Gag order a mistake

September 8, 2006


Manila Standard Today
Sept. 8, 2006

THE government’s decision to bar regional disaster coordinating councils from disseminating news about the Guimaras oil spill is ill advised and gives the public the impression that the authorities have something to hide.

In announcing that only the National Disaster Coordinating Council may speak on the ecological disaster, the presidential adviser for Western Visayas, Rafael Coscolluela, was quoted as saying that “different variations of news being reported…do not give a positive picture of Guimaras.”

This statement is as silly as it is absurd. The “variations of news” is a feature of an unfettered press. Nobody—save perhaps an aspiring dictator—wishes a return to the days when the same stories appeared on the front pages of all the dailies. If there are differences in the way the news is reported, we believe that eventually, the reading public will be able to discern which newspapers are credible, and which others play fast with the facts.

Moreover, nobody has “a positive picture” of Guimaras because a tanker has been sitting on the ocean floor for almost a month now, spewing its toxic cargo of bunker fuel into the Panay Gulf. To date, we have been powerless to do anything but contain the oil slick that has polluted shorelines, fishing grounds, mangroves, corals and marine preserves. This is certainly not a “positive picture.” How could it be?

Worse, the Palace’s gag order comes just as questions are being raised about the Coast Guard’s plan to hire a Norwegian ship to siphon off the oil buried in the tanker. The story was first leaked, then denied, then confirmed again. Why? Is the government trying to hide something? These are the questions that will invariably be asked if the authorities are not forthcoming about their plans.

The best way to deal with a disaster of this magnitude is to be completely transparent. Only then will everyone—including the public—pull in the same direction to get Guimaras back on its feet.

(From the Mla Standard Today, Sept. 8, 2006.)


One comment

  1. While the people of Guimaras suffers from the havoc of the Petron oil spill, Petron employees who were assigned to oversee coverup… err, relief operations in Guimaras party every night at Smallville in Iloilo City, and talk about how much raise they would be getting after successfully whitewashing… err, clearing the coasts of Guimaras of the debris from the oil spill. They’re everywhere… at MO2, at Bluejay, the Flow… samantala, ang pagkain ng mga tao sa Guimaras for the past weeks >>> sardinas at instant noodles!


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