The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands divided into 3 major regions: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The bulk of its population, however, lives on just 11 of these scattered islands. Sixty-five percent of the population lives in urban centers. Children comprise nearly half of its population. It is the 12th most populous country in the world.
Much of the country is mountainous and prone to earthquakes and eruptions from around 20 active volcanoes. It is often buffeted by typhoons.
The system of government is Republican, i.e. there is an executive Presidency, and a bicameral legislature (Congress) comprised of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
It is Asia’s largest Catholic nation, with the Catholic Church playing a strong influence on the life of the nation, including in politics.
The Philippines was colonized by Spain, Japan and lastly by the Americans. It gained its independence from more than 300 years of Spanish rule in 12 June 1898 and on 4 July 1946 from the Americans.
Poverty is a persistent national development problem in the Philippines. The country’s economic policies continue to fail in alleviating widespread poverty. One in every 3 Filipinos lives on less than 1.35 USD per day. In Asia Pacific, the Philippines has the 3rd highest rate of inequality between the rich and the poor (coming next after Nepal and China). To illustrate this, in 2006, the net worth of the 20 richest Filipinos was equivalent to the combined income per year of the poorest 10.4 million Filipino families.
Political stability is another major development issue. The restoration of democracy after the ouster of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled for 14 years under martial law, failed to usher in political stability. The leadership of the 4 post-martial law presidents was consistently threatened by coups and mutiny attempts. On the other hand, due to the impasse of peace talks, the government continues to battle with Moro separatists and communist insurgents, displacing many affected communities especially in the southern island of Mindanao. The Abu Sayyaf Group is considered the most violent Muslim rebel group in the country and is alleged to be behind at least 30 high profile kidnap-for-ransom incidences in the past 2 years. It continues to operate in the southernmost islands in Mindanao.
Corruption likewise remains an extensive ingrained practice in governance. In fact in recent years, the Philippines has been rated as the most corrupt country in Southeast Asia, overtaking Indonesia and Thailand.
The Philippines ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) by an act of Congress in July 1990. It is the 31st State to become a signatory to the Convention. It also signed the two UNCRC Optional Protocols, i.e. on the involvement of children in armed conflict and sale, child prostitution and pornography. The country has made great strides in complying with the Convention through the passage of several laws against child abuse and exploitation, but severe rights non-compliance and violations remain. Among these are lack of access to basic quality education and health services and the lack of protection against child trafficking, prostitution and pornography and recruitment as child soldiers in armed conflict areas. There is no explicit ban against corporal punishment in the homes. Violations against children in conflict with the law and summary executions of street children remain as serious child rights issues.
Concerns and Priorities
terre des hommes Germany started working in the Philippines in the early 1980s. It has worked in partnership with local and grassroot organizations in undertaking initiatives for children and their communities in rural and urban areas with high incidences of poverty and marginalization. Given the island’s context of neglect and armed conflict, Mindanao in southern Philippines has been and will continue to be the priority geographical focus of tdh’s work in the Philippines.
Through the years, tdh has specifically supported projects that promote children's rights to basic and culturally-sensitive education and health and to alternative family care through adoption and foster care. Child rights work that protects children from violence, abuse and exploitation has also been a priority. These projects include those that address the issues and concerns of children in prostitution and trafficked children, children in exploitative labour, child soldiers and children affected by armed conflict, street children and children in conflict with the law. Work that respond to violence against women, ecology protection and promotion and respect for cultural diversity, and that support the struggle of indigenous people and peasant farmers to their right to their ancestral domain and farmland are also issues that tdh has supported.
For 2010 to 2012, the Philippine programme will focus on supporting work that will protect children in situations of violent conflict, both in the context of armed conflict and urban violence. Projects that aim to establish localized initiatives that promote bio-cultural diversity and that protect children and their rights from the impact of globalization will also be priority concerns. Children of indigenous communities, children in communities that are environmentally threatened by mining and agricultural plantations shall be priority target groups. Child labour, specifically in agriculture, will remain a priority thematic focus. Projects being supported must promote and fulfil the participation rights of children. Lastly, ensuring children’s right to a name and nationality will be a crosscutting concern, concretized through support for initiatives that will assist children in securing basic birth registration.
The programme of terre des hommes Germany in the Philippines will also give importance to the building alliances with and among project partners and other child rights organizations in promoting localized conduct of child rights audit and monitoring of the status of implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.