The year 2015 was filled with surprises and events that shook various sectors of the Philippines. From the government to public transportation, defense and security to the economy, the country has, in the span of one year, experienced many problems that challenged Filipinos. The LaSallian has compiled a list of such events and how they have affected the country.
The year started with an important event in the form of the visit of the Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, which lasted from January 15 to 19. He arrived in the country with the mission of spreading the message of mercy and compassion to eleven different provinces, including Leyte and Metro Manila.
An intimate moment was shared between the Holy Father and the Filipinos during his mass in Tacloban. Despite the heavy winds and downpour, the Pope decided to push through with celebrating the Holy Eucharist. In his homily he said, “I am here to be with you–a little bit late, but I’m here,” referring to the catastrophic effects of Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013.
Another significant event was the celebration of the Epifanio De los Santos Avenue (EDSA) Revolution, with last year’s theme as “EDSA 29: Ituloy ang Pagbabago!” The celebration was held in EDSA where the Lady of Peace Shrine stands.
Those who joined the celebration commemorated the brave individuals that fought for Filipino freedom, standing against tanks and soldiers. Activities such as wreath-laying at tombs of unknown soldiers at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, recognition of outstanding youth groups by Ten Accomplished Youth Organization (TAYO) Awards Foundation, Inc., and a staging of “Manhid: A Filipino Superhero Musical,” a dance drama, were executed to fully celebrate the event.
The legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States also proved to be significant, after it led to the empowerment of the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders (LGBT) community in the Philippines. On June 27, the LGBT community paraded along Taft Avenue, Padre Faura, Roxas Boulevard, and Padre Burgos in Manila while carrying flags that contained messages of acceptance of diversity in the hopes of strengthening the Filipino LGBT community.
Lastly, on July 27, President Benigno S. Aquino III delivered his sixth and last State of the Nation Address (SONA). In his speech, President Aquino claimed that during his administration the infamous wang-wang was stopped. He also pointed out the several infrastructures that were constructed during his term, such as the Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway.
President Aquino reminded everyone that the Philippines has come a long way from what it was before his administration. He further elaborated that the government officials of past administrations were corrupt, and claimed that these forms of corruption were lessened during his term.
Earlier last year, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration reported the possibility of the Philippines experiencing El Niño, a phenomenon that would significantly increase the temperature in the Philippines. The possibility of experiencing El Niño alarmed a lot of people for it could cause a decrease in the amount of rainfall which will affect different industries in the country.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority implemented a metrowide earthquake drill on July 30, where different government agencies, businesses, schools, and other organizations participated in performing the “drop, cover, and hold” routine. Metro Manila was strategically divided into four quadrants to aid the residents in knowing where they would run to in case of a real earthquake in anticipation of “the Big One.”
In August, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources statedthat Metro Manila’s air quality has worsened from 106 µg/Ncm from July to December 2014, to 130 µg/Ncm from January to April 2015. µg/Ncm, or microgram per normal cubic meter, is a measure for the quality of air.
On the other hand, one of the important environmental issues that lacked media exposure is the DMCI Power Corporation’s coal mining in Palawan, which has caused many damages in different aspects like landscape, vegetation, air pollution, and harmful pollutants to the sea. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Palawan is home to several coastal and marine ecosystems that could inevitably be destroyed due to the mining activities.
Defense and security
On December 21, President Aquino promised to spend the P83.9 billion budget for military modernization projects by 2017. Around P56.79 billion from the budget had already been spent for acquiring military weapons such as jets, and establishing defense ties with countries like the United States and Japan. The country’s defense ties with the United States mainly rely on the approval of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Under the EDCA, the legality of which was recently upheld by the Supreme Court, the United States will be able to establish a military stronghold in the Philippines through the construction of bases, access to Philippine bases, and preposition of equipment.
These plans were made in line with China’s aggressive claims over the West Philippine Sea, which has also been eyed by other claimant countries like Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan. As of press time, the Philippines has already concluded its legal arguments against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, an international organization that assists temporary tribunals in resolving disputes among states.
Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert Del Rosario says that the Philippine government has entrusted the final decision to the tribunal, and that the decision must be based solely on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Meanwhile, as there is still no verdict on the case, the government is continuously upgrading the country’s military capabilities.
According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the Philippine economy grew at an average of 5.6 percent in 2015. The latest World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report further states that the Philippines now ranks 47th out of 140 countries.
Meanwhile, on a report by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) released on December 30, the number of unemployed Filipinos decreased from 6.8 percent in 2014 to 6.5 percent in 2015. This figure amounts to about 2.6 million Filipinos without jobs. The PSA, however, did not disclose reasons as to what led to this decrease.
Recently, the European Union (EU) has also began free trade talks with the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries like Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, and Myanmar. Last 2014, the EU exported goods worth 6.8 billion euros to the Philippines. The European Commission says that the talks aim to strengthen the EU’s economic ties to Southeast Asia and to seize the potential of over 100 million consumers.
With the country’s economic improvement, NEDA Director General Arsenio Balisacan says that the Philippine economy can further grow by as much as 8 percent in the next six years if it continues to enhance its business climate and human capital.
Last year, the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) activated the use of beep cards for the new automated fare collection system, which uses contactless single journey tickets and stored value cards for its new ticketing system. This new ticketing system is part of the DOTC’s railway rehabilitation efforts after public criticism over technical glitches that happened in the LRT and MRT trains.
The commuters can now enjoy the convenience of a seamless transfer from one line to another, LRT1 to LRT2 to MRT. The beep cards are worth P100 with an initial load of P80, and can be used for as long as four years.
A total of 93,977 all-new optical mark reader (OMR) machines were leased by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for P7.9 billion from its partnership with Smartmatic-Total Information Management. The OMRs will be used for the 2016 National Elections to ensure credibility and practicality in the poll.
On the second quarter of the year, Comelec Chairman Andres Baustista announced that the voters without digital photograph, signature, and fingerprints in their registration records will not be allowed to vote in the 2016 elections. A temporary restraining order on Comelec’s “No Bio, No Boto” was lifted on December 16, two weeks after it was issued by the Supreme Court.
In October, potential candidates filed their certificates of candidacy (COC) at the Commission on Elections. A total of 130 candidates for Presidency, 19 for Vice Presidency, and 172 candidates for the Senatorial positions filed their COCs.