PAL Saves Sharks

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By Nicole Ann M. Aguila

All people might not know how important sharks are on our planet, thus raising awareness is the key to finally educate the whole world reasons why we must protect them.

Who would have thought that an airline company will put an effort to save marine life? Yes, Philippine Airlines or PAL just announced the ban of shipping of sharks’ fins.

This is after Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Philippine Animal Welfare Society, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines Earth Island Institute – Philippines and other concerned organization started a petition that protests against their freight policy.

“The announcement of PAL is also a victory for all sharks species who are brutally murdered for their fins,” said Anna Oposa, cofounder of Save Philippine Seas and founder of the Shark Shelter Project in Malapascua Island.

The airline was previously reported tohave shipped 136 x 50 kg bags accumulating 6,800 kg of dried shark fins at a Hong Kong storeroom run by Global Marine.

Shark fins are hailed as an important ingredient on soups and traditional cures in China. But animal welfare groups toughly disagree with the trade, which usually comprises of taking only the fins and leaving the main body dead in the ocean.

“Sharks help in maintaining the balance of the marine ecosystem. Their dwindling numbers due to the growing demand for shark’s fin soup and other shark products, already upset the problematic status of our seas and oceans,” said Greenpeace Philippines oceans campaigner Vince Cinches.

“We are asking everyone to remain vigilant and make sure that PAL will honor its commitment and advise other airlines to adopt a similar shark ban to help save our marine ecosystem,” he said.

Shark finning is the practice of slicing off the shark’s fins while the shark is still alive and throwing the rest of its body back into the ocean where it can take days to die what must be an agonizing death.

Globally, tens of millions of sharks are slaughtered every year to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup; at least 8,000 tonnes of shark fins are shipped to restaurants around the world. Fishermen report that sharks are getting smaller because they are not being given time to mature.

Sharks are a critical component in an ecosystem that provides 1/3 of our world with food. The ocean produces more oxygen than all the rainforests combined, removes half of the atmosphere’s manmade carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas), and controls our planet’s temperature and weather.

Sharks play a vital role at the top of the food chain by maintaining balance in the oceans. Destroying shark populations could destroy our oceans and our life support system.

(Ms. Aguila is currently an intern for OpinYon. She is an incoming fourth year student in AB Communication Arts in Malayan College in Cabuyao, Laguna.)



EDITORIAL : Cheap, Not Overpriced

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AMID reports of overpriced bunkhouses and other shenanigans in the Yolanda relief and rehab program, it looks like the government will be spending more than what was initially estimated in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of communities in the typhoon-damaged Visayas region.
Budget Secretary Butch Abad said typhoon reconstruction this year could run up to PhP138 billion (about US$3.1 billion), or 50 percent higher than initial government estimates. In effect, the total bill for the four-year reconstruction program “will be steeper than the estimated PhP631 billion”.

Government has set aside PhP54 billion for the rebuilding effort from a supplemental budget passed late December. Another PhP80 billion more would come from concessional loans offered by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The PNoy administration says it can fund the rehab effort. Question is, can government absorb all this spending? Part of the government plan includes the building of not only typhoon-resilient structures, but also permanent evacuation centers equipped with generators and supplies, an initiative that was not part of the original plan.

Government is also considering major infrastructure projects in the central Philippines, such as relocating the coastal airport in Tacloban, the city that bore the brunt of typhoon Yolanda. Abad says they (government planners) have grossly underestimated the costs of providing temporary shelter, jobs, restoring water health and sanitation services—and even the cost of documenting and burying the dead.

Simply put, government is primed to pump in more money into the relief and rehabilitation program and—with the PDAF on hold—this influx of money could provide an opportunity (God forbid!) for thieves in government to strike again. Abad said, construction planners “failed to factor in the need to introduce resiliency” a statement which—to some extent—provides an explanation as to why the temporary bunkhouses are made of light (or flimsy) materials.

There you go. The bunkhouses are cheap, not overpriced.

What the Fuss

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By Anna Liza Gaspar

“Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city”
~From the song God of this City

I HEARD this song the first time at a breakfast celebrating the 38th anniversary of the Philippine National Prayer Breakfast Foundation, Inc. with Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno as the guest of honor.

