By Ronald Roy
Senate Majority Floor Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, unabashed self-proclaimed contender for the presidency in the 2016 elections, warned that keeping secret a new affidavit by Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged PDAF scam brains, would “empower her to manipulate public opinion one way or the other.” Perhaps. However, I don’t go along with his demand that she be summoned anew by the Blue Ribbon Committee for a scrutiny of her new statement.
There is no way the public will gain enlightenment from a senate investigation of the pork scam when the culprits alluded to by Napoles are the investigating senators themselves, not to mention those other guilty colleagues — bato bato sa langit ang tatamaan ay huwag magagalit — who quietly swivel in their cool armchairs expecting vindication in a process that they fully control. This asinine and expensive circus must stop. It serves no other purpose than to fuel more speculation, sow more confusion, and facilitate cover-up schemes.
Senators are not called “lawmakers” for nothing. By their every word and deed, and as their mandate would have it, they must exemplify sedulous adherence to the lofty requirements of respect for the Law, esteem for its institutions and processes, and fear of its rule. Accordingly, our senators should now terminate the subject investigation in order to allow the Ombudsman’s Office to exercise unimpeded control of the role it is ordained by the Constitution to discharge. No, there is no cogent reason for these upper-chamber legislators to distrust their own creation: the largely statutory criminal justice system.
Motorcyclists are the bane of patience. Being in total control of our streets, they freely violate traffic rules in pretty much the same way some politicians cavalierly breach the norms of delicadeza and rectitude. And can these motorcyclists quickly organize themselves into a mob at any accident site where one of them is involved! One should not find unfamiliar any of the following road situations.
Three years ago, I was driving on Edsa behind two buses that were a meter and a half apart. Suddenly, a motorcycle sped past me on my right side, surged ahead and, to my horror, raced through between the buses in a resolve to overtake them. As the buses moved toward each other, motorists and I following behind came to a screeching stop to see a gut-wrenching mishap that left the helmeted rider and his machine lying on the road in one gruesome twisted heap.
That was but one of numerous motorcycle misfortunes that had then been occurring at a very alarming rate, and the accidents have since increased without letup. Today, one wonders if authorities will ever buckle down to produce safety rules for the motoring public in general and the motorcyclists in particular, pedestrians and bystanders included.
For having been actually involved in two recent motorcycle accidents, I sometimes muse on the possibility that one day I will be a plaintiff or defendant in a reckless imprudence trial, notwithstanding the fact that in over 60 years behind the wheels, my extraordinarily diligent and defensive manner of driving has always seen me safely through — knock on wood. Hereunder are the two incidents.
As I remained at STOP position preparing to turn right to Hemady Street in Q.C., a motorcyclist drove up from behind and rested his machine between my right rear door and the embankment. From that position, he knew I would turn right since my signal lights were flashing. After the traffic light turned green, I proceeded to turn right along with the motorcycle. While I was executing the turn, the motorcycle suddenly swerved around in a split-second decision to change course.
I didn’t hit it, but its rider kicked my fender to avoid being struck. As a result of the force of the kick, he fell off his two-wheeler which scooted ahead and crashed against a concrete wall. He suffered a broken wrist and a badly damaged motorcycle. Luckily, patrol cops who witnessed the incident prevented a gathering mob of cussing motorcyclists from possibly lynching me. The hurt rider apologized for his reckless driving.
Then, another time when I was doing 30 kph on Aurora Boulevard, Manila, a motorcycle that had overtaken me suddenly crossed my path, and instinctively I swerved rightward to avoid hitting it. Unfortunately, I hit a cab. The culprit sped away and got lost in the traffic, and I gave the taxi driver a generous amount for slightly denting his fender.
This sort of road scourge cannot be totally eradicated. But authorities can control it by requiring motorcyclists to drive, at all times, directly behind a chosen vehicle, and allowing them to move therefrom only for the purpose of turning left or right to another street. Needless to state, strict enforcement and stiff penalties will produce eye-popping results, particularly in the dramatic reduction of riding-in-tandem killings. Hopefully.
