Three events will define 2021 for the Philippines. First, the social impact of the Philippine economy’s contraction. Second, the decision of the Communist Party of the Philippines to increase urban insurgency-related activities and lastly, increased restiveness in the South caused by the failure of the transitional government to implement most of its planned activities.
This early, expect the raising of taxes and other fees by the government. PhilHealth, SSS and other government collective funds agencies have already announced their respective monthly fee hikes. Finance secretary Carlos Dominguez hinted of raising new taxes and these funds-raising schemes meant additional heavy burden already not on the lowest income segment of the Philippine population (largely untaxed) but on the middle income groups. The sad part of this is that this segment has been severely hit by government’s lockdown policies that eventually led to the closure of hundreds if not thousands of small and medium sized enterprises.
With the SME sector still facing gigantuan challenges, expect joblessness to rise even higher. Desperation will force many to consider job postings abroad. Hence, a rise again in illegal recruitment activities and possible human smuggling of Filipinos to conflict areas throughout the world.
Come March or as early as February, expect a deluge of loan defaults, as economic opportunities remain absent. This will be good for banks but will cause nightmares for individuals. The steady stream of remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) will not be as big as previous years as more than half a million of them lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Remittances from expatriate Filipinos also from the United States will not be enough.
The last quarter of 2020 saw the rise of non-index crimes. Several analysts think this is already creating a trend, one that would severely disrupt peace and order mostly in urban and suburban areas.
The Ides of March
March is particularly interesting because that’s the end of the first quarter of this year. By this time, the economy would have changed and it is possible that this will be the time when the economic effects of a contracting economy will be seen and felt by almost everyone.
Oil prices are expected to rise even more as demand rises. Electricity rates are also expected to be higher than usual in this month as residential and commercial establishments use more air-conditioning compared with previous months.
People will feel the crunch as global economies try to recover from the trillions of dollars worth of losses businesses incurred during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in the Philippines, recovery will be at its lowest since by this time, government will just begin inoculation campaigns.
If government fucks up with their inoculation campaign. that will surely exacerbate the social condition.
As the basic masses feel the crunch of ill-timed and stupid decisions made by the government last 2020, expect the social condition to boil beyond everyone’s expectations. Levels of relative deprivation are sure to rise to unmanageable levels. There will be pockets of insurgent violence in several cities and towns near the National Capital Region and possibly even within Metro Manila.
After the CPP decided to reactive its urban insurgency units, expect a repeat of the gory situation prior to the 1986 revolution where Metro Manila became a place where death became a staple of everyday life. Expect agaw armas incidents in checkpoints, since cops always want to brandish their long and highly sophisticated firearms. Cops will surely be killed in the next few months and will scores if not hundreds of state troopers. This is the result of government’s hard stance against peace, a move that is as stupid as other decisions made by this administration.
Of course, security forces will also do the same thing to the legal front. Expect an increase of abductions and desaparrecidos as government decides to clamp rising dissent. This will surely enrage civil society members and will possibly be used to hasten moves against the administration.
By this time, members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will have to make a stand as members of the oligarchy will find it extremely hard to do business here. Miners will be the first ones to be assassinated, followed by big businessmen connected with nefarious activities. More pressure from political leaders for the AFP to perform more operations against the insurgents.
As things stand, the CPP is not joking–the ranks of its armed force, the New People’s Army has risen to more than 11,000 heavily armed and probably trained troops. Even with the use of sophisticated firepower both in the air and on land, the AFP knows that it will be hard for them to obliterate the CPP-NPA from the face of the earth, even with the anti-terror law there. The NPA lives with its 10 million mass base scattered throughout the archipelago.
As the Luzon and some provinces in the Visayas rise in revolt, Mindanao will likewise see the rise of insurgent activity as several units of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) disengage themselves from the leadership. This means more recruits to local terror groups especially the Abu Sayyah and Dawlah Islamiyah. The big presence of Indonesians, Malaysians, Singaporeans and other nationalities in Mindanao signify the big possibility of violence breaking out there sooner than later. Disgruntled sections of the Maranao community are exhibiting exasperation, as government dilly dallies in its reconstruction efforts three years after the Maranao siege.
War will surely bear heavily on government already devastated by a pandemic, a rising contraction of the economy, sagging consumer and business community confidence, increasing street violence and heavy regulatory policies. With its inability to shore up funds from the public, government will surely see itself facing tremendous challenges to its power in the coming months.