This song is pregnant with faithful hope in these difficult times as the people affected by Typhoon Yolanda are still in the process of rebuilding. It also reminded me of the unbelievable acts of kindness I witness in one of the times I volunteered in packing relief goods for the survivors of Yolanda.

Equivalent to a General

I didn’t plan on actually helping out at any of the relief packing centers. I told myself I’ve done my share last August when I together with two very hard working people, my friend’s driver and house help, helped pack more than 300 bags of relief goods for the people of Biñan, Laguna which we distributed in the same week.

If they award military ranks for relief goods packing skills, mine would be equivalent to a general. Imagine that. People calling me equivalent-to-a-general Gaspar. Fancy.

In the social media networks, calls to donate cash, used clothes, food items, vehicles and drivers to bring survivors arriving at Villamore Airbase to their relatives’ place in Metro Manila and even as far as Baguio, time to help take care of children at the temporary day care center at the base, and time to help relief goods for the millions of Filipinos affected by Yolanda were uploaded so frequently I couldn’t help but notice how much help is needed.

Because of this and the selflessness of a Korean, whom I wrote about below, inspired me that I finally decided to check what the fuss is all about. I went to the gymnasium of Villamor Airbase to help pack relief goods and to meet this person.

Balikbayan to Help

Before I went to the gym, I first checked out the volunteer center at the grandstand, where evacuees from Leyte and Samar arrive via C-130. This sounds really smart, but actually I got lost. I got off at the wrong volunteer stop. But being the nosy person that I am, I used the opportunity to check how everyone is doing.

I chatted up one of the ‘main’ volunteers, if a newbie has a question this person asks one of these ‘main’ volunteers. They’ve been volunteering at the site for several days.

Her name is Maria Yrene Calaguian. This lovely lady has an even lovelier heart. She arrived on November 17 from Dubai where she works and planned to stay until November 30. Though she doesn’t have relatives affected by the horrifying devastation wrought by Yolanda, she was so moved by the singular destruction that she came home just to help out.

After the day she arrived in the country, she’s been volunteering every day. Her generosity is exemplary. Imagine the cost of a round-trip ticket to Dubai and what she gave up for a two-week off from work in exchange for the challenges of volunteering.
When I asked her why she’s here rather than merely donating what is costing her to come and stay for two weeks, Maria told me, “Everything cannot be resolved by money.” I agree. Money is not everything. Most of the time, people are needed more. Right now volunteer mechanics, carpenters, and plumbers are needed in the rebuilding efforts. Please go to bit.ly/opinyonvolunteers to know more.

A Korean for the Philippines

The Korean Government and various Korean groups have contributed so much to the relief operations, but the action of a Korean inspired me more than anything to go to Villamor Airbase and help repack goods. When I heard what he has done, I told myself, “If he could why have I not?”

His name is Hyun-bae Park. It is his first time travelling to the Philippines and he came here just to help pack relief goods, in his words, “To carry rice.”

At the gym, the relief packing operations supervised by the Development Bank of the Philippines, run like a well-oiled machine. Just how highly competent bankers operate a bank – efficient and as precise as clock work. In each sack of relief goods, there are four bags. Each bag contain 6 kilos of rice, 3 cans of sardines, 3 cans of corned beef, 8 pieces of coffee, and 8 pieces of noodles. Everything is packed into 1 bag except the 6 kilos of rice which is packed separately. A volunteer carries the packed rice to the final assembly point, to the people putting together a sack of relief goods.

Hyun-bae helped carried rice every day since she stepped off the plane which flew him from Korean.
When I asked him what has he seen in the few days since he arrived, he told me, “Just Villamor Airbase and Malate where I stay.”
Who can’t be inspired by the selfless action of this man?

These are just two of the unbelievable acts of kindness I witnessed during my short-time at the Airbase.

I also met people from Adarna Publishing and HR Team Asia, Inc. who were given free time by their bosses to volunteer in any of the relief operations. What is amazing is that these companies are paying them for their time to volunteer. It is not taken out from their vacation or sick leave days. When I run a company, surely I will do the same.

