Jimmy Tadeo, head of the National Rice Farmers Council, had an explosive analysis on Korina Today (ANC). He notes that the government caused rice traders to stop buying rice from local farmers (at the prevailing price of 17 pesos per kilo) after it conducted raids on warehouses that they publicized "might be hoarding rice." Then the government turns around and offers to buy 675,000 metric tons of rice from the Mekong River countries (Thailand and Vietnam mainly) at an amazing price of P48 per kilo. "WHY?" Korina asks. Because, Tadeo replies, of a $58 per ton COMMISSION going to government agents and personnel! Grrrrr! Damn this Government!
A PERFECT STORM of problems involving the rice supply, electricity bills and transportation costs is about to teach this heedless and willfully self-deluding country a painful lesson and I am afraid it will be ugly.
The unexpected failure of the government's recent attempts to import 675,000 metric tons of rice, the nasty fight over Meralco initiated by GSIS hatchetman Winston Garcia on behalf of the increasingly demented Arroyo government, and a looming jeepney "transport holiday" are all dark omens that something evil walks this way and that the Philippines is in for a very bad time, perhaps as bad as Somalia. With the "lean months" coming and the heavy typhoon season just around the corner, I cannot help but feel uncharacteristically pessimistic that something very bad is about to happen.
Even the usual bright spots are darkening. For example, while OFW repatriations have kept the more fortunate of poor families afloat, anecdotal evidence abounds that the main component of the overseas work force, the Filipino Americans in the United States, are themselves going through very bad times as the U.S. falls into recession (CNN reports that 71% of Americans now believe that happenstance). Turns out, many Fil-Ams victimized themselves by taking on too much debt and are suffering the worst fallout from the subprime lending debacle; many are losing homes and jobs and are therefore able to support folks in the Archipelago less and less. It can only get worse before it gets better for them.
Meanwhile, back home, a period of looming energy shortages and electricity-related problems are casting a heavy pall on the short and medium term prospects. The Philippines is heavily dependent on increasingly expensive foreign oil and it appears an inflation-igniting transportation fare increase and weekly pump prices are now inevitable.
The solutions that readers of Philippine Commentary have prescribed for all of these problems--including reduction of taxes and duties, elimination of graft and corruption, and the liberation of private sector initiatives to provide more food, energy and jobs all meet with my agreement and approbation. But even given that the most optimistic circumstances come together and all these solutions miraculously come to be applied in the most ideal manner, one is still faced with an ineradicable and irreducible residue: the population denominator!
By whatever metric one wants to project the various scenarios in the major problems areas of food, diesel and gasoline and cooking gas, electicity, transportation and wages, there is this common factor of having to provide for now nearly 91 million people. Here is REALITY and not THEORY staring us starkly in the face, and not even the most favorable of possible outcomes can reduce what now promises to be a major lesson in the awful game of TRUTH and CONSEQUENCES.
The truth is that for the lucky few who can afford to be philosophical, there will be some bit of inconvenience, but for the overwhelming MASSES of the Filipino people, the consequences of having ignored the overpopulation issue for decades, of giving the Catholic Bishops too much the benefit of the doubt and of their dogmatic intransigence on the crying need for education and utilization of modern birth control methods -- will be TRAGEDY on a colossal scale.
For those who think that these are all global problems and world wide crises. Of course they are right. But in every case, the SEVERITY of the disasters will be directly multiplied by the population number and any forthcoming solutions and mitigations divided by it!
I urge those who think they've properly analysed this problem as manageable because there are other causes to the crises, to please consider consider this new argument by analogy. The Philippines has been the sick man of Asia, one with all these many ailments: inefficient and corrupt government, a lack of modern infrastructure from a neglect of investment, slow job and economic growth, dependence on foreign oil, a largely mendicant agricultural policy, etc. But our chronic disease of overpopulation, the abuse of the freedom to breed resulting in multiplication like rats and rabbits all over the place, this is tantamount to serious cardiovascular disease marked by social obsesity, arterio- and athero- sclerosis, that I am afraid will now lead to multiple organ failure, strokes, heart attacks and various other manifestations of a most disturbing and devastating sort. It is a chronic condition in the sense that almost all the other problems could conceivably be solved in relatively short order. But unlike even hypertension, overpopulation has no quick fix that is morally acceptable, and like hypertension only has long-term solutions that require resolute and forthright action over decades of steady application.
I think certain tragic disasters are what will teach our heedless religious and political leaders the lesson I was hoping could be delivered more gently and persuasively by opinion writing and the right reasoning of bloggers and thinkers.
I am afraid it is all too late for that now! All we can do now is chronicle the events that are about to unfold with sympathy clarity.