Gelzon de la Cruz

Archive for August, 2012|Monthly archive page

The Fifth Estate

In Media, Society on August 30, 2012 at 9:31 am
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John Paul II’s papacy caused the dissolution of the USSR. 1989 Europe: The Soviet house of cards collapsed, from Poland down south to Hungary, back north again to Czechoslovakia, west to East Germany and then the breakout further west that demolished the Berlin Wall and reunified Germany. Before it all, diplomatically, saintly, pervasively and while holding back his own dogs of war, the man born Karol Wojtyla of Wadowice sought congress with the Soviets and caused the return of the Catholic Church to his Poland. The churches then became the backdrops for the stump speeches of the shipyard worker who would be president of the new Poland, Lech Walesa. The rest is recent history.

Any institution has political power, and occasionally, enough power to cause revolution. The Catholic Church is one of the most powerful institutions the world has ever seen. And, it not only knows the game, it is one of the few remaining entities that invented it. Now, those tactics of contriving consensus to create it, of asking for forgiveness after the fact instead of permission for the acts, and of testing the thin boundaries between them and the state, shows us that they retain the political will to defend their precepts.

In their measure, and as history’s record may eventually concur, their current crusade for families of heterosexual parents and for their unborn flock is of the same ilk as their incursions to bring religious freedom back into the Communist Bloc. It is just that the roles have now been reversed. The difference now, more than two decades later, is that their intent aligns them with the status quo. It is a static and necessarily overt campaign. Instead of digging out the ground from under creaky conventions, failing experiments and declining superpowers, it is them who now have to protect the ramparts, man the battlements and be ever vigilant against efforts to undermine their walls.

My point is this:  The Catholic Church will and must find ways to be a part of the conversation.  And the New World ideal of separating church and state is not a crucifix that common men can now turn on them like they are the monsters. Hardly monsters, just men with a mission. Men who are well schooled and very competent in the politics of all men. In this Digital Age of blogs, citizen journalism and the ubiquitous tweet, do not be surprised, do not feign scandal, if they find ways to maneuver and outflank opponents despite being anchored to old principles. Whether for or against them, we all would do better if we remember that they are serious political operatives, and treat them as such.


On The Other Side Of The Popular Divide

In History, Society on August 28, 2012 at 11:11 pm
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In 1974, Henry Kissinger commissioned a national security study (NSSM200) that identified the Philippines as number 6 among the top 13 developing countries that were creating 47% of the world’s population growth, thereby making us problematic to U.S. security interests.

The war in Vietnam was ending, a war that U.S. leaders saw no way to end well, fantasies of losing the whole of Asia to communism were rife, and the next defensive step amounted to population control. They found cause to encourage friendly countries to curb their population growth, even go so far as to dole out their surplus food stocks only to governments that implemented policies compatible with the U.S. agenda.

But, population control initiatives in the 70’s, popularized as family planning programs, apparently did not take in the Philippines. Martial law’s declaration in 1972 had already diminished the political capital of the Marcos regime and population control had become the least of its worries.

This year, 28 years after NSSM200, ours has been heralded as the most promising economy in Asia. With everything else like our education system, technological development, and infrastructure remaining the same if not having gotten worse, the only obvious factor that now gives us a competitive advantage is our population growth. We have greater potential because of a young worker population that is larger than those of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and Thailand–the countries that used to have higher population growth rates than ours, the countries ranked 1 to 5 on Kissinger’s list of 13 developing countries.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc, after and therefore because of. This is the fallacy applied by detractors when they assert that the RH Bill is a puppet’s policy, making us march to the tune of U.S. strategy. Not only did 70’s era population control already fail in the Philippines, it also is now hopelessly obsolete. It was a think-tank’s defensive stance against the perceived threat of Vietnam and China, a threat that has evolved into an altogether different landscape where Vietnam is now at odds with giant China.

And, the population control mistakes of the 70’s bring to light a clear option to simplify things by separating them. Family planning education, facilities and supplies are benefits, these are the perqs of Filipino families. On the other hand, population programs, the use of family planning knowledge and resources for explicit priorities for either population control or growth, are matters of national strategy. Keep these separate and on different sides of the debate field where proponents may argue the merits of using a liberal social program for attaining conservative strategic ends.

The Greater Fool

In Society, Verse on August 28, 2012 at 10:32 am

The Greater Fool is strangely named
strange that he must be named to be.

He is a commoner so base that he cannot base
his sight on what the common sees.

He is the hero of none for he attacks as one
while his comrades are still at sea.

And, he is the savior of all, sundry and whole
for he is always first to shake the tree.

Beyond Our Responsibility But Not Our Concern

In Society on August 9, 2012 at 1:09 am

forecast track and cone of Typhoon Haikiu from a west-north-westerly track towards China that did not bring it within the country’s area of responsibility, and was never closer than almost twice the distance of Taiwan from our northern shores, Typhoon Haikui still managed to vacuum the monsoon wind west of Manila and cause it to drench northern and central Luzon with torrential rains that surpassed the total rainfall of Ondoy in 2009.

Initial reports of the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards Project (Project Noah) show that 472mm of rain fell over the 22 hours from 4:45PM August 6, to 3:00PM August 7. In comparison, Typhoon Ondoy delivered a lower 455mm of rainfall  over a longer 24 hour period in September 2009.