With these so many people I met and talked to in the few hours I was at Villamor, you may be asking yourself, did Liza actually volunteered?

Don’t worry, I managed to helped pack several boxes of canned sardines. Don’t forget my equivalent-to-a-general skills in packing relief goods – I commandeered one volunteer and we formed an assembly line of packing canned sardines. I grabbed a bag of relief goods already filled with 3 cans of corned beef, the commandeered volunteer puts in 3 cans of sardines, and I set aside the bad for another volunteer to bring to the noodle-packing section. I am proud to say that we packed twice as past than if we worked individually.
Liza fancies herself a writer, but what she wants to do is to actually spend all her time reading what others have written. In the meantime she fashions herself as a personal finance enthusiast. Visit her Web site at thegirlninja.com, email her at liza@thegirlninja.com, or follow her at http://www.facebook.com/annalizagaspar.

Who Cares About Climate Change?

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NO country on earth has more to fear from climate change than the Philippines—a nation of 7,100 islands and some 98 million souls. The climate has always wrought havoc here and—as shown by Typhoon Yolanda—it’s getting worse. Storms coming to our islands have the entire Pacific Ocean to draw strength from. Sitting astride shifting tectonic plates, we have experienced 13 magnitude 6.0 or stronger earthquakes since 2001—the latest of which was a magnitude 7.2 quake that hit Bohol and killed 222 people.

Since 2002, we have recorded 184 natural disasters. Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) was the 30th named storm of the 2013 Pacific season and the second Category 5 (with winds in excess of 150 miles per hour) to hit the Philippines in the last 11 months. Yolanda—which killed over 5,000 people in the Visayas—is the most powerful storm in history to hit land.
New scientific evidence simply tells that simply, climate change will mean more intense tropical storms. The energy that is stored in the waters off the Philippines will increase the intensity of typhoons and the trend we now see is that more destructive storms will be the new norm.

But who cares about climate change?

Days after Typhoon Yolanda hit the country Naderev Saño—Philippine Climate Change Commissioner—was delivering an impassioned plea during the 19th Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland.

That it is the 19th convention of its kind and that it is still in its “framework” stage, means that Saño’s decision to go on a hunger strike—“until some concrete agreement on climate change is reached in Poland”—was a very bad idea.

Rich countries simply won’t pay up even if they are the biggest culprits in the destruction of the environment and largest contributors to climate change. For now, writing checks and making donations whenever a natural disaster strikes will have to suffice.

But without serious, sustained attention and the kind of sacrifices in lifestyle that few nations seem prepared to make, every coast will feel what our Visayan coasts felt.

Perhaps not as violently, but every bit as surely if nothing is done about climate change.

The Visayas Tragedy

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By Ramon Orosa

ENOUGH time has elapsed so that perhaps we can look at all that happened and the terrible consequences from a less emotional perspective. This does not mean that our heart is not broken by the loss of lives, young and old and the virtually total devastation of structures, big and small that took place. I suppose it will still take some time to determine just how bad it was. To some, the hurts may never heal. More importantly, we must also consider the emotionally traumatic effects of this disaster and offer some help. It will take more than just taking some pills!

Administratively, there is so much to learn. I hope it will not be just finger pointing and the wringing of hands. We do have a disaster coordinating Committee but it is probably time to scale up the degree of preparedness, both in terms of food and water reserves, the logistics of moving them from one place to the other and enough transport resources that can be mobilized at a moment’s notice to move relief goods by land, air or sea and the reserve personnel with which to do the task. These must all be geographically distributed based on an assessment of geological conditions prevailing and weather disturbance patterns.

Whoever is appointed to be head honcho, and one should be, to head the overall relief operation committee, must be a professional possessed of the managerial skills, intelligence, quick thinking and experience to undertake the operation and can mobilize both people and equipment, including pre-identified rolling, flying and water going equipment, from rafts to larger naval vessels., including well trained manning crews. This disaster relief organization must have the authority to trump a chain of command of supporting agencies and forces because time will always be the essence of such operations and, of course, the contingent funds that may be needed. This really is where the discretionary pork of the President should go!

