• No, the Philippines is not going to be okay

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    Ben D. Kritz

    Ben D. Kritz

    AS we prepare to turn to the last page of the 2015 calendar, the impression that the world is sliding toward uncontrollable chaos is difficult to dismiss. It is an impression that is probably completely accurate.

    The bad news seems to be happening almost too quickly to comprehend. A perfect example was the shooting down of a Russian military plane by trigger-happy Turkish forces yesterday, which happened at about 6:00 pm our time here in Manila, just as a completed page of our world news section was about to be turned over to the printers.

    It wasn’t quite a “stop the presses” moment, but almost, and when a cheesy plot device from 1940s-era detective novels becomes a part of the daily workflow, it is probably time to be at least a little bit concerned about the state of the world.

    Of course, in the Philippines it is considered impolite to suggest that what happens on the other side of the planet should worry us here in our pleasant little corner of the tropics, because we have an economy that is well-protected from external shocks from our healthy consumer consumption and remittance inflows, and God and international law are on our side when it comes to other thorny problems, like those pesky Chinese who won’t stay out of our part of the ocean. Our relatively stable innocuousness will continue to make the Philippines an attractive option amidst turmoil elsewhere, and while there are things that need to be improved, we can take comfort that we should be able to continue to point to visible indicators like our growing crop of casinos, condominiums and themed eateries as signs that things are going in the right direction.

    That’s the standard template for commentary on how the rest of the world affects the Philippines (the short form is, “Not at all”), and it is what the government and the more optimistic among the country’s opinion leaders will still be saying as the whole house burns down around us. A more useful reaction, however, may be controlled panic.

    There are a couple of big developments that have not gotten much attention here while we have been distracted by other, essentially unimportant issues like the ‘West Philippine Sea’ and our excessive number of uninspiring and virtually identical options for the country’s next president. We ignore these other, much larger issues at our peril, because they are likely to have negative consequences for the Philippines very soon.

    The first is the likely outcome of the upcoming climate summit in Paris (it begins on Monday), which can probably be described with a single word, “failure.” After the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks failed to develop anything more substantial than an agreement to wait a few years and try again, hopes were high that the Paris talks would finally produce a practical global agreement on reducing emissions and limiting global warming to a more manageable level. Going into Paris, however, those expectations have been progressively dashed, and over the past two weeks or so, it has become clear that the single most important thing any climate agreement needs in order to be effective – some kind of enforcement mechanism – has absolutely no chance of becoming a reality. For the Philippines, which ranked fourth in the world’s top five countries affected by weather-related disasters (behind China, the US, and India, and ahead of Indonesia) in a recent UN study, that means the prospects of getting substantial help to mitigate the risks of climate-related calamities are very poor, and the very heavy drag that natural calamities impose on the country’s economy and quality of life will persist.

    The second is the breakdown of Europe. Besides turmoil created by the war in Syria – which is directly responsible for the rapid rise of Daesh and other Islamist terrorists and the refugee crisis, and is quickly turning into this century’s proxy for the ancient enmity between Europe’s eastern and western spheres – the grand socialist experiment of the post-World War II era is breaking down rather quickly. It is shifting away from the collective back toward nationalism. This may not be a bad thing for neocolonies like the Philippines and some of our other neighbors in this part of the world in the long run, but there will be a long period of instability in which Europe generally is not going to be a particularly useful market or source of investment.

    The third is the rise of China in place of America. While the US is busy tearing itself apart domestically through increasing class and political polarization, China has been steadily filling the vacuum, and is now right on America’s doorstep: In news earlier this week, it was announced that the long-delayed dream of a sea-level canal across Central America – something that has occupied the imaginations of engineers and Western political powers since the middle of the 19th century – will start to become a reality toward the end of next year, when construction by a Chinese-led consortium of the $50 billion project will begin in Nicaragua.

