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Posts Tagged ‘emergency’

The attention of the whole world is riveted on ongoing Japan crises of a 9.0 great earthquake, tsunami, volcano eruption, and–still developing–the partial meltdown in at least three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Three more reactors damaged in the tsunami are in similar danger.

At present, more than 200,000 persons were already evacuated from a 20- and 30-kilometer radius around the plant concerned. There were evidences of low-level radiation contamination as far as Tokyo.

The partial meltdown (and possible total meltdown) of nuclear reactors in Japan–despite several back-ups established with precisely the situation of earthquakes and other disasters in mind–underscored the constant and grave danger that nuclear fission power poses for countries that decide to utilize it. Japan is among those which embraced the technology and has cutting-edge capability for controlling and managing it.

Of course, the great earthquake-tsunami combination that knocked-out the reactors was not an ordinary disaster. The 9.0 earthquakes was the fourth strongest in recorded history and the tsunami it spawned was more than 13 meters in some places. However, it can be argued that Nature will always have the capacity to deliver disasters beyond the imagination of technocrats, capitalists, and politicians.

The big argument against the Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP) in the 1980s was that there is no guarantee that can be made for the safety of nuclear fission power technology. Once a major nuclear leak occurs as a result of an accident or even when spent nuclear fuel  is stored for hundreds of years, nobody can guarantee that it will not impact disastrously on the population for hundreds of kilometers around it.

In the case of BNPP, a possible nuclear leak can reach the entire Central Luzon and Metro Manila areas, as well as major parts of Northern Luzon, Southern Luzon, and the Mindoro island. It is also situated near major faults and is vulnerable to tsunamis from the South China Sea quakes.

The Japanese experience has demonstrated that a well-disciplined and highly-skilled nuclear technical workforce and the vast resources of a rich nation cannot prevent nuclear power disasters. These can only barely cope with the containment of possible damage to the population and environment around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Japan’s nuclear crisis is a sobering lesson for us. Those who still advocate for nuclear power in the Philippines–either by reviving the BNPP or constructing new ones–should reflect deeply on the ruinous consequences to our people, our economy, and our environment of a major nuclear accident. With our relatively low level of nuclear technology, bare nuclear workforce experience and capability, and our limited resources, the possibility of the Philippines not coping with a major nuclear accident is exceedingly higher than that of Japan.

Nuclear fission power is dead in the Philippines and probably elsewhere in the world. The world will be more safer with other alternative energy sources.

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The plight of overseas Filipino workers in the Arab and Middle East countries should be attended to and immediately!

A new order is coming into being in these countries–and depending on specific national conditions–Filipino OFWs will have to contend with its implications. The Aquino government should not underestimate these implications, not only to the OFWs themselves but also to our oil supplies, to inflation, local and global job availability, government tax income, Moro situation, great-power rivalry, international terrorism, and our democratic people power legacy.

The loss of possibly hundreds of thousands of jobs in these countries can lead–in the medium term–to a dip in the Philippine GNP growth. In a situation of global recession, this can lead to a “squeeze” effect when foreign jobs gets scarcer even as new graduates enter the labor market and the local job market cannot sufficiently expand to accommodate the slack.

Oil supplies may also suffer even as the oil prices shoot through the ceiling. This is also a “squeeze” situation where scarcer but pricier oil and gas products drive up inflation even as foreign reserves scramble to cover higher-priced oil importation.

The government basically and indirectly taxes the OFWs through their remittance spending (consumer goods in malls, land and housing acquisitions, tourism, and other family-based spending). This will slow down and marginal business may collapse. Government income may thus take a hit.

As instability engulf the Arab world and the Middle East, big powers will increasingly compete for scarce resources–not only in these countries but throughout the world including southeast Asia. We are already well within the ambit of this hidden “resource war,” as a possible major resource for oil, gas, and other minerals.

Politically, we are also vulnerable to the events in the Arab world and in the Middle East because of our own Moro Muslims–who have living ties to the Arabic world. The Al Qaeda network extends into the region and into the Philippines. And to a certain extent, the events there mirror our own 1986 people power.

It is now a question of when–and not if–a major global crisis hits us from the events in the Arab world and the Middle East. The crisis opens both the door to our own crises and our own opportunities. Interesting but dangerous times. Also, dangerous but interesting times.

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The Monday strike by bus owners constitutes not only a breach of their franchise but a definite defiance of state authority. As such, their action is not merely an illegal response to a state policy but borders on sedition and economic sabotage. Once again, we have a situation where political will has become the issue.

