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Embracing digital transformation in the time of COVID-19

The virulence and lethality of the novel coronavirus is expected to have a profound impact on the world. With global production grinding to a halt and supply chains disrupted, the World Trade Organization (WTO) sees global trade to fall between 13% to 23%. While for its part, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that COVID-19 will result in a loss of 195 million jobs worldwide.

Environmental stewardship strategies for green economic recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused economies to fall. To bounce back, the Philippines has adopted a whole-of-society approach in turn-around management. A basic advantage of the Philippines is its cohesive private sector that has taken the lead and has quickly channeled resources towards the most vulnerable communities. This softened the impact on the people especially during the early weeks of the lockdowns.

Turning the digital divide to dividends

In a recent speech, President Rodrigo Duterte declared that face-to-face classes will be suspended until a vaccine for the coronavirus disease 2019 has been found. As a result, the country’s educational system, from basic to higher education, finds itself abruptly shifting to either blended or online modes of instruction.

The risk of downplaying Chinese gray zone operations against the Philippines

One year ago, at midnight of June 9, 2019, a Chinese fishing vessel suddenly rammed and sank a wooden Filipino fishing boat, the F/B Gim Vir 1, which was anchored at the Reed Bank. The captain of the ill-fated Gim Vir 1 claimed that the incident was deliberate since the crew of the Chinese vessel saw his fishing vessel before the collision. Ship captain Jonnel Insigne observed that the Chinese vessel turned its lights on seconds before it rammed the Gim Vir 1. It fled the scene with its lights off after the smaller and wooden Filipino boat began to sink with all its catch and equipment.

Socially responsible partnership

Last week I saw a video circulating on Facebook of a bicycle shop owner giving a teary-eyed street vendor his dream bicycle after noticing that the man had been coming into the shop week after week just to ask about it. Last month, I read about a public-private sector initiative called Taskforce T3 that’s working with hospital groups to increase the country’s much needed COVID-19 testing capacity. A few months ago, there was also Project Ugnayan, a partnership of the country’s biggest businesses that raised over P1.7 billion to give grocery vouchers to millions of poor Filipino families affected by the lockdown. At the beginning of the lockdown, several public utility companies, like Meralco, also announced that they would continue to provide their services while also extending payment deadlines to help affected users.

PPP and economic recovery in the ‘new normal’

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to capsize economies around the world, the Philippine government is banking on its infrastructure development plan to boost economic recovery in the second half. The Department of Finance has recommended the acceleration of the Duterte administration’s Build, Build, Build (BBB) program as part of the five priority measures that the country needs to get the economy back on track. However, infrastructure development in the country over the last few years has fallen short of its potential.

Lessons toward a health-anchored recovery

The Stratbase ADR Institute, in cooperation with consumer advocacy group CitizenWatch Philippines, held last Friday a virtual roundtable discussion (vRTD) entitled, “The Philippine Health Care Systems: Emergent and Pressing Issues, Approaches and Perspectives amid the COVID-19 Crisis,” a new series of online forums that will tackle strategic issues and solutions as the country now ventures into a gradual reopening of economic activities.

Pandemic meets geopolitics in the South China Sea

Historically, epidemics and pandemics have ravaged societies and civilization as they culled more human beings than natural disasters and armed conflicts combined. Along with natural calamities together with famines and hunger, major epidemics and pandemics have also intensified underlying and existing competitions and conflicts among human societies.

Rebuilding consumer and business confidence towards the new normal

As the government extended the quarantine period further until May 15, a new set of guidelines was released that allowed some businesses to resume, either in partial or full operations. In areas that are still under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the list of businesses allowed to operate was expanded on the condition that proper health precautions are strictly observed. In areas now classified as under general community quarantine (GCQ), most businesses will now be allowed to operate but were reminded to still follow the minimum set of health standards.

Doing our part in the ‘new normal’

During times like these, it’s hard not to feel uncertain. It is only natural to seek out information that helps us understand our situation and determine our options.

It won’t be business or politics as usual in our ‘new...

It’s hard to imagine life after COVID-19. But like all pandemics, this too shall pass, and most things will go back to the way they were. When it does, people will flock back to the malls, attend concerts and sporting events, and spend time with friends without having to practice social distancing, just like they used to do.

Disease and fear in 21st century US-China strategic competition

Since mid-January 2020, China’s political leadership single-mindedly concentrated on managing a deadly coronavirus epidemic that began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Recently, however, China has been conducting a major diplomatic and humanitarian offensive aimed at assisting countries that are struggling against the raging pandemic. Since early March 2020, China has been sending medical experts, rapid diagnostic testing kits, and protective medical gear to the Philippines, Serbia, Spain, Iran, and Italy.

