The Philippine Islands became a Spanish colony during the 16th century; they were ceded to the US in 1898 following the Spanish-American War. In 1935 the Philippines became a self-governing commonwealth. Manuel QUEZON was elected president and was tasked with preparing the country for independence after a 10-year transition. In 1942 the islands fell under Japanese occupation during World War II, and US forces and Filipinos fought together during 1944-45 to regain control. On 4 July 1946 the Republic of the Philippines attained its independence. A 20-year rule by Ferdinand MARCOS ended in 1986, when a "people power" movement in Manila ("EDSA 1") forced him into exile and installed Corazon AQUINO as president. Her presidency was hampered by several coup attempts that prevented a return to full political stability and economic development. Fidel RAMOS was elected president in 1992. His administration was marked by increased stability and by progress on economic reforms. In 1992, the US closed its last military bases on the islands. Joseph ESTRADA was elected president in 1998. He was succeeded by his vice-president, Gloria MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, in January 2001 after ESTRADA's stormy impeachment trial on corruption charges broke down and another "people power" movement ("EDSA 2") demanded his resignation. MACAPAGAL-ARROYO was elected to a six-year term as president in May 2004. Her presidency was marred by several corruption allegations but the Philippine economy was one of the few to avoid contraction following the 2008 global financial crisis, expanding each year of her administration. Benigno AQUINO III was elected to a six-year term as president in May 2010 and was succeeded by Rodrigo DUTERTE in May 2016.The Philippine Government faces threats from several groups, some of which are on the US Government's Foreign Terrorist Organization list. Manila has waged a decades-long struggle against ethnic Moro insurgencies in the southern Philippines, which has led to a peace accord with the Moro National Liberation Front and ongoing peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The decades-long Maoist-inspired New People's Army insurgency also operates through much of the country. The Philippines faces increased tension with China over disputed territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea.
The economy has been relatively resilient to global economic shocks due to less exposure to troubled international securities, lower dependence on exports, relatively resilient domestic consumption, large remittances from about 10 million overseas Filipino workers and migrants, and a rapidly expanding outsourcing industry. During 2016, the current account balance narrowed to its lowest level since the 2008 global financial crisis, but nevertheless mustered a surplus for a 14th consecutive year. International reserves remain at comfortable levels and the banking system is stable.Efforts to improve tax administration and expenditures management have helped ease the Philippines' debt burden and tight fiscal situation. The Philippines received investment-grade credit ratings on its sovereign debt under the former AQUINO administration and has had little difficulty financing its budget deficits. However, weak absorptive capacity and implementation bottlenecks have prevented the government from maximizing its expenditure plans. Although it has improved, the low tax-to-GDP ratio remains a constraint to supporting increasingly higher spending levels and sustaining high and inclusive growth over the longer term.Economic growth has accelerated, averaging 6.1% per year from 2011 to 2016, compared with 4.5% under the MACAPAGAL-ARROYO government; and competitiveness rankings have improved. Although 2016 saw a record year for net foreign direct investment inflows, FDI to the Philippines has continued to lag regional peers, in part because the Philippine constitution and other laws restrict foreign ownership in important activities/sectors - such as land ownership and public utilities.Although the economy grew at a faster pace under the AQUINO government, challenges to achieving more inclusive growth remain. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of the rich. The unemployment rate declined from 7.3% to 5.5% between 2010 and 2016 but the jobs are low paying and tedious. Underemployment hovers at around 18% to 19% of the employed. At least 40% of the employed work in the informal sector. Poverty afflicts more than a fifth of the population. More than 60% of the poor reside in rural areas, where the incidence of poverty (about 30%) is more severe - a challenge to raising rural farm and non-farm incomes. Continued efforts are needed to improve governance, the judicial system, the regulatory environment, the infrastructure, and the overall ease of doing business.2016 saw the election of President Rodrigo DUTERTE, who has pledged to make inclusive growth and poverty reduction his top priority. DUTERTE believes that illegal drug use, crime and corruption are key barriers to economic development among the lower income class. This administration wants to reduce the poverty rate to 14% and graduate the economy to upper-middle income status by the end of President DUTERTE’s term in 2022. Key themes under the government’s Ten-Point Socioeconomic Agenda include continuity of macroeconomic policy, tax reform, higher investments in infrastructure and human capital development, and improving competitiveness and the overall ease of doing business. The administration has vowed to address spending bottlenecks and is pushing for congressional passage of a Comprehensive Tax Reform Program to help finance more aggressive infrastructure and social spending, starting in 2018. The government also supports relaxing restrictions on foreign ownership, except for land.