Thursday, August 30, 2012

Human Security And Ticking Bombs

MANILA, Philippines - "The recent onslaught of massive Bahagat (monsoon) downpours... underscored the deadly double-edged nature of water. Too much water during the rainy season and too little water during summer has become our sad fate of yearly cycles of inundation and drought... THE BOTTOM LINE FOR THE MOST EFFECTIVE USE OF OUR SCARCE FUNDS AND NATURAL RESOURCES IS TO 'KILL TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE."' - FVR, Manila Bulletin, 19 August

In our column entitled "Eco-Productivity, Natural Calamities, and Easter" (Manila Bulletin, 24 April 2011), we underscored a new development dimension termed "Human Security" advocated by Sadako Ogata, former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and Dr. Amartya Sen, 1998 Nobel Prize awardee for development economics - as co-chairs of the independent Commission on Human Security launched at the 2000 UN Millennium Summit - whose report was adopted by then Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2003, and eventually approved by the UN General Assembly.

Human Security Is Human Development Plus

As implemented by the member-nations within the UNGA, "Human Security" (more than just "Human Development") is concerned with safeguarding lives and expanding people's fundamental freedoms.

It partakes both of protecting persons at risk or under threat, and of empowering people to take charge of their own lives. "Protection" refers to the rules and institutions essential to shield people from physical danger or harm - mainly from natural calamities, man-made disasters, starvation, thirst, disease, drowning, impunity, and weapons of mass destruction - and requires Government's "top-down" vigilance, especially in insuring the rule of law and democratic, accountable governance.

"People empowerment" underscores the civil/political/human rights of individuals as stakeholders, and necessitates their "bottom-up" contribution through self-help and self-reliance.

"Development" - if it is to mean anything - must increase the effective participation of citizens in Government's decision-making that affects their daily lives.

According to World Bank Managing Director Mahmoud Mohieldin, "this presupposes a worldview that considers people's well-being not only in terms of income, but also in terms of human security and opportunities for every person to thrive. It would be a world in which people live free from conflict over land, water, and space, and that ensures food security for millions of people..." (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 23 August).

Malacañang Solutions

In the wake of Bahagat floods, various media reports have emerged regarding PNoy's cancellation of the Php 18.7-billion Laguna de Bay Rehabilitation Project by the Belgian company Baggerwerken Decloedt En Zoon (BDC) - whose contract was "approved one month before the end of the Arroyo Presidency" (Business Mirror, 27 November 2010).

In his article "Aquino Axed Key Flood-Control Project in 2010," Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao reveals: "As a result of Mr. Aquino's reckless, unilateral cancellation of the project, Php 6 billion of taxpayers' money could be lost. Firstly, government has to pay by end of this month the Php 420-million penalty for the cancellation of bank loans. The gigantic cost though would be the Php 4 billion that would be paid to the Belgian company if it wins the suit it filed at the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. Government's legal expenses would amount, going by its Fraport case in the same venue, to at least Php 2 billion," (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16 August).

On the other hand, Malacañang contended that the suit filed by BDC is premature as "there was no notice to proceed with the project," (Journal Online, 27 April 2011).

UNFORTUNATELY, NO OTHER STRATEGIC ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS FOR RAIN-HARVESTING OR THE LONG-DELAYED DREDGING OF LAGUNA DE BAY, MARIKINA RIVER, PASIG RIVER, AND ELSEWHERE HAVE BEEN OFFERED BY THE AQUINO III ADMINISTRATION (thus, valuable time has been lost and the same flood victims and inundated communities face the same risks as in Ondoy-Pepeng 2009, Sendong 2011, Bahagat 2012, and again in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, ad infinitum).

In addition to all the above, DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson "cancelled 19 projects totaling R934 million which involved repair of numerous seawalls, flood control systems, bridges, bank protections, and dikes" in July 2010 (The Daily Tribune, 22 August).

Humanitarian Crisis In Towns Around Laguna Lake

"Thousands of families are still housed in evacuation centers, yet the assistance provided by concerned Government agencies is just 10 percent of the required aid...

"Anakpawis lamented 'the snail-paced' relief and rehabilitation efforts, adding that they were ineffective, extremely lacking and unresponsive. The Government has yet to conduct relief operations in fishing villages in Talim Island where some 1,103 families were affected," (The Philippine Star, 21 August).

