Wednesday, March 23, 2011


In the wake of an impending nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, the debate  about rehabilitating and reopening the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is getting hot once more like exposed fuel rods in a nuclear reactor. Should we go nuclear or not? What are the benefits and the disadvantages? Are the benefits greater than the disadvantages or otherwise?
Here's my two cents on the issue.
As Occam's Razor has always stated: "It is vain to do with more, what can be done with less", therefore, we should not spend more for an endeavor which may open a can of worms in the future and could cause damage to the country far greater than the endeavor's advantages to our people.
The plant has been mothballed for 25 years. While designed and built to the best of standards by the Westinghouse Corporation, imagine what 25 years of weathering, wear and tear could do even to such a structure of great design and construction. Even the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, which was designed to withstand earthquakes, did not anticipate the blow the tsunami has given it during the Great Sendai Earthquake. To reopen the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant and make it completely safe from all man-made or natural catastrophes will have to entail a huge amount of money which will be paid once more by the suffering masses who are already reeling from billions in national debt from previous administrations. Let us not add insult to their injury.

And even if we rehabilitate this plant to withstand any natural catastrophe, how about human error? Have we considered that there is always room for error in the operation of a nuclear power plant? Aside from Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island, there have been other nuclear disasters in history that have been caused by mere operational glitches: the Windscale Fire at Sellafield Nuclear Power Plant in England, the Chalk River Accident in Canada, and the Tokaimura Nuclear Accident in Japan, plus a dozen more. Sure we can train our personnel to be more careful and efficient, but this the first time the Philippines will be venturing in nuclear energy, let alone handle nuclear technology. There will be birth pains and operational errors which will cost our environment (because of contaminated natural resources) and the taxpayers (because of the costs of cleaning up radioactive material leaked in the environment). In our venture with nuclear energy, no matter how cheap our electricity will be, the costs of rehabilitating a dilapidated nuke plant as well as the costs of rehabilitating the environment and the public in case of a nuclear accident will always be shouldered by the taxpayers.

Therefore, is there any argument far greater than the costs of nuclear energy to our coffers and our environment? I guess there is none. Thus, I conclude that the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant should not be opened. There are other cleaner, safer and cheaper alternatives out there whose advantages to our environment and our people weigh heavier than the costs. Our politicians and experts should spend more money, time and effort considering these alternatives than wasting our time opening a can of worms. TSS

Sunday, March 20, 2011

ODYSSEY DAWN: NATO forces begin attacks on Libya

UPDATED (March 20, 2011 -- 8:00 AM Manila Time) -- In a move done almost in the nick of time, NATO Coalition Forces finally attacked Libyan air defenses of Saturday to enforce a No-Fly Zone resolution established by the United Nations Security Council on Friday. NATO members France, United Kingdom, Italy, Canada and the United States gathered its forces in an operation dubbed as Odyssey Dawn and launched aircraft and missile attacks against Libyan air defenses in the cities of Tripoli and Misrata. At least 20 aircraft from UK and France are involved in the operation, while the US provided ship support through the use of 2 destroyers, 2 amphibious assault ships, a command-and-control ship and a submarine. Canada provided surveillance for the operation while Italy allowed its air bases in Sicily to be the forward base of the operation.

The strikes are meant to clear the area for ground troops from NATO and Arab League members to enter the country and create a buffer zone between forces of the Libyan opposition and Col. Muammar Gadhafi's military. On Thursday, Gadhafi forces came at around 160 miles from the rebel stronghold city of Benghazi after a week of offensives which greatly crushed the rebel's numbers and morale. France, fearing that civilians in Benghazi will be the target of Gadhafi's wrath, urged the UN Security Council to finally vote on a much anticipated No-Fly Zone resolution over Libya. 10 UNSC members voted in favor of the resolution while Russia, China, India, Brazil and Germany chose to abstain. The UNSC resolution orders all its members to provide "all necessary means" to protect the citizens of Libya against Col. Gadhafi's forces.

THE TWO FACES OF THE LIBYAN CIVIL WAR. On the left, Libyan opposition supporters celebrate in Benghazi on Friday after the declaration of a No-Fly Zone. On the right, Gadhafi loyalists in a rally in Tripoli on Thursday. (AP)

Libyans in Benghazi celebrated on Friday night with fireworks and street parties upon hearing news of the UN resolution. Col. Gadhafi meanwhile remains defiant in the face of imminent backlash from Western coalition forces, stating that in a radio message that "Libyans will fight back against undeserved naked agression", and called on "all people of the Islamic nations and Africa, and Latin America and Asia, stand with the Libyan people in its fight against this aggression". Gadhafi has declared a ceasefire Friday night in response to the UN resolution by eyewitnesses on the ground say that his forces continued to advance on Saturday, pommeling Benghazi with mortar fire.

