The mishaps that occurred with Typhoon Frank validated one thing: That finger-pointing remains a dominant Filipino trait as nobody would admit responsibility for the capsizing of the MV Princess of the Stars. But who’s to blame, really? The rain?
A few days ago, Sulpicio Lines, the owner of the MV Princess of the Stars, filed a suit against Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Service Administration (Pagasa). Sulpicio Lines alleged that Pag-asa gave inaccurate weather reports that led to the tragedy of the MV Princess of the Stars at the height of Typhoon “Frank.” Pag-asa officials just sneered at the suit and said that they only forecast, and not control, the movements of typhoons. There are insiders, however, who say that some of the key officials of the agency are rattled because Sulpicio Lines also has some valid arguments. For one, the interval of Pag-asa weather bulletins is every six hours and in six hours, many things can happen. So looking for someone to blame, the rattled officials are looking at Malacanang and the Congress for giving lesser support to the agency.
In a way, these rattled Pag-asa officials also has a point. Ever since siting-president Gloria Arroyo took the presidential seat, the modernization of the weather agency is not on top of her agenda. This is despite the fact that the Philippines is prone to typhoons and other weather abnormalities. At least 21 typhoons pass by the country annually and from time to time, snow falls are also reported in some parts of Luzon. In addition, the government didn’t even lift a finger to prevent the migration (or shall we say piracy?) of veteran Pag-asa weathermen to Singapore and other places for higher pays. So, how can Pag-asa be blamed?
Definitely, Malacanang and the Congress will wash their hands the way Pontius Pilate did when the points of these rattled officials are aired. As a matter of fact, both Malacanang and the Congress are already starting to deflect the issues. On its part, Malacanang is pointing at the Congress for not passing appropriate laws regarding these concerns and for not appropriating sufficient funds for the modernization of the weather agency. The Senate, on the other hand, is also accusing the Palace of mismanagement of resources with some Senators citing as example the recent trip of the sitting president to the United States.
And while the two branches of government are exchanging statements and accusations, environment advocates also joined the flurry by pointing at the government as a whole as the source of the problem. According to them, the government is not serious in environmental protection and for this reason, global warming occurs. For instance, while Environment Secretary Lito Atienza is doing his job promoting and supporting Manny Pacquiao (which makes a number of Filipinos think he is the chair of the Philippine Sports Commission), illegal logging, air pollution, and the use of plastics continue. These hasten climate change which, in turn, results to stronger and erratic typhoons, flash floods and landslides, among others.
But while the debate is revving up, nobody seems to notice that the real problem lies with everybody else. And this includes not only the government but also the ordinary Juan who also makes a contribution by littering his plastic candy wrappers across the street or throwing his household wastes anywhere he likes.
In short, it can be said that the mishaps brought by Typhoon Frank is but the result of a complicated and interrelated factors. Hopefully, before more and more of these happen, everybody is doing his or her own part. A bigger contribution, however, is expected from government officials particularly the sitting-president whose obligation does not include having a photo-ops with US presidentiables Barack Obama and John McCain. The same with Lito Atienza whose functions does not include handling Manny Pacquiao unless it is possible that the Filipino boxer can box out the problems brought about by climate change.###
(This article also appears in the column The Sidelines in the weekly paper Albay Journal.)