Besides the facts that the heavy rains were not locally focused on a distinct core of low atmospheric pressure like the cyclones of tropical typhoons and northern hemisphere hurricanes, and that these were actually influenced by a typhoon that was far beyond the Philippines’ area of responsibility, the dispersed and prolonged 4 day downpour was also made unique by the unusually high volume of water carried by the monsoon winds that delivered it.

Clearly, menacingly and appropriately, our new climate is testing our models for predictability, is raising the penalties for any complacency, and is re-drawing the boundaries of our responsibility.  Here’s hoping that we can muster resources to prevail and reach a new equilibrium without mindlessly flirting with extinction.

Haiku to Haikui

In Verse on August 8, 2012 at 11:31 pm

North of our area
Way beyond our sea and shores
New climate, new rules

The Potable Flood

In Society on August 7, 2012 at 2:54 am

The evening of August 6, 2012 at 7PM:  Ipo dam released water into the river that flows into La Mesa dam which itself was already spilling water into the Tulyahan river for conveying to Manila Bay. What followed was the predictable flooding of areas around the Tulyahan river and the collection of waters in the downstream basins of Valenzuela, Caloocan and Malabon–flooding that followed the lines of the Ondoy flood of 2009.

800px-Angatdambulacanjf21Angat Dam (photo by Ramon F. Velasquez)

There are three dams on the Angat river in Bulacan. The first, Bustos dam, is operated by the government’s National Irrigation Administration (NIA). The second, Angat dam which is next downriver from Bustos, is operated by the government’s National Power Corporation (Napocor). In contrast, the third dam, Ipo downriver of Angat dam, is operated by Maynilad, a concessionaire of the Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

In turn, Ipo spills into La Mesa dam in Quezon City which the MWSS provides as a common facility both to Maynilad, the west zone concessionaire, and to Manila Water, their east zone counterpart. Ipo and La Mesa, both operated by private sector concessionaires of the MWSS, are the last stops for swollen river waters before hitting the Tulyahan river and the streets of the western Metro Manila basin.

In November 2011, during the executive session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan that he initiated to address flooding disasters in Bulacan’s coastal areas, Gov. Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado had warned that due to their requirement for maintaining a 100 meter level for their water supply operations, Maynilad was constrained not to do preemptive spilling during the country’s typhoon season. In effect, this put the operation of Ipo dam at odds with the government’s initiative for synchronized spilling of dammed waters to alleviate flooding both in Bulacan and downriver in Metro Manila.

During the executive session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Engr. Hermigildo Medrano, the common purpose supervisor of MWSS at the time, reported that Maynilad’s SOP was to always maintain the dam’s maximum level and to release water downriver only when it reached its spill point. This is exactly what happened nine months later on the evening of August 6, 2012 when Ipo dam’s reactionary water release coincided with the spilling of the already overflowing waters of La Mesa dam.

At an average selling price of P31.00 per cubic meter, and a conservative estimated spillage rate of just 100 cubic meters per second once Maynilad and Manila Water are forced to release water, a spill event would represent P31,000 per second or P186,000 per minute in freed water–water not charged to customers, water not recoverable in the event of drought caused around the corner by our evolving new climate. These numbers may overshadow any others in a business that the concessionaires assert they engage in more for public service than for company profits, and these numbers may be the basis of policies against preemptive water releases, but these lost revenues, even as they can rapidly mount, these revenue losses pale in comparison with the harm and damage caused by the floods that their SOP yet reactionary spillage could, at the least, fail to mitigate or, at worst, even exacerbate. September 2009, Typhoon Ondoy, 250 people dead, over half a million evacuated from their homes, P4.67 billion in damage to property. With a preemptive spill starting 24 hours before an anticipated calamity, the notional revenue loss because of water stock released back into nature would be a bargain in comparison at just P268 million and with even just one less priceless life lost.

The other side of the coin is the other edge of the sword, the dull edge. Deluge is death, but with water also comes life. For our part, consumers can ease off with demand and with our demands—letting Maynilad and Manila Water off the hook when there occurs a shift and water becomes scarce. Less than an ocean away, in Selangor Malaysia, they foresee imminent critical drought. This could be us just a few months down the road, again. When that time comes, as come it should in our responsible minds, it is on us consumers not to hang our water suppliers out to dry, pun intended. Whatever shortages they might have to sit on, it will not be for any deficiency in the kind of foresight and wisdom that we required of them when we almost drowned before the drought.

All The News, All The Time

In Media, Society on August 3, 2012 at 10:38 am

Recent TV news coverage of the damage caused by Typhoon Gener showed footage with digitally blurred portions obscuring what are obviously product ads at large — on store signs, outdoor billboards, bystander t-shirts and the like. Why go to the trouble of editing these out?  If all news is reported factually, without influence of any contractual consideration with any individual, party or TV network advertiser, who then do they serve by keeping such images from their news air?

Admittedly, this entry is little more than several probing questions. But, I don’t want to have to revisit this story to add the proper nouns that would paint a picture of collusion between newsmen who are supposed to hold the public trust, and private enterprises that want their share of the public purse.  I’d rather be told by a faceless face-saver that this turn of events was simply the fault of an overzealous editor (maybe even a recent transfer from their in-house ad production department). Here’s hoping.

Haiku to Gener

In Verse on August 1, 2012 at 10:10 am

waters of July
see our children leaping in
the holiday rain

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