Friday, March 26, 2010

Can anyone tell mo who the Liberal Party’s campaign manager is, and in particular, who is in charge of its ads?

I don’t watch tv too often, it distracts me from any work I’m doing. Instead, I keep the radio on and tuned in to am stations, so I can both keep work and keep tabs on the goings-on about the world around me.
I have heard Noynoy and Mar’s recent radio ads. Noynoy, as usual, is appealing to the nation’s nostalgia and referred back the listeners to his parent’s era. And in the face of recent criticisms of his affliations and stand on their family’s controversial hacienda, the Hacienda Luisita, Noynoy’s current radio ad claims that “kami rin ay inapi.” Mar, on the other hand, still strives to maintain his Mr. Palengke image.
What immediately strikes me about these particular candidates ads is the overdramatization.
Noynoy’s ads concentrate too much on his legacy as the son of two icons of democracy, Ninoy and Cory. He keeps on mentioning his parents as a way of selling himself that sometimes I think that he thinks or his campaign manager thinks that that is the only way he could get the Presidency. Not by his anti-corruption platform, nor by his good versus evil theme, but rather, by sheer legacy and lineage.
In his one ad I caught on DZRH this morning, he opens with a statement that they too were “inapi.” Then he proceeds to recount his parents fate, yet again, in the hands of a dictator. While this is a nice attempt to touch base with the people, the masses that experienced the Marcosian might, it smacks of impertinence in the face of the current Hacienda Luisita situation. Hacienda Luisita is one thorn that Noynoy cannot and should not ignore. His mom, though popularly considered an icon of democracy, was not able to demcratize their own vast hacienda. And people are having a deja vu when another Aquino promised to resolve this issue.
Noynoy is appealing to the nation’s emotion. And if I remember correctly from my highschool class in English, an argument that is made as an appeal to the emotion is one flimsy argument. For it is only resulted to if a debater can no longer support his argument with the hard facts and historical data.
Now about Mar. I heard his ad where it seems he is being mobbed by people thanking him for not abandoning them. Although I think it consistent with all his other ads before, the Mr. Palengke series and his padyak stint, it didn’t endear him to me much more than his over publicized wedding with Korina Sanchez did. For in both instances, the ads and the wedding, it grates on my sensibility and rings an alarm bell in my interpersonal skills department. Would you agree with me if I tell you that I think the ads and the wedding are too orchestrated to be genuine?
I am not saying that Mar and Korina do not really love each other, I am in no position to do that as I am not privy to their affairs. What I’m saying is that like Mar’s ads, there was too much hype and emotions, OA (overacting) if in the colloquial.
Ok, let me focus on his ads. There is too much talk and interaction which one can see is “written and directed by” someone else. Like a movie, his ads are carefully reenacted emotions. And sadly, these emotions do not translate well to me as genuine. Why not use actual footages of his palengke sorties if they are aiming for the spontaneity of adoration for Mar? Do people in the palengke not react as the people on his ads do when they see him, which is why they cannot use it as a campaign material?
Now, Manny Villars strategist, which is himself, is a genius. His choice for a campaign jingle writer alone has to be applauded. They are original, yet catchy. Neric Acosta even commented once that Lumad children in far-flung provinces are singing Villar’s campaign jingle without anyone prodding them to. Why, even I catch myself singing to it when it plays on the radio!
I have to say that it that at some level, Villar’s ads also play on nostalgia and emotions. He went back to his “humble beginnings” of a leaking house in Tondo and a “dagat ng basura” as a playground. He also appealed to the people’s dream, of a nation perenially in crisis, to one day live the life they can only dare dreaming of. However, unlike Noynoy and Mar, Villar intelligently avoided having to personally sell himself by letting children sing his story for him. Thus, Villar has avoided having to act in front of a camera when he is no actor really. Also, historical data can support his claim, as he did start out humbly, if not poor-poor like he claims to be, but humble enough to be pass as a regular Juan, then proceeded to build his empire.
If I were to vote now based on how I perceive these candidates to be from their radio ads, no doubt I will vote for Manny Villar. Who will you vote for?

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

This women's month, I had a run-in with some macho-shit. It made me think how

women STILL suffer from gender bias and sterotypes no matter what the government

says about women equality, the Magna Carta and all. These laws, after all, serve no

purpose if not followed up with concrete laws, stricter implementation and

widespread education for both men and women to address the cultural roots of

discrimination against women.

I am no hardline feminist. I have not done my reading on prominent feminists. Rather

I am only vaguely familiar about them until a certain period inmy life. But I did try

to be a feminist.

