POSTSCRIPT / February 12, 1998 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Precious Ming turns out to be cracked porcelain?

THE peso continues to bounce back. It is P39 to the US dollar today (Feb. 10) and may yet appreciate further. But if your folks back home are, like most people lining up at the moneychanger, carrying not more than $200, the fluctuations are not significant.

What matters is that, for whatever reason, the peso is slowly gaining against the dollar.

There is a plan, by the way, for ASEAN members to pay in their local currencies, not in dollars, when trading with one another. That point was discussed by Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammad Mahatir in his quiet brief call last week on President Ramos and other ASEAN leaders.

If it is any consolation, Indonesia’s rupiah is now worth the equivalent of P100 to the dollar! But that’s the same as telling economy passengers in a jumbojet that’s about to crash not to feel bad because the passengers in the first class section will hit the ground first.

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CAR sales, an indicator of how the middle class is faring, are down by an average of 32 percent. This, despite car dealers’ attempt to stampede buyers with warnings that they better buy now as prices are bound to rise very soon.

The main reason for the slump is that reasonable financing is hard to come by. The banks are demanding bigger down payments and charging impossible high rates for the balance. Many banks now look like car exchanges crammed with repossessed cars.

Honda, which ruled the market in the past two years, slid to No. 2 position in January as Toyota launched a new 1.6-liter Corolla and posted a 35 percent sales increase with 1,240 units sold last month.

Only Toyota sales went up in January compared to the same month last year. The other dealers that slid back were: Honda, 750 units sold, 42 percent down; Mitsubishi, 666 units sold, 43 percent down; Nissan, 615 units sold, 33 percent down.

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WITH interest rates on savings a ridiculous 3 percent, most small depositors are keeping in the banks what little money they have not really to earn interest but for convenience. Staying within the minimum balance requirements, they withdraw small amounts as they need them through the automated teller machine.

While the banks pay a pittance for deposits, they gouge borrowers with exorbitant interest. As of today, the prime lending rates or the interest rates used for their most favored suki range from 22 to 30 percent.

What does an ordinary wage earner or a small businessman do if he had borrowed a tidy sum from a bank at, say, 16 percent, for a small project, a house or a car while scrimping on expenses just to be able to meet the amortization—and then the bank later says that the interest rate on the balance had gone up to 20 percent?

Multiply this horror story a million times and you have an idea of how interest rates alone—not to mention soaring prices and dwindling real wages—have bludgeoned the population.

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REMEMBER the 1995 privatization of the sprawling Fort Bonifacio for P39.2 billion in what was then billed as the real estate deal of the century? The 214-hectare prime land beside Forbes Park is now being developed into what is envisioned to be an ultramodern city within the metropolis.

I have just secured a technical report and some maps of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) showing that the active Marikina Valley Fault runs right through the heart of Fort Bonifacio!

The question suggests itself: What if the priceless Ming that is Fort Bonifacio turns out to be cracked porcelain?

In their report titled “Detailed Mapping of Active Faults in the Fort Bonifacio Area and Vicinity,” Phivolcs Director Raymundo S. Punongbayan and geologist Rolly E. Rimando say, “Mapping of active fault trace of the West Marikina Valley Fault using aerial photograph and topographic map interpretation, and geomorphological and geological field surveys in Fort Bonifacio and farther south of it revealed a complex rupture pattern.”

They say that the segment of the fault cutting through the Fort “is active but is not currently moving… However, once the frictional resistance of master faults is overcome, the active fault traces will activate.”

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PUNONGBAYAN and Rimando advise that construction in Fort Bonifacio take into consideration “location of the active fault traces and extreme ground shaking.”

“Buildings will almost certainly collapse or be severely damaged due to ground rupturing if the recommended setback of 5 meters is not considered,” they add. “Outside of the 10-meter zone, buildings and other structures will withstand the effects of vibration if ground motion characteristics are considered during design and construction.”

But while avoidance of the fault by 5 meters on either side is recommended, the problem is that the exact location and extent of the fault have not been precisely mapped out. In fact, physical indications on the ground may have been lost already to the bulldozers of developers.

Punongbayan and Rimando point out that “a very basic and important development tool in the form of an active fault map is not yet available.” They add that it is “imperative that an appropriate disaster mitigation tool in the form of an accurate and detailed active fault map in Fort Bonifacio be made available prior to full-scale development.”

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