Bayan News

December 2019 Nationwide Survey on the Holiday Season

Pulse Asia Research, Inc. is pleased to share with you some findings on the Holiday Season from the December 2019 Ulat ng Bayan national survey. We request you to assist us in informing the public by disseminating this information.

The survey fieldwork was conducted from December 3 to 8, 2019 using face-to-face interviews.

The following are some of the developments that preoccupied Filipinos in the days leading up to and during the conduct of the fieldwork for this survey:

1. The dismissal of Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) on 24 November 2019, less than a month since she was appointed to the post by President Rodrigo R. Duterte; the latter publicly criticized the Vice-President for meeting with drug experts from the United States (US) Drug Enforcement Agency and the United Nations (UN) Office on Drugs and Crime as part of her efforts to implement a more comprehensive approach to the campaign against illegal drugs; President Duterte also said he does not trust her with sensitive security matters because she is a “scatterbrain”; in response to the President’s decision to sack her, Vice-President Robredo said she will still make public her recommendations concerning the anti-illegal drugs campaign and will continue to work to stop the killings in the “war on drugs”; President Duterte also said the Vice-President should not run for president in May 2020 because she is not capable of performing the duties of a president, to which she replied by saying the President should focus on the various problems plaguing the country instead of the May 2020 polls;

2. The Philippines’ hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) from 30 November to 11 December 2019; prior to the actual games, several controversies arose in relation to the event leading some lawmakers to call for investigations into the P 50-M cauldron used for the opening ceremony, the unfinished venues for some of the games, the logistical problems involving the transportation, hotel accommodations, and food for participating athletes, and the alleged violation of the government’s rule on public bidding in the construction of the P 13-B government complex and sports center at New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac used for the swimming and athletics events and the closing ceremony; President Duterte publicly apologized for the country’s shortcomings as SEAG host and vowed that an investigation into the matter will be done and those involved in the mismanagement of the event will be held accountable;

3. The Duterte administration’s refusal to pay Manila Water and Maynilad nearly P 10 B awarded to them by the Singapore-based Permanent Court of Arbitration since the court decision was based on what Malacañang referred to as “onerous” deals signed under the Ramos administration; President Duterte threatened to sue the water concessionaires for economic sabotage and ordered the drafting of new utility contracts that would be acceptable to the government and beneficial to the public; for its part, Manila Water said it is willing to come up with a “mutually acceptable” arrangement with the government as regards the refund awarded by the international court but Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra asserted that it would be better for the government and the water firms to agree on a new deal rather than a compromised agreement on the payment of the refund; in view of these developments, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) requested the water firms to defer to an unspecified time the rate hikes scheduled to be implemented beginning 01 January 2020*; aside from Manila Water and Maynilad, the media network ABS-CBN also found itself at the receiving end of the President’s threats as he reiterated his vow not to renew the network’s franchise next year;

4. House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s rejection of the proposal to grant special powers to President Duterte to allow him to fast track the implementation of Build, Build, Build (BBB) flagship projects; instead, the House Speaker said he will assign Tarlac Representative Charlie Cojuangco as the head of a new committee that will ensure the timely implementation of the key infrastructure programs of the government; prior to this, Senator Franklin Drilon criticized the BBB program as dismal since only nine (9) out of its 75 flagship projects are under construction midway through the term of President Duterte;

5. The statement made by House Speaker Cayetano that while he would like to stay on in the post even after his 15-month stint is over, he admitted that nothing has changed as regards the term-sharing agreement he has with Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco that was suggested by President Duterte in July 2019; amidst reports of some lawmakers pushing for the House Speaker to remain in office beyond October 2020, the President said both House Speaker Cayetano and Marinduque Representative Velasco should honor their gentleman’s agreement;

6. The call made by Senator Risa Hontiveros for an investigation on the matter of whether or not China has access to the Philippines’ power grid that could allow it to “sabotage” the country’s power, telecommunications, and internet systems; the State Grid Corporation of China, a Filipino-Chinese consortium with a 40% stake in the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), assured the public that it is limited to being a “technical adviser” and Filipinos are the ones who are in control of the country’s power transmission infrastructure; the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) said the only way to put the issue to rest is for the government to conduct an “extensive” audit of the NGCP and its operations;

7. The President’s order for the Department of Agriculture (DA) to suspend the importation of rice until the end of harvest season and to buy more palay from local farmers following complaints from farmers arising from low farmgate prices for palay as a result of the implementation of the Rice Tarrification Law; however, after meeting with DA Secretary William Dar and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, President Duterte changed his tune and said it would be better for the government to increase palay purchases and to give subsidies to small farmers instead of suspending rice importation; the DA Secretary added that the implementation of the Rice Tarrification Law will continue but the government will impose stricter measures to better manage the entry of rice from abroad;

8. The report by International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda released on 05 December 2019 stating that she intends to complete by next year the preliminary investigation of the alleged crimes against humanity committed by President Duterte in connection with his “war on drugs”; once the preliminary examination is done, the prosecutor will then be able to decide whether or not to seek authorization to conduct an investigation into the Philippine case;

9. The results of a study done by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showing Filipino students aged 15 years old scoring the lowest grade in reading and the second to the lowest grades in math and science among students from 79 countries; Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones said since the exam was administered in English, the medium of instruction in the country, she has directed the Curriculum and Instruction Office to look into students’ English proficiency, specifically in math and science;

10. The President’s trip to Busan, South Korea to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Republic of Korea (ASEAN-ROK) Commemorative Summit held on 25 to 26 November 2019; during the event, President Duterte and South Korean President Moon Jae-in signed agreements in the areas of agriculture, social security, tourism, and education;

