First we cheered on stirrings of what we described as impending “people power” Edsa-style revolutions that started in Tunisia and spread over the rest of North Africa. Quick to fancy ourselves as the doting grand-daddies of this sort of “grassroots-initiated” change movement, we tweeted, blogged, Facebook-“liked”, re-tweeted, and email-forwarded various newsbits and factoids that made their way into our “newsfeeds” and “timelines” while gushing about how “timely” all this was as the 25th silver anniversary of a similar relic of our past approached.
Then we sobered up a bit and recalled how another desert kingdom, Iran, deposed its own “despotic” Shah back in the late 70’s and ended up the even more repressive theocratic Islamic state that it is today. More importantly, we recall our own 25-year hangover after what was just a four-day party in 1986 and how all that turned out for us. Indeed, all it did for us was remove a once credible excuse for a now world-renowned endemic inability to prosper.
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And then we looked on in horror as tens of thousands of Filipino overseas foreign workers (OFWs) deployed in the region at worst outright lost their livelihoods there and at best had the future of their jobs there become a big question mark. Even more astounding is the revelation of the sorry level of preparedeness and lack of any contingency planning on the part of the Philippine Government with regard to securing the safety of its citizens who, even before these crises erupted, are widely acknowledged to be working and residing in one of the most dangerous parts of the world.
Now, we are faced with a double whammy of an economic crisis that rippled all the way from the Arab world and exploded in relevance right in the faces of every Filipinos — the obvious impact on (1) the ability of the domestic economy to absorb tens of thousands of refugee OFWs coming home, and (2) possible shortfalls in world petroleum supply that could see energy prices skyrocketing, and most likely inflation ramping up in the next few months…
That the livelihoods of a horde of Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs) deployed there were at risk was an obvious reality that simply flew over the heads of would-be Filipino poets. That reality is now bearing down on the hapless little islands nation of 100 million as it faces the virtually impossible task of absorbing an additional mass of tens of thousands of warm bodies into its flaccid domestic economy.
The other obvious waiting-to-happen whammy that escaped Filipinos’ atrophied faculties for foresight is their dependence on Arab oil.
The global energy market is beginning to reel from the effects of both the disruptions in production in Arab kingdoms teetering on the brink of civil war, and the continued spread of this malaise to other desert kingdoms there anticipated by speculators. Already there are doubts that supply shortfalls can be compensated for by other oil producers simply cranking up their production — and that is a bleak scenario foreseen even while assuming that the spread of “people power” politics across the rest of the Arab world can be averted…
The irony here is that the government of the self-described granddaddy who doted upon these desert kingdoms toying around with his famous “invention” is now itself at risk of buckling under the weight of a chronic economic malaise that simply won’t go away and that is now being exacerbated by shockwaves coming from “revolutions” he cheered on halfway around the planet. Ever the hapless fire fighter trying to look “heroic” in the middle of an immense forest fire, Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III now “orders” the creation of an “inter-agency panel” to explore an “oil contingency plan”…
[Energy Secretary Jose Almendras] previously discussed the Energy Contingency Task Force, or the ECTF.
“It is a staggered response to a potential shortage situation. We have not yet activated it. We will activate it at the right time,” he explained.
The right time, he said, is when there is a “threat to supply,” which then triggers a calibrated response.
The first stage is the organization of a technical working group that would prepare the mechanism and infrastructure to handle the crisis.
“We have not activated it yet because there is no “perceived significant” risks yet as of today. I cannot speak for the future,” he stressed.
“We are monitoring data and information coming from the region. If we feel that we need to prepare already, we will activate [the technical working group],” he explained.
If it weren’t for the immense and likely unpredictable repercussions all this is expected to have on many more ordinary Filipinos’ this would have all come across as just another episode in the sad situation comedy that is the Republic of the Philippines. Maybe next time before we let our emo sentimentality take over our already atrophied faculties for rational thought, we should remind ourselves to step back and regard the situation with fresh minds that are unshackled from sentimentalism, traditionalism, dogmatism, and primitivism.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.