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The Philippines need an NTSB

While there is a proposal by no less than Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to create the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) that he mentioned to Congress during his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) which supposedly would put the present government agencies, notably the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) under the DDM, this is up to Congress to determine which government agencies should fall under the DDM.

However, what I gathered is that top government scientists have expressed opposition to the planned transfer of two attached agencies of the DOST to the proposed DDM. These are the Phivolcs and PAGASA, which are both attached to the DOST.

Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña clearly stated that he was not in favor of placing PAGASA and Phivolcs under DDM’s jurisdiction.

I totally agree that both PAGASA and Phivolcs should be independent government agencies because technically, they are not involved in managing disasters. Pres. Duterte was looking at following what the US has with their FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) which falls under the US Homeland Defense. We saw FEMA in action during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the many hurricanes that struck places like Houston, Texas, New Orleans and many in Florida. Clearly what FEMA does is literally to move people away from disaster areas, which for me is not the job of Phivolcs and PAGASA whose job is to warn people of potential disasters.

Incidentally while we’re at it…if there is anything that Congress ought to create and soon, it is what the Air Safety Foundation of the Philippines (ASFP) has always wanted for this country…. The creation of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Right now the ASFP is headed by my good friend president Amado Soliman and my good friend Bobby Joseph is a director of this body. Perhaps you may ask why do we need an NTSB?

A few years back, when a Cebu Pacific plane landed in Davao City, and due to strong winds and rain it went off the runway and its landing gear was stuck in the mud, airline operations in Davao Airport had to be cancelled. The following day, a top official of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) came up with a statement that landed in the front pages of newspapers that what happened in Davao City was “pilot error”! How could a CAAP official issue such a reckless statement when they haven’t even started investigating that incident yet?

That same CAAP official also said the same thing when my good friend, the late Capt. Jessup Bahinting crashed his twin engine Seneca plane, as they were about to land in Masbate. The plane was still underwater when the CAAP official stated that it was pilot error that caused the crash. Again, such premature judgment by CAAP is unacceptable, but then it happened during the Presidency of PNOY Aquino, III who would say anything against the men under his administration no matter how wrong they were.

Mind you, the NTSB is need for incidents in the Aviation industry, Marine disaster and Buses in Land Transportation and I dare say that since the previous occupants in Malacañang never found a reason to prioritize this law… may we therefore ask House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to fast track the creation of the NTSB under her watch as a way of proving that despite her short stint in Congress, she can still have laws approved under her watch, contrary to what her detractors are saying.

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We wrote extensively last Tuesday about the Philippine-American War of the turn of the Century, which got worse when Filipino patriots literally massacred US soldiers of Company C of the 9th US Infantry Regiment station in Samar… and killed 48 Americans and wounding 22 of the 78 men in that unit. This became known as the Balangiga Massacre, which Filipinos in Samar suffered greatly in the hands of US General Jacob J. Smith who ordered the USS New York to go to Samar and turn it into a “Howling Wilderness”, which is now part of Philippine history with our war vs. America.

However we just learned that elected officials from Wyoming oppose that plans to return church bells seized as war trophies from the Philippines over a century ago. However on the plus side, we also learned that US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last Saturday signed documents favoring the return of the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines. At this point, we’ll just wait when finally the US Government would make good its proposal to return the Balangiga Bells back to the church in Balangiga, Samar.

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For email responses to this article, write to vsbobita@gmail.com. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.

Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com

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