POSTSCRIPT / May 29, 2001 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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GMA can ask Ramos to explain power mess

THE stage is set for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to show how differently she would handle the kidnapping of some 20 persons, three of them Americans, from a Palawan resort at dawn the other day.

Her approach to this recurring problem would be compared with that of former President Erap Estrada’s mailed-fist policy against the Abu Sayyaf terrorists who attacked the Sipadan resort off Sabah in April last year and kidnapped 21 persons, including some foreigners.

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IT appears from statements yesterday from Malacañang that the Arroyo administration intends to follow a tough, or even tougher, line against the Abu Sayyaf.

National Security Adviser Roilo Golez stressed that there would be no negotiations and no ransom payment in this latest Abu Sayyaf caper.

While the kidnapping tarnishes the country’s international image, it affords GMA distraction from some tricky political questions and provides an issue around which to rally support from diverse sectors against a common enemy.

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PRESIDENT Arroyo may want to ask former President Ramos, one of her roving ambassadors, to say something on the power industry restructuring bill whose approval she is forcing on the ongoing special session of the lameduck Congress.

Ramos may want to explain those overpriced electric plants that he built using extraordinary powers as president and the onerous contracts that the National Power Corp. had to sign with Independent Power Producers (IPP), resulting in exorbitant electric rates.

The power restructuring — not reform — bill will honor those IPP contracts and force innocent taxpayers to assume payment of the accumulated debts of the NPC amounting to more than $6 billion (not P6 billion as we erroneously reported last time).

The IPP contracts must be renegotiated and the guilty parties exposed and punished before the power bill is railroaded. The bill’s enactment into law could clear those who made dirty millions on the power crisis during Ramos’ time.

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ARE we a hopeless case? Everybody knows that some big monopolists are salivating with the prospects of being able to consolidate all stages of the power industry – from generation through distribution and retail – with the approval of the power bill.

Our lawmakers, and no less than the President of the Republic, know this also. Yet they are bent on rushing approval of the controversial measure without waiting for a new Congress to review and amend its anti-people provisions.

With distributors (Meralco, for instance) operating apart from the generator (National Power Corp.) and keeping each other at arm’s length, our electric rates are already among the highest in the world.

Imagine what would happen when the power bill removes that safeguard against a power monopoly and allows the same business bloc to own both generation and distribution franchises.

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MORE than half of the nation’s capital, meanwhile, will go waterless for 72 hours (!) starting 9 p.m. on Friday (June 1).

If it’s any consolation, Malacañang is reportedly among the places to be affected by the water service interruption. (Of course we don’t believe that the Palace would go dry from Friday through Monday night.)

Affected are the whole of Pasay, Parañaque, Las Piñas and Bacoor, and parts of Manila, Caloocan, Quezon City, and Makati. Tap water will flow again starting 9 p.m. Monday.

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SERVICE will be interrupted because of the relocation of water mainlines affected by the construction the MRT-2 overhead rail line on Claro M. Recto Ave. and the connection of lateral pipelines feeding from it.

Consumers were advised to collect enough water to last them 72 hours. How can they do that when they cannot even have enough water for the day’s requirements?

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WITH that news peg, we call attention to an environment/sewer charge being inserted into all water bills in Metro Manila. Check your water bill and you’ll see this.

We asked the water agency why households pay for a non-existent sewage disposal service. Many houses in the capital have their own septic tanks or they discharge sewage into the flood control or drainage system.

The untreated human waste then drains into the bay, assuming it does not spill out in the streets when the drains are clogged or overflowing.

The explanation given is that the amount you see on your bill, equivalent to 10 percent of the water charge (the sum of the basic charge plus CERA [currency exchange rate adjustment]), is not for sewage but is an “environment” fee being collected for the government.

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INFOTECH: Planning to upgrade your processor or buy additional RAM, or Random Access Memory, to speed up your personal computer? (For the uninitiated, the processor is that part of your computer that does the calculating, the computing or the processing of data that you are working on.)

Unless you have money to throw and you are into heavy animation, fast-clip games and digital movies, there is no urgent need to upgrade to a Pentium 4, especially if your Pentium III (or even your older Pentium 2) is still okay for your normal needs.

At the moment, Pentium 4s are too expensive for the average user. They cost from P21,500 (1.3 gigahertz) to P35,000 (1.5 ghz). That’s a yawning price gap from the Pentium IIIs, whose midrange 750-mhz model costs P6,300 and whose top 1,000-mhz model is P12,750.

* * *

YOU might also find it a good idea to forget about “Intel inside” and shift to the AMD’s Athlon K-7s that have been shown in many benchmark tests to perform better and faster than their equivalent Pentiums.

The Athlons are priced from P5,300 (800 mhz) through P8,500 (1,000 mhz) to P14,500 (1.3 ghz).

Compare the Pentiums and the Athlons according to their speed (mhz/ghz) and corresponding prices, and you will see the price advantage of the Athlons without sacrificing performance. Stores give away price lists for you to take home and peruse.

* * *

YOU may have a little problem if you’re now using a Pentium and want to change it with an Athlon. You will have to buy a different motherboard, a Socket A type, to take the Athlon. That means spending an extra P5,000 or so.

But if you are still to assemble your computer from scratch and have not bought a motherboard and the other components, consider AMD’s Athlons. Friends who have shifted to Athlons are all praise for their new processors.

If you’re an Intel loyalist and want to stay with Pentium and if your computing needs are simple anyway, stick to the high-end Pentium IIIs, not the overpriced and overrated Pentium 4s. Just beef up your RAM.

Better still, delay purchasing a processor or delay buying a new PC unless your need for it is that urgent.Word from New York has it that Intel is slashing the prices of its overpriced Pentiums. The drastic price cuts will soon filter down the line.

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THERE are many factors, but sometimes all you have to do to improve performance is upgrade your RAM to at least 64 megabytes. Just to be sure, double that to 128 mb, or go all the way to 256 mb and see your screen perk up.

Additional RAM is much cheaper than a newer, faster processor. An additional 64-mb RAM module costs P850 (it used to be at least P1,000); and 128 mb is P1,800. If you want a one-piece 256 mb, that’s P3,700. These prices are for SDRAM/168-pin, for either PC-133 or PC-100 bus speed.

If your motherboard uses the older 76-pin RAM modules, you may find it hard shopping around for them. Being virtual collector’s items, they are more expensive.

* * *

BUT you can save on labor costs, and in the process get more familiar with the innards of your PC, by opening the casing and sticking in the RAM modules yourself. All you need is a screwdriver for the casing, and your bare hands for installing the extra RAM.

You may also need a blower and a brush to remove dust and lint that may have collected inside. While you’re at it, make sure the audio/sound cards and connectors have not shaken loose or corroded with time. Pull them out and push them in again a few times to renew contact.

When you do this, make sure your PC is turned off and unplugged, and your hands are not sweaty. Every now and then, touch the casing to ground yourself and get rid of potentially damaging static electricity.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 29, 2001)

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