A wake-up call

Santa Banana, read this and weep!

Initial estimates of the devastation brought by Typhoon “Ompong” have climbed to P14.27 billion affecting more than half a million hectares of farm lands. Losses were placed at 731,394 tons of produce, mainly rice, corn, high-value crops and livestock.

This means some 436,000 tons of rice went down the drain, representing 62.82 percent of losses or P8.97 billion. They say this is equivalent to 8.64 days of rice consumption for the entire country.

These estimates can even grow!

Since rice and corn crops are nearing harvest this October and November, domestic rice production would be severely affected. We might have to import more rice from Thailand and Vietnam.

Just how much will all these affect the country? Even before Ompong we were already reeling from high prices of goods and services.

I have been a journalist for 70 years and I have never seen such devastation and agricultural losses. How the Duterte administration will cope with this, I don’t know. My only hope is that his critics will not make political capital out of the miseries of the people.

I also hope that the President and his economic managers will do more to lessen the suffering of the people, instead of just blaming Ompong and climate change.

More than ever, what happened should be a wake-up call for Congress to enact the Department of Disaster Resiliency Act. The country needs this like yesterday!

I have long been saying that we need a more permanent government body, unlike the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council which is convened only in the event of a disaster.

* * *

I am not sure if the President meant what he said that if he had a choice, he would close down all mining firms because they destroy the environment and cause landlines and mudslides like what happened in Itogon. Small-scale miners were reported buried in a landslide.

Could this be a sign of his frustration or exasperation?

I have covered the mining industry and I have seen how responsible miners take care of the environment. Mining contributes billions of pesos to the national coffers and employs thousands of Filipinos.

There are exceptions, of course. But the industry, as a whole, has shown that it could be responsible.

With regard to small-scale mining, however, why won’t the President stop this practice in Diwalwal, in Compostela Valley? I ask this question in the wake of reports that gold taken here is smuggled to Davao City, for the rich Chinese to smuggle to Singapore or elsewhere. I cannot verify it, but it is possible.

Responsible mining is an integral part of our national economy. And if President Duterte were serious about banning mining altogether, he would in fact be throwing the baby along with the bathwater.

* * *

I have raised this concern before in my column. The Commission on Audit flagged lawyers of the Office of the Government Counsel for getting excessive allowances from certain Government-Owned and -Controlled Corporations where they are assigned.

The former government corporate counsel had also raised this because he suspects that excessive allowances were some form of a bribe.

The law on government allowances says that government lawyers should not receive more than 50 percent of their annual salaries. And yet these lawyers have expensive cars and display a lifestyle beyond what their salaries could support. My gulay, this is government corruption!

The CoA also red-flagged the Office ofSolicitor General Jose Calida for excessive allowances.

Just why the President has not acted on the CoA report is a mystery. The President believes Calida is one of the bright boys in his administration.

Is there a double standard in the Duterte administration—one for allies, and one for critics?

* * *

Senator Nancy Binay reminded Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson and blogger Drew Olivar not to mock the deaf/mute community. I agree.

Binay is the author of the just-passed Filipino Sign Language bill to help the deaf/mute community. They are already struggling to air their concerns and aspirations. Uson and Olivar must be condemned.

I think we should also require sign language in every television appearance of government officials.

* * *

I have registered my car and I still have no plate. Like thousands of others who are still without vehicle plates, I feel like I am being swindled by my own government.

Actually, what the government is doing—requiring every owner to register his or her vehicle and then pay the registration, on pain of penalty for lateness—is plain estafa. But then I know I cannot sue the government without its consent.

The Philippines is perhaps the only country that cannot deliver this simple service.

* * *

I had more than a hundred well- wishers when I turned 91 last Saturday. I thank them all.

Topics: Emil Jurado , A wake-up call , Typhoon “Ompong”
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