Will Marcos get the message?
You have got to hand it to Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos. He knows how to read the writing on the wall. With the country's economic development programme in tatters and opposition to the 16-year old dictatorship spreading across political and class lines Marcos, in a sudden about-face, lifted the martial law edict that he has ruled with for the last nine years. The move came scant weeks before Pope John II's visit to southeast Asia's largest Roman Catholic nation. Catholic churchmen have long been outspoken critics of the Marcos regime's violations of civil liberties and human rights.
The opposition 'Movement for a Free Philippines' called the end to martial law a 'cruel deception' which leaves the dictatorship untouched. Strikes in vital industries are still banned; the military still has rights of arrest and detention in Mindanao where anti-government forces are strongest; the right of habeas corpus remains suspended in crimes against security. In addition, Marcos had already fixed the constitution to give himself absolute power and immunity from legal action after martial law was dropped.
It seems likelv that Marcos' aim was to ingratiate himself both with the Vatican and the new Reagan administration in Washington before a meeting of donor countries and financial agencies to evaluate next year's financial assistance to the Philippines. In the short run the strategy seems to have paid off. Despite a disastrous record over the last 15 years, donors (biggest of which is the World Bank) decided to extend $1.2 billion in official aid over the next year - just under half the country's estimated borrowing needs.
An open till with the world's creditors may keep Marcos' tightly-run ship of state afloat for the moment, but it is unlikely to stem the growing frustration amongst Filipinos. A 1979 World Bank investigation of the Philippines economy noted that real wages have declined by an astounding 50 per cent from 1965 to 1975. The same report placed much of the blame squarely on the shoulders of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for imposing a stiff devaluation of the Filipino peso in 1969. The devaluation was a major plank in the 'export-led industrialization' plan touted by the IMF and the World Bank and fervently embraced by President Marcos.
However, export-led growth is having a hard time living up to its advance notices. To begin with Marcos was reluctant to give free rein to foreign investors for fear of alienating the local business class - till recently one of his strongest allies. Over the last three years he has gradually moved in that direction - increasing incentives to foreign investors, opening up tax-free zones for multi-national corporations and tearing down tariff walls. According to a recent memo leaked from the World Bank's Central Project Division, Marcos' efforts to tow the export-led industrialization line have stirred nationalist sentiment and left the dictator without any firm power base. The only groups that have anything to gain from Marcos keeping his grip on the country are upper-level bureaucrats and army officers. Shades of Somoza and Nicaragua.
The writing on the wall seems clear enough. With only a tight-knit circle of advisors and military men around him foreign assistance can only prolong a face-to-face confrontation between Marcos and the Philippine people. What's less clear is whether President Marcos and his cronies will take the message seriously.
Japan and the US are putting their heads together to find a way of dumping their radioactive garbage in the Pacific. But the US is already having trouble with canisters of radioactive waste dumped off California, Australian and Japanese scientists do not share the confidence of Tokyo's leaders about dumping.
Dr. David Falvey, senior lecturer in geophysics at Sydney University, says the Japanese dumping zone is in an area of earthquake activity and not far from a volcanic region. It is likely, says Dr. Falvey, that any leakage from the steel containers would mix with water nearer the surface.
Dr. Sadao Ichikawa, professor of genetics at Saitama University and a world authority on biological effects of radiation, doubts the drums' ability to withstand the pressures at 6000 metres. He fears radioactivity will be passed on by migratory fish. The problem, he says, he that the amount of dumping planned is so huge that, even though it is low-level radioactive waste, 'the total amount of radioactivity is very high'.
The campaign against the dumping plans is already in full swing. At last year's conference organised by the Pacific Centre in Hawaii delegates from 16 Pacific countries called for a 'Nuclear Free Pacific'. And this February Australian anti-nuclear groups launched plans for a 'Coalition for a Nuclear Free Australia' and a country-wide education campaign to begin on August 3rd - anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.
The massive oil strike in the Cooper Basin of South Australia early this year was good news for the government. But for the Pitjantjatjara people who live in the arid centre of Australia the news was ominous.
The Cooper strike is not on Pitjantjatjara land. But it is just to the south of it and represents yet another move in the encirclement of their lands which exploration companies have pursued in recent years. Of greatest concern to the Pitjantjatjara has been the interst shown in Officer Basin in the northwest of South Australia. The area almost completely encapsulates the traditional holdings of the Pitjantjatjara and all the 'dreaming lines' and other sites at the core of their cultural beliefs.
