Precautionary Principle

Manila Bulletin, May 24, 2012 | Go to article overview

Precautionary Principle


MANILA, Philippines - The precautionary principle has many good points. It means taking precautions on everything we do. On the implementation level it is a must. But on the policy level it may have a problem. Possible risks that may be imaginary or may not even be a real a risk. The danger is paralysis. With imaginary risks, the result is a tendency to do nothing. There are many possible risks. So a choice is to do nothing. In which case the CEO of a large American corporation pointed it is like rolling up into a ball and hiding in the nearest cave. We have to take the ordinary risks in life. If we cross the street, there is the risk of being run over by a car. And this type of risk we normally take. The precautionary principle used as a policy prevents any growth. Without risks there can be no progress.

There was a time when the Philippines was the second biggest economy in East Asia. Now we are second to the last. Vietnam has just surpassed us. Before that, we were surpassed by South Korea, Taiwan, and a host of other neighbors. The main cause for this is, of course, corruption but a close second is the tendency to avoid normal risks. In the nineteen eighties near the end of the Marcos regime, mining was discouraged as being fraught with risks. The precautionary principle was used as a policy in mining and so most mining in the country was stopped. We are rich in both natural and human resources. But we have not harnessed them because of imaginary risks and the future of the environment. And the result is what we have today. We send our people out of the country as maids and servants and disrupt the family life of these who volunteer to go abroad. …

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