After the keynote speech of BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno at the opening of the 52nd FINEX Conference held via ZOOM on October 5, 2020, our second speaker was a La Salle Taft grade 3 classmate and fellow Wharton Alumni, Stephen Cu-Unjieng, Chairman of Evercore Asia Limited. Stevie’s talk was titled “The New Abnormal”. I like this much better than what is commonly referred to as “The New Normal,” for several reasons.
First is there is nothing normal with our current situation particularly in the case of the Philippines where we have one of the severest and longest lock downs in the world. Wearing a mask and face shield is not normal and while it is also supposed to protect us from the virus, it has its own downside of not getting enough oxygen into our body and it does affect our range of vision.
Aside from the general restrictions imposed by wearing personal protective equipment, senior citizens such as myself have been identified by the government as “vulnerable” and hence more stringent restrictions are imposed on us that tend to rob us of what little time we have left to enjoy life in this world. The irony is, this is all supposed to protect us. We are only allowed to work and go out to obtain essential goods and services. What a life that is being imposed on seniors. I cannot imagine how you can even begin to call that normal.
In my mind, the freedom of movement to travel both domestically and abroad is a true measure of liberty and democracy. There is a direct correlation between a totalitarian type of government and the travel restrictions imposed on the citizenry. Article III - Bill of Rights, of the Philippine Constitution, clearly gives us “the right to travel”, do you still have that right if you need to get a PNP approval to travel to Baguio? How can this situation which goes against our Constitutional Rights be considered normal?
With the projected negative economic growth this year due to the closure of industries, global slow down, quarantine restrictions, imposition of curfew, scaled down public transportation, and so many other regulations and shifting priorities of the government, are we now saying that a negative economic growth will now be the new normal? I would like to give our government headed by President Duterte more credit than that. We should look upon this pandemic and post pandemic as an abnormal situation that we will prevail upon.
We all understand the concept of risk and since we are the ones taking the risk, we should not let others decide for us. When we get pirated and move on to another company, isn’t that taking a risk? When we open up a new business, isn’t that taking a risk? When we ride on a plane to go to the other side of the world, isn’t that taking a risk? When we get married, isn’t that taking a risk? Isn’t life one big risk? This is nothing new, the only new thing about the whole situation is that we are the ones at risk and taking the risk and yet someone else is telling us what to do. That is the new abnormal!
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