Making Earth great again

Don’t be a sucker.

It is not really about making America great again for it is now, has always been and will always be.

But for America to continue being great and for the rest of the world community, including the third world countries, to experience peace and contentment, there is a need for humanity to respect and be thankful for what Earth has been to the population.

What I am just saying is that let us all take care of mother Earth and believe that our collective inattention to her for her continued usefulness is what is causing havoc everywhere in an unimaginable manner, shape and form.

There is a truism, saying, “We don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

We should all be embarrassed and conscience-stricken for the legacy we are leaving behind which could only be attributed to man’s folly.

But it is never too late.

We can still atone for our mistakes and strive hard to make Earth more friendly and great again.

To convince you that, indeed, Earth is our only home today, tomorrow and in ages to come, allow me to share this video with you.

Bill Maher uses colorful language, but he is funny and telling the truth.

Gina Lopez over Leni Robredo anytime

DENR Sec. Gina Lopez (l) and Vice Pres. Leni Robredo

I had been critical of Vice President Leni Robredo not only because she has fallen so short of my expectations (yes, Virginia, I voted for her), but more so because she allows herself and her position to be used as the voice of the opposition.

Recent events about her which drew criticism from many only show how vulnerable she is to being manipulated by her cohorts in the Liberal Party (LP) who have vested interests of their own.

You can read more of my opinion about Robredo at these links:

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/robredos-satisfaction-rating-suffers/

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/03/19/obredo-un-message-slanders-the-philippines/

On the other hand, I have nothing but great respect for Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez who remains unfazed despite being bypassed by the Commission on Appointments and continues to make a bold and uncompromising stand, saying, she is not keen on finding a “middle ground” with mining companies if it involves “damaging watersheds and agriculture.”

I have also written about Lopez which you can read at these links:

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/denr-secretary-gina-lopez/

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/sec-gina-lopez-and-the-mining-industry/

There is simply no comparison between Gina and Leni in terms of ideas, commitment, determination, leadership and resolve.

But for more stark difference between the Gina and Leni, allow me to share with you this article which I find so interesting and revealing that after reading it one can fairly say that the Duterte and Gina ilk is what is needed to run this country and not the Leni Robredos and her yellow-colored ilk.

Be a Gina in a nation full of Lenis

By SASS ROGANDO SASOT on April 20, 2017

THE Opposition, as well as the Filipino intellectuals and naïve millennials sympathetic to them, often adjudge Duterte supporters as a nihilistic cult. Hopefully, they won’t be stuck in that thought. May they have the foresight to put this passionate mass into great use.

They should begin by foregoing their criticisms of Duterte that are mere remnants and permutations of their propaganda against him during the 2016 elections. That’s why Duterte supporters surge like a wild wave against them whenever they do that. The incessant fault-finding feels like election season all over again. They are tired of that mudfest. They want to move forward.

Also, perish the thought of grabbing power from Duterte in any way, whether via coup d’état, nth version of Edsa, or ICC-enabled regime change. You will not succeed with a victory you could enjoy. You are only wasting Duterte, a rare concinnity of courage, compassion, savvy, and iron will.

Be an Opposition with a compelling vision rather than a loudmouth spewing political platitudes. In other words: Be a Gina Lopez in a nation full of Leni Robredo. Though Lopez isn’t part of the Opposition, she’s worthy of emulation by those who want to translate their love for our country into action. Her passion comes with a vision and a plan.

Remember the story of how she got the job as environment secretary? Armed with a thoughtfully crafted presentation, Lopez flew to Davao City, queued up to meet Duterte in the wee hours, and when she finally met him, she persuaded him to stem the tide of ecological destruction wrought by irresponsible mining. Sure, she can be too zealous for her own good and to the detriment of her cause; but it’s also the same verve prompting us to pay serious attention to how we manage our nation’s ecological assets. The same stance which impelled Duterte to give her the power to realize her vision and to back her up even if it would mean losing billions from the mining industry.

