Friday, October 11, 2013

Big problems indeed

The Philippine budget for 2014 is 2.26 Trillion. The preceding year 2013's budget, is 2.06 Trillion. The DAP government expenditure is only reported to be 50 Million - a pittance. But what is surprising is the revelation in an internet site that Ms. Leilia De Lima is the lawyer of Napoles. At least she used to be the lawyer of that fat lady.

This is abhorring, to say the least. The initial public reception of the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Coronado Corona and the recent expose against Senators Enrile, Estrada and Revilla was that the government was pursuing the straight path, matuwid na daan as it is called.

But it was found out that Mr. Aquino was an imbecile enough to pay out 50 Million pesos each to the Congressmen and about double that to the Senators just to impeach Corona. And now it came out that Aquino, De Lima and Napoles are no strangers at all. De Lima, the lawyer of that blob and Aquino, De Lima's boss pulling the puppet strings. So what happens now?

Again it was reported in the same internet site that these issues will be diverted. Aquino, De Lima and whoever else tagging at the butt of the big man from the palace, will create scenarios that will swing public attention towards other supposedly delicious, truly newsworthy items. But satisfying the hunger for scoops is not the only be-all of journalism. Lying over and over through their mouth pieces inside the public sector and the private media organizations in the way Goebbels did for Hitler will not necessarily sway people's attention that fast anymore. This is not the World War II era any longer.

Furthermore, for the sake of nation building and patrimony, if what Omnibus Blog says is true, the act of this government of fault-finding, witch hunt, and other Inquisition type acts, in a despairing world full of social concerns such as poverty, hunger, shortages, high oil prices, rising criminality, bespeaks of a highly deranged kind of governance. Especially so that the high-and-mighty attitude of being holier than the rest of the world is coupled with large scale ransacking of wealth of this country.

This really has got to stop and people, all you people out there, it is time, I think to be more angry, to nourish more hot emotions and hit this government with whatever little we've got. The collective effect of our small assaults will certainly give this corrupt government a big start.

Start small and start today. Remember, we have a lot to gain.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

In the Eye of the Storm

Pres. Arroyo and Sec. Teodoro: Will they measure up to Ondoy?

It’s now a wee bit sunny. The common dialogue and buzz words yesterday was a narration of one’s and others’ personal heroic effort for helping save lives with shaky voices to boot, lunod, anod, baha, flood, water and nature’s stampede, patay, ilalim, tubig, walang tubig, walang ilaw, taas ng tubig, ligtas, global warming, perwisyo, perdisyon, parusa ng Diyos, bata, dasal, matanda, babae, lampas taong tubig, walang pasok, di makaalis, hate weather, masamang panahon, kawawa, may sakit, ebakwit, evacuation center, iskul, etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

An old woman was shouting at her supposed rescuers why they arrived so, so late. Bakit ngayong lang kayo dumating, ika niya. Di niyo ba alam, wala na kaming kain-kain? Tingnan ninyo ito, wala na nga akong panloob, o! (Why did you arrive only now? she asked. Didn’t you know we don’t have anything more to eat? Look here, I don’t even have any panties to wear!)

God would not have smiled. Like President Bush, God would have looked superlatively mystified.

Now that portion yesterday at the very middle part, up to the tail end of a disaster is always very expensive, women’s underwear considered. The president has to authorize the release of millions, up to billions of calamity funds. Down below, officials of various capacities have to spend those millions and billions due to the after effects of a calamity.

Social loss is so great. In the case of Typhoon Ondoy, hundreds, thousands, up to hundreds of thousands or even millions, of individuals will either have lost their entire belongings or even loved ones, to great floods, or else lost opportunities for income, commercial enterprise, or some other event caused by the disaster. In North Metro Manila, for example, a fire broke out in the middle of yesterday’s storm. Always in low areas where vehicles are parked on streets, these are usually crashed into one another by flood. Highly unlucky if anyone is caught in the car stampede.

When you look at the situation, you can see a lot of sensational media treatment and non-media editorializing of water and wind, humans in distress interspersed with panic over available transport assets, rescue boats, ropes, or simple raincoats, umbrellas, hats, boots, food, medical supplies. In truth, this is not the real problem.

GMA-7, RPN-9, ABS-CBN and God knows what media outlet else, made good fodder out of movie and television starlet Miss Christine Reyes who was complaining why everybody kept asking about her address but no one came to rescue her! She angrily said in between sobs, her whole family could no longer occupy all the floors of their house in Marikina City that were taken over by quietly rising waters. At least she was still successfully interviewed, with matching emote, on her house’s roof. (I would have paid good money to be the one to do that interview.)

