POSTSCRIPT / March 23, 1999 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Theory of relativity a problem for Erap

THAT can of soft drink, or milk or fruit juice might just kill you. Read on.

Before pulling up the tab, make sure you wash the top thoroughly with running water. If you can, soap it well. Do not just wipe it with your finger or a tissue. You may be better off using a straw, assuming you can find a straw that is clean (you can’t be so sure these days).

Dr. Jayasankar Subramanian, asst. professor in horticulture at the University of Florida, recalls: “A family friend’s friend died after drinking a can of soda! Apparently, she didn’t clean the top before drinking from the can. The top was encrusted with dried rat’s urine which is toxic and obviously lethal!”

“Canned drinks and other foodstuffs are often transported to the retail outlets without being properly cleaned,” he warns. That’s true!

* * *

SOME people wash bananas, tomatoes and other fruits with soap and a lot of running water for a similar reason.

One time, we were trailing on the highway a small truck ferrying green bananas. Suddenly one of two men squatting at the cramped rear portion got up, opened his fly and peed on the bananas. Maybe he was too embarrassed to do it facing us who were driving behind the truck, so he turned to the pile of fruits.

Did anybody bother to wash the bananas before they were sold?

A friend narrated how she saw a big basket of tomatoes spill on the slimy floor of the wet market. The tindera gathered them back and, that’s it. They were probably sold as is, without buyers being aware where the luscious tomatoes had just been.

Will holding the tomatoes under an open faucet be enough to clean them? To know the answer, try it for one minute. Then examine them carefully. Most likely you will see some dirt still clinging to them. That’s the filth that you unwittingly eat every now and then.

Why not buy then from the more expensive supermarkets? We aren’t aware of any guarantee that fruits and similar products from air-conditioned supermarkets are any cleaner.

* * *

BAD news for Internet addicts and businessmen swinging onto the worldwide web to snatch a piece of e-commerce (placed at $32 billion this year). Recently the US federal communication commission ruled that calls to a local Internet Service Provider (ISP) are interstate and, therefore, long distance calls.

The federal agency explained that even though a user may call a local ISP number, his call eventually ends up on the worldwide Internet, and should therefore be considered an interstate call. We understand that the ruling is being appealed.

Telephone giants Bells and GTE that control almost all lines US-wide have been pushing for such a ruling. Under a 1966 deal between them and small independent phone firms, the company that receives the call is paid. The giants are saying the deal favored the small ones.

An issue arose when the independent companies started signing up ISPs as customers who in practice receive many but do not make very many calls. The Bells end up paying the independent companies far more then they take in. In 1999, the payments are expected to reach over one billion dollars.

* * *

IF the FCC ruling is adopted in the Philippines, it could shake up Internet charges of our ISPs. Coupled with the plan to meter phone calls, there could be a total revamp of rates.

The ruling that connecting calls made to ISPs are long-distance toll calls is actually logical and, some might concede, fair.

At present, if your ISP is within the area, your dial-up call to it is considered a local call. There are no long-distance charges. You make one call to your ISP and, after connection, use the line non-stop to make endless connections to parties overseas –and you do not pay an extra centavo to the phone company.

This is one of the reasons why the revenues of the phone companies (e.g. PLDT) for overseas calls have plunged. People would rather use the Internet than place those expensive overseas calls.

Will PLDT and other phone companies use the FCC ruling to get a similar ruling locally and ask for an adjustment of rates?

* * *

BACK to the carabao stage in Mabalacat (which we proudly call the industrial capital of Pampanga because it’s the site of the Clark economic zone), some farmers cooperatives have been allowed by Clark authorities to till wide areas near the international airport for seasonal crops.

Making idle Clark land productive while not yet needed by the airport is a wise move. Farmer families in the vicinity who cannot be absorbed by Clark’s network of new businesses now have a side means of earning additional income.