When I graduated from highschool and got accepted in a very prestigious university

known for its activism, I saw that as my ticket to freedom. Raised conservatively and

sheltered all my life, I was eager to spread out my wings and explore the world. So

first I did is rid myself of one of the most oppressive instruments in my wardrobe,

my bra. I thought bras are oppressive to women because they are worn so their

nipples won't show when they're cold --- or aroused. I was in my first year then and I

enjoyed the freedom of my breasts to wiggle any which way. It was liberating and


But I have come a long way since then. I am wearing bras again but had not given up

on my feminist ideas. (I had to wear bras again because free breasts make running

very difficult and painful.)

In celebrating women's month and the continuing struggle to emancipate women, I

would like to share this song that makes the struggle bearable. It is from Tambisan

ng Sining, a progressive group.

ang pagiging babae
sa lipunang malupit
ay puno ng hirap at sakit

ang pagsasalita ay
pag-aanyaya sa dahas
na laging nakaamba
himagsik ay di maipakita

ang babae at bayan ay laging nagdurusa
sa bangis ng pagsasamantala
sa malalim na sugat ng pandarahas
ay buhay ang katarungang hangad
na ang maapi ay hindi na muli

ang paghuhulagpos ay mayroong panahon
ang panahon na iyo ay ngayon
kasama ng bayan sa pagpupunyagi
ang babae sa paglayang mithi

ang pagiging babae
ay pagiging mulat
sa hindi pantay na pagtingin
ang hindi pagkibo ay pag-aanyaya
sa higit pang dahas at banta
lakas natin ay ipakita

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tula para sa Ulan

Maligayang pagdating,
kaibigang Ulan!
Ilang paglubog at pagsikat
ng araw at buwan
ang nasaksihan mula
nang ika'y huling nagparamdam.
Malugod kang tatanggapin
ng mga naiwang kabigan
na kawawang nakatanaw
sa uhaw na uhaw
nang mga sakahan.
Sige't ibuhos mo lamang,
kaibigang Ulan,
ang nagbibigay-buhay
mong yaman,
sa mga mais at palay
sa mga nakadipang kamay.
Pawiin mo, kaibigan,
ang alikabok ng kasalatan
padaluyin muli ang ginhawa
sa mga palayan.
Ulan! Ulan!
Kaytagal kang hinintay
kabigang Ulan!
Tayo'y magtapisaw
sa bagong bukas na magigisnan.
Hugasan mo
ang luha naming mga dukha
at pasibulin ang sariwang pag-asa
sa tigang na lupa.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Arresting Climate Change

(Fourth of four parts)

I have resigned myself that Climate Change is one change that will not change. It must be the exception to the rule. Climate Change have started since the dawn of life. In fact, the cooling and warming of the Earth is known as the glacial and interglacial periods in its history. Earth’s weather patterns are so erratic despite scientific advances to harness it that it prompted on scientist to claim that this long relatively stable interglacial period we are in, is a freak of nature. However, since the Industrial Revolution which saw the advance in technology combined with growth in agriculture and population, the human factor in Climate Change became a major contributing factor.

While I accept that Climate Change is a fact of nature and eventually, ultimately, unavoidable, we can do something to slow it down.

The Kyoto Protocol, Jaz Lumang, the IBON Foundation Executive Director, said, is the embodiment of market based mechanisms that the US, and its corporations lobbied for as part of the solution to Climate Change. It has created a global carbon market that is now estimated to be worth some US$126 billion! Kyoto Protocol turned out to be proto-COOL to capitalist countries that should have been more accountable for their gas emissions. Richard Gadit of Katribu even claims that the Kyoto Protocol ravages natural resources all in the name of the environment.

Last year, the Copenhagen (DIS)Accord was signed. At the very most, it is a bubble that can burst anytime and inconsequential to curbing Climate Change. The Accord urges industrialized countries to be more accountable for their carbon emissions, of which they are the biggest emitters. Also it calls on them to shoulder some $30 billion to $100 billion USD funds for the “developing” or third world countries, which face an eventual wipe-out if the ocean level rises even a meter high because of global warming.

This sounds all nice but the Accord signed by 91 countries, including the biggest carbon emitters, US and EU, is non-binding. So where does that leave it? It is as if the Copenhagen Accord did not exist. It would serve as nothing but a minor footnote in the history of our battle against global warming. The countries might as well have signed the death warrant of the Pacific nations, among others, that are in danger of following the fate of Atlantis.

So what can we actually do?

