POSTSCRIPT / December 21, 1997 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Peso falls thru P40 floor; Ramos off to Switzerland

THE peso continues to fall, going through the P40 floor last week, but we don’t suggest your holding back the dollar remittance in anticipation of bigger profits. Unless you’re a big-time currency trader, a little fluctuation in the exchange rate will not mean much.

Besides, the folks back home in the Philippines probably need the money now, not later when the peso is probably in the P45:$1 levels. The peso might even rally and deny you your present profits.

Mind you, P45 is not discernable in the magic ball of currency experts in Manila. The lowest they concede the peso could fall is P43, but quickly adding that after such a big fall, it could correct and settle at P40 or thereabouts.

* * *

HAVING broken through the P40 floor, the peso is taking many innocent items with it as it dives like a meteorite burning out in the December sky.

Hardest hit are items with a high imported component. Their prices are projected to jump shortly by at least 25 percent. These include canned goods, flour, paper products and construction materials.

Flour is made mostly (85 percent) from imported wheat. Some 62 percent of the price of canned goods is the tin can, the materials for which are imported. As much as 90 percent of steel products is made from imported raw and processed materials.

Don’t moan if we tell you that 87 percent of the materials for notebooks and books are imported. In fact, while your favorite Manila newspaper may be printed on recycled newsprint that is locally milled, the bulk of the recycled newsprint is actually imported.

Why don’t they just recycle local newspapers so we save on dollars? The answer is that millers are looking for long fiber (to give tensile strength and reduce the snapping of the newsprint web during high-speed printing) which is found in imported scrap paper.

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WILL the fall of the peso, which has made the dollar very expensive, dampen the wanderlust of President Ramos? No, sir! In fact, he is just passing through for the holidays, having just returned from Kuala Lumpur, and is already packing his bags again, preparing to fly to Switzerland.

Yes, Switzerland! You naughty boys better not start speculating about Mr. Ramos possibly depositing or withdrawing something from some Swiss something. No, we’re not talking here of Swiss knives, but something more legal tender.

By coincidence, purely coincidence we assure you, everybody who has his finger on the Marcos billions in Swiss accounts, is suddenly talking in whispers about a secret compromise between President Ramos and the Marcos family.

* * *

THE talk in the corner barber shop is that Mr. Ramos is just biding his time to announce (or admit?) a compromise which involves a sharing of the Marcos loot, the granting of criminal immunity to the Marcos heirs, and, as a side dish, the state burial of the fallen dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio.

It is not generally known that the Marcos cadaver has not been buried, contrary to the agreement for the family to bury it immediately after its arrival from Hawaii a few years back.

The body is kept in an above-ground freezer in his native Ilocos awaiting the moment when his cousin Eddie Ramos (eeek, the President!) will swallow hard and make good his promise to Mrs. Imelda Marcos to allow a “burial with dignity” for the former president and bemedalled soldier.

* * *

AS expected, the presidential pieces started falling into place after President Ramos anointed Speaker Jose de Venecia as the standard bearer of the administration party Lakas-NUCD. Now the opposition knows who the man to beat is.

By objective analysis, De Venecia should be easy to beat, he being an unpopular trapo (short for “traditional politician,” “trapo” literally means “rag,” which is quite apropos). A consistent tailender in most popularity surveys on presidential aspirants, De Venecia is also hobbled by the accident of his being from Pangasinan, the same home province of the incumbent President.

Simple folk ask: In a country of some 70 million, 99 percent of whom think they know the solutions to the nation’s problems, why should another Pangasinense succeed a Pangasinense?

Why then was the trapo anointed? President Ramos is apparently confident that money and machine shall overcome. As usual.

* * *

THE mirage of a solid Lakas rallying around De Venecia has been shattered by the irrevocable resignation of former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa, the Speaker’s rival for the President’s anointment.

Launching his own presidential bid despite a “covenant” among the presidential wannabes to support whoever is anointed, De Villa told cheering supporters at the Club Filipino that he could not stomach the dirty politics that De Venecia employed against him and is likely to inflict on Filipinos in case he becomes president next year.

So now, we have a thousand presidential flowers blooming, among them De Venecia, De Villa, Vice President Joseph Estrada, Cebu Gov. Lito Osmeña, Senators Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Francisco Tatad and Raul Roco.

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