Tuesday, August 5, 2014

We are caught in a quagmire - we cannot fight each other now.

People have become much poorer and less able to access food because of meager income. The self-rated poverty reported in the Social Weather Station stabilized at 53% (which is low compared to previous results that hit as high as 60%).  The SWS was quick to note that this was because of belt tightening or the lowering of people’s economic standards. All the more reason that the problem should be attended to immediately – people are bracing themselves for an even lower quality of life. 
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio 
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

1. We are now 100 million Filipinos.  What about?
  • The figure is a gross estimate, calculation by various means, some by gut feel (Marami na ang nagugutom). 
  •  Who are Filipinos in the survey? Does it include Green card holders, naturalized Filipinos, progeny of mixed marriages - Fil-Am, Fil-Aus, Euro-Fil, Afro-Fil? And those who were skipped by outdated and inefficient survey?
Children queue for rice porridge in Manila's Baseco slum area in Tondo, Manila.  The population growth rate in the Philippines is among the highest in the world. Photo  www.theguardian
  • The 100th millionth baby, Chonalyn born on a Sunday at a hospital at an exact time, is mere symbolical and ceremonial. Chonalyn is a representation of a bleak future of millions of children not only in the Philippines but in the whole world. She will fall behind stiffening competition in practically all aspects in life.  She will inevitably enter into postmodern living of computers and travel and entertainment, but she will be always on the go to make a living and incessantly search for meaning in life. She is likely not as happy as her predecessors, and shall have a life span shorter than the older generation. (Reference: Time on babies born in 2014.)   
  • Closer estimate of our population today is 107 according to the World Factbook. Up to date estimates are even higher. We are still the highest in population rise, reaching up to 3%, although we are downgrading this to less than two.  With two children per couple, statisticians are confident we will attain a stable population - a subjective term. Other countries estimate that 2.4 children per couple will stabilize population at 0 growth.  Already, Japan, Germany and pioneer industrialized nations are experiencing negative growth rate.    
2. Other implications for having reached 100 million Filipinos - and fast increasing. 
  • It is a blessing, since every baby born is a blessing. It is a welcome news, there will be more "young workers." But they must be taken cared of properly to become "assets" and not "liabilities," which means, through state-of-the-art human development they are given the full opportunity to rise up in our highly competitive world. 

