The official line-A A +A
Friday, October 25, 2013
I GOT a chance to talk with Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella weeks ago in a gathering that we both attended. I asked him about his effort to reach out to the majority in the Cebu City Council where he is the presiding officer. I am referring to the councilors identified with the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK).
“Have they mellowed?” I asked him. “Ni-mellow,” he answered.
But the word “mellow” is relative. Recently, Mayor Michael Rama proposed a supplemental budget of P256 million and the BOPK councilors only approved around half of it or P125 million, using the same stock reason that the Cebu City Government does not have money.
If the BOPK councilors really “mellowed,” then P125 million is proof of that “mellowing.” Meaning that if they hadn’t “mellowed” then they would have passed a budget even smaller than what Rama proposed.
Still, this shows that the BOPK councilors have struck to their guns. They have not veered away from the original “plan” which is to give the mayor skin and bones budget and deprive him of the ability to implement major projects so he won’t come up smelling roses in 2016.
In times of calamities, it is always good to err in favor of official pronouncements by concerned government agencies. This is one lesson I learned when I was still green behind the ears as a journalist.
On this, I remember the case of a news reader of a popular TV newscast who relied too much on the information accessed from a foreign source. It reached the point that when a storm threatened to enter the Philippine area of responsibility, he would come up with a weather forecast different from that of the country’s weather bureau Pagasa.
Since the newscast was popular throughout the country, this resulted in confusion that affected preparation for the entry of storms. I think the news anchor was eventually prevailed upon to stop making his forecast, which was based on data provided by foreign meteorologists.
In the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that devastated Bohol and affected some structures in Cebu, some people have come up with analyses based on information accessed from foreign sources through the internet and from supposed geologists.
The problem is when these information or analyses are not consistent with the official information and analyses made by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).
For example, the official analysis of Phivolcs is that what has been hitting us the past days since last week’s major temblor are aftershocks. A Phivolcs geologist said this is because the latter tremors occurred within the same area as the main shock.
But some sectors insisted that some of the aftershocks that were particularly strong were not aftershocks but separate earthquakes. While they may think that Phivolcs is inept, this does not mean that we would be overruling Phivolcs seismologists. That would result in anarchy.
The same can be true for studies made by “independent” geologists no matter how advanced their knowledge about earthquakes are. Their claims, like the one about south Cebu being “vulnerable,” still need to be made official by checking with Phivolcs’ own analysis.
I remember watching an interview of a Phivolcs official over ANC about the fault discovered in Bohol after last week’s quake. He said the agency is studying the pattern of the aftershocks but that he was more interested with the aftershocks’ pattern on the day the major quake struck because it gives a better picture of the newly discovered fault. The “centers” of the aftershocks that day were confined in Bohol.
Still, that does not mean we must not be forewarned. As the Negros Oriental and Bohol quakes have shown us, we can be vulnerable even if the faults that move exist far from Cebu. What I am just saying is that the better option is to rely on official information and analyses of tremors.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 25, 2013.