"What will this year bring our country, and the rest of the world?"
Come the fifth of February, the last animal in the lunar cycle, the Pig, will take over from the Dog, whose reign in 2018 was quite tumultuous. There were major earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, hurricanes, fires all over the world.
Few countries did not have its share of cataclysmic events, or major economic dislocations, the Philippines included.
We enter 2019 with our international airport deemed a security risk, which unless corrected will affect our tourism targets.
Fortunately, the new Clark International Airport is already under construction, and should be operational by late 2020 or early 2021. The airport will be managed by the private sector, in this case a consortium where Singapore’s Changi is to provide its world-class expertise. The local partners are Filinvest and JG Summit Holdings, the combined financial muscle of which guarantees that things will go smoothly.
The Clark airport expansion project was done in record time, within the first two years of President Duterte’s term—a major accomplishment considering that development plans for the airport had been neglected for years. The consortium’s partnership with Changi Airports International Pte. Ltd. which runs the best airport in the world in Singapore assures the public that Clark will be well-managed.
Speaking of gateways, DoTr also announced its go signal for the Bulacan aerotropolis project of visionary businessman Ramon S. Ang, and although the project has yet to break ground, it should be serviceable within the next five years, ensuring continuity in airport capacity for NCR and the rest of Luzon.
The Year of the Pig brings good news and better hope for our long-neglected airport system.
We doff our hats to BCDA under the young and energetic Vince Dizon, and to the hardworking if oft misunderstood DoTr Secretary Art Tugade. As Senator Ping Lacson once said in our Thursday Group luncheons, “things are now moving fast, and only in President Duterte’s time.”
But there are trepidations, too as the Year of the Pig unfolds.
The biggest uncertainty is in the US of A, with Donald Trump’s irascible leadership. For starters, will he still be around by end-2019, with all his political troubles?
Would there be a workable compromise in the seething trade wars with China? Trump seems to have back-pedaled in his mood swing over US troops in Syria and Afghanistan, but from now on, will US allies trust the word of this Twitter-addicted decision maker?
Some analysts fear worse—a recession. That would have calamitous effects on almost every country in the world, even in Ms. Universe Catriona Gray’s Philippines, whose peso may yet weaken from its present state.
Still and all, the momentum on Build, Build, Build must not be lost, as it would be the generator of jobs and more jobs, as well as generate more interest from foreign investments to locate in our country. We have to rely on our own internal growth strategies to stay the course in a world where uncertainty has become the new normal.
One other problem confronting the economy, especially the Department of Agriculture, is the fine balance between consumers and the farming sector that we need to implement when the quantitative restrictions on rice becomes final with the tariffication law which awaits the President’s signature.
Ensuring that we have ample supply of rice for food security purposes cannot be left to the tender mercies of our rice traders alone who will likely find tariff payments still cheaper than having to buy from our less-competitive palay farmers.
While there will be instant rejoicing from our mostly urban consumers, swinging simply from left to right would wreck havoc not only upon our farmers, but endanger long-term food security as well.
This conundrum will require carefully-crafted food security plans, followed by more professional implementation so unlike what we have experienced in the rice crisis of the past year.
Taiwan could be looked upon as some kind of a model, a gold standard even, when it comes to food production and agricultural modernization. Its land area is only some 36,000 square kilometers—a mere 12 percent of the Philippines’ 300,000 square kilometers of land. But it feeds 23.5 million people, and exports food and agricultural products as well.
We have 4.5 times more people, yes, but we also have 8.4 times more land. Yet, even as Taiwan produces surplus rice and keeps as much as 120 days reserves at any given time, we only have 15 to 30 days buffer, and imports close to 10 percent of our consumption requirements, even more when calamities strike the palay farming sector.
The Year of the Pig will also host local elections in our politics-crazy country.
Election spending is supposed to affect the economy, via higher consumption expenditures out of the “katas”
of corruption, or courtesy of the usual “rent-seekers” in our oligarchy-characterized economy.
But aside from inducing potential inflation risks, the forthcoming elections, while currently a ho-hum affair with outcomes quite predictable in both the senatorial and local races, would also usher in a new crop of congressional faces.
Many of the Batasan oldtimers are “graduating,” and while their kin and progeny are likely to succeed them, who knows how pliant the 18th Congress will be during the last three years of PRRD?
First headed by the Rooster Pantaleon Alvarez, thence Year of the Pig-born Gloria Macapagal Arroyo since the third SONA of the Rooster president, the 17th Congress ended the Year of the Dog quarrelling over pork and more pork.
Well, enter the Pig come February 5. Will they have ended their pork wars by then, so we would have a budget passed for the Year of the Pig?