Moreover, there has to be very close coordination between PAGASA and the Disaster Relief Agency so that more appropriate preparedness measures can be taken when needed. The report that the weather agency was afraid to let the appropriate estimate of potential of the incoming typhoon was a rather sad commentary, just as dismissing the police official who came out with an estimate of 10,000 possible deaths was an over-reaction from someone who should be staying cool. I wonder if he will ever learn?
Let us see if there any real steps taken to create the nation’s ability to respond to what may well be more super typhoons, if not earthquakes. It has been reported that if an earthquake of 8.5-9.0 intensity strikes Metro Manila, as many as 15,000 people may die. I think it is on the lower end of the estimate. Are the warehouses of relief goods insulated from such intense earthquakes? How about the equipment and search equipment needed? Do we have canine search teams that can go through rubble? How about enough drills and other digging equipment? I would rather put the money there than in the President’s DAP funds because a life is more important than his political games.

We must have also well equipped portable field hospitals that can be readily transported where needed, manned by members of our emergency medical corps including nurses of varying skills. I am not longing for a floating hospital ship like the one China sent. It will probably take us a century to be able to afford something like that. We still have to overcome our bad reputation for maintenance because corruption has so tainted that part of the military, well not just them but many other agencies, cities and provinces.

We must also establish how the Relief agency can call on the private sector when needed if the disaster is beyond the capability of the Relief Agencies. Doctors, surgeons, dentists, nurses, engineers, electricians, welders, mechanics, administrators, etc. etc. This should include elements of the Chaplaincy Corps of the military and their links to private spiritual workers to be able to comfort and minister to those affected and who can also help in goods distribution.

I was deeply disturbed by a report that when people were looking for shelter in Tacloban, one supposedly Christian sect, closed their church doors and would not admit anyone who was not a member, claiming that only they would be saved. The government has the right to commander private, even religious structures in the face of disasters for the common good. It is the height of religious bigotry for any one group to claim exclusivity when the public is suffering so much and need shelter badly. I hope this was an isolated incident.

However one might look at Yolanda, the expectation is that violent weather, storms, earthquakes will likely multiply in the days ahead. The issue is how to privately prepare in order not to be killed or so seriously damaged. What also is government prepared to do for those who live in vulnerable areas. The cost of retrofitting or relocation will be quite enormous. And now that we are building so many high rises, our local authorities should be very strict and require better structural engineering standards from the builders and developers.

What I notice is that no builder reveals what standards have been followed in what they have constructed. Only nice pictures, a floor plan and interior designs. Even if they comply with building standards, the question is whether it is time to raise them so that the damage and loss of lives can be minimized. I have raised this issue with some construction people and they all just look somewhat sheepish and simply say we complied with the standards prevailing. If you are contemplating buying a condominium, try asking some of these relevant questions and experience for yourself how you will be answered. You are probably talking to someone who does not know what psi means!

I guess one can go on and on while the government and the LGUs stick their heads in the sand! Well, it is a long standing habit!

Are We Being Punished?

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By Erick San Juan

“THE Lord has kept in reserve for a mighty typhoon to rise up against six lands. God’s anger will come upon the islands of Samar and Leyte. A huge typhoon is planned to come over there. There will be disasters through flood.”After reading (again) this paper which was given to me by Marinduque Former Governor Aris Lecaros and kept for over seven months now, it still gives me the goose bumps after realizing what had happened in Central Visayas, Samar and Leyte mostly hit by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). This document, written and read by Prophet Vincent Selvakumar in April 11, 2013 at the Widen King’s healing prayer congregation at Cuneta Astrodome are reminders to us as a nation – ‘terrible judgments over the Philippines if the nation does not repent and turn to God.’The present leadership has gone through a lot for the past months, disaster after disaster, natural and man-made.

Scandals left and right, in and out the Presidential loop plus the problems involving our neighbor countries that we haven’t resolve yet.Are we being punished as a nation? I have been religiously helping this administration by my frequent advice and warnings through my radio program, my articles and through people I know who are close to President (Noynoy). As an observer of events and as one who is exposed to people’s views and sentiments. Like I always say that we should help this or any administration for whatever bad things that will happen, especially if all of us will be directly affected. But like any other normal people, sometimes we asked ourselves – is the President listening to us, his BOSS?