Now is the time to help

Besieged by the COVID-19 pandemic and pushed into adversity, the current circumstance has stimulated a surge in patriotic and emphatic response from the private sector and civil society groups.

Suspect and treacherous

In as much as the country is in limbo about the circumstances and consequences brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government needs to consider two equally important national concerns.

A climate of doublespeak

When the President says one thing and his apologists say another, quickly adding that we should not take Duterte’s word literally, you’ve probably heard that many times before.

Quo warranto and the pitfalls of populism

In a world that runs on the ideas of neoliberalism and free trade, transnational actors have reshaped how domestic politics work. After the downfall of communism -- from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the transition of China into a global powerhouse of trade, and now, Vietnam’s growth -- it can easily be said that trade has changed the world from what it was.

Mobilizing Public-Private stewardship of the environment

Government, industries, and civil society organizations are finding different ways to approach plastic waste pollution. Legislative measures, such as a nationwide ban on single-use plastics, adoption of waste-to-energy plants, extended producers’ responsibility, and private sectors’ proactive engagement with communities and local government units are at the core of this discussion.

We must all fight corruption in government

Corruption is a universal evil. It spans countless countries, regardless of the level of economic development and political orientation. As the pervasiveness of corruption simply undermines all efforts attempted by a government in trying to make things better for a country, the responsibility is primarily local.

Scrapping the VFA would have consequences!

During the senate hearing reviewing the 1999 Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. discussed the adverse consequences of the agreement’s abrogation. He enumerated the security, trade, and economic benefits that the VFA has provided the country since 1999. The VFA is a Status of Forces Agreement, which provides the legal regulatory mechanism for the treatment of US military and civilian personnel during military exercises and conduct of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations in the Philippines.

Building a legacy for health

The Malasakit Center Act (Republic Act No. 11463) is probably one of the fastest legislative measures that has been passed and signed under the 18th Congress. It took only five months since the bill was filed in both Houses of Congress, and thereafter was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 3, 2019. As of this writing, a total of 61 Malasakit Centers have already been launched and are operational nationwide even as the first public consultation on its draft implementing rules and regulations (IRR) just started on Jan. 30, a few days ago.

Budget 2020: The National Pork?

“Pork barrel” today refers to selective government allocation and spending driven by electoral or political incentives. The term dates back to a time in the West when preserving meat was actually done in wooden barrels for future consumption. The term has since seeped into popular usage as a metaphor for the allocation of political largesse or favors.

Education quality beyond basic education

The issue of education quality has just been highlighted by reports on the Department of Education’s (DepEd) participation in the 2018 cycle of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Implemented by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), PISA tests students’ ability to apply knowledge they gained from formal education to “everyday situations.”

New Thinking: 2020 agricultural outlook and beyond

The third quarter performance of the agricultural sector provides a glimmer of hope for the irregular growth pattern of the industry.

Defense and Foreign Policy Outlook:The Administration’s reluctant partner in appeasing China

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is the administration’s reluctant partner in its appeasement policy on China. The Philippine military has been very wary of closer Philippine-China economic relations in particular, and on the so-called “pivot to China” in general. The wariness stems from the fact that it has a long and close relationship with United States Armed Forces.

Strongman politics and the water crisis

Theoretically, the market should run unimpeded and uninterrupted with little to no intervention from the government for it to attain a certain level of efficiency dictated by market forces. Fundamentally, the absence of micromanagement from the State will be the driving force for growth, competition, and innovation. The Philippines has constantly been a laggard on the Ease of Doing Business Report and infrastructure development for decades, which this administration has vowed to solve. Yet, when looking back over the last few months, we see that these initiatives have not really panned out as previously projected and have had little to marginal contributions to the over-all business environment. Buoyed by Duterte’s hardline politics and strongman persona, his economic and business policies have been polarizing at best and divisive at worst.

You reap what you sow

“Reaping what you sow,” a quote attributed to the Christian apostle Paul, is about action and consequences. It strikes at the core of the message of Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) when he addressed top government officials and leaders of industry who came together in a forum organized by The Stratbase Group to share in the global crusade to sustain the environment and help save the future of mankind.

Innovative and collaborative action on plastic waste

We all live in a world that generally seems to be on the cusp of the next big thing. From bigger screens to smaller cameras, faster ways of transportation and communication, innovation has truly shaped our society, behavior and interactions.

Sensible thinking and environmental stewardship

Over the years there has been an outpouring of indignation over the world’s use and reliance on plastic. When we look at the visuals in the news and on social media -- the floating “island” of plastic, marine life choking on plastic, etc. -- the impact is undeniable.

Global shift to sustainability

Globally, the transformative impact for businesses to embrace and drive sustainable development is on the rise. With the age of social media, increasing levels of public awareness exert more pressure on companies to pursue a larger social and environmental purposes, other than just augmenting profits.

