With Due Respect

Ban! Ban! Ban!

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When confronted with a Sandy Hook terror spree as in Connecticut in the United States, or a Ronald Bae shooting rampage as in Kawit, Cavite, the knee-jerk reaction, whether American or Filipino, is abolition. Abolish the gun. Or, more accurately, ban the gun totally.

Advantages and disadvantages. When typhoons swell the rivers and send boulders careening to the lowlands, the response is “Ban logging!” (Worse, “Ban typhoons!”) And when mine tailings slip out of the ponds, the reaction is “Ban mining.” Ban! Ban! Ban! That seems to be the simplistic solution.

With this Ban! Ban! Ban! mentality, we might as well ban electricity because it can shrivel and burn houses; ban petroleum because it can explode and produce a conflagration; ban  chicharon  because it can block and burst arteries; ban swimming pools because they can drown and kill; ban automobiles because they can smash and maim.

My point is that almost everything has advantages and disadvantages. Very few things are absolutely good or absolutely evil. Choices are seldom between black and white but among shades and hues. Even “wonder drugs” and painkillers have side effects. The way forward is to maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages. There are ways of preventing, canalizing and mitigating side effects.

Senseless rampages. The recent senseless shooting rampages sparked calls for a total gun ban. Indeed, how ideal it would be to prohibit the possession and use of guns, except by the police and the military. But the reality is that criminals and outlaws will still have guns and terrorize the gunless.

How ideal it would be if the police and the military could protect the unarmed. But the reality is that the government is incapable of doing that everywhere and always. People will still have to take precautions to safeguard themselves and their loved ones, sometimes with guns nestled in their homes.

Careful regulation and strict gun control are the key, not total prohibition. If the renewed debate on guns has any use, it is to dig out the aging bills in Congress and pass them pronto. Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former police officer, wants to stop civilians from carrying firearms outside the homes. License them only for home use and only for low-caliber weapons, never machine guns or AKs.

Crafting laws that regulate and control deadly weapons is just the beginning. Strict and fair enforcement of the law and the prosecution and speedy punishment of violators are as essential. Accordingly, President Aquino has flatly rejected calls for a total gun ban, saying it would not solve gun-related crimes.

Selective logging. Logging is a legitimate endeavor, provided—like any other undertaking—it is properly disciplined, moderated, regulated and monitored strictly. Its product, wood, is essential in constructing homes and furniture. Shelter is as important as clothing and food. The problem is indiscriminate cutting and kaingin burning of whole forests.

The solution is properly enforced selective logging, not an absolute ban. In the United States, national parks are sacred. The giant, thousand-year-old sequoias and redwood trees are totally protected. But logging in many other areas is allowed and, in fact, encouraged, with the condition that for every tree cut, another tree or trees are replanted.

The same should be true here. Logging should be allowed selectively on condition that for every tree cut, 10 others are systematically planted and computed to grow to maturity before they are harvested again. Responsible conglomerates, like First Philippine Holdings Corp. and First Gen Corp. of the Lopez Group, continuously plant millions of trees to reforest the plains at their expense, even if logging is not their business.

Responsible mining. Because of environmental degradation caused by illegal miners and tailing pond leakages due to floods and typhoons, critics demand a complete ban on mining. Again, this simplistic outcry is misplaced because mining is a legitimate enterprise that produces steel, copper and other metals used in almost all human endeavors.

If mining is an unmitigated evil that must be suppressed, then we must shun its products like cars, airplanes, steel bars, copper wires, etc. But metals, the end product of mining, are essential to civilization. Without metals, the Inquirer cannot be produced because its printing machines are made of iron and steel.

Computers, phones, duplicating machines, delivery vehicles, etc. will all be impossible to make without metals.

The solution is responsible mining, not total banning. Illegal miners—those without government permits—and even legal ones, which do not follow their Environmental Clearance Certificates or Environmental Impact Assessment Certificates, should be the ones banned, not the mining industry.

In fact, responsible mining should be encouraged and protected, not banned and hated. Many countries like Chile, Australia and Canada depend on responsible mining to expand their economy, create employment, and spread wealth. Unfortunately, our government has not been able to sort out an edifying and progressive policy that will promote and assure responsible mining.

To sum up, the Ban! Ban! Ban! Mentality – whether in gun control, in logging or in mining—is simplistic and unrealistic. The real solution is proper regulation and strict enforcement of enlightened rules, and the speedy prosecution and punishment of the violators and offenders. Difficult? Well, nothing good is ever easy.

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