Cover Tatler gives its readers a glimpse of what the Philippines may look like in 2022 (Photo: Ryoji Iwata/Unsplash)

Industry experts Gigi Montinola, Cielito Habito and Edsel Salvana tell us what to expect in the coming year

Around this time last year, there was a collective excitement over the end of the bleak 2020 and the prospect of a brighter 2021. The optimism had its reasons. The anti-Covid vaccine has rolled out in several countries around the world, and it was just a matter of time when it will be in the Philippines. The number of infections in the country has stayed relatively and comparatively low and selected businesses were allowed to resume operations.

Then, boom! Delta happened.

Everything went back to square one, some say to negative square one. Infection numbers zoomed to the tens of thousands, and lockdowns were imposed again. It is thus not surprising that people are approaching 2022 with a bit more tentativeness, a little more caution—lest we suffer another setback.

“RNA viruses like SARS-CoV-2 really mutate fast; but actually, Covid-19 mutates slower than other RNA viruses like HIV,” says Dr Edsel Salvana, infectious diseases specialist. Because of this nature of the virus, Salvana believes that Covid-19 will still be around in 2022 though hopefully, more manageable in terms of prevention and cure. “We know more about the virus after more than a year,” he adds.

The economist Cielito Habito agrees. “It’s time, as people including health experts point out, to look at Covid-19 not as a pandemic but as endemic. It will always be there so we will just have to dance with it.”

Read also: Financial Tips: How To Bounce Back From The Pandemic Economic Crisis

"It’s time, as people including health experts point out, to look at Covid-19 not as a pandemic but as endemic. It will always be there so we will just have to dance with it"
Cielo Habito

Different sectors are already preparing to meet 2022 with the presence of the virus factored in. In education, two years of online learning took a heavy toll on the studentry, which Habito defines as “the lost generation”.

Gigi Montinola, chairman of Far Eastern University, calls it “the lost year”. “Clearly, we cannot do two more years of online learning,” he continues. “Every study worldwide shows that people learn less with remote learning. Its effect was bad all around—from physical health to mental health, even to parents’ health.”

In the last quarter of 2021, the government has allowed face-to-face learning in selected schools all over the country. Montinola gives this move a thumbs-up. “What Sec Briones [Education Secretary Leonor Briones] proposes is not bad. Alternate between weeks of going to school. Only three hours a day. It’s more an opportunity for students and parents to do something for a while. As for the learning, we will still see,” Montinola says.

He believes this hybrid learning situation will continue into 2022 and even perhaps beyond. “This is going to entail a lot of logistics, especially with health protocols,” he says, mentioning better ventilation in classrooms, or the proliferation of outdoor classrooms; better prepared students and teachers for both digital and face-to-face; the improvement of the Wi-fi and bandwidth infrastructure; and the vaccination of minors.

Vaccination is a must; Dr Salvana could not overemphasise its importance. “The reason why there is so much mutation is because so many people get infected and so there are more opportunities to mutate. Vaccination decreases the risk of severe Covid-19 by 90 per cent or more.” The other health protocols help as well to decrease the emergence of new variants, he adds, like “using our mask, face shield and sticking to public health standards”.

Read also: Bright Lights: Tatler Honours Passionate Filipino Public Servants

"Every study worldwide shows that people learn less with remote learning. Its effect was bad all around—from physical health to mental health, even to parents’ health"
Aurelio "Gigi" Montinola III

According to Habito, the Philippine economy is already in a double-dip recession. “We have seen the economy move up all the way to March this year,” he says, citing two major drivers of the economy or what he calls the wheels of the economy’s two-wheel vehicle. First was agri/agribusiness and the next, the “real wheels”, was digital economy. Manufacturing, he adds, has also rebounded, calling it the green shoot of the economy. “Even when I look at it [manufacturing] on a quarter-to-quarter basis, it is now on a higher level than it was before the pandemic,” he says.

In an e-mail to Tatler, the Department of Agriculture (DA) confirms Habito’s assertion. “Based on DA’s inventory and projections, the food supply situation remains on the optimistic side. Thus, Sec William Dar assures that there will be enough food for the Filipinos the rest of the year.”

The DA has put some measures in place to ensure that this optimism will continue. Like its Food Security Framework for a “food secure and resilient Philippines with empowered and prosperous farmers and fisherfolk”. This comprises 18 key strategies under four main strategies: consolidation, which involves organising farmers into cooperatives or business entities; modernisation, which entails promoting the use of digital technology and innovations such as e-Kadiwa and data analytics throughout the value chain; industrialisation, which recognises that the agri-fishery sector needs to industrialise for it to flourish, global trade, export development and promotions; professionalisation, which holds education and trainings for farmers to learn and improve skills in entrepreneurship and farm business management.

Read also: PH COVID-19 Vaccination Simplified: Timeline, Status, And More

 

“Learning to live with the virus is the best step towards slowly getting back our lives”
Dr Edsel Salvana

“But then”, Habito picks up from where he left of, “from April to June, it [the economy] went down again because of Delta, and because we started tightening up once more. People were scared to go out anew.”

Habito is ready to live with the virus, if necessary. “If we take the cue from other countries, we should have opened up notwithstanding Delta. I hope we get that kind of confidence to resume.”

Montinola sees more positive signs. “Anywhere from 75 to 100 million doses of vaccines would have arrived by now,” he says, reiterating his call for vaccination to be opened to the public particularly to minors and for boosters to be approved.”

“Learning to live with the virus is the best step towards slowly getting back our lives,” Dr Salvana firmly believes. “Keeping the virus away isn’t rocket science: get vaccinated, adhere to public health standards and avoid high-risk activities in indoor and crowded areas. All pandemics end, but we can make it go away faster by sticking to science-based policies.”

NOW READ

COVID-19 News: Study Finds Apple Watch Effective In Early Detection Of COVID-19 Symptoms

What Impact Is The COVID-19 Pandemic Having On Children's Dental Health?

COVID-19 Anniversary: Are You Experiencing Pandemic Fatigue?

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.