Following is the text of the formal open letter i had written early this morning to Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, the original print-out of which i handed directly to him after our brief exchange of views about his Bataan Nuclear Plant revival bill. He had just delivered an hour-long talk about nuclear technology in general and the BNPP in particular before faculty members and graduate students at the International Academy of Management and Economics (IAME) in Makati, and as a faculty member I had the opportunity to be first at the microphone during the open forum portion. Expecting to be cut off before i finished and not to have the chance at the mike again, i came to the event with this letter already signed and placed in an envelope addressed to him.
May 23, 2009
Rep. Mark Cojuangco
House of Representatives
Congress of the Philippines
Dear Congressman Conjuangco:
As a member of the community of the International Academy of Management and Economics here in Makati, I stay about of couple of days in Metro Manila each week. But I extended my stay here this time because our school has been scheduled to host your talk this morning about the bill you had filed in the House seeking the rehabilitation and operation of the Bataan Nuclear Pwer Plant or BNPP. Since the last day of last year I have been a resident of the Municipality of Subic in Zambales. With only Olongapo City and a fairly short stretch of road within and beyond the Subic Bay Freeport Zone lying between, Subic town, my late father’s hometown, is a very close neighbor of Morong, Bataan, site of the nuclear plant your bill contemplates to load with uranium and run. Taking only about an hour and a half to negotiate by public transportation, Morong is practically closer to our town than to Bataan’s capital city of Balanga. Residents of Olongapo, SBFZ and our municipality are therefore legitimate stakeholders in the safety issues of the nuclear plant your bill seeks to operate.
I brought up this concern with our district congresswoman, Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, who is even my relative by affinity. In an open letter that also got published in the opinion section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, I asked for dialogue seeking to understand as a constituent of hers how she came to decide to support BNPP’s revival considering that the plant is almost at the border of our district. She ignored my letter.
I’ve been glad to receive happier information about her counterpart in Bataan. After the short chain-fasting that I started in Morong last Holy Week, I was was told by some of the anonymous co-fasters that Bataan Rep. Herminia Roman had told some cooperative leaders in the province that she was open to withdraw her signature from supporting the BNPP bill if she could be shown the official documentation reportedly detailing thousands of defects found in the plant as constructed in Morong. That was a sign of openness. Something expected of a responsible legislator, especially one who admits not having seen such official data for which both the Aquino and Ramos administrations, in their respective incumbencies, paid millions of pesos of the people’s tax money.
What surprised me was that she was asking her private-citizen constituents to be the ones to make such documentation available for her perusal and consideration. One would expect that the bill’s main sponsor, attesting to the safety of the plant, would have already provided the entire House copies or at least representative excerpts of such official documentation received and even used by the Republic of the Philippines in an international litigation case (and subsequently placed under safekeeping by that office which continues the affairs even of past administrations). And you could have convinced the public of the earnestness of your assessment that BNPP is safe by logically debunking these defects item-by-item. I’ve heard that Malacañang functionaries have claimed that those documents are missing. In that case, Congress has both the power and responsibility to subpoena such papers and demand an official report how come these are not being readily available to legislators who are about to pass a bill swearing to the safety of the plant.
After I fasted in Morong for five days and a half, relieved by co-fasters of 37 hours of my declared seven days, I was asked by many people there, in Zambales, in other parts of the country and even beyond, why I made that sacrifice but did not ensure media coverage for it to have any impact at all. Why I fasted was simple to answer: As a resident of Subic, as a Filipino, and as a human being I was and still am very much a stakeholder. Stakeholders in anything have to be active in their stakeholdership. Practically all the problems we can complain about as besetting Philippine society have either been caused directly by passivity or solutions to them have been blocked by passivity with so many excuses. So, we hear the complaints almost together with the excuses, and such a combination has been doomed to last forever.
But why did I not arrange for comensurate media coverage, considering the breadth and life-and-death importance of the issue? Was it because the mass media and the public would only give attention to newsworthy personalities and groups and this private citizen is a virtual nobody? More important than that consideration is the nature of the fast that I started last Holy Thursday: it was a prayer. And I have always believed that “Someone in the Great Somewhere hears every word.”
Moreover, I was praying for a miracle, and only that “Someone” could cause that. I felt that God had to be asked for a miracle akin to what happened to Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus.”
And so, Mr. Congressman, I now express this to you: I think God’s miracle has indeed happened. At least in my heart. During our first face-to-face encounter on this same issue last February at Kamayan, during a monthly forum that I used to moderate, I observed that you were then so closed-minded, absolutely confident that you could have the BNPP revival bill passed on the basis of the sheer number of signatures that you had gathered from your colleagues, never mind that the steamroller process excluded earnest study required by responsible legislation, never mind that the people of Bataan and Central Luzon and way beyond may really be placed in grave peril, never mind that the people’s peace of mind can be placed as a permanent hostage to effects of a mysterious sense of haste.
But now I feel that you may be open to do it the proper way -- affording the voting solons fully-informed choice. the responsible way, the way of ensuring your own peace of mind and that of your colleagues. On the BNPP issue, we really can search together for the Truth. I dream this so very fervently that I could almost hear the newscast report about it now: “Pangasinan Rep. Cojuangco has announced that the House members will study first all pertinent documentation before completing its consideration of the BNPP revival bill. He said they will subpoena these documents and investigate their ‘disappearance’ if they have to.” I feel it’s not impossible! God moves in mysterious ways! We can’t know.
On the other hand, the Master Creator may have already created a different set of miracles to answer the invocation prayed so fervently by all those who prayed with me (including the hundreds who have fasted quietly and anonymously all these weeks) for one. Who knows? We can’t. The very day before its world-class eruption, Mt. Pinatubo was just one of our many “dead” volcanoes, and Japanese high technology could not predict the earthquake that devastated Kobe.
May God bless your heart and mind, Congressman Cojuangco! May God bless us all, and save us all by sharing with our decision-makers the brightest light of His wisdom!
Very truly yours,
Ed Aurelio C. Reyes
Mark Cojuangco answered my point about subpoena by saying the House has actually done it but got no results. How come the government functionaries in charge of safekeeping of official documents (like this voluminous report we had paid for in millions of dollars) could just shrug their shoulders and say "di namin mahanap, eh! -- sorry na lang!" and not get penalized or even probed for such irresponsibility? Was the subpoena a real one and was it responded to in writing and with full explanations? Can the solons decide freely and responsibly the issue of safety of the BNPP if such important data has mysteriously vanished? Have the members of House who have co-signed the bill heard about the internationally-adopted "precautionary principle"? I am still praying for the Light of Wisdom and Propriety to prevail. The miracle can still come...