By Atty. Junie Go-Soco | Published: November 30, 2020
“He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears.” ― Michel de Montaigne, also known as Lord of Montaigne, was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance, known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre.
While this column, over the last several weeks, attempted to keep the readers’ mind calm and composed despite the realization that it will take two more years to go back to where the economy was just eight months ago, there is no escaping the bouts of fear that Filipinos have from time to time about the future.
High Level Of Concern
The Social Weather Stations revealed that majority of Filipinos felt their quality of life worsened in the past year, with 82 percent identifying themselves as “losers” amid a coronavirus pandemic. Only 6 percent said they were “gainers,” while the remaining 11 percent felt no change.
Also providing statistical basis is a team of researchers headed by Michael L. Tee and another group headed by Paulina Bawingan provide statistical bases in studies that look into the psychological impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines.
These studies showed that one-fourth of respondents reported moderate-to-severe anxiety and one-sixth reported moderate-to-severe depression and psychological impact.
They also noted that Filipinos have a high level of concern over the pandemic, and expressed fear for their health and that of others.
A Major Negative Factor
If we look for reasons that cause such fears, one explanation is the state of the economy and the problems confronting it. This needs some explaining.
The slow deployment of pandemic relief funds in the Philippines is a major negative factor.
Bloomberg, an international news agency headquartered in New York, observed that more than a month after President Rodrigo Duterte signed a P165-billion ($3.4 billion) relief bill, only P4.4 billion have been released.
According to Bloomberg, about one-third of the funds are mired in bureaucratic approvals, while the rest have yet to be requested by government agencies.
Two More Years
It is important to note that, recently, acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua announced that growth will likely return to its pre-pandemic trajectory by the middle of 2022. That is a difficult, back-breaking trek two years down the road.
The Philippines is still under the world’s longest continuing lockdown although most of the country now remains under the less severe quarantine tiers of general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ.
Chua noted that the government is now changing the pandemic response from total risk avoidance to risk management, taking into consideration that majority of the COVID-19 cases in the country have mild symptoms or are symptomatic, and the death rate is low.
The Biggest Losers
The impact of the pandemic on Philippine business is varied. There are winners and losers. Two of the large ones are Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firms and airlines.
A study commissioned by BPO reveals revenue growth the good news that the IT-BPM sector is projected to lose zero jobs in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the other extreme is flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) which intends to seek court protection from creditors as it undertakes debt restructuring as part of ongoing efforts to ensure the airline’s survival.
The company, which is cutting around 2,700 jobs, or a third of its workforce, is also looking to return around 20 of its leased aircraft to relieve a financial burden amounting to at least $1 billion and raise $505 million “for post-restructuring liquidity requirements.”
Philippine Airlines’ listed parent, PAL Holdings, recorded a net loss of P29 billion ($603 million) from January to September, a whooping three times larger than the P8.4-billion loss a year ago.
On the part of Cebu Pacific it also reported an operating loss of P6.29 billion for the quarter ended 30 June, widening the huge P693-million loss incurred in 2020’s first quarter.
The Climb Is Steep
As stated in earlier weeks in this column, we are on the road to recovery but it is going to be slow because the climb is steep.
In the midst of all these forewarnings, this quote should be an inspiration.
The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering. Ben Okri. He is a Nigerian poet and novelist.