Saturday, May 30, 2009

Recent Actions Against the BNPP Bill

I started to get involve with the issue of BNPP last February. Since I am the one assigned to the faith-based project, I need to represent and carry the faith-based perspective on the issue of the BNPP. The BNPP as explained earlier is one of the most expensive white elephant projects that the Philippine Government has ever conducted.

It is problematic in every way you looked at it. It is environmentally hazardous because of the unresolved radioactive waste disposal, which Rep. Cojuangco failed to explain during the Committee Hearings; dangerous to health (check out the numerous data on radiation poisoning), safety issues due to the fact that the BNPP is located very near Mt. Natib, a sleeping volcano (i.e., Mt. Pinatubo) and it sits on a fault line; an economic burden to all Filipinos because despite the fact that this project did not benefit us, but using our own money, the Government continued to pay for the debt incurred (worth more than $2.3 B), not to mention making us more indebted because parts of the debt payments were also additional loans; again, the project was a monument of bribery, fraud, corruption and cronyism. Desini, one of Marcos cronies ran away with lots of money from this project.

With all these reasons and more, the BNPP project is considered as an illegitimate debt and therefore an IMMORAL DEBT! Debt, in the faith-based perspective, can also be considered as one example of a social/structural sin like Apartheid, Slavery, Patriarchy, Racism, etc. This is the case when debt seized to serve as a tool for development but instead becomes a tool for manipulation used by the rich nations vs the poor nations.

February Actions

On February 22, 2009, some 500 protesters (both from FDC and NOtoBNPP! network, including Greenpeace) march towards the U.P. grounds to form a human banner - NO TO BNPP.

Before the start of the formation, leaders and foreign comrades gave their solidarity speeches. One of the speakers was a parliamentarian from Malaysia, the Hon. Charles Santiago. The others were Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel of Akbayan Partylist, former Rep. and now VP of FDC, Ms. Etta Pargas-Rosales, and Rep. Erin Tañada of the Liberal Party.

It was one hot sunny Sunday, but it was all worthwhile. Even some of the comrades made this event a family day, taking with them their kids to be oriented with the issue and the need to be involved with national issues.

This was taken after the Prayer Rally held last February 23, 2009 at the town plaza of Balanga, Bataan. The rally was led by His Excellency, Most Rev. Socrates Villegas, D.D. The event started with a mass, with all the parish priests of the parishes under the diocese concelebrating.

Bishop Soc was a little teary-eyed when he us and said that he is happy to know that the province is not alone in the struggle.

The mass was followed by a short but meaningful program. Sectoral representatives and leaders gave their solidarity speeches - environmentalists, a student, faith-based groups, coalitions, social movement groups, Jun Lozada, the Governor - Tet Garcia and more. The program ended with the heartwarming singing of "Bayan Ko" (written and composed by the great Freddie Aguilar) while on the LCD screen, photos of the victims of the Chernobyl accident in Russia were being shown.

From the left of the photo, we have Bp. Soc, the Mayor of Balanga, Tish (FDC's Gender Officer) and me (Jofti)

Shortly two days after the Prayer Rally in Bataan, our Campaign, the Faith-based Congress Against Immoral Debts (FCAID), the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), FDC and NOtoBNPP! network organized an Ash Wednesday mass (February 25, 2009) basically for legislators and employees of Congress.

I thought and push for this activity because I believe it was a good opportunity to appeal to our legislators, to think through their decisions in supporting the BNPP bill and use the Lenten season to study, review and reflect the consequences of their actions. Many attended the mass including the debt champion in Congress - Rep. Edcel Lagman.

After the mass, we proceeded to listen to the Committee on Appropriations 3rd Hearing on the Bill. This was the first time when the Committee acknowledges the presence of a technical consultant to the study conducted during the Ramos administration, Mr. Nicanor Perlas. He basically provided and offered the Committee of his knowledge and expertise. It was also in this session that he made public of the studies conducted during the Aquino and Ramos administrations and that these can either be located at the archives of Malacañang and/or the Senate. One was conducted by the Presidential Commission and the other was by a Senate Adhoc Committee led by then Sen. Rene Saguisag. Unfortunately, in the 28-volume study of the Senate, all was intact except for the technical audit, which is the most important part of the study because it pointed out and explained the 40,000 defects of the nuclear power plant.

On that same day, a Press Conference too was held at the media center of the Congress. FDC VP Etta Rosales, FDC President Walden Bello and Mr. Nicanor Perlas starred in the presscon. Here, Mr. Perlas proved his credibility and technical capacity as a resource person for the BNPP Bill. He was not actually given the opportunity to speak longer during the session and that he was only allowed to answer exactly about the questions thrown at him. At the presscon, he was given more time to explain why he does not want the BNPP to be rehabilitated and opened for operation.

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