Let us not disrupt ourselves
There have been serious disruptions in the world. Funny that the Philippines has been trying bravely to contribute its share. On the first day of 2023, the Philippine air space became a dangerous place to be. No, there was no war, but uncontrolled air traffic can be disastrous. All the more planes landing and taking off. Somehow, an alleged technical glitch paralyzed the air control system of the Philippines and its air space.
How many times has it happened in the world that a country’s whole air space is like a big black hole? I cannot remember anything of that sort happening – ever. Of course, there are countries who limit the use of their air space, but the whole world knows about it. Airlines avoid that country just as that country would apparently prefer to be in isolation.
The Philippines is the opposite. Tourism is a major front face, just like welcoming foreign investments. Which means we do not have enough international airports for the kind of volume of passengers, tourists or business people that we want to lure into the country. That is why losing one’s functional capacity to direct air traffic, local and international, is not only a disruption but a disaster.
We Filipinos have to get used to being jolted more often than before. The state of the world is totally erratic. Not yet that volatile but already erratic. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is considered by Western Europe as a signal that it, too, can be Russia’s ultimate target. That is why the EU is supporting Ukraine all the way, it seems. If Ukraine falls, other countries consider themselves next in line.
Western Europe means NATO, too, and that drags so many other non-European countries into the fray – all the way to Australia. Filipinos cannot say that it is none of our business. Our business is millions of Filipinos working overseas, and most host countries employing Filipinos are somehow involved with the Russian-Ukraine conflict. Our business is already disrupted by war even though the armed hostilities have stayed directly between Russia and Ukraine. We know only too well that Ukraine does not fight for itself at this stage but for everybody else threatened by a Russia-controlled by Putin.
Several countries in South America are having their own internal conflicts, and they, too, drag others into their problems. China is like a dark cloud from a huge mountain staring at us, not only Taiwan. What claims it is making on Taiwan, China is also making on our seas and our islets. We cannot even try to develop our oil and gas reserves without asking China for permission. Our waters, our economic zones, yet we cannot make a simple economic move without China telling us it is okay.
Inflation continues to squeeze the budgets of Filipinos who already never had enough – except for the 10-20% at the top. Businesses know how things are, and their employees know as well. No one wants to add doom to the gloom because business needs hope to survive. But it is not only sibuyas, it is almost everything else. Inflation is not 7% to Filipinos; inflation is how much prices for basic commodities increase.
I understand that the 2022 presidential elections caused money to reach millions of Filipinos, maybe enough for them to stave off the immediate impact of inflation. But nobody is giving money to ordinary and poor Filipinos anymore, not until the next elections. Subsidies will mitigate the fear and pain, and the government is borrowing more money before it is making enough to amortize a government debt that has ballooned from 6 trillion pesos to 13 trillion.
Government knows that poverty is much more than government statistics claim. That is why it pursues the programs of subsidy and borrowing early to slow down the discontent from a population struggling to make ends meet. Government also knows that borrowing and borrowing will fracture not just our balance sheet but our credit rating as well. There must be some impetus for extra production of basic needs like food, extra employment, and the pump-priming of small and medium enterprises.
We need the people to be motivated, to be inspired by vision and leadership, to take extra steps to do more, build more, produce more, and ask less. Soon, people will be desperate for some good news and it is the ripe moment to rally them. They will need to see, to hear, and to feel reality coming closer to making hope come true. Leadership is so critical at this point. It is not easy to reverse dependency to productivity.
I know disruptions will happen. They are inevitable at this period of history, ours and the world’s. But we need not try to shoot ourselves in the foot by creating disruptions instead of stability. We do not need weekends like the last one when military and police camps in Metro Manila go on red alert, then try to assuage the natural curiosity of Filipinos who see and hear the unusual by giving inane explanations.
The AFP’s Chief of Staff is quietly relieved, and as quietly, a recently-removed Chief of Staff is reinstated. The Defense Department’s Officer-in-Charge resigns and a new Defense OIC is appointed. All quietly. As though these are simply routine events.
People should not be distracted from the emergency of feeding their families and making them feel more secure about the immediate future. Political leadership should prepare us for disruptions that the times bring and not the political leadership being the disruption. However, I must commend those involved in that recent unknown crisis. They managed to keep most of the public unaware that a serious drama was happening.
Putting that strange scenario behind us, we look to local leaders to minimize the impact of inflation. We understand that the re-opening of the economy will need more time to go full blast. It is a day-to-day struggle for most Filipinos, and we must find ways to help one another. Kapit bisig, kapatid.
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