Locally, we can urge our government to stop enacting and implementing laws that are hazardous to the environment in the guise of development. I have mentioned some of them before, the Mining Act of 1995, the NIPAS, IFMA, Biofuels Act among others.

Manny Villar, a presidential candidate, was interviewed by The Philippine Star as part of their election special. He was asked what his views were on climate change. He answered: “We are victims here. The developed countries are the ones responsible for this. We have no choice except to participate in the efforts to stop global warming. We can seek carbon credits. We should tap the private sector... address global warming and address our economic problem. I want to be more aggressive on this.”

Another question on what, concretely, would he do to address the kind of flooding that Pepeng and Ondoy. He answered the regular beat, clearing the waterways, dredging canals, relocation, reforestation, planting trees. And interestingly, he also said that he would talk with the New People’s Army and try to tap them for a plausible working arrangement for reforestation.

This is either the election talking or Manny Villar sees Climate Change seriously enough to work with the NPA to curb its effects. Either way, I like his answer. I have never heard any of the other candidates speak to working with the NPA, Climate Change or not.

More importantly, I say we push these industrialized countries harder to be more responsible citizens of the earth. This will not be an easy fight. Imperialism, a Danaidean vessel of profit, is the Goliath in this fight.

This December, in Mexico, when the Climate Change talks will once again be held, we should make sure that the industrialized countries sign a legally binding agreement that they will reduce their carbon emissions to acceptable levels that will be agreed upon by the countries.

This is the first step in making capitalism be accountable for the catastrophic global phenomenon is has brought upon the peoples of the world. Because in the final accounting monopoly capitalism is the alpha and the omega of accelerated Climate Change. A social change is in order to arrest climate change.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Climate Change’s little boy?

(Third of four parts)

Presently, we are experiencing less rainfall in the Philippines. Summer has come early and hotter than ever. All around the country, provinces have been crying out for help. The water resources is either falling or have fallen to critical levels, if not altogether dried up, like the catchbasin in Baguio City. The fields have cracked and crops have withered, resulting to millions of losses in agriculture.

In rural areas, water is precious to water the fields that will feed a people. I remember a story I heard from Sagada. Not so many years ago, just in the first decade of the 21st century, a tribal war was waged because of water. A tribe is claiming the rights to an important source of water. Another tribe downstream is also using the same body of water to irrigate their fields. If the upstream tribe monopolizes and diverts all the water into their fields, the downstream tribe cannot irrigate their fields and will have to relay only on rain water.Thus a tribal war was launched. It has since been resolved but not without bloodshed at first.

Now, PAGASA was playing doomsdayer when it said that the El Niño problem this year might be at par with the worst the country has experienced in the later years of 1990’s. AND that it could only be handled properly by granting the President emergency powers. On the other hand, reports are coming out that the experts are expecting only a mild El Niño this year. So which is which, may I ask?

The El Niño will no doubt have an effect on the rice producing capacity of our country. At present we are already importing much rice, (while also exporting the healthier red/brown rice upland varieties, with a drought expected, rice production is expected to fall further.

For a rice-eating nation such as ours, where a meal isn’t a meal if not eaten with rice, a rice shortage that is synonymous to rice price hikes (again!) is a serious matter. Indeed, as prices of rice per kilo have already ballooned to a minimum of P25 of NFA quality up to more than P50 for commercial varieties.

I have heard the C word again, less than a month after that bitter sugar affair. The government is again drumbeating the “need” to import tons and tons of rice to ensure rice suffieciency. Even the World Bank gave the Philippines a $5 million grant to help facilitate mitigating measures against climate change. And then it struck me, Climate Change’s little boy, the El Niño phenomenon is as much a loss as it is a gain. It is a loss to the Filipino public and a gain to the public officials.

This water crisis is a loss to the Filipino public as there is no doubt that they will be the ones very affected. Farmers who have indebted themselves when they planted this seaaon’s crops have nothing to expect except withered crops sold for nothing. The agriculture department as per its role encourages the farmers to plant more drought-resistant crops and is lending assistance through seed and pesticides. While this move can alleviate some suffering of some farmers, it is nothing but a balm to soothe the pain. In the long-run, this assistance is not enough to sustain generations of farmers and Filipinos.

While we can do short- to medium term mitigation plans, like cloud-seeding, irrigation canal building and others, we need to look further into the future and look at how land and agriculture is being used for the Filipino people.

What is baffling is the fact that the El Niño phenomenon has been around even before the Climate Change-scare raged to its height. Despite this, the government almost always seem surprised and at a loss at how to work with this phenomenon.

