The Philippines Is Not a Small Power or Pushover

Let go of the notion that the Philippines is weak.
IMAGE Tony Magdaraog / Shutterstock

For many decades up to now, many Filipinos still believe that the Philippines is a weak country. This is partly thanks to the long history of the Philippines as a colonial state. 

But why do many Filipinos think we are still a powerless country in the face of international relations? 

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Political analyst and geopolitics expert Richard Heydarian shared his thoughts with Esquire Philippines

“ I think we have gotten used to this idea that we are a small victimized country and by extension, we're some kind of a David versus the Goliath throughout history,” shared Heydarian. 

According to Heydarian, Filipinos are too enamored with the outdated view of themselves as a small country.

By objective standards, the Philippines is among the world’s 15 largest populations on earth. It is also one of the largest countries, contrary to false beliefs that the Philippines is one of the world’s smallest countries. In fact, the Philippines has one of the longest coastlines equal to that of Canada’s and Russia’s. 

Economically, the Philippines is no pushover either. It is among the world’s 40 largest economies and is expected to breach the top 20 within this generation.

“The idea of being a small country kind of feeds into our national identity as a small victimized country but nonetheless feistypalaban.”


The Philippines is considered an 'Emerging Middle Power,' and that's something to be proud of.

No less than the Hague Center for Strategic Studies (HCSS) considers the Philippines one of the influential countries not only in Southeast Asia, but the whole world. It groups the country together with Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Ukraine as some of the world’s “emerging middle powers.” In fact, the Philippines ranks higher than these countries according to the HCSS diagram below. 

Photo by Hague Center for Strategic Studies.

If this were to be believed, it means the Philippines is more powerful than neighbors Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia

According to Heydarian, power in international relations is not just about raw power or military power.

“Being a middle power is not only about the military and raw power, but it's also about soft power, it’s about our role international institutions, and I think the Philippines has done a great job as one of the core framers of the human rights doctrine in the United Nations,” said Heydarian.

More: Europe's Nuclear Powers Back Philippines Against China in the West Philippine Sea

The Philippines has a very strong voice in international relations.

The Philippines commands one of the most powerful voices on the world stage, not just in recent years but since the founding of the United Nations. Ever since the creation of the U.N. in 1945, the Philippines has been a very vocal, influential, and valuable asset as a member.

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The Philippines gave the U.N. its first Asian president—Carlos P. Romulo, “The Great Statesman.” 

In 1948, after a disagreement during the third U.N. General Assembly, the Soviet Union (USSR) top diplomat Andrei Vishinsky approached Romulo and belittled him and the Philippines.

“You are just a little man from a little country,” said Vishinsky. 

“It is the duty of the little Davids of this world to fling the pebbles of truth in the eyes of the blustering Goliaths and force them to behave!” said Romulo. Vishinsky walked away. 

The Philippines also enjoys a significant amount of international prestige or how other countries view it and its opinions. 

The Philippines is highly respected by other nations. 

At the U.N., the Philippines has a very long track record of standing up for children’s rights, women’s rights, and migrants’ rights.

It is also one of the few nations that send peacekeeping forces to conflict areas around the world. Because of these, other nations view the Philippines as a responsible and highly respected member of the international community. 

“From our contributions to U.N.’s Founding Principles and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to our co-founding of the ASEAN and commitment to peacekeeping operations in conflict zones and decades of proactive democracy advocacy, the Philippines has been a significant contributor to the liberal international order in ways even our own leaders and folks sometimes tend to under-appreciate,” said Heydarian. 

The Philippines is not a great power, but it is certainly not a small power. 



“Just as we steadily develop our hard power base, let’s not forget how much soft power we already have at our disposal,” concludes Heydarian.

MoreWhat Would Happen if the Philippines Left the United Nations?

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