POSTSCRIPT / June 22, 2000 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Oil sold at $26 now is same $10 oil last year

WE harassed city creatures sometimes repair to some rustic setting on weekends. Some of us who can afford it even take up residence in a nearby province where we can smell the earth and enjoy nature at its best.

But to some angry residents of Ceres II, in nearby Canlubang, Laguna, such a provincial setting means seeing cows tramping all over the place. And “smelling the earth” means being assaulted by the odor of bull shit.

Literally having sacred cows meandering in the streets, nibbling at the greenery, blocking traffic and scattering dung everywhere is hardly anyone’s fantasy of communing with nature.

* * *

A CERES resident told us in exasperation: “We thought this is a residential community and not a farming area. The owners of the cows are very influential and powerful people here. So influential and powerful that they hobnob with the family of the owners of Canlubang — the Yulos.

“The owners of the cows are friends of the Yulos. One is even their henchman, and the other their chief security! Don’t these people realize the inconvenience these cows give to the residents? If they cannot stand the smell of dung, why give it to us?

“And what is Mayor Lajara doing about this? Nothing. You know, the Yulos are his political backers!”

* * *

MAYBE the residents should talk to the Yulos and the mayor. It is just possible that they are not aware of the bs problem.

Anyway, with our mentioning it here, we hope that some friends of the Yulos call their attention and that they promptly do something without waiting for — or requiring! — a notarized written complaint done in triplicate.

* * *

ALSO scheduled in a provincial setting is the Third National Congress of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

With the theme “Philippine Media: Focus on Welfare, Freedom and Professionalism,” newspapermen and media specialists will join the congress next month in Subic Bay for a self-assessment and the drawing up of measures to improve working conditions.

The three-day congress in the scenic redoubt of SBMA chairman Tong Payumo will draw, aside from members of the working press, respected names in government, the academe and business.

Queries can be directed to colleagues Mentong Laurel and Joe Capadocia at the NUJP secretariat at the NPC building.

* * *

WHAT is the NUJP? Is this the organization that will eventually supplant the badly battered National Press Club of the Philippines?

The answer is No. While many members seldom visit the eternally under renovation clubhouse at the southern foot of Jones bridge in Intramuros, no group has emerged, so far, that can wean us from our mother press club.

Besides, it is never the objective of NUJP to replace or rival the NPC. The two organizations work in tandem. While the NPC, in our view, is more of a social club, the NUJP focuses more on the upgrading of working conditions.

There is, of course, no bar to the NPC also pressing the improvement of our working conditions, especially economic benefits. We think it should.

To many newspapermen, the bigger problem in the real world is not how to produce a good story or to fend off threats to press freedom, but how to make both ends meet for the family. Discussion on this subject can fill an entire library.

* * *

WE’VE been asked by some parents what course their children should take if they want to become journalists.

To become a journalist, we invariably reply, do not take up journalism. Instead, take a course rich in the liberal arts — sociology, history, economics, psychology, political science, etc. — because these will make you understand better the human condition.

Such a deeper understanding is crucial to a newspaperman’s being able to write with depth and meaning about things that matter most to people.

Writing is easy. It’s just story-telling, something we do everyday. What is more important, what is more difficult to gather and share, is the substance of that story.

The writer is better equipped to inject relevant substance to his story if he is steeped in the liberal arts. He will learn the writing part easily, but he cannot force substance into something he hardly understands.

* * *

DOES this mean that one has to have a college education to be a good journalist? Paano na yung mga hindi nakatapos?

It used to be that we never bothered about college diplomas as far as newspapering was concerned. We just waded into it, sometimes slugging it out, and some of us came out winners.

But times have changed. If I had a choice between two applicants, one without and the other with a college education, with everything else almost the same, I would pick the one who went to college.

As a manager, I would feel more assured having with me somebody who went through the rigors of college education. At least here is somebody who brings in stock knowledge and, hopefully, some academic discipline to see him through.

* * *

I SHOULD not take this attitude since I was myself an undergraduate when I was recruited by the pre-martial law Manila Times. All around me then were many writers without college diplomas but pounding out excellent journalism.

Work pressure forced me to drop out, but I had to go back to school later to finally complete my college requirements. (To be honest about it, I went back for a diploma not really to improve my craft but to plug my handicap in the newsroom slowly being populated by graduates. In fact, the ante has gone up with some of us moving on to collect a master’s degree.)

But, as I said, if a budding newspaperman wants academic preparation, he need not take a journalism course — unless he can supplement his technical masscom training with a good outside reading menu.

By the way, many of us wince when we’re called journalists. It sounds stilted. We’re just plain working newspapermen. And yours truly, grizzled to the gills, is nothing more than a reporter to the core.

* * *

WE sat down to write this column having in mind saying a thing or two about the impending gasoline price increase, that never-ending pain in the neck and the pocketbook.

The voracious oil companies, their mouths still dripping with the blood of their recent price increase, are again threatening to slap us with another rise in the pump price of gasoline. This is getting too much to bear.

The problem is that we are captive consumers. Individually it seems we cannot do much to resist. We have to work, we have to go about our chores and routine, we cannot stop moving around on wheels. We need gasoline.

We can be lifted from our helplessness only if we band together and demand fairness. And the government, that increasingly irrelevant dinosaur that we have to feed, should step in and tilt the balance for us.

But, if you noticed, the government itself seems to have been coopted by the oil firms.

* * *

BATAAN Rep. Enrique Garcia had a point when he said that no half-measure would work in the continuing fight to bring down fuel prices to reasonable levels. Tangling with the local oil companies is just like trimming the branches of a tree encroaching into your yard.

The fight has to be pushed back to the root of the oil racket. The telling argument is that in March last year, the price of crude was just $10 per barrel — but the oil cartel was already drowning in mega-profits at that price.

While there has been no commensurate increase in production costs, the oil monopoly arbitrarily squeezed the supply and raised the price until today it hovers around $26 per barrel (a whopping 160-percent increase!).

Note that the $10-per-barrel oil of last year is exactly the same fossil fuel that oil sheiks are now force-selling at $26 per barrel without their having to spend $16 more to extract it from the ground and prepare it for distribution.

* * *

SO what is the $16 additional cost per barrel? It is nothing but additional profit, the icing that the gluttons keep slapping on their fat cake without any value added to the basic product.

Unlike agricultural crops that must be planted and nursed until harvest, unlike goods that must be manufactured from raw materials, oil is just there under the ground waiting to be pumped out.

The only basic expenses involved in oil production are for locating the deposit and pumping it out. Once the oil field is pinpointed and the infrastructure for taking it out is laid out, the black gold just keeps gushing out depending on how we manipulate the spigot.

* * *

THERE is hardly any substantial additional expense that would justify a jump of 160 percent in the pre-delivery price of the same oil.

Like water and air, oil is a God-given essential of this earth, our earth. Why do people who pump out oil from the earth still have to suck blood from us children of God?

That, of course, is part of the human condition. Fortunately for us, we can write about it. And, maybe, change it if we muster enough courage — and numbers.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 22, 2000)

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