The Department of Agriculture is ready to carry out cloud seeding operations to induce rain over areas that have not received a rainfall for at least one week as part of its proactive strategy against a feared protracted dry spell, even as the country’s weather bureau said it’s too early to tell the occurrence of El Niño phenomenon this year.
With the country now within the summer season, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said he has instructed all the Department’s regional field offices nationwide to monitor and immediately coordinate with the Bureau of Soils and Management (BSWM) any lack of rainfall for seven to ten days in areas under their respective jurisdiction so the Bureau could mobilize its cloud seeding team in a timely manner.
In fact, as early as mid-March, BSWM has completed 15 sorties equivalent to 17 flying hours across the rain-deprived municipalities of Aglipay, Maddela and Nagtipunan, as well as over Magat Watershed areas. The DA Regional Field Unit II reported said sorties helped induce rain showers and prevented damage on some 4,155 hectares of corn farms around the province, of which 3,490 hectares are in reproductive stage and 665 hectares in vegetative stage.
BSWM is an attached agency of DA tasked to undertake cloud seeding sorties to induce rain above drought-affected farming communities.
“We are taking a proactive stance against the threat of a long dry spell even as PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) is saying El Niño is not yet in sight,” said Secretary Alcala in an interview on a local television program in General Santos City on Friday.
Apart from cloud seeding operations, the Department also readies other interventions such as the provision of with shallow tube wells and drought-tolerant crop varieties to farmers in any part of the country that will be affected by dry spell episodes.
As part of long-term measures, DA has likewise increased its investments in the repair, rehabilitation and construction of new irrigation systems, as well as in the establishment of small water impounding facilities, to help guarantee agricultural water even during dry months. From 2011 to end-December 2013, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) said it has generated 128,242 hectares of new areas, restored 90,851 hectares and rehabilitated 453,636 hectares. NIA aims to expand total irrigated lands to 1.9 million hectares by 2016, from current 1.67 million hectares.
PAGASA has yet to issue a formal advisory on the occurrence of El Niño except for precautionary verbal warnings, as quoted in several media reports.
Global weather authorities are likewise cautious at this point in time to declare such a phenomenon happening this year. In its latest monthly advisory released in March, the National Prediction Service of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NPS-NOAA) said there is “50% chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall (July, August, and September).” NPS-NOAA is expected to issue its April update anytime soon. “ENSO-neutral is expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014, with about a 50% chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall,” the agency said in its website.
ENSO-neutral refers to those periods when neither El Niño nor La Niña or the “cold” equivalent of El Niño is present. El Niño is a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific that occurs every four to 12 years.The worst El Niño episode the country ever experienced was in 1997-1998, when more than P8 billion worth of crops was destroyed.
By Dong Maraya
On April 4 the National Peace Day of Angola is celebrated. We take this opportunity to greet all Angolans for this momentous day.
The Republic of Angola is a country in Southern Africa. Luanda is its capital city. Angola as a Portuguese colony encompassing the present territory was not established before the end of the 19th century. Independence was achieved in 1975, after a protracted liberation war. After independence, Angola was the scene of an intense civil war from 1975 to 2002. The executive branch of the government is composed of the President, the Vice-Presidents and the Council of Ministers. For decades, political power has been concentrated in the Presidency.
José Eduardo dos Santos is an Angolan politician who has been President of Angola since 1979. As President, José Eduardo dos Santos is also the commander in chief of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) and president of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the party that has ruled Angola since it gained independence in 1975. He was born on 28 August 1942. At the age of 19 he joined the MPLA’s guerrilla army fighting for independence from Portugal.
After the death of Angola’s first president, Agostinho Neto on 10 September 1979, José Eduardo dos Santos was elected as President of the MPLA on 20 September 1979, and he took office as President of Angola, President of the MPLA, and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces on 21 September. He was also elected as President of the People’s Assembly on 9 November 1980.
In power for 33 years, despite having never been formally elected, Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is Africa’s second-longest serving head of state – trailing Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo by just one month.
