POSTSCRIPT / February 13, 2000 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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A 21-week-old fetus reaches out from womb

WE share this amazing story and picture sent to us by the San Pedro Field Rep Team of Meralco. They said in their message:

The picture appeared in the Nov. 16 edition of The National Enquirer. It is that of a 21-week-old unborn baby named Samuel Alexander Armas, who is being operated on by a surgeon named Joseph Bruner.

The baby was diagnosed with spina bifida and would not survive if removed from the mother’s womb. Little Samuel’s mother, Julie Armas, is an obstetrics nurse in Atlanta. She knew of Dr. Bruner’s remarkable surgical procedure.

Practicing at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, he performs these special operations while the baby is still in the womb. In the procedure, a C-section removes the uterus and the doctor makes a small incision to operate on the baby.

During the surgery, little Samuel reached his tiny, but fully developed, hand through the incision and firmly grasped the surgeon’s finger. The photograph captures this amazing event.

The editors titled the picture, “Hand of Hope.” The text explaining the picture begins, “The tiny hand of 21-week-old fetus Samuel Alexander Armas emerges from the mother’s uterus to grasp the finger of Dr. Joseph Bruner as if thanking the doctor for the gift of life.”

That picture is graphic reminder that growing in the womb of his or her mother is a baby. It is not a “glob of tissue,” or “product of conception.” That pre-born baby is a human being with all the emotions, will and personality of any human being.

That picture says it in a way that a thousand words cannot. Little Samuel’s mother said they “wept for days” when they saw the picture. She said, “The photo reminds us my pregnancy isn’t about disability or illness, it’s about a little person.”

That’s what it’s always been about.

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OUR thanks to the Meralco team whose members include: Arnel O. Corpuz, field reps Greg Nieva, Teng Garcia, Greg Jamora, Lito Salubon, Tony Quilao, Robert Del Monte, Gil Dueñas, Jose Villa, Raffy Lavador, Ron Logo, DunDun Mangahis, Gene Trinidad, Edwin Carlos, Jeric Pascua, Harly Carbonell, Jimmy Elazegui, and encoders Esmie, Louie, Donna, Blessie, Nerry, Elmer and Grace.

Some readers might want to drop us a paragraph or two on what “spina bifida” is, and possibly more interesting details about the surgical procedure used on little Samuel.

* * *

WE need not place all our fuel or power eggs in one oil-based basket. Since we’re likely to be stuck with fossil oil for more decades to come, we better look fast for alternatives to reduce our oil bill.

Among all post-Liberation presidents, it was the late dictator Marcos who did much to wean us from our oil dependence. His administration was the most active in exploring and adopting alternative fuels and modes of power generation.

After his stint, however, there was general neglect of alternative power sources. President Aquino failed to install a replacement to the Bataan nuclear plant that she mothballed. After her, President Ramos simply brought in more power generators — via negotiated deals — to solve a power crisis.

For its part, the Estrada administration has failed to carry out a coherent long-range power strategy. In fact, offered a likely solution to the problem of continually rising fuel prices in the form of a National Oil Exchange, he has chosen to defer to and side with the foreign-controlled oil firms.

* * *

ON fossil fuels and the accompanying problem of pollution, US-based geologist Manuel C. Diaz suggests that the Philippines follow the example of the United States “in using ethanol alcohol as the oxygenates and octane booster in low-emission reformulated gasoline.”

Ethanol can be produce locally. If we substitute 10 percent ethanol in our reformulated gasoline, Diaz said, we could save at least $192 million per year. This amount can go to the local farmers and ethanol manufacturers.

Our unleaded gasoline contains benzene, which has been link to leukemia cancer. We should also remove the benzene from our gasoline to reduce the leukemia and lung cancer risk.

He said the capital cost involved in using ethanol would not be staggering compared to retooling our oil refineries to produce benzene-free gasoline.

* * *

WE’RE glad that some lawmakers have picked up the line-item budgeting idea broached in Postscript. This generally shuns lump sum appropriations, the stuff of which pork barrel is made, and requires the line-by-line listing of projects in the budget as it is being written.

With these projects individually listed, with their respective funding and other details, what is left is implementation. We would then be spared the spectacle of lawmakers poking their sticky fingers into lump sum pork barrel appropriations, pushing pet projects, choosing the contractors and cashing in on their meddling.

* * *

AMADOR “Morry” Moriles, past president of the Rotary Club of Metro Cebu, recalled their own “simplified but effective system” of managing community projects.

At the start of the term, he said, each committee chairman is asked to submit a plan, a budget and, finally, a date of completion.

“It is a time-tested formula of Rotary, worldwide,” he said. “And it has a 90 percent batting average.”

Minus the plan, there is no budget. If there is no budget, it follows, too, that there is no project to speak of. If a committee chair does not come up with a viable plan, he’s not worth his post. But, normally, most chairpersons rise to the need of the hour, coming up with a good plan of action.

* * *

IN government, the reverse is true, he noted. First, the pork barrel is released. Then, the recipient of the money is asked to come up with a plan, or projects in his/her district. And delivery? Who cares?

Morilles said this explains why many farm-to-market roads that were started decades ago are still unfinished.

If the total pork barrel bonanza released from the time of Quezon to Estrada were spent honestly on projects, he said, the Philippines will not be wanting in classrooms, hospitals, farm-to-market roads — with a lot to spare for our ill-equipped armed forces.

“It takes a true leader and a statesman rolled into one to tame the “pork,” he concluded. “And that, according to my barber, seems to be the problem here.”

* * *

LOOK what we started. After we challenged Environment Secretary Antonio Cerilles to also inspect other restaurants and hotels along Roxas Blvd. in addition to the Jumbo Palace of Macau dealer Stanley Ho, the list of alleged sanitation and environment violators keeps growing longer.

Seven more establishments — a school, two gasoline stations, four residential/commercial buildings — were issued Notices of Violations (NOV) by the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) for reportedly dumping untreated wastes into Manila Bay.

Issued NOVs were Mapua Institute of Technology, Top Gear Service Center Petron, Powery Commercial Corp., Harrison Mansion, SKK Building, Paulines Commercial Center Building of the Daughters of St. Paul, and a Caltex gasoline station.

* * *

LAST week, 12 establishments were closed after the initial inspection: 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 Star Bus Co.; JV Lines Bicol Express; and Victory Liner.

Restaurants, hotels and other establishments violating environment and pollution laws are fined a maximum of P5,000 for every day that their violation or default continues.

We hope ningas kugon, or something worse, does not set in before full compliance by the alleged violators.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 13, 2000)

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