Will they ever decide?By Peter Wallace
Philippine Daily Inquirer
I’ve already talked (I thought enough) about the reproductive health and sin tax bills, but both continue to flounder in Congress because of misguided activists and a company bent on protecting its monopoly and paying as little tax as possible regardless of the harm that would do to society.
Reproductive health is simple enough: People have a right to make an informed choice. To be informed so they can make that choice. The Catholic Church has every right to dictate to its believers if it wishes to, but it has no right to impose on those of other, or no, faith. It cannot be allowed to prevent the creation of family planning clinics whose purpose is to help people who’d want help. What it can very reasonably do is tell its parishioners they can’t avail themselves of the services. Thirteen years is more than enough time to discuss one issue. Those who still need clarification have to be taken back to kindergarten; their ability to learn is obviously in question.
Sin tax is equally simple: Do you want jobs or life? Smoking kills, that’s a now proven fact (you can ask two of my best friends when you get to heaven). Pricing cigarettes out of easy affordability stops many young people from starting, and slows many others. IF (note the capitalization, because I see no reason tobacco farmers would lose their income—they can export more, or PMFTC can buy a larger percentage of Philippine tobacco), again, IF tobacco producers lose some income, that’s tough. But it’s not loss of life. Smoking leads to loss of life. Government also needs the revenues to help fund its healthcare program. Do the senators opposed to this bill not want their people to be looked after when they are sick? Do they want to protect the income of a few, and the profits of one company, against the health of millions? Can they be that heartless?
Those who are opposing the two bills are doing so for selfish reasons, and to hell with what’s best for society.
On another subject, I’ve been against the agrarian reform program since Day 1. I’m not against land ownership for small farmers, I’m all for it. I’m all for land ownership for everyone, but I don’t advocate splitting the housing lots in Forbes Park into 100-square-meter lots for the poor who own no land.
And I don’t support something that goes against all thoughtful common sense. You don’t, if you’ve got any common sense, mandate that ALL agricultural land throughout an entire nation must be under five hectares (seven for rice) per owner regardless of crop or any other reality. Today’s modern world demands production techniques that require high volumes of some agricultural products in a single-managed fashion.
I venture to suggest that if you offered a farmer at least 1.6 hectares to scrabble a living from, with no opportunity to leverage that land (through loans, etc.) into more productive uses, or offered him 300 square meters of his own land with a small house on it, provided schooling for his children and access to a hospital/clinic for his family, together with a full-time job on a managed plantation, which do you think he’d most likely choose? Importantly, shouldn’t he be able to have that choice? Shouldn’t the Philippines be able to produce crops at world-competitive prices in the mass quantities humanity needs? Revise the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law to allow plantations; it’s the sensible thing to do.
An “all or nothing” approach never works. You don’t ban all incinerators (as Congress mindlessly did in 1999). Incinerators aren’t the problem, the emissions from them are. So you set cleanliness of emissions from a “black box” and allow engineers to design what goes into that black box that will meet those standards.
You don’t ban all logging, as the President thoughtlessly did, you control it: If you cut down a tree, you must plant and nurture 10. Other countries can do it, so why not the Philippines?
You don’t ban mining, as some leaders in the Philippine Catholic Church wish to do. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledges that the cultivation of nature involves the “exploitation of nonrenewable resources,” but reminds that this practice must be regulated to ensure “responsible stewardship over nature.” In his 2009 encyclical he said: “Human beings legitimately exercise a responsible stewardship over nature, in order to protect it, to enjoy its fruits and to cultivate it in new ways, with the assistance of advanced technologies, so that it can worthily accommodate and feed the world’s population…” He went on: “One of the greatest challenges facing the economy is to achieve the most efficient use—not abuse—of natural resources, based on a realization that the notion of ‘efficiency’ is not value-free…” Mineral products are natural resources.
Now doesn’t that support our position, that responsible mining should be allowed, and what should be done is to ensure mining is not stopped but is responsibly done? In Ecuador, a country somewhat similar to ours, the Conference of Catholic Bishops stated: “We likewise assume the responsibility of offering clear ethical orientations, reasonable positions and spiritual assistance, so that the exploitation of the rich and numerous natural resources that our country has redounds in a positive benefit and in the improvement of the living conditions of the families and people and of the environment in which we live.”
Those in the Philippine Catholic Church who strongly oppose mining would appear to be out of step with its worldly brethren. You don’t ban mining, you control it. You ensure that damage to the environment is minimal and the land restored after the mine is finished.
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