“It is a crisis that BBM’s administration must overcome if he is to achieve three things—be a great president, redeem his family’s tattered reputation, and bring his country to upper middle class status by the end of this decade”
That is how influential congressman Joey Salceda calls the one great quality of the incoming presidency of Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. (Bongbong Marcos or BBM).
The Albay congressman credits two men for this social cohesion – outgoing president Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Marcos Jr.
During his six-year presidency, Duterte unified the country, integrating the deep separatist south with the powerful north, where Manila is. His performance made him the most popular president in history with the highest job, approval and trust ratings of any outgoing president in history.
BBM rode on this popularity. Voters gave him their largest mandate ever—31.6 million votes, 59 percent of the total votes cast for president last May 9.
For three reasons: One, the record of his father, Ferdinand Sr.’s 20-year presidency (he was good, if not great); two, BBM’s own likable personality; and three, they wanted a continuity of Duterte, for another six years.
In what Foreign Secretary Teddyboy Locsin calls the cleanest election in history, BBM won in 64 of the 80 major provinces, 25 of the 27 largest cities (including the 15 cities of Metro Manila and the cities of Cebu and Davao, both the population hubs of the south), and in 15 of the 17 regions.
In short, BBM won handily in 80 percent of the archipelago. That’s social cohesion.
Why is it important to talk about cohesion or national unity now?
Because the nation is facing the gravest crisis in its 124-year history as Asia’s first republic.
It is a crisis that BBM’s administration must overcome if he is to achieve three things – be a great president, redeem his family’s tattered reputation, and bring his country to upper middle class status by the end of this decade.
The crisis comes from three things – a food crisis, an energy crisis, and the worst education that a country’s young could possibly obtain. Filipino teenagers are the worst performing in the world—in reading comprehension, in math, in science.
The country does not produce enough food to feed its teeming 110 million.
Easily 25 percent of the people’s food needs must be imported—rice, corn, fish, chicken, pork, beef, in fact, anything edible, must come from abroad paid for with hard earned dollars of 12 million overseas Filipinos who remit $32 billion annually to their home country.
OFWs have boosted the country’s foreign reserves, which amounted to $108.5 billion in March this year, but are rapidly dwindling because of rising costs of imported goods and services.
“The war in Ukraine is leading to high commodity prices, adding to supply disruptions, increasing food insecurity and poverty, exacerbating inflation, contributing to tighter financial conditions, magnifying financial vulnerability, and heightening policy uncertainty,” said the World Bank in its Global Economic Prospects report released June 14, 2022.
“Agricultural prices are forecast to rise 18 percent this year, above previous projections, reflecting weaker grain production in Ukraine as well as much higher input costs, including for fuel, chemicals, and fertilizers,” reports the World Bank.
According to the bank, “fertilizer prices are expected to increase by nearly 70 percent in 2022, due to soaring input costs, reduced production, and trade disruptions Russia and Ukraine are key exporters of wheat, together accounting for about one-quarter of global wheat exports.
Russia is also the world’s largest exporter of fertilizers and has instituted new quotas and restrictions on exports. About 90 percent of Ukraine’s grain exports flow through Black Sea ports, which are not currently operational.”
The Philippines has among the highest energy costs in the world. Energy is easily 20 percent of the cost of producing nearly everything and of a household’s average spending.
The country imports nearly all of its oil needs. The price of imported oil has tripled in two years to today.
In 2020, the average price of crude was $39.68 per barrel. Today, crude is $100.66, an increase of 154 percent, or 2.5x.
On Tuesday, June 14, crude oil, per barrel, was quoted at $121.80, with the benchmark Brent crude at $123.25, 2.9x the 2020 average of $41.90.
Says the World Bank: “Energy prices are forecast to rise 52 percent in 2022, 47 percentage points higher than previously projected. Brent crude oil prices are forecast to average $100/bbl—an upward revision of $24/bbl.”
The global lender adds: “In contrast to previous oil price spikes when plentiful coal and natural gas enabled substitution away from oil, the prices of all fossil fuel energy sources are currently very high, which reduces the possibility of easing price pressures by substituting to cheaper fuels.”
What is the impact of the mis-education of the young?
Joblessness, massive joblessness because job seekers lack the skills, basic skills, to be useful in their work. About 30 million Filipinos either have no jobs or have no jobs because they have gotten tired looking for a job.
A phenomenon not seen since the 1970s has emerged—stagflation, which is slow economic growth and high unemployment accompanied by rising prices.
In the 1970s, prices rose so high they hade to be brought down, by high interest rates.
“The interest rate increases that were required to control inflation at the end of the 1970s were so steep that they touched off a global recession, along with a string of debt crises in developing economies, ushering in a ‘lost decade’ in some of them,” recalled the World Bank’s GEP report.
Warns the World Bank: “The danger of stagflation is considerable today. Between 2021 and 2024, global growth is projected to have slowed by 2.7 percentage points—more than twice the deceleration between 1976 and 1979.
“Subdued growth will likely persist throughout the decade because of weak investment in most of the world. With inflation now running at multi-decade highs in many countries and supply expected to grow slowly, there is a risk that inflation will remain higher for longer than currently anticipated.”
President BBM, now more than ever, needs to rally the nation behind him. His immense mandate gives him the gravitas to make that call. It’s now unite now—or perish together.