Haiti Earthquake and Haiyan

We, Filipinos have to be on the lookout for a possible outcome of history repeating itself or people repeating history. What had happened in Haiti might happen here.According to the report of BILL QUIGLEY and AMBER RAMANAUSKAS (How the International Community Failed Haiti): “Despite an outpouring of global compassion, some estimate as high as $3 billion in individual donations and another $6 billion in governmental assistance, too little has changed.  Part of the problem is that the international community and non-government organizations (Haiti has sometimes been called the Republic of NGOs) has bypassed Haitian non-governmental agencies and the Haitian government itself.

The Center for Global Development analysis of where the money went concluded that overall. Less than 10% went to the government of Haiti and less than 1% went to Haitian organizations and businesses.  A full one-third of the humanitarian funding for Haiti was actually returned to donor countries to reimburse them for their own civil and military work in the country and the majority of the rest went to international NGOs and private contractors.With hundreds of thousands of people still displaced, the international community has built less than 5000 new homes.

Despite the fact that crime and murder are low in Haiti (Haiti had a murder rate of 6.9 of every hundred thousand, while New Orleans has a rate of 58), huge amounts of money are spent on a UN force which many Haitians do not want.  The annual budget of the United Nations “peacekeeping” mission, MINUSTAH for 2012-2013 or $644 million would pay for the construction of more than 58,000 homes at $11,000 per home.There are many stories of projects hatched by big names in the international community into which millions of donated dollars were poured only to be abandoned because the result was of no use to the Haitian people.  For example, an international organization created a model housing community in Zoranje.

A two million dollar project built 60 houses which now sit abandoned according to Haiti Grassroots Watch.”Actually, there are still more events coming as prophesized by Prophet Selvakumar that will put this nation into more problems. This time it involve diseases. Our country (as prophesized) will be the center for a new kind of disease that will later on spread to the rest of the world. Is this prophecy coincides with the possible widespread ‘medical assistance’ that the United Nations has extended to our poor fellowmen through vaccines?

Again, in Haiti, the poor children were used as guinea pigs for cholera vaccines.The aim of the much-touted new vaccination campaign is to inoculate 100,000 Haitians — mostly children — with 200,000 doses of a vaccine called Shanchol, at $1.85 per dose. Development of Shanchol was financed by the Gates Foundation, and its manufacture is by an Indian company called Shantha Biotechnics. Less than a month ago, Shantha Biotechnics still lacked the WHO approval required for UN agencies to buy the vaccine, because the WHO has continued to argue that cholera vaccines are unnecessary.  Miraculously, Shanchol was quickly “pre-qualified” by the WHO on the 29th of September 2013.Despite the claims that the vaccine will alleviate the cholera in Haiti, hardly anything is known about the effects of the vaccines on endemic cholera.

So this vaccination campaign is actually an experiment designed to test just this, and the Haitian children will be the guinea pigs.Parents who agree to submit their children to this campaign will be taking a big chance. Many problems, including deaths, from vaccination campaigns, because vaccines are notorious for shortcomings such as contamination of lots.

(By Dady Chery | Source: Haiti Chery. See also: Farmer relieves himself on Haiti’s dying cholera victims)

Are we going to sit and wait until such man-made disaster will cause havoc again to our poor nation? Forewarned is forearmed. Let us all be vigilant and pray harder that this country’s leaders will lead us all to safety.

Anti-Social Media?

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By Eric Fabian

In 26th July 2011, when a 5.9 magnitude earthquake shook the coastline province of Zambales, a series of fake tsunami alerts supposedly from PHIVOLCS’s Twitter account spread online like wildfire, until the agency’s Seismology Division OIC, Ishmael Narag, stepped in and told the public, “We have no Twitter or Facebook accounts. Just wait for our announcements on our website or on radio.” Any other organization would consider it a shame to not have a presence on social media.

Rumors could have been easily dispelled if there was an official PHIVOLCS Twitter account. When an earthquake struck the eastern part of the country on the 31st of August 2012, people scrambled online to look for the PHIVOLCS Twitter page, as the social networking site is now one of the most important sources of real-time information. Surprise! The institute still did not have a Twitter account.