11. The disclosure made by the Department of Health (DOH) that there are now eight (8) confirmed cases of polio in the country, with the latest one involving a 9-year old child from Basilan who has not received any polio vaccines; the DOH reiterated its call for parents and caregivers to have children under their care who are under five (5) years old vaccinated as part of its Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio program;

12. The series of natural calamities that hit various parts of the country – Typhoon Ramon that made landfall in Santa Ana, Cagayan on 20 November 2019; Tropical Storm Sarah, which brought rains to the northern parts of the country despite not hitting land; Typhoon Tisoy, which made landfall four (4) times on 02 to 03 December 2019 in Sorsogon, Masbate, Marinduque, and Oriental Mindoro, resulted in 17 deaths, caused injuries to about 19 individuals and damages to the agricultural sector amounting to P 811 M, and led to massive flooding in Isabela and Cagayan that submerged at least 33 villages in these provinces; and a magnitude 5.9 earthquake that struck Bukidnon on 18 November 2019 leaving several homes and buildings damaged and causing injuries to three (3) individuals;

13. The unanimous approval by the Senate of the proposed national budget for 2020 amounting to P1 T on 27 November 2019; the Senate made amendments and realignments totaling P 45 B that benefitted the education, health, agriculture, and labor sectors as well as government employees; the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) now goes to the Bicameral Conference Committee tasked with reconciling the House and Senate versions of the proposed national budget;*

14. The increase in inflation from 0.8% in October 2019 to 1.3% in November 2019, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), due to a higher annual increase in the prices of alcoholic beverages and tobacco as well as in housing, water, electricity, and gas and other fuels; on 05 December 2019, the PSA also disclosed that the unemployment rate went down to 4.5% in October 2019 from 5.1% a year ago, the lowest unemployment figure in 14 years; in contrast, there is an increase in the number of underemployed Filipinos from 5.5 M in 2018 to 62 M in 2019 due to the bigger labor force; and

15. In international developments, the escalating violence in Iraq as a result of protest actions against the administration due to corruption, unemployment, and inefficient public services, among others, with more than 430 deaths being recorded since demonstrations began on 01 October 2019; the impeachment hearings being conducted by the House of Representatives against US President Donald J. Trump on the grounds of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress; the district council relations in Hong Kong held on 24 November 2019 wherein pro-democracy candidates won almost 77% of the 452 seats up for grabs; and the terrorist attack in London on 29 November 2019, with the lone attacker, released from prison in 2018 after serving a sentence for terrorism-related offences, fatally stabbing two (2) individuals and injuring three (3) others.

As in our previous Ulat ng Bayan surveys, this nationwide survey is based on a sample of 1,200 representative adults 18 years old and above. It has a ± 2.8% error margin at the 95% confidence level.  Subnational estimates for the geographic areas covered in the survey have the following error margins at 95% confidence level:  ± 5.7% for Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Those interested in further technical details may refer to our website (www.pulseasia.ph)

Pulse Asia Research’s pool of academic fellows takes full responsibility for the design and conduct of the survey, as well as for analyses it makes based on the survey data. In keeping with our academic nature, no religious, political, economic, or partisan group influenced any of these processes.  Pulse Asia Research undertakes Ulat ng Bayan surveys on its own without any party singularly commissioning the research effort.

For any clarification or questions, kindly contact Ana Maria Tabunda, Research Director of Pulse Asia Research at 09189436816 or Ronald D. Holmes,  Pulse Asia Research President via Viber or Telegram at +639189335497 or at ronald.holmes@gmail.com (via email.).

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* On 11 December 2019, Manila Water and Maynilad announced that they will work with government officials on a schedule for the implementation of water rate hikes provided for in their original concession agreements.

* The Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the national budget for next year on 11 December 2019 and is currently awaiting the President’s signature.

Nearly half of Filipinos (48%) expect the coming holiday season to be more prosperous for them and their families while practically all Filipinos (93%) will be facing the year ahead with hope

For 48% of Filipinos, the coming holiday season will be more prosperous for them and their families. This view is echoed by most Mindanawons and those in Class ABC (57% and 68%, respectively) as well as by a near majority in Class D (49%). A contrary opinion is expressed by 11% of Filipinos while 41% do not expect their holiday celebration to be any different from the one they had last year. These figures are essentially the same as those recorded by Pulse Asia Research in December 2018. (Please refer to Table 1.)

Exactly or around the same percentages of those in Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, and Class E expect their family celebration this coming holiday season to be either more prosperous than last year (35% to 48%) or the same as last year (38% to 48%). Meanwhile, in the Visayas, a small majority of residents (52%) expect this year’s holiday celebration to be the same as last year.

Between December 2018 and December 2019, the only significant changes in public opinion on the matter are the: (1) drop in the percentage of Visayans who say the coming holiday season will be more prosperous for them and their families (-25 percentage points); (2) increase in the percentage of those in the Visayas who expect their holiday celebration this year to be the same as the one they had a year ago (+21 percentage points); and (3) decline in the percentage of Mindanawons who see no change in their holiday celebration year-on-year (-12 percentage points).

With regard to the year ahead, the prevailing sentiment among Filipinos is one of positivity with 93% saying they will face the year 2020 with hope. Majority figures are recorded in all geographic areas and socio-economic classes (90% to 98% and 91% to 97%, respectively). On the other hand, 7% of Filipinos express indecision on the matter while less than 1% will face the coming new year without hope. During the period December 2018 to December 2019, hopefulness becomes more pronounced among those in Class E (+15 percentage points) while indecision on the matter in the same socio-economic grouping eases (-15 percentage points). (Please refer to Table 2.)