Our situation is unsustainable. Thoughtless, toxic party politics occupy strategic space in mass and social media at a time when so many top priorities are calling for attention. Let us examine four external risks that threaten our national welfare:
First, the Delta variant that sweeps the world is here and has been forced back by strict lockdowns. It is more contagious than the original Alpha variant. Each age group is now at risk. Babies and children appear in hospital reports, unlike Alpha, which mainly affected elderly citizens. Nations that are loosening restrictions and opening up their economies are now imposing all necessary security protocols. Past assumptions fly out the window. First, no one is immune to infection, even after two bites.
There is growing evidence that fully vaccinated people are capable of infecting others. Recent reports here and from abroad show that almost all those who were hospitalized and those who died were unvaccinated. There are alarming forecasts for more virulent varieties in the future. These reports soften opposition to vaccines, but it also frustrates those who now want to be vaccinated but cannot because of supply issues. My close relatives, friends and acquaintances have survived, but some did not. That’s really stupid.
Real vaccines immunize for life. The anti-COVID “vaccines” marketed today are still experimental. Their strength is reportedly limited in duration (eight months or so?). Which brands are effective against Delta? No one knows yet. One thing is for sure – the virus is clearly in control. Many of its aspects are still unknown. We need to learn from countries with better overall results. Data integrity, complete public information, a robust healthcare system at all levels, sensible decisions and synchronicity are some of these experiences.
Waves of infections and shutdowns will divide the global economy into pieces in time. A global depression is staring us in the face. The pandemic has infected over 203 million and caused 4.3 million deaths worldwide; and over 1.7 million and 30,000 deaths in the Philippines. Yet some are not worried and claim that many more people are dying worldwide for far more deadly causes. The attitude of fans strong opposition to vaccination amplified by suspicion of a major pharma-media-global elite conspiracy; disinformation, and; experts stumble upon each other.
The supply shortage is forcing many Filipinos to seek alternative protection for their survival. Ivermectin is a popular, affordable and accessible prophylactic recommended by medical departments in different parts of the world. Due to growing fears caused by Delta, Ivermectin is likely to retain its “go-to” status. In any case, the government must speed up its procurement of effective vaccines to protect ALL Filipinos as soon as possible. And “the whole community” could do much better in the collaboration department. It’s about saving lives.
Second, the sooner we get it done, the sooner we can reopen the economy without being sloppy about security protocols. The deep recession we encounter will leave lasting scars, e.g. Lower investment; human capital erosion from lost work and schooling; and fragmentation of global trade and supply relations. Our country’s report card needs to be improved. Decades of negligence and complacency have cut deep into our ability to deal with and overcome crises. It is a lesson that we continue to ignore or sail past our heads.
It is difficult to predict when we can get out of this. While the second quarter of 2021 showed remarkable turnaround results, it came from a low base. Will it continue given Delta’s rise? Every economic indicator has gone deep south since last year. Gross domestic product (GDP), net income, revenue collection and remittances have declined; debt and more loans are up. Money is obviously in short supply. A sensible move is to stop the ongoing malfeasance and faultfeat cold turkey. It requires a long-term ruthless strategy and plans to stop the leaks (assume 20 percent of the annual budget).
I do not think we have one with clear annual reduction targets and how we can channel recovered funds. Look at national security. Our national interests require the support of a reliable defense and homeland security forces. Yet, average spending is only about 1 percent of GDP. Since we are in the catch-up mode, the average should be 3 percent of GDP. “The whole government” continues to fail in this. Imagine our defense and homeland security today if we had started to get serious two decades ago.
Third, war drums strike higher in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific. Escalating military exercises in the South China Sea continue to escalate tensions and could trigger an unintentional clash. We are trapped between the United States and China. Because we possess strategic real estate, we must maintain the balance of power between them, with the MDT-VFA on the one hand and our diplomatic policy of “friendship for all” on the other.
Should war break out between the great powers and the middle powers, we must fend for ourselves. As we work for peace, we must prepare for the worst case. The world is unstable and the future unpredictable. The Middle East, Eastern Europe and the Indo-Pacific are global hotspots. Imagine open war between Israel and Iran. The consequences of a global oil crisis on top of the pandemic and the current global recession will make the world spin. Likewise, if an unintended conflict in the South China Sea turns into a world war.
Fourth, as if all that is not enough, yesterday’s predictions of climate change continue today. Massive ice melting not only raises sea levels, but also allows for the release of trapped gases, viruses and bacteria. Warmer heat waves, droughts and wildfires in many parts of the world contrast with stronger typhoons, prolonged heavy rainfall, landslides and floods in other parts. These scientific predictions have been upheld by actual phenomena, yet humanity has not done enough to save itself from an ever-increasing level of extinction.
For us, this means less land mass, food security crisis and socio-economic shifts to varying degrees throughout the archipelago. Surviving the storm requires that we set high performance to lift our country to safety. We have to think, plan, train and fight like our Olympians to join heroic nations. INQ
This article reflects the author’s personal opinion and does not reflect the official position of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP. The author is a member of MAP, Chairman of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations, Vice Chairman of Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines Inc. and sits on the boards of other companies as an independent director.
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