On 29 and 30 September 1992, elections were held in Angola. José Eduardo dos Santos won the election. In 2001, dos Santos announced that he would step down at the next presidential election. However, in December 2003 he was reelected as head of the MPLA and no further presidential election took place, despite these being announced for 2006, then 2007 and finally announced that the next presidential election would be held in 2009. After legislative election in 2008 in which the ruling MPLA won a landslide victory, the party started working on a new constitution that was introduced early in 2010. In terms of the new constitution, the leader of the party with the most seats in Parliament automatically becomes the president of the country.
In the 2012 general election, his party, the MPLA, won more than 2/3 of the votes. As dos Santos had been the top candidate of the party, he automatically became the President of the Republic, in line with the constitution adopted in 2010, and therefore found himself for the first time in the position of a legally elected President.
The 70 year old is never criticized by the country’s state media organs, and the remaining few private newspapers that have not been bought up by government ministers and which dare challenge his actions are hit with lawsuits.
He is now hoping to win a new five-year mandate when his country holds parliamentary elections under a new constitution that elects the president from the top of the winning party list. Analysts say, the election is as much a referendum on Mr. dos Santos, who celebrated his birthday on the campaign trail, and his record as president as it is about appointing a new National Assembly.
Under his leadership Angola has risen from the ashes of war to become sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest economy, after South Africa and Nigeria, and a magnet for foreign investment.
Mr. dos Santos’s long stay in office represents stability to his trading partners, one of the largest of which is now China. Against all odds, he has remained in power since 1979, overcoming challenges of war, elections and at the same time displaying a highly refined political craftsmanship. Analysts say Mr dos Santos’ avoidance of the limelight is key to his success because he has been able to keep his enemies guessing and he has carefully kept internal rivals at bay. While criticism of Mr. dos Santos is growing among small sections of urban Angolans, who are increasingly turning to the internet and social media as an alternative to the heavily censored mainstream media, he still has plenty of support.
After the end of the Civil War, the regime came under pressure from within as well as from the international environment, to become more democratic and less authoritarian. Its reaction was to operate a number of changes without substantially changing its character. The new constitution, adopted in 2010, further sharpened the authoritarian character of the regime. In the future, there will be no presidential elections: the president and the vice-president of the political party which comes out strongest in the parliamentary elections become automatically president and vice-president of Angola.
Angola has a rich subsoil heritage, from diamonds, oil, gold, copper, and a rich wildlife, forest, and fossils. Since independence, oil and diamonds have been the most important economic resource. Smallholder and plantation agriculture have dramatically dropped because of the Angolan Civil War, but have begun to recover after 2002. The transformation industry that had come into existence in the late colonial period collapsed at independence, because of the exodus of most of the ethnic Portuguese population, but has begun to reemerge, partly because of the influx of new Portuguese entrepreneurs.
Angola’s economy has undergone a period of transformation in recent years, moving from the disarray caused by a quarter century of civil war to being the fastest growing economy in Africa and one of the fastest in the world. In 2004, China’s Eximbank approved a $2 billion line of credit to Angola. The loan is being used to rebuild Angola’s infrastructure, and has also limited the influence of the International Monetary Fund in the country.
The country has vast mineral and petroleum reserves, and its economy has on average grown at a double-digit pace since the 1990s, especially since the end of the civil war. In spite of this, standards of living remain low for the majority of the population, and life expectancy and infant mortality rates in Angola are among the worst in the world. Angola is considered to be economically disparate, with the majority of the nation’s wealth concentrated in a disproportionately small sector of the population.
In 2002, the country’s economy has developed significantly since achieving political stability, but still Angola faces huge social and economic problems. These are in part a result of the almost continual state of conflict from 1961 onwards, although the highest level of destruction and socio-economic damage took place after the 1975 independence, during the long years of civil war.
Although by law education in Angola is compulsory and free for eight years, the government reports that a percentage of students are not attending due to a lack of school buildings and teachers. Students are often responsible for paying additional school-related expenses, including fees for books and supplies. The Ministry of Education hired 20,000 new teachers in 2005 and continued to implement teacher trainings. Teachers tend to be underpaid, inadequately trained, and overworked. Although budgetary allocations for education were increased in 2004, the education system in Angola continues to be extremely under-funded.
