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We must learn from 2017 as we face new year 2018

It has now been more than a week since we said goodbye to the old year 2017 and welcomed the new year 2018 with the usual expressions of hope and wishes for a better world and a better life for all.

During this first week of 2018, Visayas and Mindanao got battered by the year’s first tropical storm – Agaton. It was the third of three powerful storms that ravaged the same areas, the first two – Urduja and Vinta – in the last two weeks of 2017.

Also in the same first week of 2018, the new tax law – the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act – went into effect. Its immediate impact will be an increase in the prices of gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and other fuel, because the new law imposes an excise tax on these fuel imports. The government has warned the oil companies against immediately raising their prices on their present stocks, since the excise tax is yet to be imposed on incoming imports. That could be anytime soon.

We should not be too concerned with what is happening outside our national borders. But the tweeting United States President Donald Trump boasted in the first week of the new year that he had a bigger nuclear button than North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and that it works – the implication being that the North Korean nuclear button does not. The equally unpredictable North Korean leader just might show that his button works and in an ensuing nuclear war, the Philippines is bound to get involved by reason of proximity.

Despite all these depressing events, we cling to the hope that the new year will be a much better one than the last. In his New Year’s Day message, President Duterte noted the many trials the country underwent in 2017 and expressed hope that Filipinos will remain resilient and united in meeting the challenges. Vice President Leni Robredo gave the same message of hope and love. We were glad to see the two highest officials of the land standing together in raising the national flag at the Luneta last Rizal Day.

One point stood out in the President’s message. Even as we look forward to 2018, he said, we must learn from our experience in 2017. In 2017, we had an all-out war on drugs all over the country in which hundreds were killed. Foreign elements identified with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) sought to gain a foothold in the Philippines, perhaps expecting they would get local support from Mindanao’s Muslim population The government sought to end the 48-year-old rebellion of the New People’s Army but the peace talks foundered on shoals of mistrust and we are back to fighting in the hinterlands of Mindanao.

We must learn from these experiences in 2017, the President said. If the programs and projects have not been as successful as we expected them to be, we must seek out the causes of the failures, correct them, and try again in 2018.

We thus face the new year not just with hope but with lessons learned from mistakes of the past and with determination to avoid the pitfalls along our way. There are still so many of these pitfalls but the year just past has given us many important lessons. We must learn from our experience, President Duterte said, and that learning, coupled with hope, will strengthen us as we face the new year.