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Philippines: a turbulent election race| RiskMap2022

Asia Pacific

Philippines: a turbulent election race distracts from (mostly) business as usual 

Dereck Aw | Senior Analyst

Fear and excitement pave the way to the May 2022 presidential election in the Philippines, where the controversial incumbent Rodrigo Duterte is ineligible for re-election. The president has been grooming his daughter, Davao city mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, to succeed him in 2022, but the pandemic’s economic devastation appears to be convincing many Filipinos that they would like a change in management.

Election fever will tempt many to fixate on the controversies and comedy that the six-yearly contest brings. While we should not expect massive changes in the business environment or the pace of reforms as a result of this election, the next president will have both the prerogative and intent to create new winners and losers in the pandemic-stricken economy.  

 

Among a long list of candidates, the ones to watch are:

  • Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr, son and namesake of the former strongman
  • Vice president and opposition leader Leni Robredo
  • Manila mayor Isko Moreno
  • Senator and world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao


These candidates have varying claims to competence, but all of them have a credible path to victory. The Philippines uses a single-round, plurality-rule electoral system to select its president, which means the next could be elected with as little as 25% of the votes. This makes the outcome of the high-stakes race to succeed Duterte even more difficult to anticipate and subject to last-minute surprises and bargaining.  

Foreign businesses should keep a close eye on risks specific to their sectors and local partners. The coalition of political and business interests the candidates build to win has significance for governance and predictability. Major foreign investors need to understand how the next president will reward allies, penalise adversaries and distribute power across a complex political system, and how these actions impact risks to their investments and local partners. Such factors ultimately caused regulatory upheavals in sectors such as mining, energy and telecoms and forced the sale of several large businesses and concessions over previous presidential cycles.   

The domestic political system places emphasis on the identity and preferences of the president, which exercises an outsized role and interest in producing new winners and losers in Philippine business. Failing to reassess an investment or local partner’s risk exposure during a highly emotive and consequential presidential election can therefore cost you dearly. 

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