The government should not have just shrugged off reports during a recent security summit in Singapore that there are around 1,200 Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) operatives in the Philippines.
Indonesian Defense Minister General Ryamizard Ryacudu said ISIS members, fighting alongside local Moro rebels who have pledged allegiance to the radical group, include 40 from his country.
The prospect of a full ISIS invasion of southern Philippines, and possibly of other parts of the country, is far bigger than President Duterte’s war on drugs, which he had successfully used as campaign tact in last year’s elections.
To me, it is this myopic view which has blurred his vision on other equally urgent problems facing the country today. We are losing territories in the West Philippine Sea by the day, despite prodding from Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio and former President Fidel V. Ramos to use the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea arbitral ruling that effectively nullified China’s nine-dash line claim over the vast swath of the West Philippine Sea as a deterrent.
On the economic front, his “Build, Build, Build” mantra to kick off an infrastructure renaissance seems to have encountered a major bump.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia admitted that expensive loans from China will not give us the Duterte-advertised “golden age of infrastructure”. He said: “It will be the bronze age, maybe of infrastructure or maybe dark age—dark age of infrastructure.”
It now appears that such an ambitious project will be funded by income that will be gained from the comprehensive tax reform coupled with local borrowings to sidestep a likely “debt trap”.
The way I see it, the government will make do with the liquidity surplus in the domestic market. Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III himself said that around 80 percent from banks and other financial establishments will be loaned, and only 20 percent will come from lenders overseas for the next six years. This will be the sustenance of a wider yearly budget deficit of 3 percent so that we can allot more on infrastructure buildup.
But some pundits are wary of the way the tax reform will burden the citizenry, which is already hard put to pay for previous bad debts incurred by the late dictator, Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr.
The traffic situation in Metro Manila and other major cities in the country has worsened, with no quick fix in sight, as traffic planners conduct one failed experiment after another.
Then comes the ISIS threat.
I really hope that our military is well-equipped in nipping this problem in the bud. The problem should end in Marawi City, and ISIS should not be allowed to gain a foothold in any part of the archipelago. The ISIS image is virtually culled from horror movies, such that people freeze in terror or run in fear just by the mere mention of its name. Need I narrate how the recent tragic incident at Resorts World Manila which—in the absence of credible information —even House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez immediately dubbed as an ISIS attack?
To be continued
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