Meanwhile, Robredo kept swamping our country with stale political slogans, like the “war on poverty.” Every war requires a strategy to achieve a purpose worthy of great resources mobilized in its service. And of equal importance is an able general that leads his soldiers to victory. Robredo has no riveting strategy, just a litany of emotional appeals punctuated by a smile. She’s definitely not an adept general that could lead her troops to win any war at all.

When she resigned as housing czarina in December 2016, Robredo demonstrated that she’s the kind of general who abandons the battlefield whenever her ego gets slighted by a setback. If the housing needs of Filipinos were a great concern to her, she should have mustered the diva in her, continued working, and proved to Filipinos that she was indispensable in doing the job. While Lopez persists even in the face of great resistance, Robredo gave up and became damsel in distress. She made herself disposable.

Robredo is what has become of the Opposition — unnecessary. And that’s dangerous.

No democracy thrives without an Opposition. Besides being the government’s check-and-balance, the Opposition provides the creative tension necessary to generate innovative policies. In that sense, the Opposition is an indispensable other that stimulate the administration to actualize its highest potential. But the Opposition to the Duterte administration has become mostly an obstructive and destructive force. Instead of being a source of creative tension, they have become a national nuisance one can live without.

That shouldn’t be the case. The Opposition should cease being a Leni Robredo, and start being a Gina Lopez. Time to have a gripping vision with a plan. Present it with ardor. The passionate mass of Duterte supporters might not accept what you say, but gaining acceptance isn’t the goal. The goal is to provide the creative tension this administration needs to keep itself on track in its quest to give every Filipino a more comfortable life.

 

Benham Rise to Philippine Rise: what is in a name?

It really blows my mind why we have to change the name Benham Rise to Philippine Rise if all these years we know that it is undeniably ours?

Would the 13 million-hectare underwater region, which is deemed to be rich in mineral, oil and gas resources and confirmed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as part of the country’s continental shelf and territory, be more ours by renaming it to Philippine Rise?

What is in a name, anyway, if the same gives inspiration and hope for a better future for the country and the next generation of Filipinos while respectfully remembering and extolling the memory of an American admiral and geologist, Andrew Benham, who made history by discovering it and by some twist of fate made the Philippines its rightful owner? (http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/05/18/1584439/benham-rise-philippiness-new-territory).

We owe it to the man and I don’t see therefore the importance or significance of changing names now or at any other time in the future. Benham Rise is already part of our history and we could not be more fortunate that it belongs to the Philippines.

If changing Benham Rise to Philippine Rise is “to emphasize Philippine sovereignty rights and jurisdiction over the area”, as claimed, how much absurd can we get!

Is the Duterte government directing this stand against China, as if warning the hegemonic giant country to stay away from his part of the country’s territory facing the Pacific Ocean as it has no right whatsoever claiming this part of our sovereignty, as it blatantly did at the South China Sea side of the Philippines?

That is really wishful thinking and that is what I mean.

Whether it is Benham Rise or Philippine Rise, to China it is the same banana for their picking.

China is so deep inside us now both in land and maritime affairs that driving them out of the country and its maritime territorial limits is next to impossible. Doing this can be interpreted as declaring war and this to us can be likened to a suicidal act which we don’t really want to happened.

It’s the familiar sense of déjà vu we are seeing and feeling at Benham Rise.

In the same manner that China showed no respect at UNCLOS when it made reefs into militarized islands even at our own backyards at the South China Sea, this time at Benham Rise, China also showed nothing but insolence even as UNCLOS approved the submission of the Philippines in 2009 with respect to the limits of its continental shelf in the Benham Rise region, saying, “But it does not mean that the Philippines can take it as its own territory”. End of controversy.

It is hard to imagine now the Philippines exploring and developing its own natural resources in and under the sea without China having a part, nay, a greater part of it.

It is bad enough that we are poor and powerless, but it is even worse that President Duterte seemed to have consigned ours and the country’s future and fate to China.

What a lamentable prospect!

 

Sec. Gina Lopez and the mining industry

 

DENR Secretary Gina Lopez

We all know that President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Ms. Gina Lopez as Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on the strength of her intensely passionate and unwavering advocacy for green or eco-friendly environment.

