SATURDAY, 9th of March 2002. I was in the Varsitarian office doing the usual stuff—editing articles, talking to people, and contemplating. By 4 p.m., we had a Holy Mass.

On that same day up in a courtyard of a trendy cafe in Israel near the West Bank, some steps from Ariel Sharon’s residence, another 20-year-old was doing his usual stuff—talking to his friends and perhaps contemplating hard. It was not actually Fouad Hurani’s usual day because he, together with 11 others, died of bomb explosion. It turned out he was a Palestinian suicide-bomber.

* * *

Last Easter Sunday, while everyone was glued on TV and busy watching the latest news on a male teen star’s sudden death in a resort in Palawan, I, together with Lyn, the Varsitarian features editor, was busy doing our last minute shopping at the Heritage Village in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. We went there to spend our Holy Week in an antillean house along the famous cobblestone road of that city.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, particularly in Bethlehem and the West Bank area, Jews, Arabs, and Christians were also busy running for their lives, if not killing each other.

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On April 22, the world will celebrate Earth Day—a time to pay tribute to the world’s ailing seas, dying forests, and few surviving endangered species.

For us Filipinos, it is a time to count or estimate our remaining untouched resources—an inventory of sorts, for future exploitation. Who else would do that but the people in power, especially the government agencies directly linked to natural resources management and conservation?

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Makibata a success

Since President Macapagal-Arroyo assumed office in 2000, she has not shown clear directions in her government’s environmental program. Her appointment of Heherson Alvarez as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is stalled at the Commission on Appointments.

In my opinion, the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999, promulgated during the time of Estrada, was a very bombastic approach to save the environment. It is a very lame initiative to provide the people clean and healthy air. The intention was good, in fact noble, but the law itself and the implementing procedures are preposterous.

For one, the law states, “the Department (DENR) shall have the authority to issue permits as it may determine necessary for the prevention and abatement of air pollution.” Does that mean the DENR should be blamed for the poor and hazardous zoning in many areas of Metro Manila? In these zones, the residences are situated side by side with the industrial factories emitting hazardous fumes, as the ones in Marikina, Sta. Rosa, Laguna, Cavite, Fairview, and even Antipolo. Who then are displaced, the innocent residents or the businessmen?

It is a pity that the full implementation of the control and monitoring of the emission standards of motor vehicles would only be effective next year. This means the concerned government agency, Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), has still the best excuse not to monitor or penalize smoke belchers. As we wait on that fateful day, let’s expect for Metro Manila to be blanketed in a thick, heavy poisonous smoke. We live in a big gas chamber.

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Visitations in Tuguegarao

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