Will sustainability concepts propel how we define the ‘New Normal?’

As the country positions to bounce back to a new normal, we begin to differentiate essentials from non-essentials in the building process. For today’s editorial, we look into the sustainability issues of post Covid19 “New Normal.

The practicality of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is pressed upon us more than ever. Looking at the broader sense of sustainability – people, planet and profit – each have found enough justification in its claim on the “triple-bottom line” and the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as we define the post Covid19 “new normal.”

How does sustainability play in the checklist of the “new normal?”

New Normal 1 | A closer look at the impact of Biodiversity to our socio-economic systems.

You would never think that a sketchy animal consumption or trade would bring the whole world to a halt. The World Economic Forum reports that scientists have been trying to understand the origins of the Covid19 virus and the virus that causes it – SARS CoV2. They found a recombination on the genome and trying to pin down if it was through a bat, a pangolin or another organism.

The “new normal” may bring about stricter policies on the protection of biodiversity and their habitats to contain bacteria or viruses where nature intended them to be. There may be greater awareness on illegal trade of biodiversity and endangered species, as well as the protection of their natural habitats. Lastly, ethics on animal testing may also come to the forefront.

New Normal 2 | Universal Health Care Program

During the Covid19 health crisis, our universal health care system was tested and it exposed the economic vulnerability of Filipinos during a national health emergency. Immediately, PhilHealth put together a Covid19 package covering C19P1 from Php43,997 (Mild) to C19P4 to Php786,384 (Critical ICU). It also put to light our doctor-patient ratio as well as the efficacy and sufficiency of our facilities and medical equipment in responding to nationwide emergencies.

The “new normal” may emphasize on the need for universal health care, providing adequate budget in safeguarding our people’s ability to survive and bounce back during health emergencies. With the continued social distancing following the new normal, other basic social services will be priority like decent housing and food security.

New Normal 3 | Business Resilience and Importance of MSMEs/ Local Products and Services

While the world pursued global and regional trade coalitions, the Covid19 pandemic brought us to a down-to-earth realization on our realiance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). It also impressed an age-old economic principle to develop local products and services as a strong foundation to propel local economic activity and serve as a spring board in participating to global trade. However, the vulnerability of our local industries, with the lack of alternative distribution platforms, has threatened their sustainability.

The ” new normal” may bring the need for safety nets like insurances and subsidies, particularly for MSMEs. Moreover, the “new normal” may usher a stronger inter-relationships between our country’s big businesses and the MSMEs as we try to bounce back. It may also bring about a change in investment risk appetites, developing resilience to future disruptions.

New Normal 4 | Digital Platforms for Product Distribution and Services

Despite us being a very sociable, an extended ECQ will change our entertainment habits – from a lot of congregating to more digital avenues of connecting. With this, the “new normal” may accelerate online shopping, online content development and online entertainment – like virtual tours or even virtual shopping malls. Moreover, banks and other payment platforms may expand ways to make transactions more convenient. Indirectly, the issue on internet capacity, efficient service and affordability may soon come in to play.

New Normal 5 | Basic Mass Transporation Service and Infrastructure

In implmenting GCQ, physical distancing will still be required and the capacity of our mass transporation service and infrastructure to accommodate social distancing for an extended period of time will be a critical factor. Hopefully, this requirement may accelerate our development of mass transporation services and bring about more sustainable ways of mobility and commuting comfort. Moreover, the correlation of transport efficiency and socio-economic growth will be more clearly defined and quantified. Quality of life and work-life balance may begin to have more weight among Filipinos, while the concept of the “value of time” may slowly be part of the equation.

New Normal 6 | Work Force Resilience & Work from Home Culture

The “new normal” may bring about the issues on work force resilience, not only on the organizational dynamics but also in relation to flexibility of work systems and cyber-security. Changes in work dynamics and relationships may surface as there will be more focus on tasks due to digital distance. Integration of new team members may be challenging, especially in trying to provide a sense of corporate community. The entrepreneurial characteristic in employees will now become in demand.

New Normal 7 | Focus on Agriculture and Fisheries for Food Security

For many years, both the agriculture and fisheries sectors have remained to be the most vulnerable and underserved livelihood sectors in the country. From the Covid19 experience, we have come to realize that sourcing our own food supply is the only sustainable road to food security which can somehow shield us from extreme effects of global shocks.

The “new normal” may bring focus on these sectors as the Department of Agriculture has already announced its “Plant, Plant, Plant” program. Moreover, perhaps the support required by our farmers and fishermen may now be addressed.

New Normal 8 | Closing the Broadening New Gap in Online Education

In our previous normal, the gap in private and public school education focused on brick and mortar facilities and teacher-student ratio. With the Covid19 pandemic, it brought about deeper issues on social inequality evidenced by the gap in access to distance learning with the aid of technology. This time, students are dependent on the adequacy of home facilities. In a report made by rappler, about 67% of the respondents had difficulties in online classes due to lack of stable internet access, while other challenges brought up were lack of equipment and difficulty in understanding lessons given online.

The “new normal” may bring to surface deeper issues on social inequities that further broaden the gap in creating access to basic education. Home environment and facilities now come play. Moreover, the issue on child safety at home will now be another facet in providing education. These may bring about joint programs between DepEd and DSWD in promoting and protecting every child’s right to education, safety and life. On the delivery side, online teaching methodologies and techniques may need be developed.

Let Covid19 Crisis propel long-term Sustainable Reforms

These are just the immediate issues or “material topics” that we may face as we try to define how our “new normal” would look like. As millions continue to sacrifice and even give their lives so we can rise above the Covid19 crisis, it would be to our best interest to go beyond a reactionary approach by simply slipping back to business or life “as usual” once we have flatten the curve. The best thing we could do is to try to reform to a more sustainable “new normal” taking on the Covid19 learnings to propel the long-term changes we need that will advance our pursuit towards a more sustainable Philippines.

Reference Sources: World Economic Forum | Gov.hPH | NEDA | PhilHealth.gov.ph | Photo Sources: Rappler | ABSCBN | CNN Philippines | Ragnet ANU | GovGazette | Pexels | UNSDGs | GlobalGoals |

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