Philex Mining's voluntary move
SPY BITS (The Philippine Star) - August 7, 2012 - 12:00am

Philex Mining Corp.’s handling of the accidental discharge of water and sediment from its tailings pond in Padcal Mine in Benguet can serve as a template for crisis management. The company voluntarily suspended its operations, notified the local government and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau about the situation, then called the media for a press briefing in its office in Pasig last Friday. In short, the company took the bull by the horns – instead of engaging in “evasion tactics” that other companies would have preferred to do.

Philex senior vice president for corporate communications Mike Toledo described the situation as “a defining moment,” saying that a company’s true test of strength does not come in times of prosperity but during times of crisis, such as the one they are facing at the moment. By facing the media and answering their questions, Manny Pangilinan and his “emergency response team” set the tone and averted speculations that could have made people conclude the worst. Company officials assuaged fears about the possible effects of the spill on the environment, in particular the Agno River, saying that the discharge from the pond is biodegradable and non-toxic.

No doubt the decision to cease operations in the mine was distressing considering that the country’s biggest gold producer stands to lose up to P40 million in revenue per day. But MVP was adamant, saying they are more concerned about fixing the problem first rather than focusing on the revenues. MVP also disclosed that the company has sent word to buyers and other stakeholders that deliveries scheduled for September will most likely not be met since a turnaround time of one month is necessary.

But more importantly, the company has announced its commitment to restore the environment, and provide restitution to anyone who may be affected by the incident – a move that was hailed by the Chamber of Mines. The company’s decision to take responsibility was a brilliant move, a source from the Chamber informed Spy Bits, saying they were glad to see that the crisis is being managed responsibly – with the safety of the environment and the communities being prioritized over profit.

Brother Mike’s show of force

Congress will be deciding today if it will wrap up the debate on the very controversial Reproductive Health Bill or not – with the outcome being closely watched by both the pro- and anti-RH bill groups. Aside from Catholic Church leaders, among those who have been very vocal in their opposition include brother Mike Velarde, the servant-leader of the El Shaddai Catholic Charismatic group.

Last Saturday, some 11,000 people braved the inclement weather to stage a prayer rally at the EDSA Shrine to show their resistance to the proposed bill, with most of the attendees belonging to Brother Mike’s El Shaddai group. The prayer rally group was just a very small portion of the regular number of people who attend the prayer rallies of Brother Mike, who did not mince his words when he warned politicians that, “Those for life will live and their political life will succeed. Those who vote for the RH bill – you know what will happen. R.I.P. (Rest in peace),” he declared.

The religious leader also reminded President Noy about the words of his father, Ninoy Aquino, who once said that “Filipinos are worth dying for.” Ninoy did not say “Filipinos are worth killing for,” Brother Mike said. Brother Mike and the Catholic Church leaders have openly declared war against RH bill supporters, with the CBCP telling their Catholic faithful to vote only for pro-life candidates particularly those who are seeking Congressional seats.

As the saying goes, the gloves are off.

IRRI’s flood-resistant rice

Every year, the country loses an average of 618,000 tons of rice due to typhoons with regular rice varieties unable to survive being submerged in floodwaters for more than four days. However, there seems to be a solution with the so-called “submarino” or “scuba” rice variety developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Laguna.

According to experts, the rice variety can grow and survive even after two weeks of submergence in water. Apparently, other countries like India and Vietnam are collaborating with IRRI for the field testing of this variety (known as Swarna variety in India) – with these countries very hopeful that the “submarino” will provide the solution to the millions of tons of rice lost due to floods, incessant rains and typhoons. In fact, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are funding IRRI’s research – in tandem with the Indian government – for the field testing of the Swarna variety.

The IRRI has been at the forefront of revolutionary research/experiments involving rice yield and production – and it would just be very unfortunate if like in the past, beneficiaries of their expertise will be other countries instead of the Philippines. Perhaps it will not be a bad idea for Congress to consider allocating more funds to the research institute – whose work is being recognized and appreciated by other nations and private organizations. After all, we want to be rice sufficient by 2013, don’t we?

Spy tidbit

Our fellow STAR columnist Billy Esposo will be launching his book, “Surviving Chronic Kidney Disease: The Billy Esposo Kidney Diaries” on Aug. 17 at Powerbooks in Greenbelt 4. In the book, Billy chronicles his saga with chronic renal disease via his journals that are written with wit and humor which readers, especially those who are also afflicted with the same condition, will find inspiring.

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