EDITORIAL: Resilience not Mendicancy

Several ideas are now on the drawing board in response to the severely damaging natural calamities, the latest of which are super typhoons Ulysses, Rolly and Quinta. Most prominently mentioned are the revival of the Bicol River Basin Development Program (BRBDP), regular dredging of water ways, construction of catch basin and relocation of those inhabiting along the shorelines within the eastern side of the region.

A closer look at the proposals shows that a comprehensive integrated development planning pursuant to the BRBDP approach would be most ideal. Most of the proposals can be treated as sub projects.

A comprehensive developmental approach however would involve trillions of pesos. In fact it has been gathered that some studies initiated by BRBDP planners and consultants had been shelved-off due to issues on feasibility. Among them are the Pantao bay channel-tunnel-channel; the cut –off channels cutting through the areas from Baliwag, Minalabac to San Vicente, Libmanan and the Pulantuna dam.

These projects have supposedly been put on hold due to bankability and feasibility concerns. There is that yet unproven theory however that the main reason was parochialism among political leaders which consequently led to the pork barrel system.

Also very disturbing is the fondness of President Duterte in increasingly relying on military capability and reliability, especially in forming task forces to perform specific jobs. As if every government efforts should be treated as a mission adopting the military parlance.

Overlooked is a very fundamental principle enshrined in the 1987 constitution (Declaration of Principles Article II, Section 3) which provides that “Civilian authority is at all times, supreme over the military. The Armed Forces of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the State. Its goal is to secure the sovereignty of state and the integrity of the national territory”.

Probably Mr. Duterte is very much impressed with military discipline that principally dictates any endeavor assigned upon the military. Somehow he is correct as shown in the performances particularly of the engineering battalion which indeed is very impressive.

But that may not be always the case. Just to assert a point, it might be of help to know that there were times when BRBDP was managed by military officials. The records will show how dismal their performances have been. One did not even know the distinction between “assist” and “assess”.

Re-invigorating BRBDP means revisiting some projects which have been completely abandoned or temporarily shelved-off. Among them are the Pantao bay to San Miguel bay link up, the feasibility of which is in doubt. But given the worsening situation, there is no other choice.

Of pressing concern is the plight of the fisher folks whose houses dot the shorelines along the eastern coast of the region. Often they are exposed to storm surges. Most of the time venturing at sea is already very risky. How then shall they be spared from nature’s wrath?

Obviously they have to be brought somewhere else where life is less dangerous. But how? They have no lands of their own, they cannot go to upper lands because the land had been rendered barren either due to deforestation, illegal logging and kaingin.

Where will they go then? That is a very serious concern. Some have a ready made overused comforting word :resilience. There should never come a time that resilience becomes synonymous to mendicancy.