VIEW  FROM  THE  PALACE

MANILA
, JULY 30, 2007 (MALACAÑANG) By IGNACIO BUNYE - (For the week ending July 29, 2007) When I was a pre-schooler, one of the favorite nursery rhymes was "Rain, rain, go away, come again another day." But the wish right now is for the rains to come soon. Of course not in the quantities, accompanied by strong winds, which wreaked havoc to most parts of the Philippines late last year.

Water levels have gone down to critical levels in various water reservoirs, threatening to destroy crops if the rains do not come as expected. At this time of the year, we should be having frequent, moderate rains but this is not happening.

Undersecretary Jun Yumul of PAGASA sent me this short explanation.

"The Pacific region is cooling now and is expected to form a La Nina condition. When it is a La Nina in the Pacific Ocean, the waters east of the Philippines are warm. The sea surface temperature is high, which should result to water evaporation and subsequent rain. That is the reason why a La Nina event is characterized by a lot of rains. But that is not what is happening now.

"Due to the presence of high pressure ridge east of Luzon in the Philippine Sea, we have fine weather. The high pressure ridge suppresses the enhancement of the South West monsoon, the formation of rain due to high sea surface temperature along the east coast and the formation of cyclones. The result is dry, summer-like weather. So our dry spell is weird in the sense that it is happening during the rainy season which is supposed to be under a La Nina-like condition. We are not in an El Nino situation.

So what does Undersecretary Yumul recommend?

"Cloud seeding should continue at the moment. The reasons why the water levels in the dams are not increasing are: 1. Clouds seeded have their rain falling in other places other than the dams. 2. The cloud seeding scope is limited, producing small quantities of rain. This is now addressed by employing three planes. 3. The soil is so dry that there is no runoff. All water percolates to the soil."

Yumul hopes that "ultimately runoff will happen and will contribute to the water level."

Meantime, we would all do well by doing our share in conserving the meager water that we have.

*****

During her State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA), President Arroyo made clear that the way to go would be to : Invest, Invest, Invest. Education is one of her key investment areas.

This week, the President launched a special P4-billion education fund for student loans, business-funded training, and SUC (state universities & colleges) expansion under the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). She made this announcement before officers and members of the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF) which held its 2007 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Expo at the Hotel Sofitel along Roxas Boulevard in Manila.

The President also announced that in the next three years, her administration will also be investing P3 billion in engineering research and development technology to achieve a critical mass of R&D-capable manpower over the next three years.

It should be noted that the UNESCO Institute for Statistics recommends for developing countries a population ratio of researchers, scientists and engineers of 340 per million population. Our country has some catching up to do with its current ratio of only 48 per million. In the next three years, we will be investing P3 billion in engineering research and development technology to achieve a critical mass of R&D capable manpower. Seven universities comprising the engineering research and development technology consortium will offer scholarships for masters and doctoral degree programs in all fields of engineering.

The President is a firm believer that knowledge is the "greatest creator of wealth" in today’s global economy and as she said in her SONA last Monday "indeed, a sound education is the best inheritance we can leave our children -- something that cannot be taken from them." Thus, the next three years will see an unprecedented, well-thought out and firm commitment of unstinting effort and generous funding for better schools, higher teacher pay, more scholarships for gifted students, and better English language training. We can expect increased public investment in the physical, intellectual, legal and security infrastructure to increase business confidence that will generate more and better paying employment, greater access to better schools and better-paying methods, quality textbooks, better and better-paid teachers, more scholarships for deserving students, and recapturing the lead we lost in English proficiency.

*****

Environment would also be another area for investment. In President Arroyo’s address during the 'Trees for Life: 20 million seedlings for planting" at the La Mesa Watershed, she remarked that we are no longer called upon to make the conventional choice between economic development or the environment. We must choose both, she said, and we must choose them now

The President’s remarks at that occasion virtually spell out one of the major tasks awaiting incoming Energy Secretary Angie Reyes and incoming DENR Secretary Lito Atienza. The message is Plant. Plant. Plant. Until we hit 20 million trees by the end of the year.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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