BIODIVERSITY AND TECHNOLOGY ARE ALIEN ISSUES IN THE MAY 2013 PHILIPPINE MIDTERM ELECTIONS

CURRENT SOCIETAL CONCERNS
Elpidio V. Peria
11 May 2013

Perhaps an indicator of how too populist, or low-ambitioned or perhaps simplistic or just plain ignorant our politicians are who campaigned and cajoled voters for this year’s mid-term elections is the absence of any mention of biodiversity and technology in the campaign slogans, jingles or proposed measures of the current crop of Senatoriables, how much more the local officials vying for local-level posts, including those running for Congress.

Perhaps Jack Enrile’s “Mura at Maraming Pagkain” may put to mind the popular “Bahay Kubo” ditty drilled into each Filipino primary grade student’s consciousness and its enumeration of the various kinds of fruits and vegetables imagined in the nipa hut, but his apparently focus-group tested jingle does not even say what is the composition of such plentiful food much less discuss how it may even be achieved.

Alan Peter Cayetano’s “PTK-Presyo, Trabaho, Kita” mantra talks about generalities while Nancy Binay’s vaccination programs speaks of what she may be familiar with when she was a loyal personal assistant of her father, the long-time Mayor of Makati City, now VP, and perhaps a Presidentiable in 2016.

Koko Pimentel’s anti-cheating slogan may be worthwhile, but he always stands in stark contrast to Migs Zubiri, who made the ridiculous claim that he did not know how the cheating in the 2007 elections took place where he inched over Koko for the last and 12th Senate seat, and kept the seat for four years. This Zubiri bimpo (acronym for “batang itinulak ng magulang sa politika, or in English, a child egged on by parents to take on politics, a parallel term for trapo, or traditional politician), seem to take the people for fools, and made that supposed heroic decision to resign back in 2010 to distance himself from the likes of Lintang Bedol, and now is trying to test whether his election before was really done fair and square, without the benefit of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s or was it the First Gentleman’s machinery now. Hopefully, the people are not taken for a ride this time, this Zubiri scion had actually championed a lot of good environmental measures during his time as a legislator in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, though his ads for this election cycle reflects his cacique mentality of giving dole-outs to people by way of infrastructure, education and medical services, without even explaining where he will get the funds to bankroll all these largesse.

Only ex-Magdalo mutineer Antonio Trillanes IV talked about some environment issue, but apparently his staff did not anymore do further research on the topic, he seemed to have cited it in a pro-forma manner as this supposed environment issue is at the backseat over his peace and order and anti-poverty programs.

Sonny Angara, the copycat son of recently-honored (by an honoris causa doctorate degree, by his alma mater, University of the Philippines) Sen. Ed Angara, has kept silent on biotechnology and innovation-related issues, causes espoused by the latter, which may soon be pushed as pet issues of the father’s eponymous think-tank. Perhaps the son is not like the father, or the son is still bent on building his own persona thus the son did not take on the issues championed by the father.

Preacher and ex-detainee Bro. Eddie Villanueva apparently thought long and hard about his proposal to give OFWs and simple workers like maids and taxi drivers a chance to make their earnings be used for productive investments by setting up a bank for these types of people, but even this idea is inspired by a similar concept which he said came from Thailand.

Of all the candidates who spoke about serious issues and serious ideas, only candidate Jamby Madrigal comes close, what with her close advocacy of issues close to environmental activists’ hearts.

Akbayan’s Risa Hontiveros seemed to be qualified to talk about intellectual property rights issues as she championed the Cheap Medicines Act (Republic Act 9502) when she was Congresswoman, but her current campaign blitz focused more in gender-related concerns and deflecting the attacks of anti-RH bill advocates, including its most vociferous champion, the Roman Catholic Church.

Had these candidates asked more from their researchers and advisers, there is a rich lode of ideas and concepts to dazzle the electorate with if biodiversity and technology were used as a handle in their campaign slogans and platforms of government.

The Philippine office of the United Nations Development Program, in a recent government-initiated workshop on determining the roadmap for an appropriate access and benefit-sharing policy from the utilization of a country’s genetic resources (which is a component of biodiversity), estimates something like US$6billion as potential earnings from one biological species alone, of course, this is just a projected number and this has many caveats, but our candidates for public office in their campaigns could have educated also the Filipino electorate about the possibilities of what can be gained from an effective use of what we have, after all, with too many government benefits about to be promised, not one of them has really discussed where will the government find the means or the money to fund all these programs and services.

As regards technology-related issues, the candidates could have discussed ways in which Filipinos may harness its innate creativity, and combined the latent potential of the country’s indigenous knowledge systems from an estimated 110 indigenous peoples’ communities all over the country with our world-class corps of scientists and engineers, surely informal and formal innovations systems could have also produced bright new ideas and products which can be commercialized and thus be a source of new income, again, to fund all these promised governmental goods and services.

Maybe the 2016 election cycle could be better. This election cycle should just be taken as a baseline or a zero starting point.

oOo

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