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MALTATODAY 12 June 2022

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6 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 27 MARCH 2022 OPINION 2 maltatoday EXECUTIVE EDITOR Matthew Vella Letters to the Editor, MaltaToday, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016 E-mail: Letters must be concise, no pen names accepted, include full name and address maltatoday | SUNDAY • 12 JUNE 2022 On IVF, the PN has painted itself into a corner Editorial THE ongoing Parliamentary debate about assisted fer- tility treatment – which aims to expand IVF legislation to permit genetic testing on embryos, for nine hered- itary diseases – has brought with it a certain sense of deja-vu. The bill was tabled by Prime Minister Robert Abela, who argued that his government had a mandate to "al- low science to offer a solution to couples with serious hereditary diseases who do not wish to transmit them to their children." But while the Opposition supports most of the pro- posed amendments – such as, paradoxically, 'allowing frozen embryos abroad to be brought over to Malta' – it continues to oppose genetic screening for hereditary diseases, 'because it goes against the embryo's right to life'. In the words of PN Health spokesperson Stephen Spiteri: "These selected embryos will remain frozen forever […] We cannot separate the embryo's right to life from the wishes of the prospective parents to have a child because someone will hurt and suffer." To be fair, these concerns cannot be dismissed as frivolous, in themselves. There is certainly good rea- son to be wary of creating a stockpile of unwanted, or unviable, frozen embryos; and at a glance, the selectiv- ity involved in the screening process may give rise to understandable (albeit exaggerated) concerns about 'eugenics'. Nonetheless, it is precisely because these concerns exist, that a more detailed regulatory framework is nec- essary in the first place. As things stand, the alternatives to undergoing genetic screening in Malta, are to either seek the same treatment abroad, at considerably higher cost; or (for the sufferers of hereditary diseases) not to have children at all. From that perspective, the Nationalist Party's current position against genetic testing, comes across as a stark reminder of its original objections to the entire tech- nology of assisted fertility, in its totality. When the issue was first raised in the early 2000s, Former Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami had staunchly resisted any attempt to even discuss the issue at all - a position he retained even as President: with the result that the introduction of a regulatory framework, had to be postponed until as late as 2012. Yet throughout that time, IVF was all along availa- ble – unregulated – in private hospitals. As such, the Nationalist government's conscientious objections only served to perpetuate a situation of (real or potential) 'lawlessness', at the time. It was, in fact, the very lack of a regulatory framework that eventually forced Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi to kick-start this much-needed discussion: but both his attempts, and those of his successors, were clearly aimed at placating only the more ideologically-motivat- ed (and, very often, extremist) opponents of IVF. Unsurprisingly, the resulting legislation – namely, the 2012 Embryo Protection Act – only led to a dramatic reduction in the local success rate of IVF: effectively pushing more prospective parents to seek the same treatment elsewhere. Likewise, in 2018, the PN had first opposed a reform that would (inter alia) 'permit embryo freezing': only to later concede that those amendments were indeed necessary, and revise its position accordingly. Hence the sensation of deja-vu. Having already been forced, by necessity, to soften its stance on IVF in general: the Nationalist Party now seems to be setting itself up for yet another U-turn in future. Or as health Minister Chris Fearne sardonically put it: "The Oppo- sition has a history of agreeing with reforms after they happen". On the subject of IVF, he certainly has a point: and the same argument could be extended to other issues as well. But this brings us to yet another reason why the Nationalist Party's position on such issues is so prob- lematic (primarily, for itself). Just as the PN has a history of such U-turns: the Labour Party, too, has a history of utilising such issues to paint the PN into an uncomfortable corner. And it must be said that the Nationalist Party has made it altogether too easy for Labour to continually succeed in doing so. Boiled down to their bare essentials, all the PN's past positions on IVF were clearly aimed at appeasing only one segment of public opinion; and it seems to be a rather 'extremist', if not arguably 'anti-science', position for any 21st century European political party to realisti- cally uphold. And yet, there are ways in which modern Christian Democrat parties can update their policies on such sensitive issues, without pandering to such extremist elements: as so memorably exemplified by the late Fr Peter Serracino Inglott, an eminent ideologue for the party under Eddie Fenech Adami. When testifying before parliament's Social Affairs Committee in 2005, Fr Peter had argued against a ban on embryo freezing, insisting this was not equivalent to 'killing'. He also drew an important distinction between the obligation not to destroy human life and the less onerous obligation to ensure its continued survival. Without delving too deeply into the arguments themselves, it can already be seen that there are other, more credible ways to represent legitimate moral con- cerns, than the ones the Nationalist Party consistently seems to be taking (invariably, at its own cost). The PN would therefore be wise to heed the words of its own former ideological mentor, all these years later. 12 June 2012 Gas prices not set at international rates REGULATOR sets gas price ceiling according to market's dominant supplier's purchase costs. The international price of liquid petroleum gas, a mix of propane and butane, goes up and down in the world. And yet, Malta's regulator sets the domestic price for gas cylinders at according to the cost of purchases by the domi- nant supplier in the market. It may come as an amazing declaration, but Anthony Rizzo, the Chief Executive Officer of the Malta Resources Authority, has confirmed that domestic gas cylinder prices are based on the actual cost of LPG as purchased by Liqui- gas, the dominant supplier. And that means that even when gas is pur- chased at a cheaper price by the other supplier, Easygas, the MRA's price ceiling is set at the ceiling determined by Liquigas's cost of pur- chases. Rizzo told MaltaToday: 'The price of LPG cylinders is based on the actual cost of LPG that are stated on the invoices and not on the spot price or international price." According to the international prices of pro- pane and butane as stated by Platts, seen by this newspaper, both prices decreased significantly every month since April. But domestic prices remained high despite the significant drop. Rizzo insisted that it was not in Liquigas's interests to keep LPG prices high. "The prices established by Liquigas are not above the max- imum allowable price established in the price mechanism." But as the international price for liquid pe- troleum gas (LPG) has continued to fall over the last three months, the Maltese consumers continued to bear the brunt of a price hike on gas cylinders that took place in April. At the time, Liquigas cited the increasing in- ternational price of butane as the driver behind the increase in the price of gas at the start of April. Yet, two months on, the domestic prices of gas cylinders remained untouched while the international prices continued to fall according to Platts prices provided to this newspaper. While Rizzo has confirmed that the prices of gas "in US dollars has eased off slightly", this was not reflected due to the strengthening of the American dollar. "The easing of the cost of LPG has been offset with the strengthening of the US dollar." Quote of the Week "The Blue Lagoon is a public area that should be free for everyone; residents and tourists alike, to enjoy without being coerced into paying for something they do not want." Spokesperson Andre Callus speaking after Moviment Graffitti launched direct action on Comino and removed all deck chairs and umbrellas at the Blue Lagoon MaltaToday 10 years ago

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