Cultivation will save airport authorities the trouble of having to cut the lush grass that grows around the base. The airport will be paid by the farmers eight cavans of palay per hectare per year during a normal cropping season and P1,000 per hectare per year for other crops.

The farmers must only plant, and not build structures. They can be told to leave anytime the airport needs the areas being tilled. Fair enough.

* * *

MANY people don’t know that there is a Clark gate in Mabalacat. Visitors coming from the North need not motor all the way to crowded Balibago in Angeles. They can turn right at the Mabalacat town market and drive 500 meters straight to the Clark gate.

This gate leads to the sprawling playground/picnic area shaded by giant acacias and straight to the nearby PX-DutyFree shopping area and the Expo Filipino site. You save some 30 minutes taking this route.

The picnic grove, which had a well-equipped playground, used to be a favorite of American families on base. It was neglected after the Pinatubo eruption, but it has been cleared and now looks inviting again. Nature freaks would love this green, relaxing spot.

Most Clark visitors from Metro Manila who still take the Dau exit are not aware that they will pay less in toll and save time if they take a shortcut via the Angeles exit.

After exiting at Angeles and turning right to cross the tollway overpass toward the city proper, take the next right turn toward a residential area. This less-traveled road takes you straight to Balibago without passing through crowded Angeles. You come out at the old MacArthur highway just 50 meters from the palm-lined avenue leading to the Balibago gate.

* * *

IT used to be that before the onset of summer, the tourism department and other tourism entities would place huge advertisements in the media luring would-be travelers to the many destinations made ready for the summer escapade.

We don’t see those ads anymore, nor do we hear announcements of tempting tourism packages for the locals to try. What we see are advertisements of car companies offering service and other assistance to motorists along the highway going north and south of Manila this summer.

What’s going on with Tourism Secretary Gemma Cruz Araneta?

Even Baguio the old reliable is unheard of. Manilans who had been up there complain that while it used to take them only about four hours, now it takes more than six. They report that one of the worst traffic bottlenecks is Carmen where a busy crossroad has proved too difficult for sweating traffic officers to unclog.

Tourism is a function of the economy. Tourism hits the doldrums the moment people’s disposable income dwindles. The money we use for traveling and visiting tourist spots is just extra money. Many people these days complain that that extra fund has come to be extra hard to come by.

* * *

THERE is talk going around, would you believe, that the movie industry has been hit by shortage of talents. It seems that even movie bit player and prop men have joined the government. Some of them have become diplomats, others as directors of government corporations.

Reminds us of those years when the president was Carlos P. Garcia, the bard from Bohol. It was said then that pilots had a hard time locating Bohol because it was left drifting, bobbing up and down the Visayan seas. Despite the famous Chocolate Hills weighing it down, Bohol became that light because most of the people there had reportedly gone to Manila to join the government.

Is it true that C-5, the circumferential road connecting Quezon City and Pasig to the South Luzon Expressway, has been named Carlos P. Garcia Ave.? Why, what has C-5 done to deserve being named after CPG?

It was the opposite in the case of then President Macapagal, the poor boy from Lubao, Pampanga. Well, his townmates complained that Lubao remained poor during his administration, even its roads were neglected compared to those in other parts of the country.

The theory was that Cong Dadong was afraid he might be accused of favoritism if he as much as allocated one peso for a road in his hometown.

* * *

IN the case of President Estrada, the political “theory of relativity” has been a problem. He is discovering that it was not enough for him to read a script at the Luneta that said that there would be no friend, no relatives peddling influence in his administration.

Now, they are all over the place. With the spectacle of the Filipino extended family getting further extended under his term, Mr. Estrada has had his hands full keeping track of relatives who are abusing their relation, real or imagined, with the President.

In his very first administrative order upon entering Malacañang, then President Magsaysay issued clear instructions to the bureaucracy banning his relatives from transacting business or following up papers in the government. Government personnel who would accommodate them were threatened with sanctions.

It worked, because people – including his relatives – knew the Guy meant it.

Did Erap mean it?

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 23, 1999)

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