Let’s talk about our risk environment. I’ve been harping on this because my sense is that we’re not engaged in a whole-of-nation effort. Would it be correct to say that there’s no palpable systematic whole-of-society nor whole-of-government integrated initiative to mitigate and manage risk? I believe we’re still very much on our own, left to fend for ourselves.
I don’t intend to map out our risk universe. I’ll just pick a few major ones for discussion: human security, ecological security, national security and cultural risks. Each of those risks are in themselves complex and interrelated.
Human security risks: education, energy, employment, financial, health, shelter, food, public safety, mobility, information, connectivity.
Ecological security risks: climate change impacts, i.e., rising sea levels, rising temperatures, extreme weather; destruction of forests, watersheds, mangroves and coral reefs; mindless pollution of waterways and oceans.
National security risks: inability to modernize the uniformed forces; rising external and internal threats—maritime intrusions, infiltration of society and government, subversion, armed rebellion and terrorism.
Cultural risks: loss of moral moorings, erosion of ethical standards, inability to discern wrong from right; attitudinal and behavioral abnormalities resulting in systematic corruption, social injustice; unequal distribution of wealth and widespread poverty; inferior standards of performance.
I consider those as inter-generational risks that are not being given the required attention that they deserve. The consequences of neglect keep piling from one administration to the next, and from generation to generation. We must question the degree of our situational awareness, aptitude and skill for risk management.
Do we have the right people in place manning their posts, collaborating with each other to assess and mitigate risk? Comparisons are odious but I envy the state of governance and civic consciousness of, say, Singapore and South Korea.
This brings to the fore political risk, as in gutter politics, that stinks from all the syndicated and individual wrongs committed daily though the march of time by those who hold dominion over us.
Election after election, we go through the pretense of democracy choosing from a menu of mostly unworthy “winnable” choices offered by political syndicates whose vested interests come before the nation’s good. Crime and corruption abound in such an environment, where those in power build on the malfeasance and misfeasance of previous occupants.
A world war is being waged by a virus against mankind and remains in control two years after it was detected. It remains in control wrecking economies, shattering lives and upending the way we were, which wasn’t exactly commendable. From our end, the quality of risk and crisis management leave much to be desired —it’s disorganized, haphazard, reactionary and unintelligent. While some are burning the midnight candle to save lives, others are low-life shameless opportunists allegedly producing tons of illicit wealth along the way.
With sea levels rising, extreme weather and rising temperatures ravaging food supply, poor farmers and fishermen are being driven deeper into poverty. There’s much to be done to rezone our land mass for natural habitats, reposition human settlements and restructure economic endeavors. A national blueprint backed by forward-looking policies and plans is necessary to serve as the government’s North Star. For example, urban vertical farming, fresh water replenishment, renewable energy and wireless technology. Is the government working on it?
From the looks of it, the United States and its allies are headed toward a kinetic clash with China and its allies. China keeps raising the ante in the Taiwan Straits, East and South China Seas. They won’t budge on their core interest. Should China attack Taiwan, Northern Luzon will be a tempting target.
Should China and the United States clash in the Spratlys, Palawan and Panatag will be tempting targets. The government must accelerate the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization by tapping the private sector to help it find better ways and means to fund it. Is it?
The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban has rekindled fears that it might be used again as a springboard for terrorism around the world. The Taliban has known ties with Al-Qaeda, which maintains a presence in Southeast Asia. That was my headache as [Interior Secretary] of [former President Fidel Ramos].
Other black flag groups have established a presence there and in nearby Pakistan, like ISIS. A resurgence is foreseen by global counter-terror experts unless the global community unites to share intelligence, conduct joint operations and extend mutual legal assistance.
But the worst enemy of the Filipino is the Filipino himself —his “kultura” or “ugali,” his juvenile attitudes and individualistic behavior skewed toward self-interest, self-promotion and self-gratification. No unity, no shared effort, no sense of nationhood. “Kanya-kanya” prevents us from converting our potentials into powerhouse realities. It’s the mother of all risks that we’ve failed to attend to. We either don’t want to, don’t know how or don’t know why. Zero tolerance
Without zero tolerance for wrongdoing, powerful predators will continue to lord it over our weak society. When we have the wrong people manning our government and social institutions, when we elect the wrong people, when we don’t do anything to deny them the opening, time and space to rule us, when we do nothing to push them back and extract punishment as well as compensation for the harm they’ve done, we will continue to be where we are right now. If we want a strong upright Philippines, we need to first become strong upright Filipinos.
We’re inside a rotten box that needs to be trashed. Wouldn’t that be the best risk mitigation measure of all? After all the squandered years, it’s come to this where we have no other option but to change the rotten box if we want to save our future. Staying in it and working our way through it is no longer viable.
National survival depends on changing our “kultura” and adopting a mindset that places good governance, civic consciousness and the common good ahead of all else. That’s how we can best tackle an all-risk environment. INQ
This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines. The author is chair of Philippine Council for Foreign Relations, vice chair of Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines Inc. and sits on the boards of other companies as independent director.
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