Decaying bodies at sea, an inflation rate of 11.4%, and a cascade of woes for Filipinos

by

Barely three weeks after the negligent grounding of the Sulpicio Lines ferry at the height of typhoon Frank, a cascade of adverse effects has surfaced adding more injury and pain to untold number of people, near and far from Romblon, the site of the tragedy.

As evidence of negligence surface, decaying bodies float in the sea, making retrieval difficult. As days go by, the burden to identify these bodies has overtaxed the forensic experts, raising anew the lack of preparedness of the nation to tackle a catastrophe of this magnitude.

Relatives of those who died have lost sleep grieving their lost loved ones. They’re confused about their legal rights—what options they have to pursue justice for those who perished. Rather than fight the gargantuan obstacles posed by the sluggish legal system, can they be appeased by measly settlements by the owners of the ferry company? They mull on whether the P200,000 being offered by Sulpicio Lines to each victim is the right compensation for each human life.

A hideous find of toxic insecticide in the sunken ferry has posed problems on how to contain a potential contamination that could sicken people in the area and destroy the livelihood of countless fishermen dependent on the resources of the sea. Time is of the essence. It isn’t easy to remove the 10-ton illegal cargo that’s sitting dangerously in the hull of the Princess of the Stars. Endosulfan (thiodan) is highly dangerous and a significant leakage of the chemical poses destructive possibilities that could last for years. It poses health risks for those working to recover anything from the ill-fated ferry.

Hundreds of miles away, like in poor Bicol villages of Balatan and Pasacao in Camarines Sur, innocent people bear the brunt of the disaster. In Naga City, a sharp drop of fish consumption on fear of contamination has driven down price of fish to 80% below its normal value while the cost of rice rose to 43%.

Before the news of dead bodies floating in Ragay Gulf broke, fish sales were okay. Of the 100 customers who buy here during normal times, you could only have one today who would dare to buy our products,” Corazon Diaz, vendor of Naga City said, dramatizing the immediate impact of dead bodies in the seas to their business even as the Department of Health has officially announced that there was no immediate danger on people’s health. Bicol Mail. (O7/05/08, Escandor, J. Jr.)

Parallel to the damage wrought by storm, the effects of fuel price increases continue to batter the nation. The rainy season has set in and more typhoons and landslides are expected by the weather watcher PAGASA. Mayon volcano in Albay has shown signs of activity which augurs a possible eruption. The dollar exchange which hovers at P45.70 per dollar has weakened, prompting central bank to prop up the currency from further devaluation. In June, the inflation rate has risen to 11.4%, pegging a record high in 14 years.

“The price of rice soared by 43 percent because of growing demand and increased costs of inputs. This means that the rice a consumer bought for P100 in June last year may be had for P143 last month.

Prices of food products included in the Filipino consumer basket rose by 17.4 percent. This means food products that had cost P100 in June last year, cost P117.4 last month.” Inquirer (07.05.08, Remo, M.)

The hideous chain of events is nothing that anyone could have imagined, but it has happened— wrecking havoc to the entire nation. To what extent the public will cope with these calamities (natural or man-made, local or global) is something for now and the future. Certainly, there’s enough blame to spread around, but in this situation, it’s the poor, the young, and elderly who suffer the most. =0=

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