Their official site crashed due to heavy traffic. Their Facebook profile has copy-paste postings of scientific jargon on earthquake monitoring with barely any public engagement. This disconnect is reinforced by statements coming from PHIVOLCS head Dr. Renato U. Solidum himself. His excuse is that the agency does not have enough staff members to provide social media updates.

“What we do is we give the updates to the concerned agencies, which then post the updates on Twitter,” he said. Which is funny, considering that there are a lot of free technologies online that can easily be set up by someone with a high school education, good reading comprehension and a modest desktop computer with internet connection.

They can easily sync their website to repost on a Facebook or Twitter account, and it only requires at most an hour to set up. Afterwards, the user does not even have to think about updating the social media account as it automatically updates, for as long as the source website is regularly updated.

Heck, one can even ask a teenager to do the setting up. Solidum further defended PHIVOLCS’ lack of social media presence by saying that the agency is more “focused on the real-time flow of information to the concerned agencies, including the Office of Civil Defense, which would issue advisories and warnings to residents of areas an earthquake had struck,” according to an Inquirer interview.

EARTHQUAKE : Are We Ready?

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By Miguel Raymundo

Many are asking why the government has not made very public a JICA study on a major earthquake shaking Metro Manila causing death to hundreds of thousands. This study describes the magnitude of damage to the capital of the country.
These questions came after the world witnessed a real life end-of-world devastation in the city of Tacloban and other towns in Leyte and Samar.

The high body count from typhoon “Haiyan” came even after the government issued warnings of effect of a super typhoon. The local government and residents prepared for the worst and many were housed in evacuation centers, most of them shoreline families.


But preparations for the worst were not enough that over ten thousand lost their lives. Why the-worst-case preparation by the locals was not enough, could be traced to national government inability to clearly explain what happens on a storm surge created by a category 5 super typhoon.

(Photo used under Creative Commons)
(Photo used under Creative Commons)

The national government was short in informing the public. The agency in charge of this in the national government is the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). PAGASA and Phivolcs are under the DOST. These two agencies are mandated to forecast and predict catastrophe and warn the public. PAGASA greatly failed on the “Haiyan” tragic visit that caused tens thousand dead and hundreds of billions of property damaged.

That Tacloban experience has raised fears on a catastrophe in the Metro Manila where over 15 million live. Tacloban City has 200 thousand inhabitants.

A category 5 super typhoon could hit Metro Manila and hundreds of thousands would perish should DOST not shape up and learn from their experience in Tacloban City.

Or a major earthquake with intensity that leveled Bohol could rock Metro Manila and DOST failing to prepare the 15 million in the metropolis.

Casualty Count

The JICA study said casualty count will reach 113,000 should a 7.2 earthquake hit Metro Manila. The JICA report was done in 2002 to 2004 and the reported population for Metro Manila then was placed at 10 Million. Now the population has ballooned to 15 Million.

Experts said the JICA report is even a conservative estimate of damage and casualties.

Architect Felino Palafox, an authority on urban planning said in a forum at Fernandina that our building code is so outdated that require amendments to fit to requirements of safety and environment protection.

“Two meters is the required minimum limit in distance between buildings,” Palafox said adding that if this is an issue between two high rise towers, there will collision between two structures in event of an earthquake.

Suspect Structures

In the last ten years, capital investments in the country went to building of high rise condominium towers. Experts say that many of these high rise buildings are suspect in it strength against earthquake and wind gusts of the Typhoon Yolanda level.

While experts in urban planning are expressing deep concerns on people safety in the event of a major catastrophe, Phivolcs is not heard in the cacophony of fears.

OpinYon takes the side of those expressing disappointment at government halfhearted response to those warnings.

Sink Holes

The case of sink holes being feared in Cebu and Bohol after the last 7.2 earthquake that toppled homes, buildings and churches, these warnings were dismissed as inconsequential at best or hoax at worst.