ARMED AND READY. French Rafale fighter jets prep up in Sicily, Italy for Operation Odyssey Dawn (left) while an opposition jet fighter is shot down and crashes in Benghazi (right)/Courtesy: AP

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented on Gadhafi's defiance in the face of world condemnation. "The Gadhafi regime has lost all of its legitimacy," she stated from Paris after a meeting between leaders of the coalition forces. The United States is cautious about its participation in Odyssey Dawn as it tries to distance itself from getting deeply involved in another Muslim country just like it did in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hence, it allowed for more participation from UK, France and other NATO members and has included at least two Arab League members to participate to give the operation a distinct Arabic signature. Odyssey Dawn came almost late as Libyans were anticipating a Western intervention earlier in its civil war against Gadhafi forces.

Sources: The Associated Press and CNN.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Nuclear energy is a form of energy created when atoms of two particles bombard each other and produces a chemical reaction. For the past 80 years, humanity has found ways to harness this form of energy to power its many activities --- electric power generation, vehicle propulsion and even as weapons of mass destruction.

There is no question as to how nuclear energy has benefited humanity. A lot of countries nowadays rely on this source of energy at a time when the prices of oil commodities are hiking up due to conflict in the Arab region. As compared to oil, nuclear energy can be produced in great quantities with just a small amount of fuel such is uranium or plutonium. For countries who have a plentiful supply of this element, either through natural supply or importation, they have managed to produce a steady and cheap supply of energy to power their countries economic growth. Nations such as the United States, Russia, China, Japan, United Kingdom and many more are having a nuclear renaissance.

Why can't the Philippines?

The first person to actually ask that question is former dictator President Ferdinand Marcos. In the wake of rising oil prices in the 70s due to the rise of Pan-Arabism and international terrorist networks as well as the Arab-Israeli Wars, President Marcos decided that its high time the country ventures into using nuclear energy for power generation. And thus, at Morong, Bataan, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) was born. Worth $2.2 billon, the plant was built by American company Westinghouse and was completed in 1983. However, President Marcos' overthrow during the EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986 has stalled the plant's opening and operation. It was eventually mothballed after the 1987 Constitution instituted a ban on nuclear technology in the country both for military or peaceful purposes, motivated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the USSR a year earlier. Since then, the plant is under the care and maintenance of the Napocor for a cost of Php 40 million a year, aside from its debt of Php 21.2 billion in loans which was fully paid in April 2007.

Now that oil and gas prices are going up once more, triggering a domino effect of prices hikes in transportation fares and basic commodities, is it high time that we reconsider the option of nuclear energy for electric power generation? Former Congressman Mark Cojuangco believe so. In 1998, he set forward a bill in the House of Representatives calling on Congress to rehabilitate the mothballed plant so that it can pay on its own for the costs of its construction. He also reasoned that the plant could end the country's reliance on expensive and unclean fossil fuels to power our electric grids and lessen the consumers' burden of paying high electricity rates. He wants Congress to allocate the necessary funds to rehabilitate the plant ($800 million according to the Department of Energy in 2008). However, even after his term ended, the bill didn't push through. Nevertheless, Cojuangco is still adamant that the proposal will be considered in the future.

In the wake of an impending nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, the debate is getting hot once more like exposed fuel roads in a nuclear reactor. Should we go nuclear or not? What are the benefits and the disadvantages? Are the benefits greater than the disadvantages or otherwise? (To be continued)

Monday, March 14, 2011


Courtesy: Kyodo News Agency

The recent M8.9 earthquake which shook Japan on Friday is something Philippine officials should be bothered about. If the next big quake occurs in the country, especially in Metro Manila, earthquake experts are saying that we are unprepared and the country's cities could crumble if this big quake strikes.

THE CASE OF JAPAN. In Japan, a country that is so used to earthquakes and have been preparing for the big one in recent decades, seismology experts are still awed by the power and the extent of damage the recent earthquake caused. Years of research in earthquake-proofing were laid to waste as it was no match to brunt of the tsunami which swept the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. Heavy seas pushed 6-10 kilometers inland, inundating trees, cars, houses and roads on its way. Even in a country whose response to natural disasters have been quick and highly organized, there are still problems.

