POSTSCRIPT / June 20, 1999 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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At railroad crossing, do we stop or drink gin first?

ON days when your brain goes sluggish, you might drive up to the railroad crossing and ponder: Do you Stop, Look and Listen or do you stop and drink gin first? On the steel arch over the intersection, the brand name Ginebra San Miguel looms bigger than the usual traffic warning.

Some signs advice you to drive slowly, or turn right any time with care, but add the subliminal suggestion to check in at a motel whose name appears below the traffic advisory.

Other road signs tell you not to park at that spot while urging you to go and buy some hamburger or brake fluid or enroll at some computer school.

The proliferation of traffic signs astride commercial advertisements is one of the reasons why many motorists disregard traffic signs. They don’t know if the signs are official or commercial.

Even traffic enforcers, we suspect, can no longer distinguish which of the traffic or road signs are genuine and which were just placed there by commercial establishments.

It is not fair for traffic enforcers or policemen to accost motorists when they fail to follow instructions scrawled on the confusing signs on the road.

The Metro Manila Development Authority should sweep the traffic jungle and remove all fake and unauthorized signs. Those that are left must then be redesigned to make them uniform and readily recognizable as legitimate MMDA-approved signs.

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UNFORTUNATELY, many drivers still don’t know some of their rights or what the correct procedure for certain engagements is.

For instance, when you are flagged down for some alleged violation and you pull over, you should not get off your vehicle and walk, scratching your head, to the traffic outpost to drop your tong.

The traffic officer must go to where you had stopped your vehicle and, with you still behind the wheel, talk to you courteously and inform you of the alleged violation. If after you had waited for him to walk over, he refuses to go to where you are, drive off.

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WHEN you come upon a blinking traffic light, what do you do? Do you stop, slow down or do something else?

A blinking yellow means slow down or proceed with caution at that intersection. A blinking red means you make a full stop at the limit line (the other line just before you pass the pedestrian lane) before proceeding.

Some traffic enforcers leave the intersection traffic light blinking in just any manner without realizing what the colors mean. The blinking red is sometimes on the main thoroughfare while the blinking yellow is on the minor street.

If those blinking lights left carelessly are to be strictly followed, we have the absurd situation of the vehicles on the thoroughfare yielding (or coming to a full stop) to those coming from the minor road (which just have to slow down).

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TRAFFIC enforcers are often guilty of teaching us motorists wrong driving habits.

At intersections where left turn is allowed, traffic officers usually motion drivers on Lanes 2 and 3 (Lane 1 being the leftmost lane) to crawl forward to position themselves nearer the middle of the intersection.

This is an unfortunate conditioning for drivers not to use the left lane (Lane 1) when preparing to make a left turn. They are conditioned to swing out and position themselves on Lanes 2 and 3 and get ahead of those who obey the rules by staying on Lane 1.

The result is the clogging of Lanes 1, 2 and 3, with only Lane 4 (on a four-lane road) left for traffic moving straight ahead.

Drivers are also taught to disregard the limit line. Many traffic enforcers do not seem to know that vehicles waiting for their turn must not straddle or cross the pedestrian lanes, but must stay back and keep their “noses” behind the limit line so as not to obstruct or harm pedestrians crossing the street.

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THIS is what we mean when we keep repeating that before we plunge into enforcement, we should first go into education, one of the three E’s (Education, Engineering and Enforcement) of traffic management.

How do we bring back sanity and order in the streets if we, including enforcers themselves, do not even know the rules?

On the part of drivers, we know that getting a license or licenses (many public utility drivers carry several of them under different names) is just as easy as ordering a pair of pants at the tailor.

One does not have to know how to drive safely. He just has to know how to operate the motor vehicle.

* * *

AS for engineering, the roads must have been properly designed and built before we presume to enforce the rules. If a traffic light, for instance, is not positioned where it could be readily seen, it is unfair to arrest drivers who fail to spot the red light.

How does one enforce rules against lane changing if the lanes had faded away with the asphalt? How do we know where to stop at the red light if there are no limit lines?

How does an investigator determine which vehicle in an accident was not on its proper lane when there are no lanes in the first place?

This aspect of engineering includes the placement of correct signs in their correct places that we mentioned at the start of this article.

So back to the original question: At the railroad intersection, do we Stop, Look and Listen, or do we drink Ginebra San Miguel first?

* * *

THE other side: Oil companies are not the insatiable ogres that they are sometimes pictured to be, according to some Postscript readers reacting to our last column about the Big Three poised to raise again the prices of their oil products.

From Jose Golez, who identifies himself as a retired chemical engineer trained abroad whose last job was as SMC director for fuels and chemical logistics:

“To criticize that oil companies makes P59.7 million per day is being myopic. The important thing is the bottom line. How much is the ROI (return on investment) at the end of the fiscal year?

“Statistics indicates that oil companies make only 3 percent or sometimes less while banks make 20 percent, more or less.

“Fuel and energy cost contributes the least in manufacturing cost, but cost of money influence is the largest. But who call the bank names?

“In other countries, the government tax oil companies heavily thus raising deliberately prices to make people use their vehicles intelligently. This also limits pollution. Each vehicle that runs contributes to pollution so let them pay for making each one of us suffer. Just look around, how many vehicles are on the road that should not be there?

“Fossil fuel supply may not last more than 50 years. How much does it cost? Less than a bottle of Coke. Just think of it.”

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POSTSCRIPT reader Mcdiaz15 comments on the quixotic fight of Bataan Rep. Enrique Garcia against the oil oligopoly:

“May I suggest that congressman Garcia fight on two fronts? He should also initiate in Congress laws patterned after the Energy Tax Act of 1980 in the United States that established the federal alternative fuel program (ethanol fuel program) whose target was 10-percent ethanol in gasoline by 1990.

“He should also sponsor a law patterned after the US Clean Air Act Amendments and Energy Policy Act of 1992 that gave tax incentives to the production and use of ethanol as fuel additive in clean burning gasoline. This program generated from 370 local jobs to 5,604 person-years of work with an income creation of $60 million to $130million.

“Jobs created during the operation of the facility are estimated from 900 to more than 4,000 with an estimated created income of $47million to $100million. The use of ethanol as a gasoline additive displaces some imported petroleum product by as much as 20 percent annually.

“The best way to break this monopoly is to institute an alternative clean-burning fuel program which we can produce locally.”

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THE government actually benefits from increases in the price of oil products, according to Danilo Araña Arao, editor in chief of IBON, an independent think tank. The government cashes in on higher prices through taxes. He explains:

“Based on the Oil Tax Restructuring Law, specific taxes on petroleum products average P1.58 per liter. With the projected consumption of 65 million liters per day for 1999, the P1.58 per liter specific tax amounts to about P102.7 million everyday, or P37.5 billion in one year!

“Allowing and defending the recent oil price hike, therefore, becomes beneficial to the government. Indeed, the oil industry has become a milking cow as the oil firms earn more and give government its share of the loot in the form of taxes.”

* * *

ONE time we said that those using or want to use computers would do well to learn touch system early, that they should learn to use all the fingers to strike keys assigned to each finger instead of using only two or four fingers like some of us do. We mentioned that there are software that teach and train us in keyboarding.

Reader Tess Lee said there is a website where one can practice typing to gain speed and accuracy. She says: “You don’t have to purchase the product, just download the demo version and it’s enough to keep you going. The website is www.TypingMaster.com.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 20, 1999)

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