Filipinos headed into 2012 with hope.
According to a recent Social Weather Stations survey, 95% of Filipinos looked at the new year with optism. By looking at many of the pressing issues that plagued the country last year, The LaSallian takes a look at developments that the may sustain many hopes this.
Filipinos are slowly reaping the effects of poor efforts on environmental concerns as evidenced by the number of natural disasters last year.
According to Benjamin Diokno from the Business Mirror, data from the Center for Research and Epidemiology Disasters (CRED) in Brussels shows that the Philippines had 24 calamities; the country had the most calamities worldwide last year. China was only second to the Philippines with 16.
Many of the typhoons last year destroyed may industries, properties and lives in the different regions of the country.
Case in point, Typhoon Juaning last July was less felt in the NCR, but the ares of Albay, Camarines Norte, and Camarines Sur were completely flooded. Damages in agriculture and infrastructure amounted to more than $60,000,000.
In September, two typhoons, one of which was Typhoon Pedring, also made land fall. Some 100,000 residents of the Albay Province were displaced from their flood-prone homes. The other typhoon, Typhoon Quiel brushed parts of Northern Luzon, but managed to flood Isabela flooding due to the leftover runoff water from Pedring.
Most recently, last December, Sendong claimed around a thousand lives in massive floods that devastated Mindanao. Entire communities were wiped out, and critics blame illegal loggers and the lack of government pre-emptive disaster risk management despite a warning to the Local Government about the brewing storm.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) forecasted the number of cyclones and typhoons visiting the country early this year. PAGASA administrator Nathaniel Servando explains that though such typhoons do not usually visit the country during the early months of the year, the La Nina phenomenon has increased the probability.
Neverthless, certain politicians and government officials have already initiated efforts to help mitigate the effects of these calamities. In an article from PhilStar.com, Sen Aquino Pimentel III shares that the government will hold a disaster preparedness summit in Mindanao to discuss measures to strengthen the area’s risk reduction readiness.
“There is an urgent need to organize a meeting involving the government and private sectors in Mindanao to come up with a unified and well-coordinated disaster preparedness plan to prevent further loss of lives and destruction of property,” Pimentel explains.
The summit will focus on the region’s vulnerable areas.
In the same article, Pimentel suggests strengthening coordination between the Local Government Units (LGUs) and the national government to make these efforts successful. He highlights the need to strengthen the funding of these projects.
In terms of healthcare
Certain diseases are seen to grow more widespread this year.
Leptospirosis cases increased to alarming triple digit numbers in 2011 due to the contamination of community water sources and the immersion and exposure of the body to flood water.
The Deparment of Health (DOH) issued a report last November 14, 2011 explaining that Leptospirosis cases have balooned to 201 percent from last July’s 74 percent, excluding the 94 cases of illness and 2 deaths from Leptospirosis Sendong caused. There are at least 2596 cases from January 1 to October 22, causing 196 deaths. In Pangasinan alone, cases went up by 400%.
Dengue cases also go in tandem with heavy rains and flooding, but the DOH confirms that the number of dengue cases of 2011 from July to August is 52 percent lower than that of the previous year. The numbers were 26 percent lower than last year’s figures from January to September.
According to an article from Tempo.com, towards the end of the year, the DOH also stepped up its efforts in preventing and containing leptospirosis cases in the country.
The battle against HIV-AIDS is also still ongoing as DOH warns of the continued rise of HIV cases in the Philippines, despite its decline world wide.
Philippine figures show that for 2011 the average number of AIDS cases is at 195. September had the highest number having 253 cases, an all time high for aids cases in the country. In 2009, the average was only at 70; it jumped to 122 in 2010.
Looking at the economy
As the year came to a close, the country’s GDP grew by a meager 0.3 percent in the third quarter of the year. The figure is significantly lower than the second quarter growth, which is at 1.9 percent; the second quarter of 2010 was the country’s all time high at 3.8 percent. Though the 0.3 percent growth is not the lowest by far, it lowers projections for the fourth quarter, and possibly for 2012.