If it could happen to Japan, it could also happen to the Philippines. Our country lies along major earthquake faults, some of which lies along major cities and could potentially shake in the future.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Reactor No.1 after the explosion. Reuters/Tepco
UPDATED (As of 8:30 PM, Manila Time) 

Okuma, Japan -- Officials at an embattled nuclear power plant in the northeast of Japan are desperately trying to cool down a nuclear reactor in the brink of a possible meltdown after a failed shutdown in the wake of Friday's devastating M8.9 earthquake. According to officials from the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), cooling systems at another reactor inside the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant also failed hours after an explosion at reactor no. 1 occurred, stoking fears of a meltdown. The company has clarified that the explosion was caused not by a meltdown, but by hydrogen gas which formed after workers pumped seawater in the superheated reactor to cool it down. The hydrogen gas was allowed to escape in order to relieve pressure inside the reactor causing the explosion which destroyed the reactor's concrete housing but not the reactor itself.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Day Japan Stood Still

UPDATED (as of March 12, 2011 7:30 PM, Philippine time) -- Japan, one of the fast-paced countries in the world, with its rapidly growing economy, rapid transport system and rapidly evolving technological society has stood still in the wake of the most powerful earthquake to hit the country in 100 years. The magnitude 8.9 earthquake occurred at 2:46 PM (local time) of March 11, 2011, some 150 kilometers off the coast of Sendai city in Miyagi prefecture. The quake, which damaged homes, buildings, roads, train systems, power plants and power lines was followed soon after by a 23-feet (10-meter) high tsunami which surged inland bringing with it debris of homes, farms and shipping -- some even burning after being washed away by waves of tremendous force.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami slams Japan after 8.9 magnitude quake

UPDATED (As of March 11, 2011 10:20 PM, Philippine Time) -- It almost seemed as if you're watching scenes from a disaster movie as Japanese national broadcaster NHK showed scenes of the tsunami wrecking havoc in Miyagi prefecture after a strong magnitude 8.9 earthquake which struck Japan at 2:35 PM (local time). The earthquake occured undersea, 150 kilometers off the coast of Sendai city and was felt as far as the capital Tokyo.

In videos and pictures provided by NHK, office equipment and fixtures were seen shaking and tumbling as the tremors rocked Sendai City. People were seen rushing out of buildings or going on rooftops. Some buildings were also seen on fire with emergency response units desperately trying to put the fires out. A few minutes later, the worst occurs as footage of the deadly tsunami is shown entering the port of Kamaishi in Iwate prefecture, washing away cars, yachts and warehouses into the city center. According to the US Geological Survey, as high as 10-meter waves hit cities in the northeast of the country, as shown in footages that followed soon after from Sendai. Farms, houses, vehicles -- some even on fire -- were pushed away by rapidly moving water from the sea. Some vehicles in highways are seen turning back, while others were simply caught without warning. From the helicopter footages, you can see how powerful this tsunami is.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Flaws" and "Perspectives" in Philippine History

Window or Balcony? It does look like a window, but historians at that time would be reminded of balcony as the balusters in the Aguinaldo window resemble European-style balconies.
I was reading Definitely Filipino today and the article of Philippine History and its Flaws by Marc Neil D. Valenciano got my attention.

Apparently, Mr. Valenciano is upset at why alleged errors in Philippine history have not been corrected by the Department of Education. Errors he presented in his paper included the use of H. Otley Beyer's Wave Migration Theory as the basis for the peopling of the Philippines, the declaration Dr. Jose Rizal as national hero of the Philippines, the true nature of prehistoric beliefs held by Filipinos, even the question whether Aguinaldo proclaimed independence from a balcony or a window.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Don't Give Women A Bad Name

I almost forgot the March is Women's Month. What usually comes into my mind around this part of the year is the scorching heat and constant talk of numerous fires in the metro which has earned this month another moniker as the Fire Prevention Month. But I ain't talking about fires in this post. Not yet. I wanted to give tribute to women in society for this article. However, I don't want to it to sound cliche like they do in women's magazine, like "Ms. Tapia, defender of women's rights. Blah..blah..blah..." I don't want anything like that for a Women's Month special.

We've always heard of women who have made big contributions to society through their talent, services, and convictions. Women like Heidi Mendoza, who defied corruption within her agency to expose high-level embezzlement of public funds in the military institution; Danica Magpantay, whose sheer Filipina beauty landed her as the first Filipina to be declared winner of the Ford Supermodel of the Year; or former Secretary of Health Esperanza Cabral, who despite pressure from the Catholic Church, has continued to lobby for the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill.

But not all women are like these people I mentioned. The freedom which women enjoy since the introduction of women's suffrage at the turn of the century has created not just conscientious, liberated, and strong-willed women but has also spawned some bad, scrupulous femme fatales. Here are just some of the women who have given women a bad name:
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