Issue of February 10, 2019

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If it can be done in Manila Bay, why not Balili River?

People are afraid to have themselves, or their kins, vaccinated because of   scare created by the controversy over the anti-dengue vaccine called dengvaxia. Department of Health Sec. Francisco Duque III admits that there is a low trust rating in the government immunization program and this can be traced on the Dengvaxia scare. Even the Philippine National Police chief says it’s all because of Dengvaxia.

President Rody Duterte urges the public to have themselves and their children vaccinated. But then he might be joking.

Duque blames Public Attorney’s Office Chief Persida Acosta for the Dengvaxia scare. Acosta says “don’t look at me.” Sal Panelo says that Acosta is just doing her job as a lawyer. Kitam nadamay kami pay nga abogado.

Dengvaxia was a dengue vaccine. But measles is not dengue. There is a measles outbreak that is threatening the countryside. Baguio and the Cordillera are not among the areas listed with an outbreak, but doctors nevertheless report an increase of measles cases even locally.

Since measles is not dengue and immunization vaccine against measles is not Dengvaxia, there is no reason to be afraid of measles immunization.

Have your kids vaccinated against measles as soon as possible. Measles can, and in many cases, proved to be deadly. There are already 58 deaths recorded.

It is best that you consult your doctor. And make it fast.

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Lately, the cleanup of Manila Bay has been in the headlines. The fact is, as early as 2008, the Supreme Court, in a case filed by Concerned Residents of Manila Bay, ordered several government departments and agencies to clean the Manila area. And the Court ruled that the cleanup is a continuing obligation of government.

Unfortunately, the decision was not heeded. Lately, the drive to cleanup the Manila Bay has seemingly picked up and now thousands of volunteer individuals and non-government organization want to do their part.

Let us hope that this is not merely a fad, or a ningas cogon reaction. That is the Filipino trait of very enthusiastically starting things, but then quickly losing enthusiasm soon after.

Will people still want to volunteer to clean Manila Bay when media will no longer be there to cover them with TV cameras and newspaper accounts?

But then, of course, Manila Bay is hundreds of kilometers away from us in Baguio. It is not our immediate concern. Many times, in my Constitutional Law class, when we ask students to recite the Manila Bay case and ask them if they have seen Manila Bay or Roxas Boulevard, we still find law students who say they have not seen the place.

No one from Baguio or Benguet can perhaps however claim that they have not seen the Balili River. It is the river that traverses the City of Baguio and La Trinidad and Sablan, Benguet before it goes down to La Union and becomes the Naguilian River.

It is the river where a lot of Baguio wastes find their way. Its tributary creeks are found in Baguio barangays like the Slaughterhouse (St. Niño), New Lucban, Guisad, Honeymoon, Cabinet Hill, and Pacdal. It has been classified as “biologically dead” since 2003.

If we cannot be encouraged to join the cleanup of Manila Bay, would it be impossible for local volunteer groups to clean the Balili River? There is no question that the Balili River is polluted. In a 2018 report however, the Environment Management Bureau states that the Balili River quality has turned from bad to worse.

Volunteers anyone? If it can be done in Manila Bay, why not Balili River?

If it can be done in Boracay, why not Baguio City? But that is another story.

In fairness, that is not to say that efforts have not been exerted by concerned sectors to rehabilitate the river. Various initiatives have been tried. But the problem persists. For example, we have the Balili River System Revitalization Coalition that has focused on the issue. We also have the RIPPLES for Rehabilitation of the Balili River launched in 2017. There is also the 2018 Adopt an Estero program aimed to clean the river through community effort. The target for full rehabilitation is 2030.

That may still be a tall order and we do not think that they would resent every and any help they can get.

Sept. 14 of every year has also been designated as Balili River Day to strengthen the advocacy in rehabilitating and cleaning the river. But as the Supreme Court held in the Manila Bay case, the cleanup, rehabilitation, and maintenance of a natural asset like a bay or a river is a continuing effort, every day of the year. That is why they even invented the legal concept of “continuing mandamus” so that those concerned would not forget and can at any time be compelled to act.

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