No one can ever question her resolve in protecting the environment and in so doing making it clean and friendly to the people. We have seen her zeal and devotion when she served as chairperson of Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission and her involvement in Bantay Kalikasan (Nature Watch) which was launched as a response to the worsening state of the environment, especially in Metro Manila.

While many appreciate the idealism of Lopez for the environment, the same morals or philosophy, if you may, when applied to the mining companies in the country should have been tempered with greater understanding and rationality.

I am saying this because Lopez is now at the receiving end of the wrath expressed by some mining officials whose company was targeted for closure and/or suspension of operation for the reason that it has been causing havoc to the environment.

That Lopez has been the subject of displeasure and indignation by the mining companies, which is even affecting her confirmation as DENR secretary, is only fair and par for the course because its mining operation should have been vetted first on the context on whether or not they are International Standards Organization (ISO) compliant.

This should have been the due process extended to the mining companies instead of shutting them down unceremoniously.

There is no doubt Lopez knows about the ISO certification because she herself stated the following upon assuming the position from former DENR Secretary Ramon Paje: “ISO 14001 is one way of saying responsible mining.”

The ISO 14001 standard is the most important within the ISO 14000 series. ISO 14001 specifies the requirements of an environmental management system (EMS) for small to large organizations. An EMS is a systemic approach to handling environmental issues within an organization.

Lopez further added that the assessment will determine if mining operations are “… good to the people or are they killing the rivers, streams? Are they creating suffering to our farmers and fishermen? We have to evaluate it, but my stand on the common good is non-negotiable.”

The “non-negotiable” stand of Lopez can be likened to the shit hitting the fan!

This hardline policy/posturing of Lopez just won’t work especially if the mining industries earn billions of pesos for the country, creates job for the people in the community and contribute to the infrastructure needs of the community.

Personal or subjective opinion should never play a rule in this kind of controversial problems especially if it has to do with the economy, jobs, lives of employed workers, and yes, the environment. The benefits gained should not be held hostage just because the whim and caprice of a popular DENR Secretary is not accommodated.

To compromise is the way to go so it will not create a negative impact on all factors considered for a win-win situation could only be attained if a review of the ISO standards is done regularly by DENR so that anomalies can be corrected to help minimize the potential present and long term damage to the environment from mining activities.

 

Benham Rise issue – Part III

 

I have no choice but to designate this article as Part III since I have already written about Benham Rise twice some years back which you can read at this links:

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/philippines-pin-hopes-on-benham-rise/

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/thank-god-for-benham-rise-part-ii/

Never had I anticipated writing about it again until I heard the recent alarming and disturbing news that a Chinese survey ship was spotted at the Benham Rise location.

“We are concerned about the presence of a Chinese ship in Benham Rise, which has been recognized by the United Nations as part of the Philippines,” said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella in a statement on Friday, March 10.

“The Department of National Defense has already notified the Department of Foreign Affairs regarding this matter as we continue to assert our sovereignty over our territory,” he added.

Of course we should, forcefully and explicitly!

The Benham Rise area definitely does not have any stupid Chinese historical claim of any sort like they had been asserting they have at the West Philippine Sea just because it is part of the larger body of water bearing the name South China Sea (SCS).

On the pretext that China was “looking for a place to put submarine”, as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said was the info he got, the most likely reason would be that they have chosen the area for their oceanographic research because they just want to confirm if indeed the unimaginable wealth and extent in mineral resources and gas deposits found underneath Benham Rise truly exist.

I cannot blame President Rodrigo Duterte for pussyfooting with the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea issue, where even the country’s territorial integrity has been breached with China’s nine- dash line claim.

If the most powerful country and the acclaimed top ‘policeman’ in the world- the US, and the UN, through its agency the UNCLOS, were not able to stop China from expanding and militarizing the SCS, who are we to prevent China’s hegemony of the contested areas?