This time everyone has to listen. This is not an unsolicited suggestion. This is looking reality straight in the eye. This is being exactly in the center of the storm. This is about the need for: monitoring, warning, controlling flood, removing rats, replanting trees, belated damage control over the decades-old central Luzon volcanic eruption and the Northern Luzon killer earthquake.

Overdue positive action and preparation is the actual problem. Behind-schedule damage control, Technology and Logistics for Forecasting, support for public warning mechanisms, many other things. The ruckus about the media sensationalized horror, and seeming panic and mass conflagration, all the talk about global warming is only that. Media hype and pure talk. Senseless consequences of past bad policy, decisions and executive action.

There is a way to approach this problem in the right perspective. It will hurt feelings, but that is not as important as saving lives, property and the money used to control the damage wrought by substandard preparedness.

We are obliged to make this simple presentation of the need to provide solutions to at least five to six key areas that could help lessen the impact of a Hurricane Katrina-like situation in the country. We almost had that in Typhoon Ondoy, almost.

And remember, Hurricane Katrina left even the United States President baffled as to how that kind of disaster could ever hit one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful country in the world. Concerned scientists said they gave the warning many, many years ago about the floods. Nobody listened.

Calamity Monitoring and Warning

From 1990, it was already advocated with the Department of National Defense (DND) to improve the data basing, mapping and completely overhauling the obscenely obsolete system of typhoon or calamity detection, reporting and warning system.

Due to the extent of corruption in government, this correspondent bloated the final figure of damage assessment and proposed rehabilitation fund of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption and continuing work on the Baguio earthquake from a total of less than 1 billion pesos (about 777 million plus, coming from all the agencies of government) to exactly 10.5 billion pesos. 7 billion for the eruption and 2.5 billion for the ongoing rehabilitation efforts from the earthquake’s damage. Everyone raised their hands to vote for my figure to be accepted as the gospel truth about money to be allocated for a little post-disaster reconstruction, and some for private and personal consumption (otherwise called by foreigners as skim or in plain Filipino, nakaw).

While all the higher ups were surprised as to how 700 million suddenly became 10 billion, that came to be known as the Pinatubo Fund (talagang tumubo), no one seemed to have raised a voice over the remaining conflagration happening in the entire country due to the after effects of the volcanic explosion, the wide-reaching ash falls and lava overflows from Mt. Pinatubo towards the populated areas.

Until the time when the former President Corazon C. Aquino stepped down from office and then President Fidel Valdez Ramos was the sitting head of state, we continued the advocacy.

Eventually the advocacy turned to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) because under the World Bank unwritten policy, no non-military aid, loans and other form of funding could be made available to security related agencies like defense, the armed forces, police and similar public offices. This picked up once more in 1994 to 1995 and continued up to 1999.

Nothing happened to the advocacy. No one appeared to want to listen. There were enterprising quarters that took notice. In 1995, the Americans offered nominally 10 million US Dollars and subsequently 60 million dollars investment for safety in the country.

Not long after, the government-backed financially well off private sector of Belgium offered millions of dollars of funding for an Emergency Crisis Coordinating Center (ECCC) for the country and for the DOTC to be equipped with the state-of-the-art in monitoring disaster as well as transportation, communication coordination and monitoring during crisis.

No one wanted this kind of project to prosper. When Americans and Belgians are involved, unlike Japanese and Chinese benefactors, it is hard to see how one will get skim. Hmm, that word again.

Flood Control Project

Years ago, from 1986 to 1987, as Carie mentioned in 2005 in her blog post about the skimming of the money for metro manila flood control, the department of public highways was used to divert money coming from Japan to private bank accounts. The funds amounted to billions of yen, or Sixty Million United States Dollars (USD60,000,000). At the time in 1986, that was a huge sum of money anywhere in the world. Especially to the Japanese. The DPWH official in charge said, it took more than ten years to gestate and finally obtain the money from Japan. Indeed, as all official development assistance (ODA) packages go. The usual development assistance are gestated for thirty three (33), thirty seven (37) or more months, but others take longer. In case of the flood control funds, there was a regime change in the Philippines that stretched the gestation period exceedingly. But then the funds only ended up stolen or might really have been meant to be stolen in the first place.