In mid-1979 the South Australian government's own company produced unexpected shows of oil in a shallow test drill on the eastern edge of the Officer Basin. This created a dilemma of major proportions for the then Labor party state government which, at the time, was legislating for land rights to be granted to the Pitjantjatjara. The proposed legislation included the power to veto all mining and oil exploration on their lands. However, once there was a suggestion of oil on those lands, the Pitjantjatjara veto didn't seem such a good idea.
Labor government members were saved the embarrassment of publicly reneging on their commitment when, following a snap election in September 1979, they were thrown out and replaced by a Liberal government.
Last year, bitter opposition by blacks prevented exploration teams with government approval from starting work. The Pitjantjatjara, through their Tribal Council, led a vigorous campaing to retain as much as possible of the Labor drafted legislation and they successfully gained a moratorium on mining activities until the issue was settled.
A new bill, now in the South Australian parliament will give freehold title on 105,000 square kilometres to the Aborigines as well as extensive power over European access to the land for any reason, including exploration. The absolute veto is no longer there, but miners will be required to negotiate directly with the Land Holding Corporation and reach agreement on access prior to the granting of mining or petroleum licences.
The worry of the new find in Cooper Basin is that it increases the stakes for prospectors already interested in Pitjantjatjara land, and raises fears of another government turnabout.
Sinking the French
Having failed to foment a successful rebellion in the former Anglo-French condominium of New Hebrides (now the state of Vanuatu), the French government continues to act in the South Pacific Islands like a child who has lost his marbles.
Evidence abounds that France - in the form of ex-Resident Commissioner to New Hebrides Jean Jacques Robert and Overseas Territories Minister Paul Dijoud - actively promoted the Santo Island secessionist movement led by bogus tribal chief Jimmy Stevens. With its collapse last year and the jailing of Stevens, 700 of the rebellion's supporters left Vanuatu for nearby New Caledonia, one of France's two remaining colonies in the South Pacific.
After being tipped out of Vanuatu, the French feel far more vulnerable to decolonisation pressures in New Caledonia. With 40 per cent of the world's known nickel reserves lying there, waiting to be exploited when the price is right, it is much more important to Paris. In January this year Dijoud flew in to Noumea, the New Caledonian capital, to stress, perhaps with less confidence than he displayed: 'New Caledonia is and will remain French.'
One of the tragedies of these islands' history is that the original inhabitants now number less than 50 per cent of the total population. The balance is made up of third and fourth generation French settlers, imported islanders from French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna Islands, and a variety of others. But the 60,000 or so Kanaks, the Melanesian indigenous people of New Caledonia, who over the years, have been moved off all the better quality land to make way for settlers, were not impressed by Dijoud's reassurance.
Their hope lies with Vanuatu's attainment of nationhood. And when the French heard that Vanuatuan Barak Sope intended to address the annual congress of the New Caledonian Independence Front, they shipped him out of Noumea without ceremony. Vanuatuan Prime Minister Walter Lini's immediate response was to expel the French ambassador in Vila and order a drastic cut in French diplomatic presence in the Vanuatu capital.
One thing led to another and soon rumour had it that France's strings attached aid, particularly in the education field, was to be cut off. The French Foreign Ministry denied teachers were to be withdrawn but admitted a 'certain number' of French nationals working in Vanuatu were being withdrawn.
Meanwhile French stocks in the South Pacific continue to plummet and independence for New Caledonia is now forecast within six years.
Let bug eat bug
Our agricultural world appears to be increasingly soused in artificial pesticide. Yet whilst this temporarily restrains crop-destroying insects, prolific breeding of larvae brings mutations evermore resistant to artificial chemicals. Just after the Second World War, the US lost 7 per cent of its crops before harvest. Recently, using twelve times as much pesticide, the loss from insect ravages has doubled.
Yet there are other ways of dealing with the problem, as the International Development Research Centre reports on the work of the Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control in Trinidad. A more gentle approach of biological control, introducing the natural enemies of the harvest-devouring insects so that bug eats bug, looks to have a promising future.
The beauty of biological control, where effective, is that the methods are far more economical and permanent than the technological fix from crop spraying aircraft.
The pest causing most concern in East Africa has been the green spider mite - credited with losses of up to 50 per cent of the cassava crop. The mite came to Africa in the early 1970s from South America, travelling on illegally-imported cassava cuttings. It quickly spread from Uganda to infest much of the region. The Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control discovered many mite predators in Latin America, including a small black beetle and another mite. They were taken, legally this time, to Kenya and released in cassava fields in 1976 and 1977. Research workers are keeping their fingers crossed as to who is going to win the battle.
