The events in Egypt over the past week and half or so should make one thing clear for expats, no matter where in the world they are living. What is it? If you are living in a country that is not your “home country” you probably need to have an “exit strategy.” What are you going to do if things become unstable in the country you have decided to live in?
Will the Philippines go the way of Egypt with massive street demonstrations? Anybody who would categorically say “no” better stop and think, because it has already happened twice in the Philippines. First, there was the EDSA revolt in 1986 when Ferdinand Marcos was booted from the Presidency by throngs of people who had grown tired of him holding on to office, and the illegitimate 1986 elections. Millions of Filipinos filled the streets around the EDSA Shrine and eventually, Marcos was driven from power. It happened again in 2001 when EDSA 2 occurred, same place, different President. In 2001, Joseph Estrada was booted from office and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed the Presidency. In both of these cases, the standing President lost control and fell from office when the Philippine military abandoned their support and shifted their support to the other person who later became President. It showed that when a President no longer has the support of the military, they really don’t have any way to hold on to power.
Right now in Egypt, it would appear that the Military has stepped back from it’s support of Mubarak. Military leaders have already stated publicly that they will not fire upon, or in any way interfere with the protesting public. What can Mubarak do? Mubarak’s only “ace in the hole” is the Police, as the Egyptian Police are still supporting Mubarak. It’s a standoff right now, but things are turning violent in Egypt, and it’s not a place or a situation for foreigners, even if they live there, to step in with their opinions, or to take any action.
Today, I saw that the US Government had sent out a message to Americans in Egypt that they must either leave the country today or they are on their own and should not expect assistance from the US Government.
So, wherever you choose to live, do you have a plan of what you will do if the situation turns dark like it is for expats in Egypt?
To be honest, over the years, this is a topic that I have discussed with close expat friends many times. The biggest question we have addressed is “where would you go if we were no longer welcome here in the Philippines?” To that question, we have often had a very difficult time coming up with a place that would be as good or better than the Philippines. There are choices, sure, but I cannot think of a place without some fairly major negatives in this regard.
But the question right now, given the situation in Egypt is not “where would you go” but rather “how will you get out” if things turn bad in the Philippines? To be honest, I have 3 or 4 ideas how I would exit the Philippines with my family, if it became necessary to do so. I don’t have a firm plan in place, though, just a few general ideas in mind. It is probably a good idea to have some kind of “back door” plan that would not involved going to Manila to exit from there, because that is what everybody else will do, and there will be a huge bottle neck jam in Manila if such a time should come. The plans that I have in mind would not involve traveling through Manila.
I do not expect that such an occurrence will happen in the near future, and probably not even within my lifetime. Even if there were unrest in Manila (which there has been during my time here), we live very far from Manila, and even during the two EDSA events that have occurred in the Philippines, there was no trouble this far from Manila, so it’s not a huge concern for me. Still, though, it’s good to have a plan in mind. Even having said that, I do believe that the day is going to come when the lower classes of Philippine society will become tired of living on basically nothing and being oppressed by the upper classes, and they will rise up. That could be a bloody time, even though such action is really not within the Filipino culture. I do fear that the time will come when the oppression will boil over, though, and it could become violent. In my mind, though, it will not happen in the near term, and probably not within my lifetime.
What do you think? Do you have an exit plan? What is your strategy?