Philippines. The House Speaker, Jose de Venecia, was dismissed in February after a majority of the House members voted for it. The measure was seen as a way for President Gloria Arroyo to protect himself from corruption charges. Jose de Venecia had been in the post for twelve years and was previously an ally of Arroyo, but more recently he had supported his son who, before the Senate, had accused the president’s husband, Jos谷 Miguel Arroyo, of receiving bribes in connection with a multi-million deal with a Chinese telecom company. de Venezia was replaced by Prospero Nograles, who is loyal to the president. Speculation about the contract with the Chinese company continued despite the President’s dismissal. A few weeks later, Arroyo therefore completed eleven development projects financed with loans from China.
The sharp price increases in cereals worldwide during the first half of 2008 hit hard on the Philippines, the world’s largest importer of rice. Many of the world’s major rise exporters restricted their exports due to reduced production, and the Philippines risked a shortage of staple goods. In order to avoid protests, the government sent the military to distribute rice in certain poor areas. The government also planned to introduce a new system for selling subsidized rice in special stores to people with an income lower than 1,000 pesos (SEK 164) a month. Due to lack of control, subsidized rice in the regular market has so far often been bought by the middle class. At the same time, in mid-April, President Arroyo sought to assure the public that the country had sufficient rice stocks for the foreseeable future. She said the authorities would resort to hoarding and price speculation to avoid deficits and control rice prices, which had already risen by about 30 percent. The government also planned major investments in agriculture to make the Philippines self-sufficient on rice by 2010.
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In April, nine officers were sentenced to between 6 and 40 years in prison for participating in a coup attempt against Arroyo in July 2003. One month later, the president pardoned the military. In December 2007, she had let fifty soldiers go free since they pleaded guilty to intervening in another coup attempt in 2003. According to analysts, the government is not taking the hard gloves against coup makers because it wants to avoid further insurgency within the armed forces and the public, which often sees noisy officers as heroes.
Over 800 people were killed when a ferry sank in central Philippines on June 21. The ferry was on its way from the capital Manila to the island of Cebu when it capsized in high waves caused by a typhoon. In addition to those killed in the ferry disaster, at least 224 people died in the landslides and floods caused by typhoon Fengshen.
The peace talks between the government and the MILF guerrilla (Moro’s Islamic Liberation Front), which has been going on since 2001, collapsed in early August. New fighting then broke out between the Muslim separatists and the army, and hundreds of thousands of people in the south island of Mindanao were forced to flee their homes. The background was that, following protests from Christian politicians, the Supreme Court had stopped an agreement to extend the current Muslim autonomous zone in Mindanao to include the neighboring province of Northern Cotabato. The residents of the province would have received a referendum on being included in the Muslim zone. The agreement between the government and the MILF, which was ready to be signed on August 5, would also have given the Muslim area the right to tax revenues from, among other things, oil and mines in the region. The Christians, who make up the majority of Mindanao’s population,
The lack of agreement caused the MILF rebels to occupy several villages in Northern Cotabato. Government forces attacked the rebels and bombed their positions to regain control of the villages. Struggles continued for a few days until the government forces took control of the occupied villages on 13 August and the separatists were said to have left the area. At least 30 people were reported killed in the fighting in early August.
Neighboring Malaysia, which has been mediating between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF guerrilla since 2003, had begun withdrawing its peace observers from Mindanao in May because of the lack of progress in the peace talks. But government and MILF representatives met at the end of August for talks in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur to convince the neighboring country to keep its peace observers in the Philippines. Malaysia agreed to stay in the area for another three months, but the number of observers had then been reduced from 41 to 12. On November 30, the Malaysian government sent home its last observers, but said they were prepared to consider sending new ones if you see success in peace process and if both parties request it.
Occasional fighting between the MILF and the army continued to flare up even after 13 August. According to a report by Amnesty International at the end of November, the civilian population of Mindanao was severely affected by the collapsed peace process. Since August, at least 100 civilians had died and about 400,000 people had been forced to flee their homes.
On December 2, a clear majority of the House of Representatives voted no to bring Arroyo to court for corruption in connection with the China dealings at the beginning of the year. This was the opposition’s fourth attempt to bring about a judicial process against the president since she took office in 2001. Arroyo was re-elected in 2004 and her term expires in 2010.
According to Countryaah reports, the population of Philippines in 2008 was 93,966,669, ranking number 12 in the world. The population growth rate was 1.710% yearly, and the population density was 315.1450 people per km2.