The same staple crop, cassava, has been threatened in Central and West Africa by a different pest - the mealybug. Studies showed that whilst it had few natural enemies in Africa, Latin America swarmed with its predators. Three kinds of parasites were sent to Zaire and so far laboratory and field tests have been encouraging. In Senegal another shipment of the parasites are being cultured for release on trial plots.
Biological control provides no quick solution - the parasites and predators of the crop-destroying insects have to be selected carefully. For it is important to make sure they do not become pests themselves. But through making haste slowly, there stands a good chance of blighted harvests being reduced in the hungriest continent in the world.
The name of the game
The battle to stop the sale of clioquinol-based drugs continues. Three months ago the New Internationalist reported on how this drug - sold most widely by Ciba-Geigy under the brand names Entero-Vioform and Mexaform - used for that vaguest of illnesses, diarrhoea or travellers' tummy, had been proven to cause more than 11,000 cases of SMON in Japan. Similar to multiple sclerosis the disease affects the nerves and sight and has killed some and permanently crippled many others.
The same drug is widely promoted by Ciba-Geigy, Bayer and other international pharmaceutical companies in the Third World, where health is poor, diarrhoea endemic and nutritional resistance weak. Overstretched and understaffed health departments have done little or nothing to stop imports of this drug. Now Dr. Tosei Takahashi, formerly Associate Professor of the School of Medicine, Tokyo University has appealed on behalf of Japanese SMON victims, doctors and lawyers to ban the sale of clioquinol throughout the world. His grounds?
The neurotoxicity (nerve poisoning) of clioquinol is apparent from SMON victims in Japan, Sweden, England: 28 countries in all.
The drug's effectiveness against diarrhoea has been queried in clinical trials. It is banned in Japan and the US. It has been withdrawn in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, it has been heavily restricted in Australia, UK, Switzerland and other industrialised countries.
The Japanese doctor has also found just how hard it is to track down the marketing of the clioquinol drug around the world. For the companies use 'fantastic and nonsense product names' to provide customer-appeal. Collected alongside are a list of the brand names of clioquinol-based drugs and where they have been sold. One small step in the right direction Dr. Takahashi suggests, would be for the World Health Organisation to insist on all drugs being marketed under their generic name, with the manufacturers' brand names coming afterwards.
See N.I. Issue No. 95: January 1981.
What a way to die
As with civil defence, the Government evidently has plans for us. According to a Home Office document 'leaked' to Farmers Weekly in 1970, post-holocaust agriculture will immediately be put into the hands of the state. Groups of 800 farms will be run by Agricultural Officers, each with two assistants. The short term policy would be to 'salvage and mobilize food on farms as a direct contribution to survival'. The long term policy would be to get food production going again, but on new lines, 'with the strictly controlled use of pooled surviving resources'.
So the Government has plans to take a firm hand and keep our bellies full. However, according to the latest issue of Food and Politics there is more to the Government's 'secret' plans that meets the eye. Like Protect and Survive they prepare us psychologically for a real nuclear war; emphasising our chances of survival - however slender - rather than questioning the necessity of war itself. They also seek to reassure us; putting individual hope for us in place of what is obviously collective suicide for the rest of the nation. Hence the comforting message that if we are among the lucky survivors, the state has plans to feed us.
But Food and Politics argues that the plans should be taken with a pinch of salt: 'farming after the holocaust just couldn't work'. To begin with, food would have to be vegetarian - meat and milk products would be outlawed, both for their wastefulness and because animals actually assimilate radioactivity when grazing. Agricultural Radioactivity Officers will supposedly advise farmers on how to clean their surviving crops. But 'the language of cleansing hides the reality': what equipment do farmers have for radioactive cleansing - a Hoover, a dustpan and brush? Moreover British farms rely upon huge inputs of energy from outside: petrol for tractors, fertilizer for the fields. And, in any case, much of our food is no longer grown locally. Yet the Government would have us believe that these farms will overnight, after an all-out nuclear attack start feeding the 20 million survivors. 'It cannot be done' argues Food and Politics.
The suspicion must be that the Government in fact anticipates massive and inevitable starvation after a nuclear holocaust, adding millions more to the death list. The only survivors would be those catered for by realistic civil defence measures: in the deepest bunkers, fed by special grain stores, and emerging, when the famine has taken its toll, to start all over again with supplies from government seed banks. Will you be among the lucky ones?
'Food and Politics' is produced by the Agricapital group of the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science, 9 Poland Street, London W1V 3DC.