On top of the misery of hundreds of thousands of poor, flooded Filipinos in Metro Manila, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, British risk consultancy Maplecroft said six Asian countries were among the 10 countries whose economies were most vulnerable to catastrophes: "The Philippines and Bangladesh, which along with Myanmar, lead a list of countries considered to be at 'extreme risk' from earthquakes, floods, storms, and other natural hazards, according to research published on 15 August in an assessment of 197 countries," (The Manila Bulletin, 16 August).

So, boys and girls, what else is new?

The Philippine Bridge Program

Pertinent to urgent issues of flooding is the Philippine Bridge Program. Following up on Cory's 1986 Medium Term Development Plan which was based on a generational time frame (25 years) that called for 200,000 lineal meters, FVR launched the President's Bridge Program in 1992.

The PBD actualized the long-range Cory plan by the innovative combination of foreign development assistance, low-interest borrowings, LGU counterpart funds, and voluntary labor from beneficiary communities - all under the engineering supervision of then DPWH Secretary Gregorio Vigilar - with then Executive Secretary Teofisto Guingona as the overall "PBP Czar."

Although the implementation of the PBP involved inputs from international, national, provincial/district, and community sources, the materialization of needed bridges was simple enough, but effective and timely. The UK provided development assistance by way of modular, prefabricated steel bridge spans, DPWH district engineers insured technical/construction oversight, and LGUs/communities contributed right-of-way facilitation and voluntary labor.

The end result was that everybody worked harder, sturdy bridges were constructed faster, and ordinary people at the grassroots became stakeholders by protecting bridge approaches from deterioration, landslides, flooding or collapse thru "greening" efforts.

Ticking Time-Bombs

The Philippine road to human security is still loaded with ticking time-bombs that take time to detonate but which would explode eventually and devastatingly - if unaddressed. However, these socio-economic-security "time-bombs" can still be defused, neutralized, or somehow mitigated by genuine reforms and positive executive action.

Over the past ten years, these death-dealing issues have largely been ignored by complacent leaders and people, notably:

1.) Mass poverty due to overpopulation, rising prices, and the deepening rich-poor gap.

2.) Environmental degradation resulting in less potable water, reduced natural resources, more land use conflicts, and massive flooding.

3.) Reputation for official corruption and bureaucratic red tape leading to higher costs.

4.) Disputatious and flip-flopping decision-making culture.

5.) A divided society with vestiges of feudal paternalism still predominating.

6.) Lack of durable peace in Mindanao and other areas.

7.) Unlevel playing field favoring monopolists, dynasties and oligarchs.

These are self-explanatory to a Filipino, or even a foreigner who genuinely aspires to contribute to our national well-being. The only thing that remains to be done is the DOING THE DAANG TAMA (RIGHT PATH).

MARILAQUE And Laiban Dam

In 1994, under the leadership of SND Renato de Villa as Cabinet Officer for Regional Development (CORD), the Metro Manila-Rizal-Laguna-Quezon Growth Corridor was launched.

Laiban Dam, as MARILAQUE's major component, would probably have taken 5 to 7 years to construct, assuming dedicated financial planning, engineering design, infrastructure building, and program evaluation/review.

Nevertheless, some positive action is happening - after years of Estrada-Arroyo inaction. Reported the Manila Bulletin (29 July 2011): "Abacus, Chinese Partner Make Offer To Develop Laiban Dam For Php 60 Billion... Abacus Consolidated has teamed up with China's Sinohydro Corporation to submit an unsolicited proposal for a joint venture with the Government to build the Laiban Dam for Php 60 billion. Its proposal involves dam construction to provide 1.9 billion liters of water daily and irrigation requirements of nearby agricultural areas. It will also provide affordable housing for affected families, plus a 30-MW hydropower plant for the Luzon Grid which has a projected deficit of 3,000 MW by 2013...

"San Miguel Corporation is also renewing its bid to build the Laiban Dam. Its proposal to develop the dam in Tanay, Rizal (costing about Php 65 billion), would provide 1.9 billion liters of raw water daily, enough to supply Metro Manila for the next 30-40 years."