Relief operation in the heavily typhoon devastated areas in Leyte and Samar. Reuter's
  • More to feed, clothe, shelter. Pessimism looms when we cannot even take care of our present population. We do not have enough of the basic necessities of life. And now we are saying we can have more to feed, to clothe, to house, to educate, to take care of their health. There is a consoling adage, "A baby is born with two hands." Sometimes we would rather be romantic rather than realistic.    
  • We hope the young will steer the country; failure will exacerbate social and economic ills with today's 25 % of our population living in dire poverty. Or shall we say, vicious cycle of poverty? Some 13 million able-bodied, employable, skilled and semi-skilled workers are out of job, 2.2 million opt (without choice) for the loneliness and insecurity of working abroad to provide for their families back home. 
  • 15.1% of households are reportedly suffering  of hunger, with Mindanao reporting the highest incidence of 23%, followed by Metro Manila at 15.7%. It's ironical and paradox: Mindanao once the land of promise and plenty in President Magsaysay's time, and the breadbasket of the Philippines in President Marcos' time; and Metro Manila the seat of government and the nerve center of Philippine economy. 
  • Unemployment and underemployment, 13.7% and 18.5% 10 in April, 2004 respectively (it has significantly increased today, though records are unofficial). More than four million job seekers cannot find jobs, and 5.6 million of those who have jobs are not working full time or desire more work.
  • The employed also have to contend with low wages - ranging from 140 to 250 pesos (US$2.50-4.46) in industry, and 131 to 213 pesos (US$2.34-3.80) in agriculture. This also translates that a family of five must have two members working full time and earning a minimum wage to meet at least their monthly food needs, which the government estimates at 3,349 pesos (US$59.80). 
  • Agricultural production may have expanded by 6.61% in the first semester of 2004, with crops and fisheries leading the growth. But the gains were not sustained in the following decade. The more plausible explanation why people go hungry lies not in the availability of food, but rather in the people’s inability to access food. People cannot afford food! Right for food is the number one human right. It is in the constitution of all countries irrespective of ideology. But why can't the state assure food to its people. Well, governments find exit to inflation that dictates the economy - and to force majeure. We have the highest inflation rates the last three months reaching 5 to 10 percent.
  • maternal mortality rate is very high in our country which is 221 per 100,000 births.  The
    mandate of the United Nations for the Philippines for 2015 under the Millennium Development Goals is 52. 
  • There are 700,000 children who are unable to complete elementary education; and worse is the fact that some 1.36 million drop out of high school (2010 education report).  These figures are now higher with the increasing cost of education. There is an exodus, figuratively speaking, of students in private institutions transferring to public and state-run schools and universities. 
  • The effects of the new curriculum increasing the number of years of basic education by two years exacerbate the deplorable situation.  Firstly, the physical and social infrastructural unpreparedness,  Secondly, higher cost of education which strips further the low income of the family.  Thirdly, deprivation of children to contribute to family income generation, directly and indirectly.  And fifth, there is no assurance of better employment opportunities, as well as skills development proficiency once a student finishes the 12-year basic education.  Even college graduates join thousands of unemployed today.   
  • income inequality between rich and poor is highest in Asia. The combined P760 billion net worth of the top 10 riches Filipinos in 2012 was equivalent to the combined annual income of 3.24 million Filipino families in the same year.
  • Rice production fell short by more than 10 percent of annual demand. Annual importation in the last two years is from 10 to 15 MT rice. Corn production is similarly low, barely 1 MT per ha., which is lower than world average.  It is cheaper to import corn than to grow it locally. Shrinking agricultural areas due to land conversion into industrial and residential, rise of sea level, erosion and siltation, and denudation. 
  • Anti-productive land reform policy continues to grip agricultural progress.  In fact animosities and actual conflicts mar the implementation of programs and projects. Irrigation is dismal, land use policy violations are blatant. Forest lands are disappearing, kaingin or swiden farming openly violated.    
  • Trade liberalization has been hurting agriculture and the already poor population. Agricultural employment declined from 11.29 million jobs in 1994. There is need to amend trarif policies but this can be done only on regional (ASEAN) and global means, trade liberalization being the key to the founding pf World Trade Organization of the UN, the Philippines among the signatories of Uruguay Round II, the precursor of WTO.
  • We have been unkind to the environment. Every baby born has two hands, to buiiuld and to destroy.  Humans love to build and to destroy what he builds.  What an irony! We have yet to emerge as the custodian of creation by preserving the Earth, and not by raping her bounty and beauty. Global warming tells of global consequences.  We cannot hide the fact that the more people there are, the more affluent they become, the more extravagant and prodigal they are, the more indifferent they are to Mother Earth. Environmental conventions and meets raise the SOS flag but no one seems to lose sight of it soon after - until the next meet.    
"People's perception is difficult to monitor. Like history books, the book author is always the master. It's a Narcissus syndrome. But there came a time, as the mythology goes, when the self-conceited Narcissus fell into the water and drown. The deities wept. The lake did not." AVR 

Trivia: We are debating over F(P)ilipino orthography.
Filipinos now Pilipinos, as Pilipinas now Filipinas. In the future Falawan, Fagsanjan, Fanay. Maybe it's time to recognize F in our alphabets. We might as well Filipinize Rizal into Risal; Roxas or Rojas into Rohas, Cano to Kano; Quirino into Kirino. Why not return letter ñ in favor of many names and words using ñ? 

Acknowledgement: Philippine Daily Inquirer Editorial July 31, 2014; Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, Internet, Wikipedia, Reuters.

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