‘Not all were asleep in the night-time of our grandparents’.” —The Philosopher Tasio, in Noli Me Tangere.
National hero Jose Rizal wrote “Filipinas dentro de cien anos” (“The Philippines a century hence”), a socio-political essay written in four parts, for the magazine La Solidaridad, from September 1889 to-January 1890. In it he attempted to predict the country’s future by outlining several scenarios for how the Philippines might evolve over the next century.
As a technology practitioner, I had wondered how an AI instructed to answer like Jose Rizal and (updated with inputs from historian) Yuval Noah Harari would answer the prompt: “What would the Philippines be like in 100 years?” I have reproduced the answer below without any modifications or corrections. Of course, give how generative AI like ChatGPT generates their answers from limited and skewed existing information, this answer needs to be taken with a VERY big grain of salt.
However, the resulting short essay is both thought-provoking and honestly, sad — in the very same way that Gregorio Brillantes’ seminal short story, Apollo Centennial, was. Will we ever see change? Even an AI doesn’t seem to think so.
The Philippines in 2123: Exploring the Top 5 Challenges of its Future
Looking ahead to the year 2123, the Philippines faces a myriad of challenges that could significantly shape its future. This speculative essay examines the top five issues that are likely to confront the country: economic disparities, entrenched political dynasties, the persistent intertwining of Church and State, increasing encroachment by China, and a high net emigration rate. While the road ahead is riddled with complexities, drawing lessons from Philippine history and its regional neighbors allows us to make realistic projections on the potential trajectory of the nation.
- Economic Disparities and Inequality:
Despite making strides in economic growth, the Philippines continues to grapple with significant income disparities. This issue is rooted in historical factors such as colonial exploitation, widespread corruption, and a lack of inclusive policies. The persistence of an unequal distribution of wealth poses a challenge to social cohesion, leading to social unrest, political instability, and a potential threat to the country’s stability.
Historical examples, such as the Hukbalahap rebellion in the mid-20th century, highlight the consequences of unaddressed economic disparities. If left unaddressed, the Philippines may face continued regional social unrest, exacerbating the potential for a failed state scenario, particularly the possibility of splintering the nation into separate polities.
- Entrenched Political Dynasties:
The prevalence of political dynasties in the Philippines is a deeply ingrained issue that has hindered democratic development and contributed to systemic corruption. The concentration of power within certain families perpetuates nepotism, patronage politics, and a lack of policy continuity. This phenomenon poses a significant obstacle to effective governance and public service delivery.
Lessons from Philippine history, such as the Marcos regime’s abuse of power and rampant corruption, underscore the dangers of uncontrolled political dynasties. Without comprehensive political reforms and a genuine commitment to democratic principles, the Philippines may continue to struggle with governance challenges, impeding progress and perpetuating a feudal mentality within its polity.
- Inability to Separate Church from State:
The persistent intertwining of Church and State in the Philippines presents another challenge to modern governance and societal progress. Despite a constitutional provision mandating the separation of Church and State, religious institutions continue to exert significant influence on political affairs, policy-making, and social norms.
Philippine history, notably the influence of the Catholic Church during the Spanish colonial period and the People Power Revolution in 1986, exemplifies the consequences of religious interference in politics. The inability to strike a delicate balance between religious freedom and secular governance may hinder the country’s ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world and contribute to societal divisions, potentially undermining stability.
- Increasing Threat from China:
The geopolitical dynamics of the region have a profound impact on the Philippines’ future. China’s assertive posture in the South China Sea raises concerns about territorial disputes, economic coercion, and potential military confrontation. The Philippines, with its strategic location, its rich marine resources – not to mention its special relationship with the United States, finds itself in the crosshairs of this power play.
Looking to the experiences of neighboring countries like Vietnam and Singapore, which has faced similar challenges, we can anticipate that the Philippines will need to carefully navigate its relationship with China to safeguard its sovereignty and economic interests. Failure to do so may result in a compromised national security apparatus, reduced access to vital resources, and limited opportunities for economic growth.
- High Net Emigration Rate:
The persistent phenomenon of high net emigration poses a significant challenge to the Philippines’ future. Economic opportunities, political instability, and social unrest have historically driven waves of Filipino emigration, leading to brain drain and the loss of skilled human capital. This exodus deprives the country of talent, stifles economic growth, and further exacerbates inequality.
The experiences of neighboring countries like the Philippines’ diaspora in the United States and the Middle East provide valuable insights into the potential long-term consequences of high net emigration. To mitigate this challenge, the Philippines needs to address the root causes of emigration (such as poorly planned and managed infrastructure), invest in education and job creation, and establish favorable conditions for talent retention.
Will the Philippines Become a Failed State?
While the challenges discussed above are formidable, it is essential to approach the question of a failed state scenario with caution. The future of the Philippines hinges on the ability of its leaders and society to tackle these issues head-on, drawing from historical lessons and regional experiences.
The Philippines has demonstrated resilience in the face of adversity throughout its history, including successful democratic transitions and significant economic growth. However, the path towards progress and stability requires concerted efforts to address economic disparities, reform political structures, ensure secular governance, protect national interests, and invest in human capital.
Ultimately, the fate of the Philippines rests in the hands of its people and leaders. By embracing inclusive governance, fostering economic development, promoting social cohesion, and actively engaging in regional diplomacy, the Philippines has the potential to overcome these challenges and forge a future that ensures stability, prosperity, and avert failure.
In conclusion, the Philippines will face a myriad of challenges in the coming century. While the path ahead is uncertain, valuable lessons from Philippine history and regional experiences offer a roadmap for addressing these issues. By embracing inclusive policies, reforming political structures, promoting secular governance, protecting national interests, and investing in human capital, the Philippines can strive to overcome these obstacles and avoid the specter of a failed state.