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Opinion

Zaporizhzhia

FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

This is a nightmare.

Over the last few days, some shelling was reported in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex. It is not clear who is firing at whom. What is clear is that if any of the six reactors in this complex is hit, the world will be in for another Chernobyl-type calamity.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex is the largest in the world. Ukraine depends on the complex for electricity. So does Russia. A few months ago, Russian troops occupied the complex, holding the personnel working there at gunpoint and forcing them to put in long hours way beyond what safety protocols recommend.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the UN called for an end to all military activities in the complex that endanger nuclear security. The foreign ministers of the G-7 countries called on Russia to immediately withdraw from the site. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the situation at the complex could lead to disaster.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accuses Russia of using nuclear blackmail not only against his country but against all of Europe. Kiev claims that the Russians have stationed artillery units in the shadow of the nuclear reactors to shell neighboring cities under Ukrainian control. Skirmishes have been going on in the vicinity of this giant nuclear complex.

The rest of the world can only watch developments around the Zaporizhzhia complex with horror. We know what happened in Chernobyl when an accident happened in the Soviet-era nuclear power plant just north of Kiev. Radiation leaking from the plant blew into Western Europe. The Chernobyl plant has been sealed for decades but radioactivity remains high.

When Russian troops crossed the border from Belarus last February, they occupied the Chernobyl plant. The soldiers kicked up a lot of radiation sloshing around the forests surrounding the abandoned plant. The level of radioactivity around the Chernobyl plant remains lethal.

We know what happened in Fukushima after a tsunami hit the nuclear complex there. A leak of radioactive material happened. The nearby city had to be abandoned.

In Zaporizhzhia, a stray missile hitting a reactor would be calamitous. Since wind patterns in the area generally flow eastward, the fallout will affect Russia. It could force southern Ukraine and many Russia cities across the border to be uninhabitable. In a really serious leak, radioactive material could circle the globe, sparing no one.

Everyone concerned about nuclear safety has pleaded with Moscow. But the Putin government seems immune to the pleas.

Meanwhile, the whole world is forced to sit in the shadow of a nuclear calamity that will require thousands of years to clean up.

Anti-dumping

Unlike sugar, our domestic industry produces more than enough cement the country needs to power its economic expansion. According to the Cement Manufacturer’s Association of the Philippines (CEMAP), the country now has 47 million tons of domestic capacity.

This is way above current market demand. We are in no danger of supply shortages of this particular manufacture even as government ramps up its infra modernization program.

Over the past few years, Filipino cement makers have been investing billions in building new plants using cutting edge technology. These investments created thousands of jobs and contributed to the national coffers by way of corporate and individual taxes.

Unlike sugar, too, government does not seem too keen to protect the domestic industry from the existential threat posed by dumped imports, particularly from Vietnam. The billions in Filipino investments, the thousand of jobs and the revenues that flow to national coffers are threatened by unabated dumping of cement products.

Free trade is one thing. Dumping is another.

Free trade rewards the more efficient. It also rewards the consumer with lower prices for goods. Therefore it pushes up growth and advances economic development.

Dumping, on the other hand, rewards the unscrupulous. It attacks export markets not by superior efficiency but by other considerations, such as excess production, resulting in damage to the importing country’s industrial base.

There are many examples in history that demonstrate how failure to combat dumping could lead to an economy’s decline. Both Paul Kennedy in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers and Paul Chandler’s Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism point out the case of Britain.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Britain’s industrial power was uncontested. During what is now called the First Industrial Revolution, British heavy industry was unchallenged.

But the country was so confident in its industrial might, it ignored dumping by other economies. As a consequence, Britain’s heavy industry did not generate enough to invest in the industries of the Second Industrial Revolution such as electrical products, specialty steel, industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals. The country that once ruled the waves went into chronic decline.

CEMAP cites this case to argue for more trade remedies to counter dumping by Vietnamese manufacturers. The remedies should ultimately promote a level playing field that will benefit the country through job creation, taxes, investments and unwarranted imports. These imports, it must be said, add to the dollar drain that makes the peso weak.

Our economic recovery can only be powered by a robust and competitive manufacturing sector. This will create jobs, open new economic opportunities and contribute to government’s coffers. Our policies ought to be precise and adept to build our industrial base.

Dumping, on the other hand, will kill local jobs, discourage new investments and limit public revenues. This cannot possibly be the way to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

IAEA

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