Angola is gradually rebuilding its infrastructure, retrieving weapons from its heavily-armed civilian population and resettling tens of thousands of refugees who fled the fighting. Landmines and impassable roads have cut off large parts of the country. But oil exports and foreign loans have spurred economic growth and have fuelled a reconstruction boom.
Senator Loren Legarda today stressed on the responsibility of every citizen to protect the environment, stressing that “we should be stewards, not destroyers of nature.”
Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, made the statement after a forest fire, which is believed to be man-made, transpired at the top of Mt. Banahaw, affecting about 10 hectares of forest land.
“It is unfortunate that even our protected areas are not safe from such a tragic event. If the forest fire was indeed man-made, we must condemn and punish such irresponsible acts, ” she said.
“This is a gruesome crime against nature, the species that live in the area, and the resources that we are tasked to conserve. Our responsibility is to protect our forests and undertake further efforts towards reforestation and biodiversity conservation. We must not betray our purpose as stewards of our natural resources. We must be accountable for the environmental impact of our actions,” Legarda added.
The Senator assured that her committee is working on proposed measures, including the National Land Use Act, the Final Forest Limits Act, and the Protected Areas Declaration Act, that will put into place tougher safeguards to protect the country’s natural resources and ensure sustainable development planning.
Recent reports indicated that dynamite fishing is occurring in the waters of Siargao in Surigao del Norte. Senator Loren Legarda today called the attention of government agencies mandated to enforce the country’s Fisheries Code as she expressed alarm over the bannedfishing practice, which recently caused the killing of at least 22 dwarf sperm whales and dolphins.
“This is another unfortunate case of marine resource abuse. Dynamite fishing has long been banned and is punishable under the Fisheries Code along with illegal fishing methods. Authorities must strictly enforce the law because this is not only about a fisher’s catch or a community’s livelihood, but also about the state of marine biodiversity, which affects the nation as a whole,” said Legarda.
“Our law enforcement agencies should go after the perpetrators of this crime against nature and ensure that our seas and marine species are safe from such cruelty. We should be more vigilant because this could be happening in other parts of the country as well,” she added.
It has been reported that two dwarf sperm whales and at least 21 dolphins were badly injured from dynamite fishing and sustained stab wounds from fishermen in Siargao.
“Siargao is world-famous for being a surfer’s haven. It does not have to stop there. It would be more beneficial to the communities surrounding the area if they become a model for marine conservation through sustainable fishing methods and other marine protection practices. Fishing is not only a form of livelihood but also a way by which a fisherman can carry out his responsibility as a steward of our marine resources,” Legarda stressed.
Under the Fisheries Code of 1998, a ban is imposed on the use of fine mesh net and electricity, explosives, noxious or poisonous substance in our seas. It is also illegal to exploit and export corals as well as the fishing and taking of any rare, threatened and endangered species.
Mandated to enforce this Code are the law enforcement officers of the Department of Agriculture, Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police and including local government units.
WHAT seems evident is that China is taking small but provocative steps to assert her sovereignty over what we call the West Philippine Sea by shooing away the fishermen and some of our naval vessels who were sent to resupply some of our troops. She knows that we are no match for her much more modern and fully equipped naval vessels and so when she pushed, we backed away. She is obviously testing the waters by escalating her control over the shoals and the sea.
It would seem that what we will likely see over the next several months will be more provocative actions from China but actions carefully calibrated not to produce a reaction from the US. China in all likelihood feels, and correctly, that the US for all of the rhetoric is not eager to engage China in these waters, what with the Crimean problem the US is also facing.
In this latter case, Crimea is at the border of Russia and it was easy for Russia to mobilize forces apart from the fact that it would seem there is much Crimean sympathy to reconnect with Russia. Of course, historically, Crimea was part of Russia until her recent collapse and dismemberment.
I frankly don’t believe Russia will give in at all for all the sanction threats and other actions that Obama might threaten Russia with from 10,000 miles away. But for the US to take military action seems far-fetched. Maybe many condemning speeches at the UN. But they can’t even pass a resolution at the UN Security Council because Russia is a permanent member who will veto any such resolution.
So the carefully controlled actions of China in the South Asian seas will use minimum force, or no force at all, just threats and bluffs and sneaky moves which she has been doing anyway from quite a few years back. It will be more of simply establishing her presence because we are incapable of doing the same or resisting such efforts and our getting used to it.
