FASTLANES: Hanjin’s brat and our gullibility

Whoever authored that trick of pull-out and dramatized the seeming bawdy and spoiled brat attitude of our Korean friends deserves our grudging respect. Truly wicked but effective.

In the subsequent panic, even President GMA entered the fray and reportedly scolded officials allegedly involved in the controversy. I was in the vicinity of the Lumbia Airport on April 30, 2008 and nobody among the Misamis Oriental officials was smiling when she emerged from a meeting with local officials in the Conference Room of the Philippine Air Force at the Lumbia Airport Complex.

Gives credence to reports that the President was spitting fire and brimstone because of the Hanjin brouhaha. We'll, who wouldn't.

I'll focus this piece on the alleged bribe offer and counter-allegations of extortion, although it definitely would not be surprising if either or both are true.

I'll focus on the environmental issue, which I think Hanjin is starting to gain some notoriety for. It may help to remind us of their mistake of constructing high-rise buildings supposedly for their employees in a protected forest area in Subic, Zambales without first securing the necessary Environmental Compliance Certificate.

It was reported that they threatened to withdraw because, among others, they were having difficulty getting an ECC. It would have been easy to hammer the heads of people in the Environmental Management Bureau of the DENR for this.

But before we get into that, it would now turn out from the records of the DENR that there is no ECC to issue in the first place. EMB officials came out in the open last Tuesday, May 6, that the Environmental Impact Study which would then be the basis for the issuance of the ECC was only submitted to the EMB-10 that day.

Instead of jerking everybody's wit to high heavens, Hanjin should let the consulting group, technically, a third party to explain or better, crack its whip on them by not paying them their fat consultancy fees for lousy work rather than having everyone suffer its spoiled brat fit.

If they cannot follow certain pre-project procedures, HOW CAN WE BE ASSURED THAT THEY WILL BE DILIGENT IN NOT DESTROYING OUR ENVIRONMENT WHEN THEY START OPERATION? HOW CAN THEY BE TRUSTED?

I think Tagoloan Mayor Oloy Emano was right when he issued a work stoppage order because of the absence of an ECC and reportedly local building permits for the project. It was a judicious thing to do. But as they say, what can small potatoes do when the big eggs start to crack their whip and do some arm twisting.

Which reminds me of an experience a few years back when we were in the thick of our campaign against the Global Warming Mindanao Coal-fired Power Plant, also in the Phividec. We opposed its ECC issuance after our independent review of their EIS. We got a call from our friends in the DENR saying "wala na kaming magawa, may blessing na sa taas," pointing to that building by the Pasig River.

The message came with a suggestion to get our contacts in Congress. So we did contact the good Senator Nene Pimentel who promptly filed a resolution in aid of legislation investigating the issuance of an ECC by DENR for the project. It did not get past the Office of the Senate Secretary General whose function is to accept resolutions and assign them numbers.

The difference with the Mindanao Coal-fired Power Plant of Steag though was that its German and Japanese contractors had the courtesy of not starting plant construction before the issuance of the ECC.

…AND WHY CAN'T HANJIN BEHAVE THAT WAY?

But these Korean friends are different. I hope they are not abusing our hospitality and capitalizing on our seeming gullibility. Before they even hit first base in getting that ECC they already threw in their dirty tricks. I hope our EMB officials won't blink. I hope GMA this time, as alleged by those DILG officials investigating the case, will only be fed accurate information and will not spit fire and brimstone again on small political potatoes that have shown little recourse but to hide their tail between their legs. Unless of course they grow eggs (you do the tagalog translation) and stand their ground.

Those 40,000 jobs should not be lost, but not in exchange of our collective rights and the constitutional right of succeeding generations to "live in a sound and healthful environment" that is "in accord with the balance and rhythm of nature."

Every detail, even the minutest one, of their project should be looked into. Not a single entry in their EIS should be neglected. Every negative impact on our fragile environment should be mitigated if not prevented. That plan to divert the Tagoloan River should be looked into incisively and scientifically. The social impact should be studied more carefully.

It is just unfortunate that when Hanjin threatened to pull out, everyone listened and pleaded on bended knees, including our church leaders. But when a desperately impoverished woman set to be dislocated by the project ran out of her mind and jumped to death into a well all that we afforded her was a small sound bite in the news. SAD.

Lastly, Hanjin should behave accordingly and follow our laws. It should not exploit our gullibility due to poverty, but instead behave like a good citizen of the world. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. The writer is an environment advocate and NGO worker based in Cagayan de Oro. Comments can be sent to [email protected])

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