A Japanese contractor was involved in the scheme. The Japanese are wise when granting development assistance to poor countries like the Philippines. They do not give out cash. They only give in terms of Japan manufactured products, contracted by Japanese contractors, delivered as much as possible by Japanese forwarders and the funds handled by Japanese banks. The purpose of the money (or development assistance) was to buy for the entire metro manila and suburbs, heavy duty submersible pumps, set up filtering devices, etcetera, etcetera to effectively reduce by to a large extent, the occurrence of floods in metro manila.

The anomalous scheme involved the Japanese contractor making ghost deliveries of irregularly priced (highly bloated) pumps and filter or screen materials. The funding source, the government of Japan, will pay the contractor. The contractor will give the money to Madame Cory’s representative, minus his share of the loot and become invisible (just in case trouble erupts and therefore a legal action will be brought against him and his company.)

One of the Japanese sounding names of companies that cropped up during the Madame Cory family’s guys and the DPWH was “TSURUMI”. It is not certain if TSURUMI was the actual final choice of the Madame Cory gang, but the possibility is quite high.

These pumps and filters or screens were to be placed in the sublevel sewerage network of the metropolis. Whether the DPWH people or the local government of the City of Manila as well as nearby localities within the metro area knew about it or not, there was an impediment to the laying of this flood control mechanism. Click here for more.....

The People in Metro Manila Sewerage Tunnels

Human Rats in Manila Sewers

One of the greatest secrets of the City of Manila, the seat of Malacañang, and up to Quezon City and nearby localities is that the sewers under the streets are heavily inhabited by what could be called, the counterpart of the buraku min [“tribal people” or literally, “rat men”] of Japan, who are considered as the lowest social class and have no inherent rights to occupy places over land, only under. Hence, they live in sewers over the water, amidst the floating wastes of Japanese society. Today, the Japanese government is conducting public relations to show that the buraku min have rights to live like ordinary Japanese people, which they are not.

(How the Japanese government and contractor agreed to the Philippine project, is a mystery. The Japanese have only began fairly recently to give rights to their buraku min [rat people] to live above ground. Perhaps the Japanese did not know that in the Philippines, their buraku min also have brothers and sisters, possibly we can call them, dagang tao or taong daga.)

Whereas in Japan, the buraku min, live in floating homes made of styropore material, in Metro Manila, their brethren cement whole portions of the sewerage in order for the water not to flow through and then the entire sewer becomes their exclusive subdivision.

Albeit it is an underground village, the difference between the buraku min of Japan and the dagang tao of Metro Manila is that the burakus get to live with all the stench of waste, toxins and other throw aways of the entire Japanese neighborhoods over their heads.

The dagang tao on the other hand, only has to live with his own smell and his neighbor’s. They have totally blocked the flow of the water and wastes and thanks be to God, they do not have to float, dip their bodies into or touch the shit and other garbage in the sewers.

On investigation, one will find that the end of the sewer at a particular part of Manila does not contain the small 1 x 2 square meter houses they live in inside the tunnels. The mouth of the tunnel, that is larger and roomier and has an easement from the tip of about ten meters or more, is instead used as a communal area. Some entrepreneurs cook and sell barbeque and fish balls, cigarettes and other cheap items. The tunnel people go there for rest and recreation or simply tambay. The children make noise and are mostly hyperactive. At least the tunnel people also have a park of their own and the young ones a playground.
From before the time of the late President Marcos up to the present, unscrupulous Filipinos, Castilles (Kastila), Chinese, among a few others, have been either indiscriminately destroying the forests or indiscriminately mining the mountain ranges without considerations for preserving the country’s ecological balance.
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile chastised Sen. Ana Consuelo Madrigal insinuating about her family’s illegal logging in the past that was protected by late Pres. Marcos and sent her crying for many months she developed terrible cry bags on her face. Sen. Enrile certainly knew where he was coming from.
In 1983, the forests’ denudation has threatened desertification, beginning in Pangasinan and thereabouts, in an period of 20 to 25 years starting from that point, according to my former superior in the Department of Science and Technology. It is already the year 2009, and the time period has lapsed. We are now running to nearly 30 years, about 5 to 10 years past the point of desertification.
Of course, Pangasinan today does not look like a desert, but it is extraordinarily more desert than fertile land if you look closely. The extent of daytime temperature literally compels one to swear out loud. This is the same in many other logged-over areas in the country today. If you ask the bright minds, they’ll attribute it to global warming.

It’s plain turning of our lands to desert, stupid! Click here for the rest of the post...

