Thousands of Filipinos leave the Philippines everyday to escape poverty and hardship, seeking jobs overseas so their families can survive. Although the Philippines is rich in mineral and natural resources, the majority of its people are poor.


The Philippines is a rich, agricultural country covering roughly 300,000 sq. km. of surface area, 76,700 sq. km. forest area, and 34, 600 km of discontinuous coastline. With a tropical climate, the country can grow food all year round with access to diverse fish and marine life.

It estimated to have the largest mineral deposits in the world (worth US$ trillion). It is estimated that it as the 3rd largest deposit in gold, 4th in copper, 5th in nickel and 6th in chromite. When it comes to energy, the Philippines is the second leading producer of geothermal power after the United States.

The country’s rich mineral deposits and geothermal power are due to its geographical location along the Pacific Rim of Fire, where there is volcanic action.


The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported population poverty incidence increasing from 16.7% in 2018 to 18.1% in 2021 based on a daily poverty threshold at a national average of Php79 per person per day. Yet the figure in reality is much higher. The corresponding Php452 daily poverty threshold for a family of five is a mere 41% of IBON’s estimated Php1,107 family living wage (FLW) as of June 2022.

Latest data available shows that the Philippines has the among the worst unemployment and inflation rates among Southeast Asian countries. As of May 2022, the Philippine unemployment rate is at 6%, followed by Indonesia (5.8%) and Malaysia (3.9%). Meanwhile, as of June 2022, the Philippines has the second highest inflation rate (6.1%) among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations 6 (ASEAN 6).

The unemployment rate in the Philippines does not take into account the fact that many Filipinos dropped out of the labor force altogether due to persistently poor job prospects. Informal jobs are also on the rise (42% of total employed in October 2022). Informal workers consist of domestic workers (2 million), the self-employed (13.1 million), and those in own family-operated farms or businesses (4.7 million, which includes 3.4 million unpaid family workers); this does not yet include informal workers in private establishments.


The Philippines is mainly an agricultural country, but so many farmers are barely surviving. Landownership is highly concentrated, dominated by a few big landlord families. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 peasants do not own the land they till.

About 52% of farms are under tenancy arrangements (about 51% of total farm area). Share tenancy is an arrangement where landlords and peasants share the harvest, but the landlords get the lion’s share. Farmers pay land rent that could be as high as 30% to 90% of the produce, and they shoulder all farm production costs. When they are forced to borrow money to cover their deficits, they have to pay high interest rates (up to 75-90% of the harvest). Rural wages are low. The daily minimum agricultural wage is from P151 to P212, but many receive as low as P20 a day (Negros), P50 (Samar) P69 (Cagayan Valley) and P9.50 (Hacienda Luisita).

The agricultural goods of the Philippines are mainly for export, not for its population. Even staple goods such as rice are imported, not produced in the Philippines.

The land controlled by export-oriented corporate farms is increasing. Recent estimates show that 7,590 farms are owned by corporations covering 214,316 hectares. Corporate farms that produce export crops are concentrated in the hands of a few families. Large landholdings of the country’s big family names remain that grow coconut, sugar, banana, pineapple, palm oil, and mango orchards. Control of the land is exerted through mining tenements, forest leases and management agreements, foreshore leases, special economic zones, and tourism zones, and tourism zones including coastal and marine areas, and even expanding in urban areas.

Land monopoly persists and continues to expand under various agribusiness venture agreements (AVAs) and other market-oriented land reform schemes such as the stock distribution option (SDO). Farmers and farmworkers who stand their ground demanding land distribution are met with violence or intimidation by landowners and corporations.

Agrarian reform programs that were enacted under various Philippine governments have not made a dent on the problem of concentrated land ownership. All agrarian reform programs contained loopholes that allowed landlords to limit or evade land re-distribution. This is because of the fact that landlord interests are heavily represented in the Philippine Congress, and big landlords oppose any measures that would reduce their wealth and power.

According to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), 93% of the remaining balance for land redistribution are private agricultural landholdings. There are more than 97,000 hectares of agricultural land converted to other uses while more than 120,000 hectares have been approved for conversion between 1998 until January 2016.


Joblessness, low wages, precarious work and widespread landlessness in the Philippines are rooted in the colonial history of the Philippines.

Since the Spanish colonial era (1565-1898), a feudal system has existed that keeps the majority of peasants landless. Land grabbing from peasants who tilled the land and giving them to datus/chiefs who supported the Spanish colonial regime had led to the creation of an export-oriented hacienda system dominated by a few landlord families. This system was maintained by the United States (1898 to 1946) and maintained by Philippine governments since independence in 1946.

The export of the country’s natural resources (i.e., agricultural products) to be used for industries in rich, capitalist countries has meant that the Philippines has to import products the people need – a system that is called an export-oriented, import-dependent model.

A consequence of an export-oriented, import-dependent model is that there are no national industries that are geared towards the Philippine economy, and can be a sustainable source of jobs for Filipinos. This explains why so many Filipinos are unable to find decent and stable jobs in their own country.

Another harmful outcome of an export-oriented, import-dependent model is a huge foreign debt. The foreign debt has been steadily increasing. In 2021, it increased to US$106.42 billion from US$98.4 billion in 2020.  The foreign debt is due to the chronic trade deficit of the Philippines – the amount of dollars earned from exports is low compared to the amount of dollars it needs to spend on imports.

Remittances from migrants are now the top source of foreign exchange, which keeps the Philippine economy afloat. The Philippines is the 4th largest recipient of migrant remittances at (US$38 billion in 2022), after India, China and Mexico.