I get my news from CNNInternational and ABS CBN.

But most of the time I get it from the internet.

Sometimes, like yesterday, when it was our town’s turn for a “rolling brownout” we don’t get news except for the radio (i.e. the internet and cable tv goes off), and since I can’t follow fast Tagalog news on the radio, it leaves me in a bit of a limbo, and lets me catch up on other things.

About all I get from the radio is that people are angry about the “Princess of the Stars” tragedy, and pointing fingers at everyone: The ferry operators get most of the condemnation, but there are the usual claims that the government should have stopped the ferry, which everyone knows is nonsense, since if you stopped for every hint of bad weather, you couldn’t run ferries at all.

The main reason for the ferry disaster is bad weather, and the company’s latest ploy is to blame the weather bureau. But why didn’t the Captain check for updated weather? No radio? No cellphone? No Satellite internet connection?

One wonders how many lives could have been saved by a couple thousand dollars for updated communications equipment.

When on Saturday, the radio was getting reports from families saying that passengers on the ferry had texted them that the ferry was sinking and saying goodbye, why did it take 24 hours for the ferry operators to figure out the ferry was lost. The radio was out. Well, duh. Here, even our farmers have cellphones, so what’s their excuse?

But rescue was not only hampered by the winds but by ignorance of where exactly the ferry sank. No GPS system on board? No simple computer chip that sends out signals, like on many expensive US cars?

In the meanwhile, the central islands are a mess. Lots of long term aid will be needed, including to rebuild the agricultural infrastructure (irrigation canals, poultry farms, processing factories for sugar cane etc).

Oh, but help is on the way. Last night, I heard ABS CBN reassure the Philippine people that  Senator Obama was saying the Philippines need aid.

Well, duh. Thanks for noticing. Only took you five days to notice. Oh yes, and some of his best friends in Hawaii were Pinoys.

Wait a second: Thanks to President Bush, within 48 hours there arrived a supply ship with needed emergency supplies, divers, and helicopters, and the US Navy Patrol planes here, and the USS Ronald Reagan battle group, which was full of supplies and basic personnel for Burma’s hurricane but not allowed to offload them, was on it’s way here.

At the same time, President Arroyo, who left before the typhoon changed course, was there with Bush and had arranged a large aid package: including $216 million for food security, both to supply food and to build up the agricultural sector. And this didn’t include what she’ll get from the UN or from US  businessmen she is meeting in NYCity.

Well, that’s not really news: Just business as usual, so we won’t notice it.

Whatever Bush and Clinton (both as President and through his Foundation) have done to help the Philippines, no mention…can’t mention names of those who actually were busy helping…

So why was the news quoting Obama without mentioning what had been done? Is it because ABS CBN is not exactly a supporter of Arroyo, or is it because they are parroting the news headlines from the US, or is it because they support Obama and want to send the message to the large Phil Am community on how they think we should vote?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Ironically, the other papers are not so blithe about Obama the Messiah. The SunStar pointed out that Obama was too busy for a photo op or to meet with President Arroyo, so only talked to her on the phone, even though he was in Washington and Arroyo is shuttling back there after talking to UN officials and business leaders in New York. Local opposition leaders merely smirk that he doesn’t want a photo op with Gloria, who is hated by the left in the Philippines and in the US.

And of course, Arroyo is scheduled to meet McCain in a couple hours. Wonder if that will be headlines too? Somehow one doubts it.

But if Obama really wants to help, I have a practical suggestion: he should ask his leftwing friends to pressure the left in the Philippines to allow the USS Reagan to enter Philippine waters to help bring aid here. You see, the left here has pressured the government, saying the (nuclear engine) carrier should not be allowed in territorial waters. So people will die because of ideology (shades of the Burmese deaths for a similar reason).

Presumably, the supplies will be placed on smaller ships, and/or transferred via planes to the central Philippines, but this takes time and money that could be put to better use.
In the meanwhile, divers trying to bring up bodies from the sunken ferry  have hit a new snag: apparantly the ferry was carrying a large shipment of a pesticide which is toxic and could kill the divers (for the clueless, I should point out that pesticide and nerve gas are similar, and pesticide poisoning can be fatal). The pesticide, Ensulfan, is banned in 17 countries, restricted in others, and has been linked to birth defects. And for the right wing readers who love big business, they need to note that the dangerous pesticide was being shipped to Del Monte Pineapple plantations…(were “gifts” involved? Who knows? believe me, there is enough corruption here for all sides to take blame.)

This means that local fish can not be eaten or sold, which is another blow for local poor people.

Sigh.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 

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