Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

North-South refers to the political-economic division between rich and poor nations. This designation is still relevant when analyzing the worsening economic inequality in the globe. The North-South divide is also a North-South conflict. The North exploits the South; the North accumulates its wealth by dominating the South.

In the Philippine context the North-South divide refers to the lopsided set-up between Imperial Manila and the rest of the country. Urban Mega Manila is North while the rural areas of the Philippines belong to the South. Mindanao is the famous image of the South. The 20th century witnessed the exceptional struggle of the rural South to dislodge the Imperial North.

Imperial Manila is expanding today. It is now Mega Manila. Soon, it will be Metro Luzon. The western corridor of Luzon is included in the Metro Luzon Urban Beltway of the Super Regions program of President Gloria Arroyo. The political-geographical landscape is changing.

As urbanization spreads outside Metro Manila, the West-East divide will soon become apparent. The West refers to the coastal cities of Luzon facing the South China Sea. It also includes the emerging urban areas and tourist zones in South Luzon, West (Iloilo) and Central Visayas (Cebu). The West is the country’s premier trading outpost which targets the dollar investments from Japan, China, and other East Asian giants. The West is an economic hub represented by Metro Manila, Metro Cavite, Metro Laguna, Metro Bulacan, Subic, Clark, Mariveles, and Poro Point. The country’s major international airports, seaports, and modern railways are located in the West.

The East refers to the rural provinces facing the Pacific Ocean. It includes Cagayan Valley, Cordilleras, the provinces located on the eastern side of Sierra Madre, Bicol region, Eastern Visayas and Mindanao. The country’s poorest provinces are located in the East. It is no accident that armed rebels seem to be proliferating in the East. All empirical studies show that rebellion is strong in areas where there is rampant poverty.

The East is condemned because it is too poor. It is too remote and detached from Manila. It is too rebellious. Therefore it deserves to be oppressed. It has to be colonized by brute force. But the East is also feared. Its very backwardness can cause the defeat of the dominant political class. Its unbelievable defiance can inspire the poor to rise and punish the oppressors.

The State is prepared to defend the North from the attacking forces of the South. It can effectively prevent dissidents from invading the North by controlling the major transport routes north and south of Mega Manila. But is the State ready to defeat the rebels if they come from the East? The literal east. From the Sierra Madres. From the Rizal highlands. From the eastern corridor of Metro Manila. What if an enemy force will attack the archipelago from the Pacific Ocean?

Scenario: The revolutionary forces can manage to overwhelm the modern machinery of the armed State by deploying their forces in all directions around Mega Manila: north, south, west, east. Build the army in the countryside. Attack from the mountains. Maximize the seas and lakes. Invade the north from the south (though the nautical highways, expressways, railways). Invade the west from the east. A political force which has the creative will and imagination to unite the East – South can claim political victory in the future.

To travel outside Manila is to go north or south. People don’t go to the west (water transport system is not efficient) or east. Few Manilans know that Metro Manila has an eastern corridor. The recent flooding tragedy damaged several eastern cities of Metro Manila. It is through this eastern side of Imperial Manila where the weakest link of the State is located. The political and economic infrastructures of the ruling class are not well-developed here. If the rebels and other historymakers gain momentum in the future, they will enter Manila through this passage.

Related articles:

Railway politics
Bundok, dagat, pulitika
20th century: Imperialism and Revolution

One Response to “East-West”

  1. […] Let us now discuss poverty. It’s not enough to state that the Philippines remains a poor nation. Some regions are poorer than others. Some islands have greater wealth than others. Economic deprivation is worse in ARMM compared to Luzon regions. The economic divide in the Philippines refers to the North and South. But in terms of income gap, the more accurate division is East-West […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Think Out of the Box? Not if it’s a Balikbayan Box

Leave a Reply