WHEN the United Nations was founded on October 24, 1945 after large parts of the world had been ravaged by the Second World War which ended on September 2, 1945, the dominant concept of security was that of the state. Territorial integrity, political integrity, military and defense arrangements, and economic and financial activities are what define national security according to the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights. But since the end of the Cold War in 1991, the concept has changed dramatically. Security, according to Lloyd Axworthy in his book Human Security and Global Governance, must be defined in terms of the security of people, not just territory, of individuals, not just nations. Thus, “human security” has become a neologism.
The UN has listed seven elements of human security, namely personal, economic, political, community, health, environmental and food security. And in General Assembly resolution 66/290, it states that “Governments retain the primary role and responsibility for ensuring the right of people to live in freedom and dignity, free from poverty and despair “. In this context and given these prospects, we are in a period where our national security is seriously challenged.
This June 14, 2022 file photo shows an attendant pumping fuel into a vehicle at a gas station on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City. PHOTO BY JOHN ORVEN VERDOTE
The noticeable trigger is the skyrocketing cost of fuel, largely due to the Russian-Ukrainian war which has led to instability in the supply and demand of petroleum products. With the current exchange rate of 53.79 pesos per dollar compared to 50.99 pesos on January 1, 2022, the impact will be felt on the cost of imports, in particular on the already high price of crude oil. According to available data from the Ministry of Energy, the net increases per liter since January 1, 2022 have been PPP 23.85 for gasoline, PPP 30.30 for diesel and PPP 27.65 for kerosene. . As expected, utility jeepney drivers and operators are demanding a P5 increase in the minimum fare. Taxi operators are asking for an increase in the flag rate from P40 to P60. Transport network vehicle services or TNVS require a P15 base rate increase. To make matters worse, there is this imminent possibility of raising the Covid-19 alert status to moderate risk which would result in restrictions on the number of passengers allowed in public commercial vehicles and occupations in hotels, restaurants and other establishments.
Truckers want an average increase of 5,500 pula in transport costs, which will lead to higher commodity prices. To compensate, our Kababayan working class demands an increase in the minimum wage. Employers, meanwhile, argue that it is an impossible demand for fear of closing up shop or laying off workers. There were clamors to suspend fuel excise tax collection, but the government is not ready to give up 105.9 billion pesos and cripple government services.
Endure hunger, poverty and unemployment; struggling to earn a living amid a health crisis compounded by the cost of fuel becoming inaccessible; experiencing both natural and man-made calamities, the situation is ripe for exploitation by enemies of the state. These are major security issues that the government must grasp by the horns. National security agencies must detect, deter, defend and defeat terrorist attempts in order to take advantage of the situation to recruit members, launch attacks and harm national security. This is more than ever the time when people are demanding good governance. And the fastest way to cushion the impact is for the government to quickly release direct grants by improving the system and cleaning up the list of recipients.
Threats to economic, food, health and personal security must be addressed urgently. We pin our hopes on the economic pundits exploited by the new administration. While government has a responsibility to maintain and ensure that human security is achieved through protection and empowerment, it is our responsibility as citizens to help where we can. Nor can I beg all of us – especially our less fortunate kababayans – to be patient and put up with more than we are already doing.
If Dr. Jose Rizal, whose 161st birthday we commemorate today, is alive, what would he probably be doing? He would surely implore his fellow Filipinos who are in a better economic situation to take this opportunity to show their patriotism. No, he will not ask any of us to be shot in the fields of Bagumbayan! He will not ask us to give the government pieces of our gold jewelry as the Thais and South Koreans have done to help their countries survive economic crises. But on our small scale, help our less fortunate Kababayan to cope and help lighten the burdens of government. Large corporations should religiously and properly pay what they owe Caesar, just as the manggagawa uring pay government dues through their tax deductions. Be generous with any tips or sukli we may leave for delivery people to keep, or Mamang Drayber to have or Ateng serbidora to keep, or other similar acts of kindness. As far as we know, with the few pesos we donate, we prevent the proverbial sash they’ve been tying around their waists for a long time from becoming a noose around their necks.
Rizal will beg us to do our part to help. Get vaccinated and encourage others to do booster shots, follow strict health protocols or simply wear masks to help fight the pandemic. Employees, love your job and work to earn your daily pay. Turn off unnecessary lights, unused computers and appliances, or other small acts of malasakit. These, if done consciously and collectively, can save a certain amount to retain another worker in his job. Management should also show malasakit to their employees to inspire them to perform at their best.
We may be living through a perfect storm, but we can weather it if we pull ourselves together.
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