The opportunity has arisen–once and for all–to institute traffic reforms free from pressures of vested interests and based solely on public interests. At the end of the day, there must be a rationalization of the ever-worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila and other urban areas.

Many of the present practices, such as the creeping boundary system, overpopulation of buses in strategic routes, corruption of police and MMDA personnel, kabit and “colorum”  systems, indiscriminate garage and stops, bus overloading,  arrogant bus driving, and high bus accident rate, are directly traceable to the power of abusive bus operators who–through their connections in high government places–thought they can do anything.

The test of political will of the Aquino government is before it. Inadvertently or deliberately, the action of the bus owners has put it on the spot. The choice is clear: the riding public or the profiteering bus owners.

Political will here necessarily means–after due process–the revoking of franchises or appropriate punishment of striking bus owners, using state authority–including declaring a limited state of emergency–to get the buses back on the road, and centralization, through a central dispatcher system–of bus operations.

The MMDA should use the opportunity here not only to implement its coding system but to institute the long-awaited traffic reforms in Metro Manila. As for the Aquino government, this is part of the litmus test the opposition will surely monitor for any weakness it may show–preparatory to its own schemes against the present administration.

People should support the underdog…ironically in this case, the Aquino administration.

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The aftermath of the Luneta hostage crisis has spawned its own set of crisis, with several dimensions. One dimension is the one within the new Aquino government: the conflicting and unwieldy relations among Malacañang communicators, its command over the PNP, relations with the Manila local government, and its crisis handling capability. Another dimension is the security forces’ hostage-handling protocol, command and leadership skills, and infrastructure/logistics problems. A third and potentially more dangerous dimension is the international one–relations with China/Hongkong, backlash on the overseas Filipinos in Hongkong, and Philippine image impact. Related to this is the impact on the tourism industry, export industry, and other service industries, especially those dealing with Hongkong and Chinese companies. An opportunistic political crisis–spawned by the opposition GMA-identified forces–has also risen and threatens to derail the reform agenda of the Aquino administration by trying to undermine its popularity with the people.

The Aquino government now has its its first multi-front political crisis. In this situation, a crisis center (much as it dislikes the past administration’s style) is called for. One needs a 24-hour monitoring center. Second is the formation of reliable, competent crisis committee(s)–depending on the nature, gravity and requirements of the various crises. Ad hoc arrangements work only when there is already a pre-planned list of these people and committees. At the top of the list are political strategists–those who know the political implications of every decision and can determine the political framework of various solutions.

There are evidently forces riding on the Luneta hostage crisis. One are the various international actors who have their own political agenda, not the least of which is the Hongkong government itself. The GMA opposition is another; it conveniently forgot its own share in the similar incidences in the past and their own irresponsibility in the weak political and police capability today. There are also infighting within the Aquino administration trying to make hay while others are in trouble.

The Aquino administration also has a problem with the erstwhile friendly media. The latter does not have a non-partisan role in its pursuit of the news scope–it is part of the problem in the hostage crisis and media people should accept this failing. The need for strict guidance for media should be recognized by both government and media.

The challenge for the Aquino government is not the hostage crisis and its botched ending. The latter is subject to investigation and responsibilities can be determined. The substantive political crisis is the viability of current administration in terms of popularity and actual political clout. It has to demonstrate that it is on top of things and that no other political force can take advantage of the situation.

There is no political honeymoon for President Noynoy. It’s war from day One. It has to reassess its options and decisively take action. Its worst enemy now is caution and delay. Procrastination in leadership is its own worst enemy.

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If there is an act that would define the 14th Congress and its legislative work, I would easily choose how it handled the Freedom of Information bill. It went through the motion of filing, conducting hearings, deliberating and debating on it, approving the FOI bill on third reading, synchronizing the HOR and House versions, and finally–with Senate already approving of the synchronized version–rejecting it in the HOR by a quorum lack. Only two steps–HOR ratification and presidential signature–are needed.

Alas, FOI law will not be. And we beheld the classic method by which the Arroyo administration undermined the democratic order by using the latter’s own rules (Constitution, laws, and House rules). The quorum question ranks right up there with the false filing of impeachment against GMA, the redefinition of a “midnight appointment”, short-cutting of procurement rules and regulation, and declaring martial rule through a “state of emergency.”

Unfortunately, this undemocratic mindset that evades responsibility to democracy will still be there in the 15th Congress. Democracy will have to find effective democratic tactics against undemocratic use of democracy. The passage of the FOI bill is both an end and a means to this end.

To the front!

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