The government handling of Typhoon Yolanda has reinforced anxieties if not deepened fears among environment observes.
First the government failed to clear state its warnings on the catastrophe. Second it has promised immediate response in relief operations. Third is was the last to be able to mobilize in rescue and relief operations in affected areas in Central Philippines.
That will likely be repeated in a Metro Manila natural calamity.

The leadership of Phivolcs is on default in making public the findings of JICA and other experts like Palafox. The usual riposte of these failings is that’s how the government works.

How does the government work? In many cases technical men and scientists love numbers in technical reports not on living people in those numbers. They are fascinated by figures not warm bodies that will perish in a catastrophe. OpinYon thinks Phivocs head Renato Solidum fits into this typical mold of scientist in the government service.


DOST where Phivolcs is part is infected by this malady of heartlessness. The mother department, the PAGASA, the Phivoks,they are busy and much too concerned on small matters that feed ego if not their pockets. They live in a scientific ivory tower that is detached from the needs of the people.

They love showing their expertise in written scholarly studies, testifying in Congress and in courts as expert witnesses, but they have very little feel of the life that throbs in those places, subject of scholarly reports.

A 7.2 earthquake or a 320 KPH hurricane or an 8 meter high storm surge could bring this country to its knees should any of them hit Metro Manila and the people here are not prepared.

Senator Loren Legarda, the country’s champion on climate change called on preparing the country for a catastrophe like those that hit Bohol and Leyte and Samar. “better still give a hand in efforts to save the earth and avoid the catastrophe,” Legarda said.

What Should We Do After Haiyan?

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by Atty. Sarah Jane Suguitan

DAYS before typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda in local news) made landfall, the entire Philippines was already alerted by local and international weather stations. We knew ahead of time that Haiyan will take many lives, ruin many buildings, flood many roads, uproot many trees and place many of our kababayans on square one. Square one is where everything and everyone has to start from scratch. Square one is the land before airports, houses, and cell sites were built. Square one is where all you have is the landscape and thousands of survivors. Square one where Haiyan left many of us. The question is, how do we rebuild? What’s the plan?

I asked this question to our authorities, and once again, the central government has stonewalled on its answer. Silence. Hesitation. Unpreparedness. What authorities are proud of are the relief operations. I do not mean to trivialize relief operations, but, when they are not coupled by any rehabilitation efforts, relief operations transform victims into beggars. If all the authorities plan on doing is to conduct relief operations, we will soon have squatters all over the affected islands of Bohol, Cebu and Leyte.

Since the central government is low on vision and planning, let’s light the path for them (and pray that they may have the humility to listen instead of walking out).

Simultaneous with relief operations, let’s restore power, water and phone lines by creative means. We can fly in alternative energy sources and place call centers (as in, an area with functioning phones offering free calls). All communication lines must be restored and kept open not only for the victims, but also for those conducting rehabilitation missions.

Employ thousands of unemployed nurses, utility men and underemployed professionals from all over the country and deploy them to the disaster-hit areas to conduct search-and-rescue missions. Let’s not ask for volunteers. Let’s employ the unemployed who can devote their full time, attention and expertise to searching for and rescuing all the living and the dead.

Construct shelters that are livable. Existing structures are suspect (and may have circumvented the standards under our building codes). Local shelters are merely big basketball courts turned refugee camps. Imagine yourself and your family fleeing to these basketball courts with only your clothes on while waiting for the storm to subside. There’s no potable water and comfort rooms to relieve yourself. You eat in doled-out paper plates on the floor. You are given uncooked rice (bigas), canned sardines and noodles in their plastic wrapper.(Apparently, victims are expected to flee with their gas tanks and stoves.)

How are you supposed to cook these food given by the social welfare office? If you can’t imagine yourself in such a situation, neither can the victims. So instead of those raw junk food, we should construct or install portable kitchens, mess halls and toilets in evacuation centers.  What’s the use of raw food if you have no means to cook? What’s the use of cooked food if you have to eat it with your bare hands while sitting on the floor? And what’s the use of eating if you have no place to pee or poop? Conditions are dire in these evacuation centers. Let’s make them livable, not the substandard things that are like the DPWH-made roads and bridges. I mean, livable!

