POSTSCRIPT / February 8, 2000 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Military has the reason, resources to help Manero

WE discovered over the weekend that it is no joke scrounging for something pleasant and significant to write about the Estrada administration.

It seems that we, like traditional politicians, promised too much when we vowed to write today a praise release for President Estrada to repay our inclusion in the Palace honor list of 12 newspapermen who allegedly destabilize his administration by writing the truth.

So our promised Erap-friendly POSTSCRIPT for today will have to wait. Anyway, Mr. Estrada still has four years to go.

* * *

WHILE militant groups battled policemen guarding the offices of the Big 3 oil companies continually raising the price of their petroleum products, Bataan Rep. Enrique (Don QuijoTet) Garcia has been quietly refining his bill (HB 8710) proposing the creation of a National Oil Commission.

His revisions were made in light of observations made by supporters and critics alike on the feasibility of the OilEx (the acronym first given to the oil commission by POSTSCRIPT).

Garcia said some of the objections of Energy Secretary Mario Tiaoqui, a virtual spokesman of the oil companies, have influenced his rewriting of the bill. Actual amendments will be considered during deliberations on HB 8710 and its Senate counterpart (SB 1858) filed by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.

* * *

THE OilEx will provide the administrative mechanism for directly buying refined oil products (not crude oil, as some people think) through bidding involving some 40 refineries and traders worldwide. Competitive bidding is expected to lower cost of acquisition.

The local oil firms (Petron, Shell and Caltex) can join the bidding and possibly win since, they claim, their refining and handling costs and prices are comparatively lower.

But Tiaoqui said that the prudent buyer should not rely on the spot market (bidding), because (1) prices could shoot up in case of a worldwide or regional shortage, and (2) the buyer may not be able to get the products before his stocks run out even if he is willing to pay the price.

Garcia said the OilEx could resort to term contracts as suggested by Tiaoqui and buy the balance, if any, through bidding in the spot market. The two-level procurement could be considered, Garcia said, but should not be used meantime to block consideration of the OilEx idea.

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TIAOQUI frowned on the possible takeover by the OilEx of the storage facilities of the Big 3. He said such takeover is unfair and will scare foreign investors.

Garcia said takeover won’t necessarily happen since the OilEx can use instead the ocean-receiving terminals at Subic Bay and Clark Field which can store substantial volumes of oil products.

If the Subic and Clark facilities are not enough, Garcia said, additional storage can be built at the two bases where storage and distribution infrastructure is already in place.

Renting of the Big 3’s storage facilities is only a last resort, he said, under the police power of the state after due process and the just compensation of the oil firms. As alternative facilities are available, we need not resort to takeover of the Big 3’s depots, he said.

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ANOTHER objection of Tiaoqui is that the OilEx could just become like other government trading agencies that only sank into graft and gargantuan debts while making privileged individuals overnight millionaires.

With lessons learned from trading agencies that had gone astray, Garcia said the OilEx law could be so written as to include strict safeguards.

He said the OilEx could be changed from a non-profit government corporation to a non-profit private corporation with a rainbow representation from the consumer, transport, workers-farmers and cause-oriented groups, as well as the oil companies.

* * *

LOOK what happened after we challenged Environment Secretary Antonio Cerilles to expand his critical inspection of the Jumbo floating restaurant of Stanley Ho to cover also the major eateries and hotels along Roxas Blvd.

Stung by POSTSCRIPT, Cerilles ordered lawyer Joaquin Mendoza, general manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority, to swoop down on all bayside establishments. The LLDA is empowered to enforce PD 984, the pollution control law.

Among the violations checked were the reported dumping by some of these establishments of their untreated wastes directly to the bay, making it a veritable septic tank.

* * *

REPORTING on the inspections, Ner Dayrit, the public relations man of Cerilles, said that so far four motels, one hotel, a bank, a department store, four bus transportation services and a food firm — all in Pasay City – have been issued Notices of Violation (NOVs) by the LLDA.

The establishments listed with violations were identified by Dayrit as: Mahal Kita Lodge/Motel owned by the ALC Group of Corporations; Liza Lodge/Motel owned by the Maxell Resort Development Corp., Anito Tourist Lodge/Motel; Hiyas Royale Inn, owned by Agusan River Enterprises; the EGI Rufino Plaza Hotel and Commercial Complex; Traders Royal Bank; KLG International Inc.; Savers Square Department Store; Tritran bus terminal; Pangasinan Five Stare Bus Co.; JV Lines Bicol Express; and Victory Liner.

* * *

LLDA boss Mendoza said they were given seven days to explain why they should not be fined. Failure to comply, he said, will mean the cessation of their operations.

Restaurants, hotels and other establishments found violating PD 984 will be fined at least P5,000 per day for every day of violation.

Under PD 984, “no person can throw, run, drain, or otherwise dispose into any of the water, air and/or land resources of the Philippines, or cause, permit, suffer to be thrown, run, drain, allow to seep or otherwise dispose thereto any organic or inorganic matter or any substance in gaseous or liquid form that shall cause pollution.”

Ho’s floating restaurant, permanently anchored with its kitchen barge behind the Tanghalang Balagtas (Folk Arts Theater), drains its liquid wastes to the treatment tanks of the Cultural Center instead of to the sea. It has been given clearance by the DENR.

* * *

IN the wake of the conditional pardon of convicted cannibal Norberto Manero, people in the know point to two scenarios that, they said, could explain why controversial prisoners manage to win commutation or even pardons.

One is the alleged existence of a syndicate that offers to work for clemency for convicts who are qualified for parole. For a fee, the group allegedly prepares the needed documents and handles the legwork and the pushing of pertinent papers.

Another is the alleged “unseen hand” of the military, which traditionally looks after its own kind and works for the interest not only of its regular members who land in prison while on official mission, but also of assets who risk their lives as paramilitary operatives.

* * *

MANERO and his armed group of Ilagas were members of the Civilian Home Defense Forces unleashed in the 80s against Muslim armed bands in Mindanao.

The understanding between the military and the militias is that the former will look after them, protecting them when they get into trouble in pursuit of missions that the military may not be able to overtly handle.

The twin objectives of a military operation are the (1) accomplishment of the mission, and the (2) looking after the men. The militias maintained by the military will not flourish without such assurance of protection by their benefactors.

To the extent that the law would allow it, such valuable civilian assets as Manero will have to be helped along until they are set free as promised. Otherwise, the militia concept will not work.

* * *

WHILE congressional investigators look into the circumstance of Manero’s pardon, they can look into this angle of the military covertly looking after its assets in prison (as well as their waiting families) and quietly working for their eventual release.

Investigators can move one step further and look into the possibility, despite its being vehemently denied, that Manero and other military assets similarly given liberty may have been marked for future missions.

If this theory has any basis, the question now is if President Estrada has the guts to go against the military establishment’s moving to protect its assets who had risked everything in pursuit of their mission.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 8, 2000)

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