But what I am just saying here is that we had been hearing Duterte declaring time and again that he will die defending the country and the Filipino people from the enemies that will try to destroy them.

Well this is it!

There has not been and there will never be a greater challenge such as this one in Duterte’s presidency that needs more of his grit, determination and resolve to stand up for his country and people.

Duterte could not afford anymore to be complacent the way he has been pleased and gratified at the financial and technical help China has promised to give for many infrastructure projects for the country.

China may have bamboozled us in the SCS and there was nothing that we can do. In that part of the globe what is China’s is China’s and what is ours is still China’s.

Duterte and those that will follow him should be reminded that at Benham Rise what legally belongs to the Philippines is for the Filipinos and for the generations of Filipinos to come and not to China or any other exploitative country that intends to not only hold us by the balls, but stick it to us as well.

 

Mitigating flooding during heavy rainfall

 

President Rodrigo Duterte and Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

President Rodrigo Duterte and Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

Dredging silted rivers may not be the absolute solution for flooding communities across the country every time it rains for days during weather disturbances.

But certainly clearing up and digging up the sediments composed of fine clay and sand, and in some cases stones, rocks, boulders, and other debris in the river, which are deposited by cascading waters from the mountains, will help mitigate the impact of possible overflowing of the river causing flooding and destruction of properties and lives.

We have seen these disastrous events happening for years all over the country, and getting worse, during rainy and typhoon seasons and people have gotten used to it, even accepting it as normal occurrences.

But, could displacement and destruction of lives and properties brought about by a long and seemingly incessant downpour continue to be that – normal occurrences?

We can only be thankful that during these trying times we have concerned government officials in the persons of Agricultural Secretary Manny Piñol and President Rodrigo Duterte who have shown determination and resolve to do something, at least, to one main contributory factor to flooding and that is the dredging of the major rivers across the country.

Upon the recommendation of Piñol, the president has reportedly approved the dredging of the following major rivers:

  • Agusan river, considered the third longest river in the country, that drains into the Butuan Bay at its mouth in Butuan City.
  • Rio Grande deMindanao, also known as the Mindanao river and considered the largest river system in the country, begins near Butuan City and empties into the Moro gulf through Cotabato City.
  • Pampanga river traverses the provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija until it drains into Manila Bay.
  • Cagayan river, also known as Rio Grande de Cagayan, is the longest and 2nd largest river in the country, flows through the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Isabela and Cagayan until it reaches its mouth at the Babuyan Channel.

Indeed, this is a very welcomed development.

 

Duterte orders total log ban

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte

It is very encouraging and reassuring to know that President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a Tri-Partite Convergence Committee that will formulate guidelines and other details of total log ban implementation in the country.

Knowing who Duterte is and his earnest concern for the country and the Filipino people it should be relieving to all that the government’s log ban policy will be forcefully and finally implemented for good.

I am saying this because it is not that the policy of a total log ban has not been mulled over and studied in the past by past administrations. The long and short of it is because past presidents and past Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials just did not have the backbone to implement it vigorously.

Proofs to this are the pieces I wrote in 2012 and 2013 which can be read at these links:  https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/illegal-loggers/ and https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/logging-ban/.

Reportedly, the committee will be composed of the DENR, Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

What adds to the favorable action of Duterte is the presence of two supportive and dependable Cabinet stalwarts, namely, DA Secretary Manny Piñol and DENR Secretary Gina Lopez.

In fact what prompted Duterte to issue the directive for the formation of the committee is the apprehension raised by Piñol, during the Climate Change Commission (CCC) En Banc and Advisory Board Meeting in Malacañang, about the massive floods in various river basins in Mindanao due to denuded mountains.

In the same venue Lopez told Duterte that despite the total log ban, several companies were given licenses to cut down trees under the Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) and the Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) contracts.

With Duterte’s order to stop all logging operations with no exemptions we can expect the greening of the mountains again and the mitigation of landslides and flash floods.

But this will take time for so much destruction has been done to the nation’s water sheds. In the meantime the agencies tasked to implement the order should continually be in the look- out for the unscrupulous loggers.