    The Panama Canal farther south, which the new canal will essentially replace, is in many ways a symbol of American geopolitical might, and its construction (completed in 1914) could be considered the start of the “American Century.” China’s new canal – and it really will be China’s because the consortium building it will have a concession to operate it for up to 100 years – puts an end to that, and heralds the start of a new century, one for which the Philippines is in no way prepared, nor is likely to be, given the dim prospects for actual change or progress suggested by the pretentious aspirants for the country’s highest office.

    ben.kritz@manilatimes.net

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    10 Comments

    1. Ronald Carreon on

      No the aspirants are not clueless it’s the voters who are for expecting change by putting in power the same douche bag oligarchs (cory AQUINO and her ilk) and scrotal bag politicians every election since time immemoria and treating an election NOT as an exercise of the right of suffrage but as a source of income or a 14th month bonus. Do not blame the aspirants and those in power, they’re only symptoms of what the citizenry truly is because they are our avatars, a reflection of what is best or worst of us.

    2. Another sagacious commentary, Mr. Kritz. Your and former senator Tatad’s thinking does not seem to have penetrated the gray matter of the bosses of the Manila Times. Proof of this is the resurrection of the neoliberal puffery of former secretary, former ambassador and former Times columnist Edgardo B. Espiritu in this newspaper. Are they really so out-of-touch with the new realities of our planet?

    3. Stupid followers of Pnochio and his Thief Liberal Party of elitist noytard people who place this stupid president at malacanang and some who were at congressman and senators like tv personalities, media men, and celebrities. Nassan ang utak nitong mga voters na dilawan?? nasa talampakan ba… Please feed your beautiful mind…
      ZERO TO ALL LIBERAL PARTIES AND TO ALL ALLIED OF THIS LUNATIC PRESIDENT LIKE BINAY, GRACE POE, RDD… LAHAT ITO KASAPAKAT NI ABNOY PINOCCHIO, AT ANG TANGING OPPOSITION LANG DITO AY SI MERRIAN DEFENSOR AT BONG BONG MARCOS.. dAHIL SILA LAMANG ANG HINDI TUMANGGAP NG SUHOL SA ABNORMAL NA PRESIDENTE NA GAMIT ANG PERA NG BAYAN..MAGPAKATOTOO KA MR. YELLOW NOYTARD FOLLOWER..

    4. Like my pastor sermoned, life goes on. I am having a hard time to be optimistic but I have to just reading the news abroad and domestically . The election next year is another scary event. The criminality is rampant but the police is trying their best to control but the bad people keep on coming back like the waves of the sea. What we need right is a change of presidency. This Pinoy is like in a trance that he is having a hard time grasping for the truth. Imagine, he does not want to change the tax rate knowing or not knowing inflation rate and the value of money goes down as years pass. Oh what a guy. Did you ever go to school, this is economics 101.

      • if you want crime to go down then the death penalty must be re-imposed and start execution of all death rows. allow cops to shoot armed robbers, carjackers, kidnappers on site.

    5. Philippines has never been ok because of too many inept officials and executives in the government who has no vision of the future. with its stupid voters voting based on popularity and not thru accomplishments and honesty. just look at the politicians voters voted for. namely; Pacquiao, Vilma Santos, Vic Sotto, Nora Aunor, Imelda Marcos, Erap, now Bong Bong Marcos. just to name a few.

    6. I haven’t read this devastating news yet. I’ll have to see to it, I’ll make a thorough research on this. But I still insist China can’t replace USA within two centuries or more.

      • China is in big trouble financially. When a country starts to devalue its currency, they are in a very big trouble. Most of their business are faking their company financial statement so they can borrow money in the banks. China is in a very financial bubble. Watch it burst.

        REPLY
        China’s devaluation of currency will allow it to export more and earn more money!

    7. I read recently an article in Forbes by a financial analyst entirely about the bubble economy of our country which is about to pop. With your dire observations which I find to be obviously valid what I find truly alarming is the current presidential aspirants are clueless and unaware of these issues. God have mercy on us it will be another case of transitioning from the frying pan into the fire.