2019: A Roller Coaster Ride

A lot of issues, a lot of ups and downs, but we are still standing towards the end of the year. 2019 was, indeed, a roller coaster ride for the Philippines and the Filipino people. As we look forward to a much better 2020, let us learn from the lessons of the past year and use them to not only improve ourselves further but to also make our nation and society far better than where they are now.

We are now inthe middle of December 2019. Time has flown so fast we did not notice it.Instead, we were preoccupied with the events happening around us during the 12 months of the year.

2019 started with the campaign season in time for the midterm elections. At the Senate race,the battle lines were clearly drawn between the Pro-Duterte candidates,composed of a mix of interesting figures ranging from veteran politicians such as Cynthia Villar and Pia Cayetano to known supporters of the President such as then Special Assistant to the President Bong Go and former Philippine National Police Chief General Ronald "Bato" de la Rosa to the eldest child of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, then Ilocos Norte Governor Imee, who seeks to bring back her family to national politics, and the opposition candidates, a mix of remnants of the Liberal Party and leftists that collectively called themselves "Otso Deretso." There were also so-called"independent" candidates such as Grace Poe and Nancy Binay. The results heavily favored the Pro-Duterte candidates, with Cynthia Villar getting the top spot, and "Otso Deretso" was wiped out, a proof of how solid President Rodrigo Duterte's trust, approval and popularity are to voters despite accusations being thrown against him from all corners.

The year ends with the country successfully hosting the 30th Southeast Asian Games for the first time since 2005, with the new facilities at New Clark City in Tarlac serving as the main venues. The games had a jittery start, no thanks to real problems ranging from transportation of athletes to miscommunication with hotels, and issues that were later on revealed to be products of fake news that were, unfortunately, spread by some mainstream media outlets. Filipinos from all walks of life, led by the President, who cheerfully danced to the tune of Hotdog's "Manila" while greeting the members of the Philippine contingent during the opening ceremony at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, went out to show their support at the different game locations in places such as Metro Manila, New Clark City, Laguna, Batangas, Tagaytay, Clark, Subic and La Union, inspiring the athletes to do their best and later enabling them to win medals and bring honor to the country. The games finally culminated last December 11, with the Philippines being the overall champion and announcing to the world that it is ready to for bigger things such as the 2030 Asian Games.

Natural calamities of varying forms occurred during the year. Typhoons passed through different locations within the country, causing floods, damage to property and crops, and the loss of some lives, but unlike in 2013 when Super Typhoon Haiyan ("Yolanda") tore through Leyte and the rest of the Visayas, the casualties were kept at a minimum, thanks to national and local government units being prepared to deal with the situation effectively and efficiently.However, 2019 saw multiple earthquakes occurring in Mindanao, the most recent of which was that Magnitude 6.9 tremor that struck Davao del Sur, with the epicenter being located at the town of Padada, causing the death of several individuals and widespread damage to property.

The controversy involving alleged onerous water concessionaire contracts entered into by the government, through the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System(MWSS), with Ayala-owned Manila Water Company and the Metro Pacific-DMCI joint venture Maynilad Water Services, with the two companies being accused of profiting heavily from their monopoly of the water supply in Metro Manila and several areas of Rizal and Cavite and not fulfilling their side of the agreement through the non-building of key water distribution and sewerage-related infrastructure, was revealed by President Duterte to the country, making him the first leader to openly go up against the Manila-based economic elite, threatening the owners and company executives of Manila Water and Maynilad of jail time and other stiff penalties for taking advantage of millions of water consumers in the Greater Manila Area, and a military take over of the capital's water distribution network. It was not the only water-related issue for 2019, as the early part of the year also show a major water crisis hitting Metro Manila due to problems with the Angat and La Mesa Reservoirs, a problem that was only resolved after President Duterte openly berated Manila Water and Maynilad on national television.

President Duterte also battled it out with two other members of the Manila-based economic elite in 2019. The fate of the franchise renewal by Congress of Lopez-owned ABS-CBN in March 2020 hangs in the balance after the Chief Executive openly opposed the idea. The Rufino-Prieto clan, which owns the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Philippine franchise of Dunkin' Donuts, was forced to return to the government the Mile Long Center, a key property in Makati City, as part of its settlement to pay billions worth of unpaid taxes.

A lot of issues, a lot of ups and downs, but we are still standing towards the end of the year. 2019 was, indeed, a roller coaster ride for the Philippines and the Filipino people. As we look forward to a much better 2020, let us learn from the lessons of the past year and use them to not only improve ourselves further but to also make our nation and society far better than where they are now.

Cheers to a more prosperous, more joyful and clearer 2020!

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About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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