While the Aquino reforms have ignited great progress, the next Philippine president will be more independent in critical economic, political, and military decisions that will also shape Southeast Asia’s future, says Dan Steinbock.
After President Ferdinand Marcos (1965-86) and a close relationship with the Reagan administration, the Philippines became known as the “sick man of Asia.” In the past six years, a new confidence has been restored by President Benigno Aquino III, 56, who enjoys the trust of most Filipinos, according to surveys.
As a fourth-generation politician, Aquino’s 2010 election win was buttressed by the legacy of his father, an opposition leader assassinated by Marcos, and his mother, the first post-Marcos president.
Today, the beautiful Catholic-majority Philippines is widely seen as one of the most promising economies in Asia, although the country is still haunted by centrifugal pressures. Politically, it is witnessing the rise of new and more independent leaders, though old political dynasties still cast a shadow over its future.
Strategically, Washington and Manila are cementing a military alliance, which leaves many Filipinos apprehensive.