POSTSCRIPT / May 7, 2000 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Terrorism, PC virus place Philippines on world map

LOVE BUG: Don’t just worry about the Pinoy-made ILOVEYOU virus ravaging computers worldwide. Immediately update your virus-protection software via Internet. Also heed our persistent advice to delete incoming email attachments without opening them. And if you can do without Bill Gate’s Microsoft Outlook, which has become the target and vehicle of most recent viruses, do not ever use it.

OIL PRICE FORMULA: More people are analyzing and supporting our compromise formula for peaceful co-existence between the giant oil companies and the proposed National Oil Exchange. Rep. Enrique Garcia, OilEx author, is still weighing things, but high-profile personalities, including Petron chairman Jose Syjuco Jr. and some senators now support what has come to be known as the Pascual Formula.

ABU SAYYAF: Terrorists must be denied media access and pursued to the end. Is it true that the US Central Intelligence Agency, in cabal then with some military top brass, recruited and trained the original mercenary band in early 90s for use in Afghanistan, but that there was a Jabidah-type foulup? Despite the sterling record of the Army, we doubt if it is the right team and expertise for hostage situations.

PARKING FEES: Cheers for the Senate committee headed by Sen. Rene Cayetano for finally declaring that the collection of parking fees in shopping malls is illegal and urging the justice department to file charges. Unfortunately, it is the courts and not a legislative committee that declares an act illegal and there is a big chasm between charges and conviction. Meanwhile, long-abused car owners should join the protest.

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IF our domestic terrorism has gone international, now our Filipino computer programmers appear to have gained world renown.

A youthful Pinoy using the name Spybird and his local service provider (tentatively identified as Sky Internet Inc.) has been blamed for the virus ILOVEYOU now ravaging global networks including those of supposed impregnable organizations.

This is one Pinoy product that is truly of export-quality, considering how fast it spread from the creator’s desktop in Pandacan to Asia to the Americas and then to Europe. By the time you read this, its export value based on its depredation would have hit the $3-billion mark.

This Pinoy LuvBug beats last year’s Melissa, a virulent virus spread via email that left Internet in knots and crippled the world’s multi-billion-dollar e-commerce. While Melissa sent itself to 50 recipients in an infected address book, the LuvBug hits all the addresses in the book.

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THE LuvBug’s early victims included the Central Intelligence Agency, which received infected files from the Pentagon’s distribution network, Ford Motors, the British Parliament and Merrill Lynch. Locally, it appears that there were not that many victims.

The bug entices the victim with the intriguing “Kindly check the attached love letter, coming from me.” The receiver clicks the attachment and the virus leaps into the Microsoft Outlook in the hard drive.

Once any email message is sent out, the LuvBug takes the opportunity to send itself to all the entries in the users’ address book.

It proceeds to rename files with such extensions as MP3, VPEG, VPOS, VS, VSE, CSS, WSH, SCT and HTA. Even if the initial target is Outlook, the virus is soon able to affect other software. It also resets the start page of Internet Explorer, another Microsoft software.

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WE have noticed that contemporary viruses, especially those attaching themselves to email, have invariably targeted Outlook and used its address files.

It may be an extreme measure, but our advice to ordinary users is to stop using Outlook. You can do without this Microsoft program. You can maintain a personal address book in your PC and send and receive email and fax messages without resorting to Outlook.

Outlook is a favorite program of offices, where secretaries keep a centralized filing of correspondence and addresses. It saves time and minimizes confusion, but if the volume of correspondence is not that big, an ordinary office or individual can function without using Outlook.

Of course Outlook can be programmed to reject incoming messages with the subject ILOVEYOU, but while it will block this particular virus of the day, what about the next? Remember that there are viruses of various kinds launched every week.

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ON the oil front, until yesterday, no reaction has been received from Rep. Enrique Garcia to our compromise formula that would place his proposed National Oil Exchange (OilEx) side by side with the giant oil firms in a deregulated fuel market.

We understand that Garcia is till studying our compromise formula and the reactions of the oil companies, especially that of Petron Corp. which expressed willingness to try the formula and compete with the OilEx proposed by the congressman.

Some lawmakers, including Sen. Boy Herrera, have expressed their being amenable to what has come to be called by some quarters as the “Pascual Formula” that would result in a co-existence between the Big 3 and Garcia’s OilEx.

Former Sen. Butz Aquino sent this email yesterday: “Your compromise/alternative formula on the proposed National Oil Exchange is indeed worth further consideration. And yes, I agree with your concept.”

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FOR the benefit of those who want to review our proposal, it is basically this:

  • The oil firms will keep their refineries, storage facilities and gas stations to retail their branded products. They can join the international bidding to be called by the National Oil Exchange, but will not be required to buy refined products from the OilEx.
  • Operating parallel to them, the National Oil Exchange proposed by Garcia will buy gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products directly from the lowest bidder anywhere in the world. The OilEx will store its supply initially in the Subic-Clark depots left by the Americans, and compete with the Big 3.

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WE drafted the formula after seeing the stalemate resulting from the irreconcilable positions taken by Garcia and the Big 3 on a matter of highest public interest.

While the two opposing camps and their respective followers debated and the discussions branched out to collateral issues, we sensed that the debate would drag on to the detriment of the consuming public reeling from high prices.

A protracted debate would mean the prolonging of the unsatisfactory situation where the giant oil firms raise their prices at will without anybody being able to do anything about it. Even President Estrada has confessed numerous times his helplessness under the deregulation law.

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WE think the compromise formula could break the impasse. Everybody has something in it.

Even President Estrada would be able to avoid displeasing the powerful oil cartel and its allies while keeping his promise to look for a way to bring down prices of gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products.

Fuel is strategic. The economy would ground to a halt without it. Its price affects a broad list of goods and services downstream using one form of fuel or another.

Former President Ramos had sold out on Petron Corp., giving 40 percent of this strategic asset to a foreign giant (Saudi Aramco) and sweetening the controversial deal by throwing in an exclusive contract for Aramco to supply the bulk of Petron’s oil requirements.

Under our compromise formula, President Estrada can now do some damage control by creating another countervailing market force in the form of the OilEx being proposed his partymate from Bataan.

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UNDER our proposal, OilEx will immediately start with about 25 percent of market share since it can use the government’s Subic-Clark storage facilities that are good for an eight-day supply (compared to the 30-day capacity of the Big 3 depots).

A 25-percent market share for OilEx is substantial, considering that even Caltex, one of the three oil giants, has only a market share of 23 percent.

Of course the OilEx will have to go through the trouble of raising the money needed, mobilizing, laying down the system and network for bidding and the bringing in of the finished products. It will also have to work out a chain of gas stations to sell its products.

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BUT these are part of the usual preparations for launching a big business. The OilEx has to go through that, since it would not be fair for it to just grab the depots and gas stations of the existing oil companies.

Despite the startup problems, one big thing going for Garcia’s OilEx is that – according to the congressman — it will be able to import finished oil products at much cheaper prices and, it follows, retail them at competitive prices.

Harassed consumers looking for cheaper gasoline, diesel, cooking gas and other oil products should find OilEx products attractive and shift to them – giving it a growing share of the market.

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MANY readers have sent their reactions. We will use the more substantial ones when space permits.

Meanwhile, we welcome more comments, especially from the key players. These can be sent to our email address (preferred route), or mailed to us or left in our pigeonhole at the PhilSTAR home base in Port Area.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 7, 2000)

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