POSTSCRIPT / March 21, 2000 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Pray for PCSO graces through the Holy Trinity

SISTER Christine Tan did not accuse first lady Loi Ejercito of pocketing Sweepstakes money. The good nun just said that a large sum had been sent by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to the Office of the First Lady.

All the First Lady has to do is account for the money (which she is doing). She need not lose sleep over a simple bookkeeping item.

By the way, some readers have asked us if the President’s wife is a government official and if there is such a government agency called the Office of the First Lady. We said we didn’t know.

Another question stumped us: For every P100 received by the First Lady for charity, how much went directly to indigent beneficiaries and how much spilled into so-called administrative expense?

It may be indelicate to ask such money questions of the First Lady, but somebody has to ask them.

* * *

IN the case of San Juan Mayor Jinggoy Estrada, who is busy preparing to run for the Senate, the big question is why Sweepstakes ambulances are being distributed like pork barrel through him. However you look at it, it’s not right.

When the highest officials of the land see nothing wrong in that, one begins to wonder if there is still hope for this country.

How true are reports that the Sweepstakes markings on the vehicles had been replaced by the name of the mayor? The newspapers should publish honest pictures of the ambulances to settle questions about the alleged mislabeling.

* * *

WHO will stop this indecent practice of making Sweepstakes doles appear like they are coming from the largesse of the Holy Trinity of San Juan?

Sweepstakes assistance to the poor, like Red Cross relief goods and calamity aid, was never intended to be used as political tools.

Somebody has to realign the obviously skewed priorities of Sweepstakes charity channeling the bulk of disposable funds to political patrons. Can a rubber stamp PCSO board muster enough courage to correct that?

Meanwhile, the poor who want speedy PCSO assistance may be better off praying to the Holy Trinity for perpetual help instead of trying their luck simply raising their palms to the Sweepstakes board.

* * *

THERE was a backlash of concern and indignation to our report on alien biopirates (POSTSCRIPT, 03/16/00) stealing and patenting indigenous flora and fauna discovered to be valuable sources of important drugs.

Perla Manapol, liaison officer of Bagobuk Community Multi-Purpose Cooperative based in Puerto Princesa, reports another piracy attempt in Palawan, a favorite hunting ground of prospectors.

She said their group caught four scientists from Slovakia in Puerto Princesa collecting rare specimens of insects in the forests of Palawan without permission from government agencies. The visitors had been seen openly collecting specimens for almost a month, but no one had bothered to inform the authorities.

Three sacks and one box containing specimens of plants believed to have medicinal values were also seized recently from three French scientists in Palawan while about to leave for Manila accompanied by some museum officials.

* * *

A SOIL fungus collected from Iloilo by the American drug company Eli Lilly is the source of the popular antibiotic “erythromycin.” Aside from calling the fungus “ilosone” to honor Iloilo, the foreign drug company is not compensating the local sources.

Other native specimens already patented abroad include the “ampalaya” (Mamantia mordica), and “talong” (Solanum melongena), which are used in treating thrombosis (blood clotting) and fighting the human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) that leads to the dreaded AIDS. “Ampalaya” has been confirmed also as an effective cure for diabetes.

The Philippine yew (Taxus matrana) found on Mount Pulag, Benguet, has been found to have great potential as a cancer cure. Specimens were uprooted from the national park and patented abroad from research done at the University of Massachusetts.

A local snail (Conus magnus) is the source of a toxin that is 1,000 times more potent than the painkiller morphine. Patented in the US, it is now owned by Neurex Inc., a US-based multinational pharmaceutical firm. Neurex has spent $80 million in preparing to launch the new wonder painkiller.

* * *

Dr. Elvira D. Lacdao, using an aol (AmericaOnLine) address, says: “To erupt with indignation is perhaps the necessary reaction to rampant biopiracy. Is it possible to write an open letter to the President to address the issue?

“We could perhaps bring in NBC to do an international TV report like on Prime Time or Sixty Minutes. I also thought the University of the Philippines has a pharmaceutical research laboratory that studies Philippines flora and fauna.

“The Philippines has long been known to be rich in medicinal plants and organisms. Perhaps , the government’s neglect in making basic research a priority by awarding more money for the sector has encouraged looting for foreigners.”

* * *

LOCALLY, did you know that the nutrients of seven of the country’s more potent natural herbs have been packed into vitamin pills that are being sold as herbal food supplement and natural anti-oxidant?

Note this combination: Momordica charantia (ampalaya or bitter gourd);Adrographis paniculata (king of bitters); Curcumae longa (tumeric or luyang dilaw); Corchorus oliturius (saluyot); Mentha cordifolia (peppermint or yerba buena); Vitex negundo (lagundi or five-leaf chaste tree); and Moringa oleifera (malunggay or horse radish tree).

Generations of Filipinos have known and used these natural herbs. If individually they are that potent, what more when packed together?

Sold under an ABS trade mark, the herbal food supplement is produced by ABS GEN International Corp. licensed by the Bureau of Food and Drug.

* * *

A PHILPPINE-Italian consortium has just finished a 13-kilometer tunnel through the Sierra Madre that will bring water from the Umiray river in Quezon to the Angat reservoir in Bulacan and then on to the East Zone of Metro Manila.

The P4.3-billion project of Manila Water, the Ayala-led East Zone concessionaire, will pump soon some 900 million liters per day or 25 percent more water to the taps of some five million residents of Metro Manila.

The areas that will get additional water include Mandaluyong, Marikina, Pasig, Pateros, San Juan, Taguig, Makati and parts of Quezon City and Manila, as well as the towns of Angono, Antipolo, Baras, Binangonan, Cainta, Cardona, Jala-Jala, Morong, Pililla, Rodriguez, Tanay, Taytay, Teresa, Rodriguez and San Mateo in Rizal.

The Umiray contractors are J.V. Angeles Construction of the Philippines and Grandi Lavori Fincosit and Societá Esecuzione Lavori Idraulici of Italy.

* * *

ASIDE from increasing water supply, the project’s mini-hydroelectric plant will generate some 120 megawatt-hours of power per year for the Luzon grid including Metro Manila.

Manila Water President Antonino Aquino said the full impact of the project would be felt when the present supply-sharing with Maynilad Water Services of the West Zone is closed.

Maynilad Water, the Benpres-led concessionaire, draws 320 million liters of water from Manila Water each day. This amount of water will be made available exclusively for the Manila Water franchise area once the project is completed and the supply sharing is stopped.

The additional supply will benefit mostly Taguig and elevated areas of Makati that have been having irregular water supply. Manila Water is building a booster pump station in Fort Bonifacio so the additional water can be pushed to these areas.

* * *

ONE problem encountered in the past is that whenever additional water is pumped into the network, some of the pipes that are very old and rusty burst. They cannot handle the added pressure.

Digging out and replacing the old pipes is a Herculean job. Making the problem more complicated is the absence of a utilities map. Nobody knows exactly where the water and other utilities pipes have been buried in pell-mell fashion all over Metro Manila.

The confusion has abetted water piracy. Anybody with the tools and daring can dig up and connect to the system without anybody seeming to notice.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 21, 2000)

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