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Striking Syria

Enough is enough. The last straw was the use of chemical weapons in rebel-held Gouma where men, women and children died from nerve gas poisoning. The United States, Great Britain and France acting on what they considered as legal and right carried out air strikes against the rogue regime of Bashir al-Assad. The joint allied attacks were launched from war planes and ships deployed earlier in the Mediterranean.

“Mission accomplished,” declared US President Donald Trump who served notice that allied planes are locked and loaded in case Syria again uses chemical weapons against its own people.

The coalition message to Assad was clear. You cannot commit mass murder against your own people with the use of the internationally outlawed chemical weapons. The coalition-coordinated strikes against Syria is a resounding display of global action against intolerable atrocities.

Syrian artillery defense tried to shoot down US B-1 bombers carrying out the bombing and missile attack. In a post-military briefing, the Pentagon said every military target was hit without any collateral civilian casualties nor any losses on the coalition side.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in a statement at the Security Council warned Syria and Russia about the draconian air strikes hours before the three major allies carried out the attack.

British Prime Minister Teresa May said the military action against Assad was not about regime change but to enforce the United Nations law against the use of chemical weapons. She also said the US, UK and France carried out the military strikes after all diplomatic efforts failed to yield results.

President Donald Trump, on the other hand, made clear there is not going to be an indefinite US presence in Syria. Trump’s statement is seen by observers as the absence of a US-plan to put boots on the ground like when US-led coalition forces invaded Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein.

Syrian supporter Russia condemned the US and its allies’ military action and warned of “serious consequences.” But Moscow has yet to respond militarily to the punitive move against Damascus’ chemical weapons program. Russia is believed to be supplying the nerve-agent component of Syria’s chemical arsenal.

Iran, a Syrian ally, assailed the US and its allies’ action as a “blatant attack against a sovereign state.” China, which has its hands full in the South China Sea territorial dispute, said the situation in Syria is “dangerous.” But Beijing from the view of this corner is not expected to get involved in any military action in support of Syria.

They’d rather let rice rot

Sacks of rice in the thousands were found rotting in a warehouse in Tacloban, Leyte. The rice stocks were confiscated when discovered by authorities to be smuggled.

But why store and let the rice rot when the consignee-smuggler did not claim the imported rice cargo? The National Food Authority could have just distributed the rice for free to our indigent countrymen reeling from the high cost of the basic staple. Hoarding by commercial traders to drive up prices is seen as the cause of the dwindling supply. The government on the other hand would rather let the seized shipment rot instead of giving it away to the poor.

This is a classic example of negligence if not sheer incompetence by NFA and Customs officials.

President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to abolish the NFA because the government agency allowed the supply of rice to reach crisis proportion. By all means, do so. This is an agency whose functions can be taken over by either the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Trade.

It will be recalled the NFA was also involved in the alleged anomalous importation of rice from Vietnam and Thailand. A Senate investigation, however failed to prove wrongdoing by NFA officials suspected of receiving kickbacks from the rice importation.

There was a time when the Philippines was a leading rice grower. The International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, Laguna was where Thais and other Asians went to learn about productive rice farming. Why the reversal of role and fortune? It’s the Philippine now importing rice from Thailand and Vietnam to augment our own supply.

It’s the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture to bring us back to being a rice-growing country. Filipinos, after all, eat a lot of rice.

Topics: United States , Great Britain , France , Syria , Department of Agriculture , International Rice Research Institute , National Food Authority , United Nations , Rodrigo Duterte , Security Council
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