After two years of subdued Christmas celebrations, the nation celebrated this year’s Christmas with a vengeance.
Unfortunately, the revelry must end so that people can go back to work to face the many challenges of the New Year.
First is a looming world economic recession accompanied by a persistent high inflation which is eroding the purchasing power of fixed income earners.
There is no other country on earth where one can find a kilo of onions worth P600 except here in our country.
Sometimes, it is during times like this that brings out the worst in some of us.
Although 2022 saw the country perform extremely well in the economic arena, 2023 might not be all that smooth sailing.
In fact we are starting the year on the wrong foot with tens of thousands of air travelers being stranded due to antiquated equipment and power glitches.
Let us hope that this is not a sign of things to come for the rest of the year.
Second is what to do with the opportunity presented by the passing of CPP/NPA founder Jose Maria Sison.
The insurgency that has bedeviled the country for the last 53 years must now end.
Will the government make an offer that the new CPP/NPA leadership cannot refuse for a peace deal or will the AFP be tempted to pursue a military solution until the government will be victorious?
A news item recently came out about the surrender of about 54 CPP/NPA members which at face value was a huge number.
Will this establish a trend for more surrenders? I wonder.
The AFP is right in its assessment that it is hard for anyone to fill the shoes left by Joma and that the CPP/NPA will never be the same without him setting the direction and leadership.
It is for this reason the government should aggressively pursue a peace deal.
The dividend that will accrue to the country if a peace deal can be signed would be enormous.
Militarily, economically and socially.
The AFP, for one, can devote its time and meager resources in restructuring the military for external defense due to the prevailing geopolitical situation in the region.
The third challenge is how best to protect our national interests because of the big power tensions in the South China Sea.
This issue has become the most important foreign policy problem awaiting resolution for the country.
The last two administrations had contrasting approaches on how to deal with the problem.
One tried to strengthen our MDT with our traditional ally, the United States but was reversed by the last administration.
Instead, it made a pivot and brought the country closer to China, the country that is now occupying part of our exclusive economic zone backed by a strong military presence.
PBBM, our new leader, has just gone to China to meet Chinese President Xi to ink various agreements but, more importantly, try to find if a resolution is possible direct from the Chinese leader.
The WPS, however, is no longer the only issue.
The Taiwan matter looms large in the horizon.
It is very near us and if China will make good its intention to incorporate Taiwan by force of arms, we, as PBBM himself stated, will get involved because of our MDT with the United States.
The WPS issue is, therefore, not only complicated but also volatile and must be handled responsibly.
This is perhaps why there is talk about a hotline with Beijing to avoid any untoward incidents which makes sense.
The WPS issue is one that cannot be resolved with one trip.
But it can start a process in which an acceptable solution can be found.
We have to wait and see. We have to remember that PBBM will also be making an official trip to Washington in a couple of months after which he and his team will weigh what course of action to pursue.
The fourth is the ongoing pandemic which everyone seems to be ignoring already.
It is, however, still killing a lot of Filipinos which, according to last week’s figure, was 172 deaths in one week.
That is equivalent to 8,944 a year.
Although the number of infections appear to be decreasing, I suspect that many who are getting the infection are no longer reporting.
With infections in China surging and travel restrictions lifted let us hope the government will make the right and timely decisions.
A lot of countries are now requiring travelers from China to have a negative test before entering while we are still observing and sticking with current health protocols.
Maybe we do not want to hurt the feelings of our Chinese friends by requiring them to test.
But how about the Filipinos who will be infected and die due to newer, deadlier and vaccine resistant sub-variants?
Sometimes, it is hard to fathom where our priorities should be at times.
With these and all the other challenges, let us hope that we can ride them thru as we always do and that this year will be better than the last.