Foreign aid as well as local donations must be trackable. It must be assumed that donating to local government units do not trickle down to the end-users (victims) and instead, end up in our leaders’ private bank accounts.
In the medium term (if not, ASAP), we will need to rebuild. With tens of thousands whose lives are on hold, low-cost housing, temporary schools, stores and banking systems will be naturally formed. If the government continues to fail in providing basic services, the private sector will take over. Unfortunately for the poor, they will not be able to afford that, and that is the consequence of voting poorly.
Follow the author on twitter @coffeeright.

In Defense of Small Businesses

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by Ike Señeres

AS WE see vivid images of super typhoons devastating our islands, we should also be reminded of the very strong economic storms that are already hitting our country every day now, causing daily damage that could cost more than a series of storms and earthquakes could possibly cause. As we talk about the apparent lack of preparations to address these natural disasters, we should also be reminded that we are not prepared for these economic storms either, with practically none of the so called “safety nets” in place.

It is a good thing that natural storms could be forecasted. Economic storms on the other hand do not need any forecasts, because these are certain to come, and in fact they already have. As we speak, local products are being clobbered in the local markets, and scores of small businesses and small factories have already closed. The damage is already being felt, even before the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) is fully in place by 2015, and even before all the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements will be fully implemented.

One way or the other, the natural storms that are coming to our shores would have something to do with climate change and global warming, even if it could be argued that storms would naturally happen even without these two factors. That said however, regardless of what side of the argument you are with, there is no argument that the effects of climate change and global warming would definitely affect small businesses and small factories, as it has already happened in many cases. When we say small businesses, it should already include the business of farmers and fishermen.

I remember that when the issue of “safety nets” was discussed many years ago, there was a consensus that the government should not count all projects that all the projects that are in the normal course of public services delivery. What that means is that the government should come up with new and original “safety nets” that would be on top of, and different from what are normally provided by them. At that time, nobody really knew what that meant, and that is still the case now.

In the lack of understanding what “safety nets” would really mean, I would instead define it to mean anything and everything that would make a local product survive the onslaught of foreign products. Actually it should not be limited to plain and simple survival alone, because it should objectively mean success in the local and foreign markets, defined in terms of gross sales and market shares. I will add to that the fact that this boils down to product competitiveness. If that sounds to you like a sink or swim scenario, you are right, because that is what it really is, and much more than that, it is actually a life or death situation.

By comparison, I would say that dealing with a natural storm is easier than dealing with an economic storm. On the part of many local politicians, that could be as simple as delivering a few relief goods and taking lots of pictures. There is really no need for a closure, because the actions would end as soon as the evacuation centers are vacated, and that is it. In the case of economic storms however, the first line of casualties are not people, so there is really no rush for dramatic photo opportunities.

In the case of economic storms, the local products in the local markets are the first to die, and their deaths would ultimately result in the death of the factories, being the second line of defense. It could be said that the third line of defense would be among the ranks of the workers who would lose their incomes as their jobs would also die. Complicated as the sequence would appear to be, the cause of it all is the death of local products, and that is where we should fight back first, to make our products more competitive, so that these could stand up strongly to the foreign invaders and win the fights too.

Making products more competitive is a no brainer, because there is a science behind that. As a matter of fact, many big local companies have already perfected that science, and many of their products are now doing very well in the local and global markets. The rules of the marketing game are very clear. Aside from having a good product, what are needed are good product positioning, good branding, good labelling, good packaging and good advertising. There is no way out of these rules, because companies would have to play the game or die.

Again by comparison, the big companies could very well stand up on their own, and would therefore not need any help from the government. Obviously, the only ones that would need help from the government are the small businesses and the small factories. This is not really a new discovery, because we have known this all along. For so many years now, we have also heard many government agencies reporting that they are implementing programs along this line, but nothing seems to stick, and we are not seeing local products winning in the local and global markets.

The lack of financing is often said to be the cause of local product failure. That could be true, but in reality, any product doing well in the market should not have any problem in getting investors. And if the product is really doing well, the cash flow would be good too, and the only need for more financing would be for expansion purposes. We should really aspire to produce more local products that are global winners. Otherwise, we will just be a consumer economy, found at the lower end of the value chain, with no value added of our own.

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