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It is said that 250 elite families effectively run the Philippines, exercising almost total control over all political and economic decisions.

In December, a group of farmers in southern Mindanao province rose up to challenge that power, marching 1700 kilometres to Manila in protest at the actions of San Miguel Corporation, Southeast Asia's largest food and beverage conglomerate, run by the Cojuangco family, one of the most powerful in the Philippines.

The farmer's David and Goliath struggle typifies a political and economic system which is holding the country back, leading to the "Myanmarisation" of  the country which, four decades ago was touted as the new Japan.

This episode of 101 East aired on Thursday, January 24, 2008.

Source: Al Jazeera