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National Situationer: Looking at 2011 through the issues of 2010

Decisions shape events, and events shape the future. Ninety three percent of Filipinos were optimistic as they ushered in 2011 according to a Social Weather Stations survey. Optimism aside, there are still major issues unresolved from last year, and perhaps many more are yet to come this year.

Decisions shape events, and events shape the future. Ninety three percent of Filipinos were optimistic as they ushered in 2011 according to a Social Weather Stations survey. Optimism aside, there are still major issues unresolved from last year, and perhaps many more are yet to come this year.

Justice should be served
The acquittal of prime suspect Hubert Webb has spurred a yearning to reinvestigate the Vizconde murders and the true culprits of the massacre. In a memorandum released by the Palace last Dec., the administration directed different government units, such as the Department of Justice, “to conduct a thorough reinvestigation of the case, utilizing all available resources at your disposal to finally solve the same with the end in view of apprehending and prosecuting the authors of the crime”.

The 20-year prescriptive period of the 1991 killings is set to expire by June this year. The prosecution cannot pursue and reopen the case after the prescriptive period.

Another of DOJ’s concerns is the case of Sen. Ping Lacson, who has been a fugitive since January of last year. After a Manila trial court ordered the arrest of the lawmaker for the murders of publicist Bubby Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in 2000. The former PNP chief has evaded arrest and authorities believe Lacson slipped out of the country right after the order was implemented.

The government is now pressured to apprehend Lacson as soon as possible. DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima shared to the Philippine Daily Inquirer how the pressure was mounting on her because it’s taking the authorities to capture the senator longer than expected. “Habang tumatagal, lalong lumalaki ang pressure. Even sa akin, lumalaki ang pressure [The pressure grows the longer it takes to find him. There’s more pressure on me, too],” De Lima said.

She also explained that resolving the case would give them the opportunity to focus on other equally important cases such as the Vizconde massacre and the Quirino Grandstand hostage taking last year.

The Quirino Grandstand hostage incident strained diplomatic relations between Hong Kong and the Philippines. Eight Hong Kong nationals were killed and several others were injured in a day-long hostage drama. The Incident and Investigation Review Committee (IIRC) investigated on it last year, no substantial results came out of it, aside from administrative cases filed against the people involved.

The incident’s inquest will start on Feb. and about 100 Filipino witnesses will be summoned by the Hong Kong justice department to testify. Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim will be one of the many who will be invited.

The unresolved Vizconde massacre, Lacson’s hiding and the slow prosecution of the Quirino Grandstand incident reflect the country’s mediocre justice and legal system

Checking the Cabinet
Filipinos and the rest of the world were optimistic when the May 2010 elections ushered in a government that is determined to fight corruption in the system. Earning a trust rating of 85% during the start of the head of state’s administration, President Aquino concentrated on social security projects and projects that will harness local and foreign investments in the country.

One criticism that plagued the administration since day one is the cabinet members the president has appointed. In an article, University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance’s Professor Prospero de Vera gave President Noynoy’s choices of cabinet officials a grade of 2.0 (UP grading system).

“Siguro dos sa pagpili ng Gabinete. May magaling gaya nina De Lima, Ochoa, Butch Abad, pero mayroon din masama ang reputasyon [In his ability to choose cabinet members, I’ll give him a grade of 2.0. President Noynoy chose cabinet secretaries like De Lima, Ochoa, and Abad, who perform well, but there are also cabinet members that have bad reputations],” de Vera shares.

In light of the said criticism, Pres. Aquino is said to replace one to two cabinet secretaries. Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang shared in another article that he is still unsure whether the president will just replace acting secretaries such as DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje.

There are speculations that some candidates who ran under Pres. Aquino’s party and lost will replace a few cabinet officials after the one year period, which bans candidates who ran in the May 2010 elections from holding government positions. Pres. Aquino’s running mate Mar Roxas is also said to hold the position of chief troubleshooter after the ban.

Reinforcement of foreign relations
President Aquino plans to make several state visits this year to seek aid and strengthen cooperation among the nation’s neighbors. In an article from, the president shared he will prioritize a tour of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) member states, followed by a visit to China.

“We want a more coherent, more solid bloc. There are so many problems that are common – climate change, human trafficking, protection of our resources, South China Sea, diseases.”