Troops in small islets or shoals are ineffective if unable to move or realistically defend themselves when push comes to shove. All of these moves gain for China the dominion of the seas and the islets and shoals even if not overt total control which they have as an objective. This is the pragmatic element of China’s moves in the area. While the US appetite for confrontation is weak, China realizes that militarily they are still behind the US in rather important ways.
Furthermore, more military actions at this time can hasten the establishment of US forces here in the Far East which would make China’s objective, total South Asian hegemony a much more difficult objective. In sum, the conclusion for the moment seems to be one little step at a time while it is not yet easily quantifiable what the consequences of reckless action on China’s part might trigger. In other words, presently China has more to lose should a shooting war break out. But that will not always be the case. By 2020 or even a little earlier, the equation might be truly different. The Chinese economy will likely overtake the US by or before then, and the military equation might well be tipped more in China’s favor as the US downsizes her forces and China keeps on aggressively expanding her capabilities.
Can technology make up for a smaller military size so that the US can stay significantly ahead of China? Some Israeli senior cabinet member, obviously with the PM’s blessing said that the US is showing a weak posture to the world and many people are questioning the value of US commitments overseas.
Pres. Obama is supposed to come to our shores soon and we are shortly supposed to have some agreement about co-sharing our military bases with her. I am not sure exactly what it means. Co-sharing the bases is rather impractical to begin with and it would be very hard for our AFP to retain control of our military bases when used by two sovereign nations and one is much more competent and better equipped than the other.
Will the US flag fly under the Philippine flag or will the flags fly together? Will the situation be like in corporations, there will be two co-equal heads? It looks like a situation looking for trouble. Of course, others might argue and say what choice do we really have? We can’t play ball with China, she wants to eat us up. All the rhetoric about mutual respect and friendship is just that, rhetoric! Well, the outcome seems not too difficult to predict. The US will not risk a bloody confrontation with China.
I wish that cooler heads handled this problem with China without handing the seas to China without a whimper from the start and did not add to the heat of the day with ill considered if not bravado statements. If both sides end up boxed in a tight corner, everyone’s guess about the outcome will be just as good as any other! But I suggest this is time for some contingency planning on a rather wide level. We cannot see the problem as something only affecting the seas. We will see a few other areas regarding our domestic economy that need to truly plan ahead with wisdom and determination.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) recently launched the construction of a warehouse facility worth P5.9 million for the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) of Rizal, Cagayan.
The post-harvest facility will consist of a 60-square meter warehouse with a 2,000-cavan capacity, a 48-square meter office, and a 450-square meter solar dryer. DAR Regional Director Marjorie Ayson led the groundbreaking rites of the Malasatco Post-harvest facility project along with Rizal Mayor Joel Ruma, in the agrarian reform community (ARC) of Malaueg, in Rizal town, Cagayan. Ayson said the farmers suffer spoilage of harvested crops due to lack of proper storage facilities. “Our farmers experience losses because most farm family houses don’t have enough space in their lots to properly store their harvested crops. Another major reason is the very long distance of Malaueg ARC to the market center,” said Ayson. According to Ayson, because of the remoteness of Malaueg ARC to the town proper “very few public vehicles ply the long stretch of rocky road. Delivery vehicles for farmers’ produce are also very few and are put on a schedule basis by the farmers to accommodate their transportation needs.” Ayson added that during summer, it takes at least two days for the farmers to traverse the rough roads to bring their produce to the market. It takes them longer days during the rainy season when the roads are deep with thick mud. “By the time they get to the market center the crops are wilted and some are already spoiled. The wilted produce don’t sell as much as fresh ones,” said Ayson. Ayson thanked Mayor Ruma for his support for his farmer-constituents in donating the lot where the storage facility is being constructed. Apart from the storage facility which will be finished by May 23, 2014, the municipality of Rizal was also provided by the DAR with a communal irrigation project in Bgy. Mauanan and a potable water supply in Bgy. Illuru. Malasatco is a farmers’ cooperative where most members are agrarian reform beneficiaries.