To be continued…

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Monday, March 8, 2010

BIOFUELS: False Solution to Climate Change

(Second of four parts)

In light of the growing alarm on Climate Change, the public was encouraged to be “environment-smart” and “eco-friendly”. Solutions, like going green, buying green, going organic, recycling, waste segregation, have been put forward. Some of these solutions, like recycling and waste segregation, are valid but not enough. Some are false solutions and mere marketing ploys, like going green or buying green. “Who needs the Kyoto Protocol when you can shop against Climate Change?” a line in Greensumption said. Greensumption is a tongue-in cheek commentary on some false solutions that are marketing ploys in reality.

One false solution that the public has fallen for is Biofuels. Approximately five years ago, we were led tp believe that biofuels is the road away from coal and oil dependence. Instead of carbon and oil dpeosits for fuel which is bad for the ozone layer and contributes heavily to global warming, we can utiliize crops such as sugarcane, tuba-tuba, maize etc., for fuel. Even in the Philippines, the Biofuels Act has been signed into law years ago.

Caroline Boin of the International Policy Network, London has written an article, The Biofuels Scam that makes the public rethink this supposed eco-friendly solution. According to Boin, biofuels, inspite of heavy subsidies in 2008 from the USA and EU governments amounting to $4 billion and $5.2 billion respectively, have not been a substantial souce of fuel.

Worse, biofuels make “little-environment sense.” Biofuel production makes more waste than it avoids, considering that ethanol plants are coal-fired themselves. Paul J. Crutzen, a Nobel-prize winnong chemist, said that: “For rapeseed biodiesel, which accounts for about 80 percent of the biofuel production in Europe, the relative warming due to N2O [nitrous oxide] emissions is estimated at 1 to 1.7 times larger than the quasi-cooling effect due to saved fossil CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions. For corn bioethanol, dominant in the US, the figure is 0.9 to 1.5.”

Biofuel and Food Crisis

Then again, there is another major backlash, food shortage. A leaked paper on a recent food crisis (2007 to 2008) by the World Bank Development Prospect Group, that the biofuel production of the United States and the European Union was the cause of 70 percent to 75 percent of rising prices. Last World Food Day, the United Nations admitted that around a billion people have no food at all.

Locally, of recent memory was the “sugar shortage” which hiked up the prices of sugar to P45 to P54 per kilo. In Batanes, prices were as high as P105, including the air fare of the sugar. The truth of the matter is there was no actual shortage, only man-made shortage.

In line with biofuel production, sugarcane prices have jacked up intenationally. Our local prices are dependent on the global price of sugar, which is why prices went up even if there is not reason to. With more acres of sugarcane being alloted for biofuel production, there is less for the country’s refined sugar consumption. The Philippines is bound by an agreement to export a certain amount of raw sugarcane to the US. For sugarcane traders, this is an excellent oppurtunity to exploit. For ordinary consumers like us, this is taste of a different kind of bondage.

In addition to these food crises entirely brought about by man, biofuel encourages environmental destruction through rainforests being converted into farmlands.

This makes me think, if biofuel is not as “clean” as we thought, does not save the rainforests and even makes the hungry hungrier, why then is it receiving billions of dollars in government subsidies? Something is not right here. For all its suspicious indications, the biofuel solution is just another capitalist money-making scheme to squeeze all it can from the crisis that is climate change.

To be continued….

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Climate Change: the socio-economic basis

(First of four parts)

When I was in Grade V, I participated in a division-wide essay writing contest on how to save the earth. Wanting to impress the judges with a wide vocabulary, I littered my essay with highfalutin words, particularly chloroflourocarbon. I wrote my essay in front of our glass-paned cabinet adorned with a huge poster warning of ozone layer depletion and global warming, sourcing everything I can from that poster alone. I lost of course. My essay was nothing but a parroting of that poster and devoid of real and honest efforts to save the earth.

Nearly twenty years hence and climate change must be the word of the decade.

A lotof things have been said about climate change, its scientific basis, its environmental cost, some proposed solutions, etc, etc. I would like to share a different view on the basis of climate change – it’s social basis.

Climate Change and Imperialism

When the Industrial Revolution dawned in the late 18th century, the production of goods and accumulation of capital accelerated and became increasingly concentrated on a few individuals or corporations and companies. In time, production started to be done for the sake of profit.

In order to produce goods and rake in profit, these corporations or companies, increasingly used natural resources of their own countries. But because they can see the havoc their operations can wreak on their environgment, they move their operations abroad and plunder the natural resources of a poorer, therefore politically and militarily weaker, country. These corporations or companies do so with wanton disregard for its effects on the local population, the environmental, social and economic effects, so long as they extract the raw materials they need for their businesses.