Baguio's Disaster-The Killer Earthquake

Around a little past 3:00 pm July 16, 1990, the ground started to slightly rumble in Baguio but the tremors would just as soon fade. After one hour, the series of small quakes started to become more powerful vibrations and in less than 30 minutes, parts of Baguio were cracking, a popular hotel, The Hyatt Terraces Plaza among many other structures, fell down trapping a number of people alive underneath.

As far as Pangasinan, the ground swallowed or spit out houses, buildings, broke apart chunks of cemented streets and in many parts people witnessed liquefaction, when suddenly the soil turns into water. A function of deep underground water climbing into the surface and large volumes of soil on the other hand get sucked under. To the naked eye it appears like hearth suddenly transforms into water.

Downwards to central Luzon and to Bulacan, the ground heaved greatly that saline water intruded into the source of potable water acquifers. During an NGO survey of eleven coastal towns in Bulacan in 1992, it was categorically discovered that seven out of ten people found little specks of blood in their urine.

This indicates the severe saline intrusion into the drinking water of Bulakenyos. This fact was made public through the media. Suddenly, Congress discovered that there was a dormant 1.5 billion fund Marcos time project for Bulacan’s water system.

This was not to be the end of the story. The NGO organized fisher folk and ordinary citizens to pressure the government to cure the problem. The provincial government worked for the NGO to be kicked out of Bulacan and called its executive director a war lord. The extent of the problem is that, Bulacan and Pampanga riverine system, among others is the source of Metro Manila’s drinking water. And this riverine system is salinated. At this time the salination as well as pollutant contamination is at high levels. A ceramic water filter turns very dirty brown after a few days of filtering regular water from a Quezon City faucet. It turns dark brown when one is in the City of Manila and other localities where the water pipes are older.

The dimmer view of this situation is this: how can you cure a gap in the underground acquifer except with spending billions of dollars on mere stop gap measures? Remember that the Philippines lies in the world’s earthquake fault zone.

But then a couple billions of dollars could stem the possibility of millions of Filipinos (foreign expatriates included) developing internal disorders, which could cost hundreds of billions of dollars for medication and surgery in return. And the impossible scenario of the gaps widening to create chasms of unguarded openings underneath the ground that could cause greater damage in the future.

Aside from Central Luzon, the coastal areas of Southern Luzon also suffered some of these after effects of Pinatubo, although to a lesser extent.

