POSTSCRIPT / October 31, 2013 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Aquino reiterates firm stand on pork

PORK ISSUE: President Noynoy Aquino came out fighting last night as he defended the need and the legality of his presidential pork barrel, including the Disbursement Acceleration Program fund whose constitutionality is under question before the Supreme Court.

Actually I wished the President would relax his position, so he could salvage the deteriorating situation. From there, he could then try to recoup lost ground, including his weakening public trust rating.

I was disappointed that he did not try pedaling back, or searching for ways to institutionalize his avowed disbursement reforms. What happens if/when he is succeeded by somebody who is not as saintly as he is?

In a 13-minute televised address to the nation, the President reiterated his firm stand to keep his pork, justifying his position with his good intentions and a claim that all his disbursements are on the level.

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CHANGE OR CHAOS: Because of the absence of a clear viable alternative, I dare say many Filipinos still want President Aquino himself – not an outside force — to nurse back to health the sick nation in the short time left of his term.

In my Postscript last Oct. 15, or two weeks ago, I wrote that Noynoy Aquino appears to have placed his presidency on the line with his stand for keeping his presidential pork. He will rise or fall on that issue.

Now it seems the people have spoken against that position. The President should be feeling the public pulse, because a survey conducted by Malacañang itself this month showed his rating to have fallen from 79 percent to a record low of 35 percent.

Apart from that, separate surveys of the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia show his trust rating to have dropped precipitously.

If he knows what is good for him and the country, he should heed the writing on the wall — rather than allow the Philippines to fall into chaos.

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WHOSE FAULT?: What to call officially the hitherto unknown fault that rose from centuries of deep slumber and triggered a devastating magnitude-7.2 earthquake in Central Visayas in the wee hours of last Oct. 15?

It is now listed as North Bohol Fault, although some DoST officials earlier wanted to call it the “Inabanga Fault”, after the town where a team of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology first saw a section of the rupture rising like a wall two to three meters high.

It could have gone on record as the “Inabanga Fault” had not local officials objected, fearing their quiet town might be identified with the disaster that crumbled centuries-old churches among hundreds of structures and killed more than 200 persons.

Their objection recalls complaints of Marikina officials that property values in their city have been depressed because the valley is hemmed in by quake faults carrying the city’s name. So the Marikina Valley Fault is now called by the generic name Valley Fault, minus Marikina.

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NAMING STYLE: Similar objections had also been raised by officials of Eastern Luzon provinces (like Quezon and Catanduanes) often used as weather reference points and etched in the public mind as typhoon-ravaged and therefore unsafe to live and invest in.

Places are easier to remember. In California, the UC Berkeley professor who had made early studies on the San Andreas Fault named the 1,300-kilometer rupture after the Laguna de San Andreas, a small lake formed by earth movements in a valley south of San Francisco.

Actually, there should not be serious objections to naming the Bohol fault after Inabanga where it prominently broke out, although it runs a hundred kilometers more under other towns.

But as the quake was earlier suspected to have originated from the East Bohol Fault, it would be consistent to call the new culprit the North Bohol Fault instead of deviating from technical style and calling it Inabanga Fault.

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TOURISM: The Phivolcs geologist team that first documented the fault was led by Teresito Bacolcol, who rushed to Inabanga after Howie Severino of GMA-7 told him a wall had surfaced in barangay Anonang. In Bacolcol’s team were Charmaine Villanueva and Cathy Pogay.

Either in a light vein or a spark of what could be native business sense some Inabanga folk have suggested calling it the “Great Wall of Bohol” (it even rhymes!) and promote it as tourism experience. The naturally charming and hospitable Boholanos can do it, given the chance.

The wall could be protected, preserved and its surroundings spruced up to make the village more attractive and convenient to visitors who might spend on souvenirs, local food and even al fresco lodging before moving on to other sites.

Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto said he picked up ideas from Phivolcs geologist Jane Punongbayan who told him of the Japanese government’s moving along the tourism line after the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.

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GMA’S FAULT: The Bohol fault’s name is not really that crucial, except for uniformity in nomenclature. But if the debate over it persists, to cut short the wrangling, the administration can just be consistent and call it “GMA’s Fault”.

(Among themselves, government scientists jokingly call Phivolcs geologists “fault-finders” while those of the Bureau of Mines and Geosciences are called “gold-diggers.” Guess what they call weather forecasters.)

The minor discussion on what to call the Bohol fault and who should give it a name is an unfortunate indication of subterranean jealousies among some agencies.

While integration and coordination is useful, maybe DoST officials should be careful about putting themselves on top of technical agencies in a manner that blurs specific functions, waylays credits and multiplies operational expenses.

This undeclared turf war also manifested itself in the quarrel of Red Cross workers and Maribojoc Mayor Leoncio Evasco who demanded that the relief goods be turned over to him to distribute. Thank god, the Red Cross said no way.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 31, 2013)

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