The World Bank issued its Philippine Quarterly Update last December 20; the update projected a 3.7 percent growth target, lower than the 4.5 percent growth in 2011. This is due to low public spending and a weaker global economy.
Though economic shocks came from the bad economic climate, the World Bank explains that the country is well positioned to weather shocks caused by the global slow down because of those remittances.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) also lowered its growth targets of the Philippines from 4.7% to 3.7% for 2011. The bank finds that growth in early 2011 was hampered by weak exports and government spending. They find though that private consumption and investments stand firm and growth is seen to pick up by 2012.
The World Bank and ADB agree that much of the Philippine’s low GDP come from the Euro-zone’s economic turmoils, and believe that the Philippines is in good fiscal condition.
In terms of agrarian reform
In November 22, 2011, the Supreme court ordered the immediate distribution of Hacienda Luisita land to more than 6,000 farmer beneficiaries. Early this December, Hacienda Luisita farmers requested the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to reverse a land conversion order DAR gave to the estate’s owners 15 years ago.
Luisita Farmers believe that the order is one of the bigger impediments to the success of redistribution initiatives.
“It is clear that HLI (Hacienda Luisita Inc.) had no intention of developing or converting the 500 hectares subject of the DAR conversion order. For instead of developing the [land] pursuant to their undertaking in the application for conversion, it merely caused them to be transferred to other family-owned corporations of the Cojuangcos—Lipco, Centennary and LRC,” explains the farmers’ petition to the DAR said in an article from inquirer.net.
Even with extensive efforts such as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program – Extension Reform (CARPER) and the Stock Distribution Option (SDO), the government has yet to institutionalize a reform to create a real solution to the problem.
In line with its thrust to eradicate corruption, the Aquino administration stepped up its efforts in pursuing alleged corrupt officials from the previous regime late last year.
Multiple cases were filed against former President and current Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo and her husband. An electoral sabotage case was filed against previous COMELEC poll chief Benjamin Abalos. Consequently, the Aquino administration is pursing an impeachment case against Chief Justice Renato Corona in Congress for his alleged inclination towards Arroyo.
Although several proposals have been made to the Supreme Court (SC) to halt the impeachment trial, former election lawyer Romulo Macalintal believes that they do not have enough jurisdiction. “For sure, the SC will not stop the Senate from performing its constitutionally mandated task to hear and decide impeachment cases,” he explains in an article from Inquirer.net.
Aside from this, other factors might also endanger the success of the trial. In light of prosecution lawyers discussing impeachment matters in public, Sen Francisco Escudero believes that this may be grounds for the SC to reprimand or even cite the prosecution as contempt. Escudero explains that though there are no clear rules or provisions regarding discussing trial merits in public, prudence demands that trials be deliberated in the court.
The never ending Spratly Islands dispute
Many countries have claimed sovereignty over the Spratly Islands located in the South China Sea.
Early in 2011, the government accused China of harrasing a Philippine exploration vessel in an area near the Spratly Islands. The Philippines responded by increasing naval and aerial patrols around the Spratly Islands; they argue that China’s claim over the islands has no basis under international law. This was reinforced when China refused to allow a UN tribunal to decide on the territorial dispute.
The Philippines was even criticized for its alleged compromise of China’s sovereignty.
With the dispute reaching overseas, the United States has already stepped in hoping that their intervention would aid in the resolution of the issue.
Members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to draft a Code of Conduct for the dispute in the West Philippine Sea last November. Consequently, a zone of peace, freedom, friendship and cooperation (ZoPFFC) was proposed for the disputed islands.
Through the ZoPFFC, the ASEAN hopes to identify areas which are being disputed and those that are not. Palace Communications Group Secretary Ricky Carandang, however, shared in an article from PhilStar.com that some countries did not show sufficient interest in the proposal.
The Philippines, however, he shares, will continue to support the proposal.
Along with this, the Philippines plans to strengthen its military presence in the area through its recently acquired naval units and equipment such as its new Landing Craft Utility (LCU) and BRP Gregorio del Pilar from the United States.