Recycling for Mega-Manila

Our rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans are part of what we call the “blue” economy. It is similar to what is often referred to as the “green” economy, only that it represents the economic development of marine and coastal ecosystems.

The Philippines’ complicity in creating China’s vision of a regional order

Prior to his 5th working visit to Beijing, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he would push for the immediate adoption of the Code of Conduct (CoC) for the Parties in the South China Sea dispute. He promised that he would press for the early drafting of the agreement to reduce tension and minimize the risk of incidents and miscalculation in the face of concerns about the delay in its drafting, apparently because of China’s delaying tactics.

The ASEAN’s identity crisis at the crossroads

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, better known as ASEAN, has long been a paradox as much as it is a special and unique case in the parlance of international regional cooperation. One of the more mature transnational organizations in the world, its presence and longevity make it the poster child of stability that newer international organizations aspire to emulate. The ASEAN has successfully made it through several crises, transitions of power, and shifts in the balance of world affairs since its inception in 1967.

Are we ready for stablecoins?

Financial inclusion has become a global challenge. In a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, about 1.7 billion adults around the world remain unbanked which simply means that they are still without an account in a financial institution. China has the greatest number of these unbanked individuals, followed by India and then Pakistan.

Keeping up with the sustainability shift

Due to the difficult challenges in water, climate, energy, and waste management that humanity is facing today, the traditional concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has evolved to embrace new concepts such as “Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) standards,” “People, Planet, Profit,” “Impact Investing,” and “Corporate Sustainability.” These terms continue to spread in private, public, and societal spheres to exert more pressure on companies to pursue a larger social and environmental purpose.

Where are our priorities?

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), in its website (http://bagong.pagasa.dost.gov.ph/information/climate-change-in-the-philippines), does not seem alarmed about climate change, although it recognizes its presence.

Philippine ICT development, transforming barriers

In the recent Technology and Innovation Summit entitled, “Innovative Philippines: Transforming Barriers to Productivity, Transparency and Inclusive Growth,” organized by the Stratbase Group, thought leaders from government, and the information and communications technology (ICT) sector came together to discuss the challenges faced by the industry, as well as the policy directions and strategies to cope with and succeed in the changing landscape of the digital economy.

Developmental approach to mineral resources

Developing the mining potential of our country necessitates a far more complex and progressive way of capitalizing opportunities and benefits.

Beware of China giving gifts: The risk of joint development of...

A few weeks after his fifth visit to China, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte claimed that Chinese President Xi Jingping offered him a controlling stake in a proposed joint energy exploration in the West Philippine Sea if the Philippines would set aside the 2016 United Nation Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) award that invalidated China’s historic claim in the South China Sea. According to President Duterte, his Chinese counter-part advised him to “Set aside the arbitral ruling -- set aside your claim then allow everybody connected with the Chinese companies, they want to explore. If there is something, we will be gracious enough to give you 60%, only 40% will be theirs (Chinese companies).”

Not just a $23-Billion solution

A wide-ranging value chain analysis on the Philippine economy leads us to try new strategies, which can eventually jumpstart “real” development. The fact remains that our country is the fifth most mineralized country in the world; the issue of effective resource management in order to unleash the potentials of this “underground” wealth is a good strategic approach as this can finance development and activate key industries in the process.

The enabling strategy

In the playbook of democratic governance, government and its institutions perform the role of an enabler that provides the necessary legal and regulatory environment for the delivery of better and affordable public services.

An integrated recycling industry for sustainability

Cleaning up Manila Bay has been a decades-long task for government. Although the launch of the rehabilitation plan seven months ago was nothing new given annual coastal clean-up activities, there needed to be a renewed genuine commitment and tangible results addressing the plastic waste problem. Looking past the hype, it could not have come at a more opportune time as the Philippines has been labeled as the third top source of ocean plastic waste.

Economic reforms should be the center of legislative agenda

For two straight quarters, the Philippine economy has not grown as projected by its economic managers. The 5.5% gross domestic product growth in the second quarter of the year is considered the lowest in the past 17 quarters. This should be a wake-up call for lawmakers and economic managers; we are in “challenging times,” as economic planning secretary Ernesto Pernia put it.

Smart regulations to save agriculture

Agriculture has long been the backbone of civilizations, nations, and communes. Empires are built on the foundations of food security and access to livestock, poultry, and grains. Modern society would interpret this as the common foundation of developing nations whose industries rose from the shadows of farmers cultivating crops and livestock by developing the necessary value chains that fuel communities. From the Indus Valley to the Mekong Delta, the world would not have progressed the way it did if it weren’t for agriculture.

Mobilizing resources vs. dengue

According to the latest situational report released by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), several provinces and municipalities, particularly in regions IV-A, IV-B, VI, VIII and XII, are now under a state of calamity due to the continuous surge of dengue cases.