A single item contains raw materials that have been sourced in a mineral-rich third world country, processed in another, assembled yet in another and sold in also one.This laborious process of shipping and transhipping to complete a single item can be traced to the nature of capitalism, or in today’s case imperialism. Since third-world countries have poorer and needier populations, they set up businesses there to help them, right? Wrong! Capitalists set-up businesses in third-world countries or out-source to it because it would mean more profit to them. Poorer people are more desperate, more desperate people will work for less wage, less money spent on wages mean more profit.

Most governments have little to say about this as these corporations or companies have become bigger and more powerful entities than them. In the Philippines’ case, Arnold dela Cruz, union president of Republic Asahi Glass Corporation in Manila said that the “neoliberal policies and laws like the Mining Act, NIPAS and Biofuels Act, as well free trade agreements such as the JPEPA … intensify the plunder of our land and resources resulting in the further environmental destruction."

In our case, the government of Philippines recently upheld the constitutionality of a contentious law, the Mining Act of 1995. As of 2008, 722,000 hectares of Philippine soil has been covered by mining. Covered by mining is a funny thing to say because most mining companies use open-pit mining methods to completely mine the minerals. So let me rephrase that, 722,000 hectares of Philippine soil has been uncovered by mining. Some 14 million hectares more are currently being applied for by mining companies for various operations. This is on top of the mine tailings that are not properly contained and have leaked time and again into the streams and rivers, like Agno River in the Northern Luzon.

Laws such as the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) and the Industrial Forestry Management Agreement (IFMA) are also not environmentally sound and equally anti-national minority.

Back to our single item, let’s say, a cellular phone. The extraction alone of minerals causes destruction of environment. The same can be said of the repeated transportations needs of the cellular phone, which consume lots of oil products. And because in these times everything has become “disposable” this destructive process is repeated many times over.

Anne Leonard in her The Story of Stuff provides an explanation why disposable has become the trend. She says that the US government, has pushed and taught the public to be great consumers. It was a state policy enacted after World War II that brought about this not so eco-friendly solution to stimulate post-War spending and therefore, boost the economy. The Philippine government, being such an avid fan of the American culture, followed suit. Meaning, it imbibed the “American culture” of spending and spending more.

Anne Leonard further said that imperialists actually design products to be disposable. Faster wearing out means faster capital turnovers means bigger profits. What I find interesting is her concept of perceived obsolescence. It means that while the “stuff” is not really obsolete, constant bombardment of the senses, through advertisements and such, that the stuff is obsolete, will, can and does condition the minds of the consumers that the stuff is obsolete. What do you do when a stuff is obsolete, you throw it away and buy a new one, regardless if the stuff actually still works.

With so many stuff being obliterated by actual or perceived obsolescence, proper disposal also becomes a problem. As we know, in this digital and modern era, stuff have become harder to dispose. Medical waste is separate from regular waste. So should e-waste be, like cellular phones, printers, computers and such. However, even simple things like a juice tetra pack can be hard to segregate into plastic, paper or metal/tin. It is a mesh of all these because it contain a little bit of all, so where does it go?

Moreover, since monocapitalism is a very greedy organism, it has spilled from the industrial sector and into agriculture. It may not be so obvious in our country, but in industrialized countries, food production has become an industry itself. Corporate farms, that breed chicken, pigs, and cows for national and international consumption have been put up in the rural areas in the US. Tgaking advantage of lenient agricultural laws that are still tied to the traditional way of farming, corporate farms run their farms with the efficiency of a factory but dispose of their waste like a regular farm. Food Inc. and The Nature of Things show how corporate farms owned by a only handful of big capitalists bypass laws and contaminate the air, water supply and crops of its host area. More than this, it has displaced thousands of families who have been farming for generations and cannot keep up with their large-scale production that sell at very low prices.

One example of these cheap products was given by Anne Leonard, a radio sold at a very cheap price, let’s us at P150 just like the radioes sold in Raon, Manila. The P150 price tag on an am/fm radio is cheap, almost anyone can buy it and have one. If maker of the radio will peg its price at a much higher rate, chances are fewer people can afford to buy that radio, which woul translate into less profit. How is the radio made affordable to us ordinary folks and consumers? The answer, Anne Leonard says, is that the radio has already been paid for by the countries where the minerals and other raw materials were sourced, by the people displaced from their original abode and by the laborers who get dirt-cheap wages.

In the end, the planet is wasted to benefit these very big capitalists.

To be continued….

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