POSTSCRIPT / November 5, 1998 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why we still import rice and sugar yearly

HOW much is refined cane sugar in New York? It’s now P40 a kilo in Manila. Just last month the price was half of that.

There is fear that the volatile price might hit P50 before Christmas, although the government keeps saying it would go down because raw sugar has been imported to beef up stock.

The soaring price is clearly a result of manipulation. While assuring the public that there is enough sugar, the authorities are appealing to hoarders to let go their stock. But the item has remained scarce and expensive.

The irony is that traders have been exporting sugar to the United States and other foreign markets at a price that is lower than their domestic selling price.

Filipinos pay more than foreign consumers of Philippine sugar do, in effect subsidizing the sugar exports.

Re the imported sugar

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THE importation of sugar by this sugar-producing country, obviously an anomaly in itself, is no guarantee that the supply and price will stabilize.

It could even happen that the bulk of the imported 200,000 metric tons of sugar could end up in the warehouses of the cartel. It would then be back to the old cycle of the cartel manipulating the supply and dictating prices, and the government ordering more importation.

In the present shortage, the big traders were able to buy refined sugar at P900 per 50-kilo sack and retail it at P2,000 after inducing an artificial shortage.

The government keeps issuing press releases warning hoarders, but nothing happens.

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THE same quick fix of importation is used in the case of rice.

We are a well-known producer of rice. In fact, we trained most of the rice experts of Southeast Asia. Yet we import from them.

Why? Because somebody has to earn millions from commissions. So year after year, we keep importing rice and somebody pockets the fat commission.

That’s not all. When the rice arrives, a good part of it is trucked not to government bodegas but to the warehouses of the rice cartel where it is rebagged.

The usual government officials get a fat purse for channeling the cereal to the cartel.

The National Food Authority, like the Sugar Regulatory Administration, is supposed to ensure stable supply and prices. But it does not work that way. The opposite happens because somebody has to make money.

The stock of the NFA is not even 10 percent of the total amount of rice in the market, so it is impossible for it to influence prices. Why are we still keeping the NFA?

Because some people in government have to make money.

And who pays for this cold-blooded plunder? The captive consumer who in the first place is not earning enough to keep body and soul together.

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THE number of homecoming Pinoys is still slow, for whatever reason. But it may pick up as the Yuletide season rounds the corner.

You guys who haven’t been home for years may be in for some surprise — some of them pleasant, others possibly horrifying — but we are supposed to be great at adapting to unusual situations.

Once you get out of the airport, which is a torture test of sorts, you ask that you be driven through Roxas Blvd. (Dewey Blvd. To the old fogies) whether you’re going north or south. I just want you to see how it now looks after its improvement for the last APEC summit in Subic.

If you arrive around dusk, ask to be driven through Ayala Ave. in Makati. Hopefully by then the famous huge Christmas lanterns would have been hung and lighted to welcome you.

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SOME of the streets may confuse you since a few now sport new names.

Buendia Ave., which leads to the Makati commercial center, is now Gil Puyat. Parallel to it is Pasay Road where Don Bosco, but the road is now called Arnaiz (I don’t know if this is the basketball player or his uncle).

If you look for the Rizal Memorial stadium on Vito Cruz St. in Manila, well, that street is now Pablo Ocampo (must be a former city official). SantoTomas alumni who want to visit the campus will find that Gov. Forbes is now A. H. Lacson, named after the late mayor.

España in front of UST is still España but I have never found out if it’s a street, avenue, boulevard or what. Morayta, that short street at the back of Far Eastern University, is now Reyes or something after the FEU founder. Echague St. in Sta. Cruz where Feati U stands at the foot of MacArthur bridge has been renamed Carlos Palanca who I think operated a distillery nearby.

The great Azcarraga Ave. running from Tutuban through the University Belt up to famous Mendiola — home of San Beda, Centro Escolar and Holy Spirit (formerly Holy Ghost) — has been named C. M. Recto after the great nationalist.

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THE bridge over Mendiola where many marchers had been teargassed or gunned down by Malacañang guards has been named after Don Chino Roces the crusading publisher.

Other streets and their new names: Arroceros St. beside City Hall now Antonio Villegas; Lepanto to Sergio Loyola; Aduana in Intramuros to Soriano; Marquez de Comillas to Romualdez (related to Imelda); Otis to P.M. Guanzon; M. Earnshaw to J. Figueras; Trabajo to M. dela Fuente; Washington to A. Maceda; Laong-Laan to N. Roxas; Isabel to F. Colayco; Lealtad to J. Fajardo; España Extension in Quezon City to E. Rodriguez Ave.; and Reina Regente to Jose Abad Santos.

Don Mariano Marcos Ave. going to Fairview and the Batasan in Quezon City reverted to Commonwealth Ave. after Ferdinand Marcos the son fled to Hawaii.

Do you know that historic EDSA (short for Epifanio delos Santos Ave., but don’t ask me who the man was) used to be called Highway 54? On technical maps, it is C-4 or circumferential road No 4.

An outer ring after C-4 (EDSA) is C-5 which goes around to connect Quezon City, etc. to the South Luzon Expressway without having to pass through the usual jams of QC, Makati, and Magallanes Village.

If you look at the map of Metro Manila, there is an informal pattern of roads radiating from the hub or center. These are called R-1, R-2, etc., R standing for Radial. Running around the hub in almost concentric circles are C-1, C-2. C-3, C-4 and now C-5. They are planning C-6.

But don’t bother to buy a road map when you get here. It will be almost useless.

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