Do Not Read This: Diego Cagahastian from Opinyon
Do Not Read This

Nation braces for 2022

Dec 27, 2021, 2:26 AM
Diego S. Cagahastian

Diego S. Cagahastian

Columnist

IN A week's time, the Philippines will end another trying year marked with serious struggle against forces of nature such as typhoons and floods and coronaviruses on one hand, and evil human activities including crime and corruption on the other.

Many Filipinos will heave a sigh of relief and say, "Thank God, it's over" as the year comes to a close on Friday and the nation wakes up to another with renewed hopes and positive expectations.

Still the most important concern among Filipinos is the ongoing fight against COVID-19 pandemic, which lately has been bogged down by the appearance from the horizon of the new variant called Omicron, initially touted as most infectious and virulent, but the first two Philippine cases who arrived from abroad did not infect their co-passengers.

COVID-19 numbers decline

The country's new cases of COVID have dramatically declined from their parabolic rise of 23,075 in mid-September. It was down to 119 today, mostly still the Delta variant because the three cases of Omicron had been quarantined.

We trust that the government is doing just right in this public health crisis management, as the results showed.

We do not know how much contact tracing, social distancing, personal hygiene, curfew and face shields have contributed to the decline.

But we do know, and concede, that wearing face masks and mass vaccination are great contributors.

Economy reopens

The new COVID numbers support the policy of reopening the economy, which was greatly damaged by the long lockdowns and mobility restrictions.

Shops, malls and services are humming to life again, along with stores and kiosks.

With the premiere region Metro Manila on Alert Level 2 until the end of the year, people are going out and returning to work, and vehicular traffic congestion has become a welcome headache.

Playing a bigger role in the whole-nation effort to recover is the transportation and communication sectors, particularly the completion of huge airport projects, seaports, roads and bridges and railways -- to the credit of the Department of Transportation, private investors San Miguel Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments, and the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB).

Internet and e-commerce

The COVID-19 pandemic, while essentially a natural evil, brought with it some positive saving grace with millions of Filipinos turning to the use of the internet, cellphones and e-commerce for personal communication, education and training, entertainment and basic buying and selling of goods and services.

The telecommunication sector had to adapt fast, along with the new Department of Information and Communication Technology.

It is a step in the right direction when the Philippines notched three ranks up in the worldwide assessment of mobile broadband internet speeds.

By the middle of this year, the country has attained a mobile broadband internet download speed of 33.69 megabits per second (Mbps), an upload speed of 8.83 Mbps with 31 milliseconds of latency.

Natural disasters

The nation's march to economic recovery was snagged by at least three natural calamities that occurred in 2021.

First was the Taal Volcano eruption in January, displacing thousands of residents in Cavite and Batangas. Next is typhoon Maring (Kompasu) in October. It inundated the northern islands of Fuga and Babuyan, and brought floods in Cagayan province and the rest of northern Luzon.

As we write this, super typhoon Odette (Rai), the most serious typhoon that hit the country this year, is still in the news, a week after it made several landfalls in Siargao, Dinagat islands, Bohol, Cebu, Negros, Samar and Palawan islands, on Dec. 16-17.

Odette was reported to have killed more than 300 residents, with at least 50 others still missing, after it ripped through homes and buildings, uprooted trees and power cables, cellphone towers and equipment, and caused widespread flooding, landslides and heavy rain.

It will take months and millions of pesos before the government can rehabilitate the wide swath of areas leveled by Odette, despite the huge donations from many countries and organizations all over the world. For sure, recovery in the southern Philippines took a double hit due to this natural disaster.

$123-M deficit

Opinyon's Rose de la Cruz reported that from a surplus of $1.47 billion in November last year, the country’s balance of payments in November this year was a deficit of $123 million.

The BOP deficit in November 2021 reflected outflows arising mainly from the national government’s (NG) foreign currency withdrawals from its deposits with the BSP as the NG settled its foreign currency debt obligations and paid for various expenditures, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said.

Notwithstanding the deficit in November 2021, the cumulative BOP level for January-November 2021 registered a surplus of $353 million.

This level, however, was lower than the $11.79 billion surplus recorded in the same period a year ago.

Based on preliminary data, this cumulative BOP surplus reflected inflows such as from personal remittances, trade in services, net foreign borrowings by the NG, and foreign direct investments, which were partly offset by a wider trade in goods deficit.

Based on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) International Merchandise Trade Statistics (IMTS), the trade deficit for January-October 2021 expanded to $33.21 billion from $20 billion posted in the same period last year.

Not a poor country

Sorry to the naysayers, but the Philippines is not a poor country. It is primarily considered a newly industrialized country, with an agricultural economy in transition to one based on services and manufacturing.

As of 2021, our GDP purchasing parity was estimated to be at $1.47 trillion, the 18th in the world.

The Bangko Sentral reported a 2.6 percent year-on-year growth of remittances last July to $3.167 billion, while year-to-date expansion stood at 6 percent to $19.733 billion.

With our Overseas Filipino Workers contributing huge funds annually to the economy, the nation is still on sound financial footing.

The coming 2022 national and local elections, with the concomitant consumer spending these polls would entail, will further boost the economy.

Foreign policy

President Duterte's friend-to-all independent foreign policy served us well during the two and a half years of the pandemic, and will be of greater utility in the future if the next President will recognize that a free Philippines, one which is not beholden to any of the great powers competing in the world stage, is the best road towards peace and progress for Filipinos.


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