POSTSCRIPT / June 29, 2000 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Fire Misuari before he turns traitor to RP cause

UNTIL when do we have to grovel and explain to meddling foreign governments our internal policies and programs?

A committee of the Organization of Islamic Conference is meeting in Kuala Lumpur and we are sending a top Malacañang official to explain ourselves, because the man who should be defending us has flipped and is publicly pushing contrary interests.

Malacañang should look for an excuse to immediately fire or suspend Nur Misuari as governor of the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao so when he badmouths us in the Malaysian capital, he would not be doing it with official cover at taxpayers’ expense.

We present a ludicrous picture of having Misuari, a government official propped up by our billions, whaling away at the Philippine government — and National Security Adviser Alexander Aguirre frantically trying to get a word edgewise in our defense.

File charges against Misuari right away and suspend him before he runs amuck in a traitorous bid to please his foreign benefactors!

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BACK in the newsroom, this writer looked silly apologizing to readers for the strange characters that had marred the text of a previous Postscript (6/27/00) while right above that apology were more of the same offending marks scattered over our column.

Forcing ourselves to see something positive in that printing disaster, we told ourselves that reading Postscript is now as stimulating as solving a cryptogram or decoding an alien message filtering from outer space.

If this column is again attacked by wayward punctuation marks, ridiculous diphthongs and accented letters of a foreign language, then maybe we have to resign to these glitches of supposedly high-tech word processing.

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WE think it is a software problem. It is likely that the STAR’s word processing and email software are not fully compatible with the Microsoft Word 2000 and the Netscape Communicator 4.73 we have been using lately.

Now we have in mind going back to Word 97 and Communicator 4, which seem to be on friendly terms with the software loaded in the STAR network. The problem is we have uninstalled these older versions and cannot find the compact disks.

Our best bet is to save this column as plain text (.txt), and not as a Word document (.doc). Plain text is sort of generic and can be read by most software.

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YOU may have the latest software in your harddisk, but when communicating with the rest of the world, you sometimes have to adjust to find a common level.

We encountered the same problem with Adobe Pagemaker 6.5, which we have been using for page composition since way back. Our PM6.5 had refused to place text that had been saved as Word 97 documents (.doc).

Maybe it was a minor problem that could have been solved by clicking some button, but since we did not have the time for experimenting, we just saved the Word document again as plain text and, voila!, Pagemaker accepted it.

Pagemaker is a popular page-composition software used in many magazines and newspapers. A few other newspapers, such as Today, use QuarkXpress which we were told is efficient in creating newspaper pages dominated by text.

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SOME friends who are deadset on launching their own websites but who, like me, do not have the expertise of the masters have been experimenting and asking around what the best web-authoring software is.

We’re looking for a versatile, easy-to-use software to train on and use for creating and managing websites.

Dynamic HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is probably the best tool there is, but we impatient beginners who want to join the race in cyberspace are looking for a web-authoring software to grow into and produce killer (“pamatay”) designs.

We have been looking at Microsoft FrontPage, Adobe PageMill and Dreamweaver, but cannot make up our minds. Will some techie out there please cut short our meandering and tell us what software is best?

* * *

WE thought the overconfident oil cartel has decided to ignore Bataan Rep. Enrique T. Garcia and his proposal for a National Oil Exchange (OilEx) that seeks to import cheaper gasoline and other refined petroleum products.

We were surprised to receive a belated rejoinder from Petron to some remarks of Garcia (Postscript, 6/22/00) that the price of crude oil is being manipulated and that the OilEx could minimize the arbitrary raising of prices.

In a letter to us, Gabriel P. Mathay, Petron’s corporate communications manager, said among other things:

1. Petron is not part of any global cabal of oil producers. It is a publicly owned company based in the Philippines. Our books are open to public scrutiny. Our financials are disclosed every quarter to the Philippine Stock Exchange and are audited annually by Sycip, Gorres & Velayo (SGV).

It is true that Saudi Aramco has a 40-percent stake in the company, but the Philippine government through PNOC owns another 40 percent. The balance of 20 percent is owned by some 200,000 public shareholders. It is inaccurate to say that Saudi Aramco is synonymous to Petron.

2. Supply and demand dictate crude prices. Although there may be no additional expense incurred in the pre-delivery prices for oil-producing countries, we consider certain economic realities.

Crude oil prices in 1996 and 1997 averaged between $18 to $19 per barrel, while 1999 saw a decrease in oil prices to as low as $10 a barrel before going up again. This merely indicates market forces.

The current prices of crude are primarily the result of increasing world demand. The United States, the world s largest oil consumer, is experiencing low inventory levels brought about initially by higher heating oil consumption because of a prolonged cold spell in the northwest

This transitioned to higher gasoline demand due to peak summer driving. Further, new federal requirements calling for a new reformulated gasoline product that is cleaner burning aggravated the situation.

Another reason is increased economic activity in Asia-Pacific, particularly in China, India, Japan and South Korea. This has led to a higher demand for crude oil to drive their economies. Crude consumption in Asia today is more substantial than prior to the 1997 financial crisis.

3. Petron reaffirms its support of the Pascual Formula. Under this proposed compromise, the OilEx using the sizable government storage facilities at Subic would compete versus the oil firms. The scenario means an acceleration of deregulation to which we have always adhered, and the assurance of a market for our refined products and that our refining and marketing operations would not be dismembered.

This formula is in contrast to Congressman Garcia’s original draconian proposal wherein the OilEx would monopolize the domestic supply and distribution of fuel products.

With an OilEx monopoly handling the bidding, local refiners will not be able to plan their operations. Even if they were the only ones bidding, it will be impossible for any of them to always emerge as the winner and be able to sell any or all of their refined products.

At a time when other countries such as India, Taiwan and Vietnam are granting incentives to encourage more refineries, the OilEx could result in the death of the local refining industry.

If the proponents of the OilEx are confident of the viability of their proposal, then it must be tested via the Pascual formula. This is the opportunity to prove if it will be able to deliver on its promise to give consumers the lowest prices possible of refined products, without resorting to monopolizing the domestic supply and distribution of these products.

After all, if the OilEx is unable to accomplish its desired objective, the current refinery scenario must still be in place to pick up the pieces and to ensure the country’s fuel security.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 29, 2000)

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