China has already expressed its interest in aiding Philippine development efforts. “Next year is going to be a very important year for China and Philippine relations because the new government will press ahead with the economic and social development program in the Philippines; China will be part of the process,” Chinese Ambassador Liu Jianchao shares.

During Aquino’s visits abroad last year, he was able to secure investments and aid worth $5 billion from ASEAN countries, the United States and Japan.

Price hikes and subsidy cuts
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) projects the economy to grow by 4.6% in 2011. According to ADB’s Asian Development Outlook 2010 (ADO) report for the Philippines, growth during the first half of 2010 was caused mainly by higher consumption and investments.

The growth allowed the country to recover from the 2008 financial crisis faster than other Asian countries. ADB sees the same trend to continue in 2011.

In terms of budget allocation, the government plans to increase spending for social services by 14 percent. The administration’s conditional cash transfer program will be broadened to include more poor families and workers in the informal sector. On the other hand, spending on infrastructure will be reduced by 10 percent in 2011 due to the administration’s new private-public partnerships.

The Aquino administration aims to gather $17 billion worth of infrastructure investments. In an interview with, Department of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima shared that the government is vying for at least 10 Infrastructure projects this year.
In recent years, the government was unable to create an encouraging climate for private investments because of infrastructure deficiency coupled with weak governance.

The economic optimism brought by local and foreign direct investments contributed to the improvement of the credit outlook of investment rating firm Moody’s. “With the Philippines’ strengthening credit profile and the resilience and strength that the Philippine economy continues to demonstrate in the face of a sluggish global economic recovery, we can expect brighter prospects ahead,” Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. says in an article from The Manila Times.

Prices of basic commodities will also increase this year. The Central Bank estimates the inflation rate to be at 3.6% this year. The price of oil in the world market is expected to increase to more than $100 per barrel. This will create a domino effect that will raise the prices of basic commodities. Electricity prices are said to decrease early this year.

Implementation of fare and highway toll fees hikes will also start this year. Subsidies appropriated to the LRT and MRT will be decreased due to eliminate inefficiencies in revenues usage.

Filipinos from other parts of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao take part in paying the taxes used to subsidize the train lies. The Aquino administration has stated that it will not increase taxes or create new ones despite the subsidy cuts. The government plans to focus more on improving tax collection.

The rural and urban environment
Recurring issues of deforestation, pollution, soil erosion and the like continue to reface the country, according to the World Bank’s (WB) World Development Indicator Database.

According to the WB’s Database, trends for deforestation have been steadily declining over the years. Net forest depletion had a steep drop from the average trend of 0.69 in 1996 to 2001 down to 0.16 in 2002 to 2005. This is a far cry from the 70’s 1.98 statistics.

In line with Pres. Aquino’s State of the Nation Address, the Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR) will pursue environmental protection through strengthening the enforcement of environmental laws by government agencies. The department promises to reinforce the Task Force on Environmental Law Enforcement in pursuing investigations, arrest, and prosecution of offenders.

The department also plans to make mandatory tree-planting for those taking NSTP. “It will not just be a simple tree planting. We will now also require students to take care of and nurture the seedlings they planted until such time that it is grown,” Environment Secretary Ramon Paje says.

While the fight against forest depletion has had some positive development, the urban sector still has a few things to worry about. One of them is the poor solid waste management in the metro, which has resulted to severe cases of flooding.

AIDS, more alarming than AH1N1
Perhaps the most worrying trend that continues to permeate the Filipino society with shocking figures is the increasing cases of HIV-AIDS. From 2009’s 835 cases, Jan. to Oct. 2010’s figures increased to 1,305 and age range of people with the said disease are getting younger. Dr. Ferchito Avelino, Secretariat of the Philippine National AIDS Council, predicted that by 2015, there would most likely be 46,000 cases of AIDS.

The Department of Health and Philippine National Aids Control will hold a campaign called “The 5th AIDS Medium-term Plan for 2011 – 2016” to address growing concerns about HIV and its increasing trend.
2011 poses early challenges for the Aquino administration, but more importantly, it poses a greater hurdle for Filipinos to overcome. They should not be content with just being aware of issues and events, but be able to move and do something about it.

Jan-Ace Mendoza

By Jan-Ace Mendoza

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