Saturday, September 02, 2006

Politics Mar Guimaras Relief Efforts

Barely two days after arriving in Guimaras, the Japanese survey ship MT Shinsei Maru has located the sunken oil tanker MT Solar I about 640 meters underwater southwest off Guimaras Island. The Japanese salvage experts are now studying how best to address the problem and will come out with their recommendations soon. You have to hand it to the Japanese - they are damn efficient! The same, however, could not be said about Filipinos. Our politicians are fighting over the Guimaras relief fund (read this and this) and are thinking more on how the tragedy can enhance their individual political careers rather than how to really solve the problem. Apparently the province's two leaders, Governor Rahman Nava (Liberal Party-Drilon Wing) and Congressman Edgar Espinosa (Lakas-CMD) are not in good terms (to put it mildly) and both are intensely jockeying for the "privilege" of administering all the local and international relief assistance pouring into their island province. Congressman Espinosa, for instance, has complained that his supporters purposely are not being hired under the "cash-for-work" program in Guimaras.

If a tragedy like this happened in Japan, I am sure the ship captain or some executive would have committed "seppuku" already. Instead, we see the MT Solar I captain on TV sheepishly grinning when asked about his expired license and "lapse of judgement." And while Petron has started hiring locals to manually clean up the oil spill, the corporation has so far admitted culpability only on "moral" but not on "legal" grounds. In other words, what Petron is effectively implying is that they are in Guimaras voluntarily - out of the goodness of their hearts. They want to wait for the courts to decide if they are legally liable. Of course, under our justice system, determining Petron's "legal" culpability could take years. I suspect that in the end, they will probably just pay P50,000 to each family affected by the oil spill in exchange for a "waiver" that they will not sue the oil company (hmm, sounds familiar...).

Yesterday, the oil spill finally reached Iloilo City shores. Residents of Villa Beach, Arevalo District have reported seeing bunker oil (which has become hardened and almost tar-like) and City Hall has quickly dispatched clean-up teams to contain it. There are also reports of the oil sheen being spotted in the city's Molo District and the neighboring town of Oton. One-time Iloilo visitors might be familiar with Villa Beach because it is where all the city's "touristy" restaurants are located: Tatoy's, Breakthrough, Regatta, etc. Both Molo and Oton are famous for their Spanish-era churches. Molo is also the birthplace of, you guessed it, Pancit Molo. Now, restaurant owners in Arevalo District are bracing for the negative effects of the oil spill on their food sales.

Congress recently passed a P2 billion Guimaras Relief Fund under the Supplemental Budget and I am afraid that only P1.8 billion will actually get to the people (after deducting P200 million as the 10% "mandatory allocation" or "SOP" of politicians). I wonder if it would be possible for the Japanese to also supervise the Guimaras relief effort. I mean, we hired them to build the new Iloilo Airport and oversee the construction of the Iloilo Flood Control Project - why not also entrust them with facilitating the rehabilitation of Guimaras? Let's just hand over the money to them and let their experts call the shots. I think the Japanese will not only do a far better and more efficient job but will also do it with less corruption than if it was handled by Filipinos.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see Independent Republic of Panay and free from the malaise of "manila politics"