The 2016 presidential elections are fast approaching and the presidential aspirants are now preparing for a long campaign period ahead which will officially start this Feb. 9.
While there is still no official list of presidential candidates being released from the Commission on Elections (Comelec), it seems like the so-called “election fever” has just begun as candidates voice out their possible platforms for the country.
Every presidential aspirant has his/her eye focused on what they should do if ever he or she wins the presidential race. Each one has their own agenda or vision for the country’s future.
There’s a long list of important national issues that needs to be resolved. Let’s highlight some of them.
Poverty remains a lingering problem in the Philippines. Recent data from the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey from the first quarter of 2015, 51 percent of Filipinos or over 11 million families nationwide consider themselves as poor.
The SWS survey also showed that the percentage of Filipino families in Metro Manila was only at 31 percent, the number of families in the Visayas who rate themselves as poor was at 70%, while Mindanao had a rate of 62%.
Despite the country experiencing rapid economic growth of an average of six percent throughout the current administration of President Noynoy Aquino, economic experts believe that it wasn’t enough to address the issue of poverty in the country.
Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said in a report that the country must double or even triple its efforts to reduce poverty incidence. He also stated that employment opportunities must not be confined to only urban centers in the country.
Despite the Philippines having a high literacy rate of 97.5 percent, the country still has issues in terms of quality of education for young students.
Data from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics, classrooms in the Philippines are among the most crowded in Asia.
The average class size for public elementary schools is 43.9 compared to Malaysia’s 31.9, Thailand’s 22.9, Japan’s 28.6, or India’s 40. Meanwhile the average class size for public high schools is 56.1 compared to Malaysia’s 34, Thailand’s 41.5, Japan’s 33.9, and India’s 39.
In a news article, Kabataan Party List Representative Terry Ridon said with over 21 million students enrolled for school year 2015-2016, the country still needs over 200,000 classrooms, given the ratio of one classroom for every 30 students.
Ridon added over 110,000 teachers are still needed to teach the expected number of enrollees, about 2.5 million sanitation and water facilities and 60 million textbooks are also needed.
With the full implementation of the K-12 program to start, many are worried that the country is not yet ready to adjust for the new education program unless these issues are fully resolved.
Widespread corruption continues to be a lingering problem in the country despite efforts by the government of stopping it.
In 2014, the Philippines ranked 85th among 175 countries according to Transparency International’s corruption perception index which was an improvement from its previous 141st ranking back in 2008.
But still, corruption exists in all levels of the government, especially among high-level civil servants, according to a report from the US Department of State Investment Climate Statement back in 2013.
Many people still have a low confidence in the Philippine judicial system in terms of resolving corruption-related cases, and this is due to the allegedly incompetent court personnel, corruption and long delays of court cases.
Peace and order
Criminality has still been a major problem affecting public security throughout the country especially among major urban centers.
The Philippine National Police said between January and June of 2015, they recorded a total of 885,445 criminal cases nationwide, an increase of 46 percent compared to 603,085 during the same period last year.
A report from the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security stated the country had a high crime rating with crime as deemed a significant concern among the country’s urban areas and most of the crimes reported were composed of robberies, theft, and physical assault.
The illegal drug trade in the country remains a serious national concern. Data from the United Nations World Drug Report back in 2012 stated that the Philippines had the highest rate of abuse for methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu” in East Asia.
With impacts of climate change now being felt in the Philippines, many experts believed these disasters could get worse and more frequent in the country.
Data based on measurements in the World Risk Index being calculated by the United Nations University for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) shows that the Philippines ranks as the third most disaster prone country in the world, next to Pacific island nations of Tonga and Vanuatu.
Disasters such as Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) which killed over 6,000 people in 2013 showed how vulnerable the country is to these catastrophes.
Despite measures by the national government of mitigating disasters, many people are still being affected by these disasters which are happening over and over again.
More to come
There are still many more national issues that are possibly to be tackled on for the next year’s elections and Filipinos are waiting for possible platforms envisioned from the presidential candidates.
Even if one of them will be hailed as the country’s next president, the people have high expectations on how to take swift and appropriate action on these important national issues.