Philippine population growth, 1961-2003

More recent developments shaped the terrain for the poor’s struggle for property rights in two major ways.  Population growth, increased economic activity, continuing internal warfare, and worsening environmental degradation combined to make the struggle for poor people’s rights a more difficult one.  The need to ensure

Philippine GDP growth, 1960-2009

economic growth in response particularly to population growth and the opportunities offered by globalization (which includes the whole-scale revitalization of the mining and other extractive industries) increases demand for resources and pressure on the property rights of the marginalized.  This increased demand has specifically led to (settler and corporate) encroachments on the land and resources of indigenous peoples.  Environmental degradation effectively decreases the supply of valuable resources, increases the value of ‘untainted’ assets, and intensifies the contest for control over these same assets.  Together with environmental problems, internal warfare has effected a significant movement of poor people from war-torn areas into more ‘peaceful’ jurisdictions and the nation’s urban centers (swelling the urban poor population in the process).   Anecdotal information suggests that the disorder spawned by internal wars have been used by powerful interests to claim ownership over assets in war-torn areas.  In the international arena, the growing need of industrializing China (and possibly India?) for raw material inputs is a special factor in this over-all growth of demand for resources in the country.

Degradation due to mine tailings

On the other side of the balance, the end of authoritarianism in 1986 through a ‘people power revolution’ offered and continues to offer novel opportunities for popular empowerment.  The 1987 Constitution institutionalized

EDSA 1986

popular empowerment as a fundamental state principle.  While at times a shibboleth, the imperative for popular empowerment animates post-authoritarian practice and discourse.  After 1986, the broad anti-dictatorship movement has morphed into a vibrant and more diverse mix of new social movements (including geographically dispersed and grassroots-based environmental movements across the archipelago).  On the policy front, the devolution of central governmental powers and functions to the local governments (through the Local Government Code of 1991) is another important development.  All of these factors combined to widen and enhance the possibilities of ordinary people to have greater control over the lives and their communities, including making their property rights sturdier.

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