13 natural and man-made disasters of 2013

Mong Palatino?


First of four-part series
Second part | ‘We Should Legalize Everything’ and Other Shocking Sound Bites of 2013
Third part | Wrecking Ball and other Objects that Made News in 2013

1. Taiwan-Philippines diplomatic row. The crisis was triggered by the tragic killing of a 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman by members of the Philippine Coast Guard on May 9 in Balintang Channel. Angered by the incident, Taiwan stopped issuing work visas to Filipinos and has conducted military exercises near Philippine waters. The Coast Guard claimed that the shooting was an act of self-defense but there were reports that the shots fired were excessive.

2. Sabah standoff. Armed followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III occupied parts of Lahad Datu on February 9 and vowed not to leave until Sabah is returned to the Sulu Sultanate. After waiting three weeks for the members of the Royal Sulu Army to voluntarily surrender, the Malaysian military launched a full-scale attack against the group on March 5.

3. Zamboanga siege. An armed faction loyal to Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari attacked Zamboanga City affecting hundreds of thousands and paralyzing the city. Violent clashes erupted between the rebels and government soldiers.

4. Flooding in Central Luzon. Typhoon Santi battered the Central Luzon region causing massive floods in Nueva Ecija and Bulacan, the country’s rice bowl.

5. Oil spills in Cavite and Cebu. A leak in an underwater pipeline of Petron Corp. poured 500,000 liters of diesel into the waters of Manila Bay affecting four towns in Cavite. Petron is the same company that caused the worst oil spill disaster in the country’s history seven years ago in Guimaras. Meanwhile in Cebu, a sunken ship spilled 120,000 liters of oil into the shorelines of the coastal towns of Talisay, Cordova, and Lapu-Lapu. Aside from affecting more than 300 hectares of mangroves, the oil spill also displaced more than 3,000 fisherfolk and threatened to undermine the tourism business in the area.

6. Tubbataha damaged, not once but twice. On January 17, the USS Guardian minesweeper ran aground on the South Atoll of the Tubbataha Reef, a no-sail zone and UN marine protected habitat in the Sulu Sea. The ship damaged 1,000 square meters of the marine park. “It willfully trespassed. It wasn’t lost. It was the voyage of an intruder,” said Palawan province congressman Antonio Alvarez. Three months after this tragedy, an oversized and quasi-military Chinese fishing vessel also ran aground at the marine park.

7. Central Visayas earthquake. A magnitude 7.2 earthquake killed more than 150 people in Bohol and Cebu on October 15. It destroyed many roads, homes, buildings, and historic churches in Bohol and several markets, malls, and also churches in Cebu.

8. PCOS and 2013 midterm polls. Not surprisingly, hundreds of Precinct Count Optical Scan machines malfunctioned, experienced glitches, and delivered erroneous reports in the 2013 elections. The local IT community is still denied of the right to review the election source code. The reported 60-30-10 voting pattern is believed to be a proof of automated cheating. But the worst disaster is the persistence of local and national dynasties or the continued dominance of oligarchs in the country’s elitist elections.

9. Kristel Tejada of UP Manila. Her suicide exposed the criminal neglect on the part of the government in allocating sufficient funds to the education sector. Policymakers and educators discussed tuition and scholarship reforms but they failed to link the issue with the government thrust of deprioritizing public higher education.

10. 40 families own 75 percent of economy. Early this year, it was reported that a few families dominate the whole economy. It highlighted the disastrous impact of the mainstream economic dogma which redistributed the country’s wealth in favor of the rich. Inequality, not just poverty, is the social ill plaguing society which explains why the government’s overhyped cash transfer program doesn’t work.

11. Sex scandals. From Chito to Wally, sex scandals have gone viral. Unfortunately, these scandals are invoked to justify the imposition of draconian Internet laws. But this issue is also a reminder about how we lost our precious privacy in this age of Internet surveillance.

12. Napoles and Corruption. The Napoles scam sparked a nationwide outrage over pork corruption. It led to the abolition of the legislative pork from the national budget, the filing of plunder cases against lawmakers, and the Supreme Court ruling which declared some aspects of pork as unconstitutional. Equally important is the naming of the presidential pork as a bigger source of corruption in the government. The issue revealed how public funds are systematically plundered by politicians, it unmasked the deceptive posturing of President BS Aquino as an anti-corruption crusader, and the need for a system overhaul in order to fundamentally exorcise the scourge of corruption.

13. Supertyphoon Yolanda. The world’s strongest storm of the year devastated the central part of the Philippines, in particular the Eastern Visayas region. A tsunami-like storm surge instantly killed thousands. But the humanitarian crisis worsened due to slow action of the government, inefficient distribution of relief, and partisan politics. Yolanda exposed the arrogance and incompetence of BS Aquino and Mar Roxas who failed to act quickly and decisively when the storm hit the region.

In summary, the biggest disaster of the year is the government of BS Aquino as proven by the president’s mishandling of crisis situations, his stubborn defense of pork politics, his support for extractive activities which contributed to the further degradation of the environment, his inaction over continuing human rights abuses inflicted against activists and journalists, and his shameful lack of leadership when Yolanda hit the country. Filipinos deserve a better government. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

Mong Palatino is a Filipino activist and former legislator. Email: mongpalatino@gmail.com

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