Sunday 1 January 2017 – a Happy New Year to all our followers. We wish you all good health, happiness and prosperity in a year that looks destined to be eventful.
In just 19 days, they’re changing of the guard in Washington as US President, Barack Obama, steps aside and makes way for the country’s 45th president, Donald John Trump. For the Philippines, we believe this is very positive. A Republican, Trump will be more sensitive to the issue of Philippine sovereignty and far less likely than his predecessor to behave like a headmaster scolding an errant pupil.
Under Trump there will be opportunities for trade and the irksome military-cooperation agreements will have a chance of being settled amicably and in an equitable manner that won’t leave a bad taste. US-Philippine relations seem set to enter a new chapter of mutual respect and understanding. Better, probably, than any time in their long history.
But trade and investment are likely to be the driving forces in the coming 12 months. New markets are already being sought and a number of these should start bearing fruit. China, of course, is already open to Philippine business but we anticipate that the large consumer base of the Russian Federation will soon be receiving regular shipments of Philippine agricultural products – among other items. Trade with the rest of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) also looks like it will increase in 2017 – the year that the Philippines hosts the annual Asean Summit which this year marks the 50th anniversary of the bloc’s founding.
Infrastructure building will proceed at a pace through both public and private initiatives and through a combination of the two under the Public-Private Partnership Scheme. The list of projects is long and covers major works for airports, seaports and roads right across the three main island groups. The build-out of the Philippines is the main plank of the administration’s economic policies and this year we expect to see those plans come to life in concrete and steel.
But this year will have many challenges. The war on drugs will be pursued with the same zeal it was started but more resources will be directed at rehabilitation – the building of residential centres and the implementation of more rehab programmes.
The Islamist insurgency in the southern region of Mindanao will not peter out anytime soon and there is a danger it could escalate as Islamic State (IS) endeavours to establish a home base in the Sulu Archipelago. This threat has been underestimated in the past but as IS continues to lose territory in Iraq and Syria, the likelihood of its presence in the southern reaches of the Philippines materialising have substantially increased.
And, of course, the tiresome barrage of attacks against the Philippine president, members of his Cabinet, and the blueprint for the future which they’re pursuing, will continue unabated. Time and breath and newsprint will be wasted on reckless allegations and political posturing. You can safely put money on that.
But in the meantime, the dawn of this new year brings with it hope – hope for a safer, cleaner environment; hope of gainful employment; hope that finally the ‘Sick Man of Asia’ can start to hold his head up and be respected for the hard choices he’s had to take and for the achievements he’s making. With all that, let’s look forward to this New Year and meet its challenges.
The Volatilian™ will be back on 3 January.