It’s a sign of the times. I was listening to the radio this morning on the way to work and there were a lot of phoned-in comments from listeners. Most of them were nostalgic for the Marcos days. And he was supposed to be this brutal dictator who trampled on basic human rights and robbed the people blind and yadda-yadda-yadda. To think that most of the callers would rather live in that Philippines than in this one, this so-called democracy.
In 2001, when the presidency was handed to GMA without her having to do anything, there was a feeling of hope that maybe this time we’ll get things right. Not much, since she was, after all, GMA, the astute politician who would do anything, compromise anything, to get what she wants. But the feeling of hope was there, since it was so-called civil society, this network of NGOs and People’s Organizations who have been working at the grassroots trying to make life better for those without a voice, that spearheaded the revolt against Erap. Maybe GMA would listen to them out of gratitude. Plans were drawn up, an agenda for her new government. Through emails and internet fora, the call came forth from these civil society groups for suggestions. I had a few suggestions on electoral reform, but they were too radical and kept them to myself. I suggested instead an obvious program of action that should be part of the new administration’s policy: lessen our dependence on foreign oil. This wasn't a new idea. Just before EDSA 2, I read a Marcos pamphlet on his vision for the Philippines and this is what he said about it (paraphrased): “Reducing dependence on imported oil is a matter of national survival.” Wow. National survival. It can’t get any more important than that. So in my reply to the civil society member who asked for points they could put in the national agenda, I quoted Marcos, the very fella that EDSA 1 got rid of. I said the new Arroyo government should reduce our dependence on foreign oil by instituting a comprehensive energy conservation program plus a program for looking for alternative sources of energy. This was so obvious I’m sure this was suggested by various sectors. The new administration didn't even need to start from scratch. They could just adopt the old Marcos programs: banning vehicles above a certain engine displacement, developing alternative sources of fuel (I remember the old Marcos government was promoting the use of ethanol, bio-diesel, etc), developing geothermal power plants, etc. The Bataan nuclear power plant was even part of this whole lessen-dependence-on-foreign-oil thing. Marcos also had a massive educational campaign on energy conservation to go with everything else.
Whether or not the energy conservation program made it to the final draft presented to GMA, I don't know. What I do know is that there was no energy conservation program instituted after GMA came to power, no calls for alternative fuel sources. It was business as usual, everyone going on their merry way. Government officials rode around in convoys of huge SUVs as if the supply of petroleum would never run out. There was an air of optimism after the ouster of Erap, but this was just too darn optimistic. We had no control of foreign oil and from all indications, the price of petroleum products was going to rise. But there was no sense of urgency. I knew that this would bite us all on the ass one day and that day has arrived.
Now calls are coming from Malakanyang for energy conservation; for the reduction in the consumption of petroleum products, for alternative sources of energy. They’re even quoting Marcos: This is a matter of national survival. Better late than never? Of course, but this should have been first on the agenda from Day One. National survival, remember? The Cory government and the Ramos government botched this as well. Ramos’s enduring legacy is the PPA which guarantees that independent power producers make money no matter what. You and I can cut our electricity consumption by one half and still it won’t affect our utility bills because the IPPs get paid whether or not the energy they can supply actually gets used.
Say what you want about Marcos but he had vision. Compared to the short-sighted leaders we seem to be getting, he was an absolute genius. The present leaders’ idea of government I think is: Let the next president take care of it, I’m going to have a good time. No wonder those radio listeners were nostalgic for the good old days of the dictatorship.