POSTSCRIPT / September 4, 2001 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Bonifacio, Rockwell face environment tests

INFORMATION OVERLOAD: We’ll admit being overwhelmed by the massive information being unloaded by witness Mary Ong alias Rosebud before a joint hearing of Senate committees looking into serious charges against Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

As a result, the many stories simultaneously being unraveled before the Senate and, via TV, to the public are by now somewhat bouncing off us.

The monotone of Rosebud does not help to perk us up. And with the plethora of Chinese names and many other details being dropped all over the place, we sometimes find difficulty keeping track of who, and what, is being discussed.

There are just too many different things being thrown around through the zigzagging questioning and answering. Whoever is presiding may want to clear up and give clear direction to the story-telling.

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GO TO COURT: More and more people are switching channels, if that is any indication of waning interest.

This could mean the time that AFP intelligence chief Col. Victor Corpus dreads the most has finally come — which is for him to gather the voluminous paperwork, bundle up his witnesses and deliver them in a beribboned box to the Ombudsman.

Meantime, the money-laundering charge against Lacson has been virtually forgotten with the failure of Corpus to submit convincing evidence and with that angle having been overtaken by Rosebud’s revelations about narco-politics and her lovelife.

Even the earlier celebrity Ador Mawanay, having done his chore, has receded into the background.

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GMA PICKS McKINSEY: What do taipan John Gokongwei and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have in common?

They both have commissioned McKinsey & Co. to study the effectiveness of their respective organizations: JG Summmit Group in the case of Gokongwei, and Malacañang and the rest of the Executive department in the case of Ms. Arroyo.

McKinsey is very well known and respected, particularly in the US, and is regarded by many business leaders to be the best management consulting outfit in the world. We were told that McKinsey was the personal choice of GMA to do the job.

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R.P. STAYS UP: Dr. Bernardo Villegas, often referred to as the “prophet of boom,” has reiterated his economic forecast that the Philippines will grow by 3 percent for 2001.

The government, coincidentally, has claimed that the local economy grew by 3.3 percent during the first semester of this year. Is this because or in spite of the government? We think private enterprise was a key factor.

Villegas said this growth in the midst of a worldwide economic slump means that the Philippines will be the fastest growing in the region. Thailand will probably come in at 2 percent, while Malaysia is a borderline case (but their prime minister insists theirs is a 2-percent growth).

Other neighboring countries, such as Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and of course Japan are already in recession. Japan in particular has long been in an economic slump for now over 10 years.

The way things stand, Malacanang’s projections of a 3-percent growth for the whole year looks attainable. Many foreign economists and foreign banks have been surprised by the high-growth figures.

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TOP THREE ARE DOWN: The US economy grew by a hairline 0.2 percent for the second quarter this year, lower than the previous quarter’s .79 percent. Many American economists say this means that the US is already in a recession.

Manufacturing continues to contract for 12 months in a row, with only consumption spending, particularly on homes and cars, buoying the economy.

The US slump coincides with Japan’s 10-year recession and Germany’s slumping into a negative growth rate. This means that the top three largest economies in the world are down.

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BONIFACIO BIDDING: Bonifacio Land president Ric Pascua has confirmed that by Sept. 17 they will bid out 55 percent of the “Global City” rising in the prime setting that used to be Fort Bonifacio.

Three large groups have already been pre-qualified, namely Ayala Land, JG Summit, as well as Penta Capital. Pascua hinted that some foreign groups also have expressed interest on bidding.

Ayala Land, wholly owned by Ayala Corp., is estimated to have a cash hoard of about P15 billion.

With additional proceeds from the sale of Purefoods of another P8 billion, JG Summit (the holding company of John Gokongwei) is estimated to have total assets of P40 billion, roughly half of which is reportedly in cash.

Penta Capital represents the group of Fred Ramos of National Bookstore and banker Jovencio Cinco.

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WHERE’S THE FAULT?: Bidders may want to secure first from Bonifacio Land a binding statement that the sections being bid out are not on or near the active Marikina Fault line that has been confirmed to run through some parts of Fort Bonifacio.

Research and a technical report (a copy of which is with Postscript) show that the fault running from the Novaliches area, through Marikina Valley, passes Bonifacio on its way to south of Metro Manila and onward to the Taal volcano area.

The physical surface indications of earth movements along the fault were scraped out when Bonifacio was cleared and bulldozed in preparation for its development. What should have been done, we think, was for the fault to have been mapped in detail first with the help of these once visible indicators.

It may be difficult at this point to pinpoint where exactly the fault runs in the Fort. Trenching or excavating now just to check if a piece of property is within the fault zone would be more difficult and expensive.

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ROCKWELL HEADACHE: Another prime property with environmental problem is the 15-hectare Rockwell Center of the Lopez Group in Makati some 2 kilometers from the active Marikina fault and some 50 meters from the Pasig river.

There is an uproar over the disposition of deadly wastes, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), left by the 40-year-old 130-megawatt power plant that the Lopezes once operated on the Rockwell site.

The poison, consisting of 4,300 cubic meters of soil and 14 cubic meters of liquids, could not be neutralized fast enough to allow speedy development of the mixed-use area. So the PCBs were moved to nearby Barangay San Joaquin in Pasig into a reinforced concrete tank the six of four basketball courts.

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POTENTIAL LEAKING: It was only when a TV report came out in July that the San Joaquin residents learned they have been living with poison. Since then, the debate over the passing on of deadly wastes from an enclave of the rich to an unsuspecting barangay has not abated.

Doctors warn that PCBs can cause cancer through frequent skin contact, eating of contaminated food, or the inhaling of dust laden with the chemicals. Babies could imbibe it through breastmilk, if their mothers have it.

Environmentalists point out that PCBs are non-biodegradable and that they could seep through the porous concrete vault containing them, contaminate the soil, reach the Pasig and go up the food chain to affect animals and people.

There is also the risk of a strong earthquake or liquefaction (softening and sinking of the soil) possibly damaging the vault and setting the PCBs free. Rockwell and San Joaquin sit on areas exposed to possible liquefaction.

Rockwell officials insist, however, that their disposition was safe and done with the approval of the appropriate government agencies.

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NEW CIRCUIT: Scientists of IBM have scored a breakthrough that could mean dramatic changes in the personal computer industry. IBM has developed what is known as a logic circuit based on a single molecule.

This single molecule which is a type of carbon is 100 times thinner than a strand of human hair.

The use of a logic circuit based on a single molecule means that chips in the future will no longer use silicon. Silicon has so far been preferred because of its super conductivity, but the limits of silicon are now being reached.

Since Intel introduced the 386 processor using silicon, the computing power has been improved by 152 times. According to IBM, the most likely candidate now to replace silicon will be the molecule circuit, which can run faster and use less power.

Over in California, after unveiling its latest Pentium 4 chip running at 2-gigahertz clock speed, Intel announced that they are on schedule to release by 2007 a Pentium chip that will run at a blistering 20-ghz clock speed!

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 4, 2001)

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