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First things first

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - November 28, 2020 - 12:00am

Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson has started carving the budget turkey. The administration’s COVID-19 health and economic recovery programs are acknowledged as top priority. So why shouldn’t the General Appropriations Act reflect this?

The 2021 budget theme is easily understood: Reset, Rebound, Recover. So, to his project of incision. 1st slice, DPWH. P60 billion for “useless” multi-purpose buildings. Seemingly unbuildable buildings, eternally in construction, some of which have already been funded by the recipient local government units. Also, double appropriations and overlapping projects. The DPWH has appropriations to construct school buildings when the same is already inserted in the DepEd budget.

2nd slice: P500 million from the National Irrigation Administration owing to “implementation issues.” The senator has labelled the interminable delays in construction of irrigation projects as a “wastage of public funds.” Some projects are delayed up to seven years. Take the Balog-Balog Multipurpose Project. Already P7.7 billion has been poured into it since 2017 and it’s still incomplete. The COA itself finds the NIA’s performance appalling.

The forest for the trees. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources national greening project is of the same mold. His 3rd slice is to realign P2.5 billion. Billions are poured into this program to insure that enough trees are planted to regrow our forest cover. But where are the trees? We continue to fund a program which has failed to meet its target year on year. It’s like creating your own black hole.

The senator would propose the realignment of these funds as assistance to local governments for disaster response, the DICT national broadband program and free WiFi, flexible learning options in the educational system, Universal Health Care, among others.

Last Thursday, the Senate approved on 3rd and final reading their version of the P4.5-trillion budget bill more “responsive” to the pandemic. By next week’s conference committee, we will know if Sen. Lacson’s carvings had any effect on the turkey. In the meantime, Thanksgiving is on hold.

Burning questions. Once again we asked my brother Prof. Macky Maceda, Sustainability Director of Enderun Colleges, for his inputs on the burning questions that came to mind upon seeing the devastation caused by Typhoon Ulysses: How bad is the climate crisis and how much worse will it affect our country?

“Climate researchers recently published a scientific study that it is too late to prevent global warming… Even if we are somehow able to stop burning fossil fuels, average global temperatures will continue to rise the next few centuries due to the long-lasting greenhouse gas effect around the planet.

This is truly alarming. Only a year ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested that we still have a “remaining” carbon budget that can be absorbed by the atmosphere over the next eight years as we shift to clean, renewable energy systems. We recall Greta Thunberg at the United Nations 2019 Climate Action Summit. She urged world leaders to listen to the science and said: “Right here, right now, is where we draw the line.” Well, we are well past that line now. The climate models continue to be revised and seem to show worse predictions. The tipping points fall like dominoes, the feedback loops kick in and the world will get hotter every year – for generations to come.

So let’s take heed and take it seriously. The climate crisis is real and will be the defining challenge of humankind well into the future. The planet will survive but we won’t.

Here in our archipelago, expect at a minimum: (1) stronger and more frequent super typhoons crossing through Luzon, unlike previous decades when typhoons usually veer northward as they approach Bicol; (2) rising sea levels that will slowly make coastal areas uninhabitable, including parts of Manila, Bulacan, etc.; (3) prolonged summer heat waves and droughts that pose danger to human health, exacerbate the water crisis and put further stress on our agricultural communities; (4) climate-caused migration from waterless areas and from submerged coastal barangays; (5) coral reef die-offs that will make our fisherfolk’s lives even harder.

The Filipino people are resilient. Yes we are, we have to be. But don’t mention that to the families who have lost lives, livelihoods and property from the worsening impacts of this climate crisis.”

The death of Maradona. Until Diego Maradona came along, only one athlete transcended football’s popularity to become a cult unto himself. That man was Brazil’s Pelé. Fluidity on field, passion for the game and unparalleled athleticism and imagination, Pelé was anti-thesis to the less exciting team approach which dominated the European leagues and everywhere else the sport was played. Bursting individual talent is simply irrepressible. Pelé displayed a skill never before seen and never again matched in his generation.

It took another generation, the globalization of the sport and a second undeniable, once in a lifetime talent to ignite a debate on who was the greatest ever. It was Diego Maradona of Argentina (born two years after Pelé’s first World Cup) who joined Pelé on that stage. Like Pelé, Maradona was sui generis. In his prime, no one could match him, outplay or defend him. What added to his greatness was how he was able to carry his team to victory, much like Pelé. He inspired his team and transformed them into better players. 
Both these legends made their names in the biggest arena, the World Cup. Pelé was the only player to be on three winning teams. Maradona’s teams won one World Cup but his brilliance in Argentina’s Championship run is acknowledged as the best individual World Cup performance in history.

To the current generation, Pelé and Maradona are mere blasts from the past. We live in the era of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, names that are by-words wherever football is enjoyed. But the sport that made them had long been made by those that came before. Pelé is still with us but the passing of Maradona deprives us of one more link to the rich history of football, to those instrumental in making the “beautiful game” a part of our lives.

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