Despite the worldwide boom in Covid-19 cases in the early part of the year, the Philippines infection rate remained relatively flat. Only in recent times has the archipelago seen an increase in cases, spiking in August with over 55,000 cases. Those are still conservative numbers, even for a nation with a population of just over 100 million.
The Philippines, like most Asian nations have been able to keep their infection rates low. This likely allowing the former Spanish colony to focus on its major rehabilitation of major hydroelectric plants and infrastructural projects to help defend the nation against flooding and storm-related natural disasters. The truth is that like many Asian nations, like the Philippines have taken a page from China’s success manual realizing the value in being self-sufficient and fortifying ties with less volatile European nations. India with all of its masterful growth in the past decade, as well as its position in the BRICS nations, is undoubtedly taking a risk to align with powers that may seek to gut its economy should relations sour even marginally. Unlike India’s gamble, most nations will be carefully evaluating their international alliances and cementing local relationships in an uncertain Covid-19 economy.
The truth is that like many Asian nations, like the Philippines have taken a page from China’s success manual realizing the value in being self-sufficient and fortifying ties with less volatile European nations.
Already the government has targeted ICT ecosystems and the connectivity of the archipelago as a primary future goal, moving ahead with plans even during the pandemic. China’s dominance in this field has been illustrative to others in the APAC region who now seek to create a comparable framework for their own nation. As the European Union struggles to maintain order and health within an already strained alliance, many nations are seeing less benefit in allying with the Union for leadership and support. Aside from anti-government demonstrations in Belarus, and military skirmishes between Azerbaijan and Armenia among other constraints—now growing anti-corona virus protests are sweeping Germany itself with hundreds arrested as locals protest government measures to contain infection rates. It may be that many smaller nations will want to align with less volatile leadership as overrun with pandemics and protest. The EU’s debacles in the Middle East and North Africa with Libya and Syria may leave many Asian countries looking for more steady leadership.
Even the US may not be able to offer the Philippines the support it has once enjoyed as a long time ally. It too continues to struggle to ethically litigate internal ethnic violence, shore up its economy, restrain political intrigue and upgrade its own crumbling infrastructure and quality of life indicators. As the US backs out of more international multilateral alliances, the Philippines will need to be creative in its approach to securing new allies and creating trade and infrastructure partnerships that benefit its people for years to come on the global arena. As the US steps back, it leaves smaller Asian ally states naked. The Philippines focus appears to be in the right place, but as a small nations, its alliances will determine its success for years to come. Nations like the Philippines will need to reevaluate their forward progress in a world where old powers begin to move toward isolationism and survival in the face of new power dynamics and shifting priorities.