Back to bitter realities

After almost two months in the United States East Coast of carefree bucket-list touring, nostalgic family get-togethers, and indulging in diet-busting gastronomic delights, returning to Manila was a bummer, definitely a jolt back to the bitter realities of earthly concerns.

Most prominent of which is that Covid is still very much around and is undeniably back in the forefront of my consciousness, with positive cases still registering at four-digit levels and with every indication that the numbers will likely go up to five digits with the resumption of face-to-face schooling. A small comfort is that ICU cases are nowhere near critical levels, yet. Am keeping my fingers crossed.

I was also greeted with the headlines of possibly another brewing controversial case of either the propensity of man for plain old greed or just sheer incompetence, the sugar importation mess. Is there a shortage or not?

On one hand, you have beverage manufacturers moaning that sugar supply has hit critical levels, prompting layoffs and threatening possible plant relocation overseas; and on the other hand, government, after flip-flopping on a supposed unauthorized Malacañang-approved sugar importation, concluded that the shortage is after all artificial as evidenced by the belated discovery of stockpiles of sugar stored in various warehouses.

Simply put, looking at the front-page pictures of sacks of sugar stacked up to the brim of warehouses, apparently some egregious folks have been hoarding their low-priced imported sugar in order to artificially create a shortage and bump up domestic sugar prices, in the process widening their margins.

It’s really quite a simple business strategy — buy low from abroad, courtesy of some patronage, and sell high locally to clueless consumers. As is usually the case whenever the s—t hits the fan, this mess has devolved into a cynical blame game of finger-pointing as to who is actually raking it in; or, as in most mismanaged situations, who is the greater fool.

But in all likelihood, as in a Game of Thrones-like scenario where all players inevitably try to position themselves to gain the upper hand, or to cover their behinds, in the end, no one is really blameless. I wonder who will get to sit on the prickly throne after all that is, and will be, said and done in the halls of our esteemed lawmakers hellbent on investigating this mess.

One thing is for sure, it is us, the hapless public who will have to endure the higher cost of sugar and, of course, the ripple inflationary impact on the economy.

With the resumption of face-to-face classes, another woeful situation that has been headlined in the news lately is the chaotic initial distribution of the government’s educational cash assistance to “individuals in crisis situation,” or those in dire need of help, defined by the Department of Social Welfare and Development as working students, family breadwinners, orphans and children of solo or unemployed parents.

The modest dole outs, anywhere from P1,000 to P4,000 per student depending on their school levels, which surely are not sufficient to cover an indigent student’s expenses, drew hordes of needy applicants who swamped the various DSWD offices nationwide. Complaints were rife as disgruntled beneficiaries, who had camped at the DSWD offices the night before, were unable to receive the dole outs with reports of stampedes and injuries among the waiting crowd.

What caused it? Again, lots of finger-pointing ruled the day, but the bottom line is, it was simply a case of mismanagement that could have been avoided had there been a prior orderly review of the situation, clear communication of responsibilities and proper execution of the tasks.

To DSWD’s credit, however, with support from the LGUs, they apparently finally got their acts together in the subsequent distribution last weekend.

Can’t end this article without mentioning another bitter reality that impaled a dagger in the hearts of millions of Gilas supporters, including yours truly. Despite the much-ballyhooed presence of Jordan Clarkson and Kai Sotto, Gilas still went down in flames, losing to Lebanon in a tightly contested ballgame, generating reams of social media messages asking for Chot Reyes’ head. Another case of mismanagement?

Until next week… OBF!


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