As a result, the country suffers from chronic trade imbalance and perpetual dependence on loans to bridge deficits and finance production and infrastructure.
The great majority of the Filipino people suffer from ever worsening conditions forms of oppression and exploitation under semicolonial and semifeudal conditions. They suffer from low wages and salaries, oppressive working conditions, job insecurity, massive unemployment, landlessness, rural dispossession and displacement and military abuses. Their grievous conditions remains largely unchanged under US semicolonial rule, deteriorating more rapidly in during the past four decades under the neoliberal policy regime.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the country was subjected to “structural adjustment” during which the International Monetary Fund and World Bank pushed the country to borrow large amounts of loans to fund large dams, energy plants and infrastructure projects under extremely onerous terms including tax packages, raising fuel prices and cutbacks in government spending for health, education and other social services in the name of “belt-tightening” and prioritizing debt repayments.
The people’s social conditions have worsened at an unprecedented pace since the 1990s under so-called “globalization” during which US controlled financial institutions and multilateral agencies pushed for all-out liberalization of trade and investments policies, dismantling of policies protecting national industries, privatization of state assets, foreign ownership and corporatization of key utilities, deregulation of labor and environmental standards, and other oppressive measures.
US corporate and financial interests continue to influence and direct Philippine economic policies primarily through World Bank- and IMF-trained technocrats who head and run the National Economic Development Authority, the Department of Finance, the Central Bank and economic agencies.
In addition to economic leverage, the US imperialists use military pressure to ensure perpetuation of US hegemony. The AFP is the principal pillar of US imperialist power in the country. It continues to be trained, indoctrinated, funded and armed by the US government. Key officers of the AFP have been schooled in the US, and many serve as active agents of the US security and defense establishment. They are zealots of US counterinsurgency doctrine in their aim to suppress the patriotic forces. The AFP remains dependent on US military funding for its “modernization.”
American military advisers and hundreds of troops are permanently stationed in the country, direct counter-guerrilla operations and often deploy their troops and equipment in the field. It has trained and maintains operational control of special units of the AFP including the Light Reaction Regiment and the 1st Combat Brigade Team. US military forces maintain a heavy presence in Western Mindanao to the Sulu islands both as a laboratory for “counter-terrorism” and base to project power in the South China and Malacca trade routes.
Through the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement, the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and other unequal military treaties, the US continues to use the country as a large military base to serve as platform for foreign intervention and power projection (so-called “freedom of navigation” operations) in Asia. In particular, the US military uses the Philippines as a springboard for military operations of the 7th Fleet in the South China Sea to protect US economic interests and assert military superiority against rising imperialist rival China.
Under the EDCA, the US maintains at least five key military facilities within AFP camps to serve as camp for its troops and store and deploy its materiél. It also maintains a network of radars both in the Western and Eastern coastlines of the country. In complete disregard of the ban on nuclear weapons in the Philippine constitution, the US military docks its nuclear-capable warships and submarines in Philippine ports. The US is eyeing to regain control of facilities of its former naval base in Subic by planning to take over the shipbuilding facilities left by the Hanjin Shipping Company.
Ruling class political parties in the Philippines have long been under US tutelage. Its key officers have finished schooling in the US and many are in the payroll or sit in the boards of US multinational corporations operating in the country. They typically act in accordance with US economic, military and geopolitical interests.
Still, by having absolute command of the AFP, the US government exerts immense political pressure on the ruling Philippine government to ensure that it serves American geopolitical interests. Furthermore, US embassy officials, officers of the US Pacific Command, US State Department and Pentagon officials pay regular visits to confer with Malacañang and other government officials to impress US agenda on its puppet officials.
Through control and influence over the Philippine mass media, the internet and social media, schools and other cultural institutions in the Philippines, the US continues to exercise cultural hegemony in the Philippines. One generation of Filipinos after another have been indoctrinated with the US imperialist “freedom” rhetoric. In line with its systematic promotion of its “friends and allies” propaganda, the US government returned the Balangiga Bells last year but downplayed the brutalities perpetrated by US colonial forces in the Philippines for which the US remains unrepentant and unpunished.
The US imperialists are working double-time to strengthen its economic, political, military and cultural hegemony in the Philippines and across the world in the face of continuing international capitalist depression, intensifying inter-imperialist competition and rising contradictions over trade routes and spheres of investment and influence. The US is particularly wary of China and its effort to exert economic, political and cultural influence in the Philippines as well as its build-up of military strength and presence.
China is already making headway under the US-Duterte regime in terms of gaining a military foothold in the South China Sea and strengthening its economic presence in the country. It has also been carrying a campaign to influence public opinion through the Philippine mass media by flooding it with stories and advertisements depicting Chinese economic growth and strengthening its influence among columnists and opinion makers. It is using both economic pressure, bribery and corruption in connection with large amounts of onerous loans to get favors from Philippine officials. However, China remains a far secondary imperialist country in the Philippines compared to US imperialism.
The Philippines is presently in the middle of a gathering inter-imperialist storm which provides opportunities for asserting the country’s national sovereignty. However, starting from a policy of subservience and sellout of patrimony, the US-Duterte regime has succeeded only in worsening the country’s state of economic dependence and debt bondage, strengthening foreign military domination and putting the country in danger of being caught in the middle of superpower armed conflict.
Under the US-Duterte regime, the Philippines status as a US semicolony continues to worsen. The Filipino people must continue to strengthen their patriotism and unite to wage national democratic struggles to end seven decades of semicolonial subjugation and achieve national and social liberation.