OPINION: Gearing up for the new normal

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at Jul 11 2020 01:42 AM

‘Futurists’ of decades ago are almost past tense today. And that is because tomorrow has arrived! 

"Are we not there yet?" one may ask. The answer is yes. But are we ready? Customary Filipino lackadaisy and nonchalance have been more than sufficiently woke and stirred. Like it or not, Covid-19 has deemed change as inevitable. Old normal must therefore fold and clear the path.

Happily, the advent and predominance of the internet in the community already provides us with the foundation for attitudes that must form in order to welcome and make beneficial use of changes that will characterize a new normal.

Remember “Future Shock?” Alvin Toffler was toast of the universe with his predictions many accepted as ‘phenomenal prescience.’ Profuse commentaries welcomed the introduction of Toffler’s vision. Seemingly a cautionary alert, “Future Shock” referred to an avalanche of unthought of newness. “Too much change in too short a time.” 

That was half a century ago and should be no more of a shock at all today. Ample time, indeed, more especially for glacial-paced internalizing. Unconsciously, we have assimilated.

Of particular interest to me is Toffler’s prediction of fifty years ago. “Telecommuting.” In that reference, “Future Shock” prophesied that “fewer and fewer jobs today require employees to be physically present in their office.” Toffler did in fact predict “Work from Home” scenarios, a situation the whole world is already experiencing, forced into meeting pandemic protocols. 

Ten years after, in 1980, Toffler’s “The Third Wave,” introduced the concept of “The Electronic Cottage.” It was to be “the modern workplace when information technology allows more people to work from home or wherever they want.” (It was evidently premised on an effective and efficient electronic communications system. Unfortunately, Philippine internet service still sucks!)
And so, by force of Covid-19 circumstances, we must catch up.

Last June 23, the Institute of Corporate Directors (IDC) -- a collegial group ‘committed to the professional practice of corporate directorship in line with global principles of modern corporate governance –- conducted a seminar in cyberspace with speakers and panelists from various spots in Metro Manila and I believe, one speaker was in Singapore. From here in San Antonio, Texas, I was among the participating audience. In the age of social distancing (and pandemic induced ‘telecommuting’), such a session they call ‘webinar.” Obviously, a wordplay on an internet seminar via website.

The overall theme was “Survive and Thrive/Finance Business Restructuring During and After a Crisis.” The discussions centered upon the detrimental impact of the pandemic in the economy and businesses, as well as solutions the banking system can devise and proffer in order to ensure survival.

The featured principal speaker was former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Cielito F. Habito. He holds a PhD in economics from Harvard and served under the Fidel V. Ramos presidency (1992-98). In his summation, he displayed a slide which carried the title “The New Normal: what should it be like?” Out of the seven points he propounded, I found immediate affinity with two and they were:

#2 “Geographically dispersed economic activities; less Manila-centric, more urban center, less concentrated megacities; greater shift inland and to higher ground”; and,

#4 “Livable cities with well-organized transport & logistics; bicycle- and pedestrian friendly….”

Man after my heart, Dr. Habito without so specifically prescribing action projects, was in fact espousing Metro Manila decongestion and population reallocation. He spoke of dispersing economic activities as well as deemphasizing the Manila-centricity of our national life. 

As God and my editor knows, I have been profoundly engaged in this decades-long advocacy. Witness then my life’s apostolate in the series of commentaries and proposals as accommodated over the years by ABS-CBN’s online platform. For such endeavor, however, I am a mere cheerleader, a drumbeater for a “livable” hometown which Metro Manila has long ceased to be. 

Therefore I am in debt to Dr. Habito for according professional validation to my sallies into common sense “imagineering” of how best to demagnetize the metropolis and save it from chaotic self-strangulation. At least, that is how I felt listening and learning further from a superior mind.

Here is an example of what I believe to be possible, wishfully hoping it to be an irreducible goal of what a “New Normal” ought to be. 

As if intendedly to emphasize an obvious situation, the very activity and medium used by Dr. Habito to put forward his economic prescription attest to the new reality that there in no longer any need to be domiciled in the national capital region to conduct the nation’s business. 

Such is the essence of Toffler’s ‘telecommuting,’ getting matters attended to and accomplished without the need for physical presence and contact. In this regard, one can easily figure out the many activities and occupancies that do not require a Metro Manila physical presence in order to fulfill respective mandates and missions. Hence, Dr. Habito’s thesis brings about another opportunity for me to sally forth and reiterate. READ: Omnibus manifesto for the survival of Metro Manila

Of the most glaring of these prevailing occupancies, because they have become irrelevant and anachronistic where they still reside, only a sensitively concerned and caring national government can initiate, undertake and correct. I speak once again of the continued presence of all the General Headquarters of all military branches of service and the national police, as well. 

Why and what in heaven’s name do they have to be in Metro Manila!
            
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.

In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.

During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.

After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.

He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.