On June 15, 1991, still smarting from the Philippines’ worst killer temblor, Mt. Pinatubo erupted and transformed its shape from a rounded mound at its head to a sharp cone. Where did all that matter from Pinatubo go?
No one bothered to ask the question. It took a scientist from Germany to declare that an urgent solution was needed to stem the overly destructive lahar flows and the great potential for horrific flash flooding in Pangasinan, Zambales and many other areas.
In 1992 up to 1993, this solution was communicated to Malacañang through several letters through the Philippine Information Agency and a non-government organization (NGO) called CDHS, Inc. Pres. Ramos was at the presidency. Pangasinan’s welfare was at stake.
Government did not listen. According to the findings, Mt. Pinatubo deposited several billions of tons of ash into the Caraballo and in slight volume to the Cordillera and Sierra Madre mountain ranges.
There was a need to make the ash filled Caraballo mountain range less susceptible to erosion by massive aerial weed seeding - spreading a great volume of weed seeds by aircraft.
No one inside Ramos’ government listened to the findings. No one took up on the solution to spread seeds of grass by air. That seemed to be fool’s game at the time.
Only a few months later, flash floods came to Eastern and Central Pangasinan. Several Barangays (villages) were wiped out from the map. Ramos should have listened. After all, he is also from Pangasinan.
Aside from illegal logging by unorganized and highly syndicated gangs of environmental criminals, there is also the poisoning of the earth and the causing of tremendous erosion of Cordillera. How does this affect Metro Manila? The giant Agno River defecates and spills most of its wastes as well as its eroded soil into Pangasinan. If one boards a helicopter and navigates over Lingayen Gulf, where the Agno River joins the sea, one notes that in the 1980s, there were a few meters of dark and dirty murk that was visible from the tip of the coastline farther into the sea.
In the 1990s, the discoloration of the sea bed from an aerial view lengthened from a few meters to a few hundred meters.
Today, more than ten years later, the murk in the sea bed could probably be longer. Yet no one is addressing this problem.
The situation is the same in Metro Manila, Cavite, Bicol, Tacloban City and several other places. This is the main reason behind the red tide problem. Pollution causes the algal bloom that poisons sea livestock that in turns poisons humans.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has had a wetlands management program for many years. It is locally supported and foreign funded. However, I heard no one saying that something was being done about Agno River erosion, and its corresponding occurrences in many other places in the country including Mindanao where illegal logging and unrestricted mining is rampant.
Erosion is not the only problem. Contamination is also a serious issue. Highly toxic chemicals are dumped into the riverine systems that flow from north to south or in the case of Laguna Lake, from the industries to the lake to the Pasig River to Manila Bay.
In 1983, the DND strictly enforced arrest of owners of factories who dump their toxic wastes into the Pasig. After getting arrested, the businessmen just pay the fines and will go scot-free. DND lost the political will to arrest these hard headed toxic waste dumpers when the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) later to become the DENR stopped them from accosting upright, law-loving citizens, they said. In reality, the small fines were nothing. What the DANR officials were receiving from the toxic dumpers was something.
Agno River’s spill is not merely its own. Cavite’s pollutants, Bataan’s wastes, among others, happen in only one spot, the Manila Bay. The entire bay is inside a large, semi-circumferential area that indirectly interfaces with the north gulf waterway through the north-south riverine system and encompasses the coastline from Bataan to the coastal tip of Batangas and all the pollutants from the entire corridor will be found inside that space and no other.
Therefore, the pollution from the tip of the bay as far out in the north, down to Pangasinan, to Metro Manila will come out in Manila Bay.
In 1992, an excited Representative from Pangasinan, later Speaker Jose De Venecia, Jr. was negotiating with the private sector to build a breakwater and bridge that will span the entire Bataan-Batangas gap.
This was a monumental project with equally colossal commissions for the greedy stake holders.
A small NGO fought through media and by way of disseminating reports, manifestos and scientific literature about the early death of the beautiful Manila Bay if this project comes to fruition. The project was shot down by Pres. Ramos. One of Ramos’ good points is that he is severely scared of media statements and keeps writing marginal notes over newspaper clippings and broadcast transcripts: “Take action on this”, “Act on this” sometimes with an adjoining “NLT 01 Sep 93” (not later than September 1, 1993) or something like that.
Of course De Venecia, Jr. was very angry and adamant that his undertaking was the construction and builders’ dream project! What could he do, a little NGO had one up over him. And it was the fact that the life of an entire Manila Bay and the health and welfare of millions of people affected by it was at stake. Ramos clearly had no choice but to listen to the media scare.
Post-Typhoon Ondoy Response
In the end, the post-incident response to Typhoon Ondoy should at least, in part, be like this:

1. Stop talking about and blaming global warming
2. Create a specific super body to study and manage a Calamity Monitoring and Public Warning System that will be either an adjunct of, or co-equal with the NDCC
3. Increase the capability of NDCC to provide early response during disaster
4. Create local structures and response capability to confront calamities. (In China, communities near rivers set up a system of ropes and handles from bank to bank to prevent people from drowning and dying during heavy flooding and provide access from one side of the river to the other.)
5. Restore the Flood Control Project fund and create funding for additional flood control systems not only in Metro Manila but also in many other vulnerable areas
6. Resettle many of Metro Manila’s squatters in major or minor bridges, and completely relocate all of the human rat peoples inside Sewers everywhere in Metro Manila and open up the entire sewerage system to let surface run-off water seep into the sewers
7. Stop the Forest denudation by recreating a fully armed, heavily weaponized Forest Ranger Brigade from a composite of AFP, Coast Guard, PNP and other armed services. No DENR employee shall be allowed to enter any Forest Ranger facility except to cooperate with them
8. Conduct behind schedule damage control from the following -- Baguio killer earthquake and Mt. Pinatubo eruption damage by reconstructing the landscape destroyed by eroded ash from Caraballo and other ranges and greening of the these ranges to prevent further flash flooding, erosion, avalanches and landslides
9. Heavily sanction all the illegal logging and indiscriminate dumping of toxins from mining operations from north to south and stop the syndicates that are willing and fully determined to kill their enemies and detractors by putting them in jail for life
10. Stop the killing of Manila Bay by providing solutions to the erosion, toxic dumping from point Agno down to Pasig River.

If President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Secretary Gilbert Cojuangco Teodoro listens, it will change the course of future calamities in the magnitude and scale of Typhoon Ondoy or greater. Now they are at the center of the real storm. Ondoy is not the last typhoon of 2009, but it will prove to be the benchmark of forthcoming disasters. Will Arroyo and Teodoro measure up?

Perhaps, if they are not deaf, dumb and blind and simply greedy like the late Madame Cory and rest of the others, they just might not get swaddled by dirt once the shit hits the fan.

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