"Let’s think beyond the political noise and focus on real solutions."
The Pilipinas Conference 2020 starts today in a five-day international virtual conference that gathers distinguished thought leaders to discuss the most critical economic, social, environmental, and political issues affecting the Philippines and the Indo-Pacific region in the context of the global crisis consequent to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is the fifth year that the Stratbase ADR Institute is hosting this rare congregation of experts from the national and local government, business sector, academe, and civil society in a developmental spirit to share strategic ideas, encourage healthy debate, and foster multi-sectoral collaboration that will result if responsive policies and effective action.
The first session on “Rebooting the Economy Post-Pandemic: Cushioning the Long Emergency” focuses on how we should re-design economic recovery frameworks that carefully considers the hard lessons from the vulnerabilities exposed by this Wuhan virus outbreak that caused this unprecedented health and economic catastrophe where millions of families have lost their only means of livelihood.
The Social Weather Stations July 2020 survey reported a record breaking 14.5-percent unemployment among adults, a 28-point jump from pre-lockdown figures (17.1 percent) in December 2019. This is very palpable on many busy streets where many are heartbreakingly resorting to begging for their family’s daily sustenance.
Compounding our pandemic challenges is the damage from the three back-to-back typhoons estimated by the Department of Agrarian Reform at P10 billion, excluding the devastation in the still-flooded Cagayan province. Luzon, which according to economists generates over 70 percent of the Philippine economy, has been declared in a state of calamity. This predicates the urgency to address the reality of the worsening seasonal natural disasters that the diverse panel of experts of the second session will be tackling.
Its theme, “Towards Green Economic Recovery: Designing Climate Resilient and Sustainable Communities” will explore viable and holistic approaches to develop the country’s extreme climate resilience and re-thinking the way we build and manage communities through green recovery strategies. How to efficiently and safely harness our natural resources as a major economic pillar for economic growth in underdeveloped regions and developing a circular economy that effectively manages the pollution with responsible behavior of consumers, producers, and governments, will be explored in the context of building better in a post COVID-19 world.
The third day expands attention to geopolitical issues directly affecting the “Philippines and the Indo-Pacific: Responding to the Emerging Regional Political-Security Environment.” This is a national concern that national surveys show a virtually unanimous 93 percent of Filipinos believe that it is important to regain control of the West Philippine Sea and 89 percent feel that it is wrong for the government to do nothing.
The global pandemic did not stop Beijing’s expansionist moves. It even took advantage of the world’s preoccupation with battling the spreading contagion. Still, small and medium powers have an opportunity to increase their role in this geopolitical theater. The security threats are taking on more non-traditional skins, shifting to a digital warfare of disinformation manipulating pandemic and political issues to sow intrigue. This threat to regional stability will outlive the pandemic and needs the strengthening of strategic partnerships with a growing phalanx of like-minded nations who uphold the rule of law.
The other side of crisis is opportunity which in the milieu of the pandemic has forced a global shift to digital technologies for the continuity of all aspects of human interaction. What used to be a procrastinating attitude has become an urgent and indispensable need for the whole society to accelerate its digital transformation with e-governance and a digitally enabled eco-system of industries.
This is an opportunity to harness technology to solve the inefficiencies of the bureaucracy and to enforce transparency and accountability in the use of public funds which in session four on the “Opportunities Within the COVID-Crisis: Towards Transparent and Accountable Governance” will drive discussions on strategies that integrate digital solutions and civic-engagement in ensuring trust in our democratic institutions.
The culminating session fittingly highlights “The Key Role of the Business Sector in Economic Recovery” that I believe to be the country’s most valuable asset that will drive the momentum to regain our pre-pandemic growth velocity. The contrast between the government bureaucracy and the private sector’s agility, efficiency, nimbleness in resource mobilization, and innovativeness was quite evident and critical in filling the expected gaps in alleviating the plight of the most affected sectors of the lockdowns and typhoons. We will hear our top business leaders share their outlook and sage insights on how we should be working together in rebuilding a much better world.
I do encourage you to log on to any of these sessions. Registration details are at the Stratbase ADR Institute Facebook page.
Let’s think beyond the political noise and focus on real solutions to move forward.