POSTSCRIPT / July 4, 2002 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why 70% of readers believe Sabaya is alive

TITO IS OUT, FINALLY: After many awkward moves, Vice President Teofisto Guingona finally resigned as foreign secretary and his resignation was accepted by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo effective July 15.

Bakit sa July 15 pa? Dapat kahapon pa umalis sa Cabinet.

Tito Guingona is a good man and his presence adds luster to the public service. But as leading Cabinet member, the moment he could no longer stomach policy laid down by his President, he must leave the official family. He cannot stay and at the same time be kicking and grumbling.

Too bad, his slip of the tongue about his running in the 2004 presidential elections lends a partisan color to his differences with the President. It appears that it’s not all principles that guide him, but a brew that includes politics and ambition.

Anyway, partymates are frantically moving to heal the rift. We hope they succeed.

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NO MONEY RECOVERED: Our latest survey of readers is over and — Malacanang and the military, please take note — seven out of every 10 respondents still believe that Abu Sayyaf leader/spokesman Abu Sabaya was not killed in that sea encounter off Zamboanga del Norte last month.

The question posed to Postscript readers was “Do you think Abu Sayyaf leader/spokesman Abu Sabaya is dead or alive?”

Not counting the respondents who did not give a categorical reply, those who said he was dead constituted 30.76 percent while those who said he is still alive were 69.23 percent.

Cecilia Jael of Chicago asked: “How were his backpack and sunglass retrieved but not the body?” Tony Reyes of Everett, Washington, said: “That is the same reason why the US cannot confirm that they really have killed Bin Laden in Afghanistan — they can’t find his body.” Teddy Aspiras of Diliman, QC, raised some points: “When cornered in Lamitan by thousands of troops, Sabaya was able to escape by sharing his ransom. When cornered by a few Marines, what will prevent him from buying them off? Note: No money was recovered. How come he was the only one that fell to the sea and got lost when there were several who got shot and killed?”

To all this, Josie Verdilla using a cs.com address has an explanation: “Abu Sabaya is Amboy.” Figure that out.

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LONG-TIME LOSER: So, how come Napocor has been losing for the longest time? Napocor sought a 17-centavo per kilowatt-hour (kwh) increase in power rates. What it got was a 7-centavo decrease.

As ordered by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), the power rate cut applies to electricity sold by Napocor to distribution utilities. The ERC decision confirms that Napocor has been overcharging its clients, the power distributors.

Napocor’s media blitz is anchored on claimed cheaper power rates as compared to the independent power producers (IPPs), particularly Meralco IPPs — Quezon Power and First Gas.

Napocor claims that its Masinloc plant sells at P1.83/kwh, while its Ilijan plant sells at P2.2/kwh. That’s cheap, if true. Very much cheaper than the selling price of Meralco’s IPPs — P3.80/kwh for Quezon Power and P3.35/kwh for First Gas.

So how come Napocor sells electricity to Meralco at P4.40/kwh, thereby bloating the passed-on charge to us end-users?

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TALK IS CHEAP: Napocor has been harping in its press releases and in statements of its officials that power rates would drastically drop if Meralco buys all its electricity from Napocor instead of sourcing some volume from its (Meralco’s) own IPPs.

The claim is that if Meralco were to buy 100 percent of its requirements from Napocor, the cost of electricity in its franchise area could go down by as much as P1.38/kwh.

Fact is that one and a half years ago, Napocor was already selling electricity to Meralco at more than P4/kwh at a time that the Lopez franchise did not have IPPs and was buying 100 percent of its requirements from Napocor.

Napocor talks about supposedly cheaper electricity, but continues to charge Meralco sky-high grid rates. Napocor talk, not its electricity, is cheap.

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GET OUT OF RAW DEAL: The operation of Meralco’s IPPs has exposed Napocor’s exorbitant monopolistic rates.

With its own IPPs producing and selling electricity at costs substantially lower than Napocor’s, it’s no wonder that Meralco wants to get out of its 10-year supply contract with the state power firm.

Meralco and Napocor are mandated by law to sign a new Transition Supply Contract more in tune with the deregulated industry and such factors as the economic slowdown, the startup of the country’s indigenous natural gas project, and the passage of the power reform act leading to the privatization of Napocor.

With all this, Meralco should have the option of getting out, even if only partly, of the raw deal so we can experience lower electricity rates.

But Napocor officials insist that Meralco should continue buying from them under the terms of the old 10-year supply contract. Otherwise, Meralco would be slapped with heavy fines. As a matter of fact, Meralco already has been levied a penalty amounting to P7.5 billion supposedly for failure to honor the contract. Naturally, Meralco refused to pay the fine.

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CONFLICT OF INTEREST: A certain Joselito “Tito” Ojeda, meanwhile, is reportedly about to be appointed deputy commissioner of the National Telecommunications Commission. That explains why Atom Henares of Progressive Broadcasting Corp. has been losing sleep lately.

Henares is going all out to block Ojeda’s proposed appointment, saying that the man is:

  • In clear conflict of interest as regulator and regulatee. Ojeda is the majority stockholder, the president and board chairman of Katigbak Enterprises Inc. that owns and operates nine AM, FM and TV stations in the country, including Power 107.9 FM in Batangas and Channel 6 TV in Laurel, Batangas.
  • In clear conflict of interest as grantor and grantee of broadcast licenses, since he has pending applications for AM and FM stations in Metro Manila.
  • In clear conflict of interest as the judge and the accused in an administrative case against him by the NTC with the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster and Atom Henares as complainants. He is accused of beaming his signals intended for Batangas toward Metro Manila, interfering with the signals of Henares’ NU 107 station allegedly in violation of his license and industry standards.

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BACK TO ROMBLON: Teofilo C. Fondevilla Jr., a risk engineer of Jardine Lloyd Thompson Insurance Brokers and who hails from Romblon, disputes the statement of Ms. Virginia A. Ruivivar, corporate communications manager of Petron who said: “The facility only stores diesel and gasoline, which does not explode even when subjected to open flame and evaporates once it is exposed to the elements.”

Fondevilla says in an email: “The above fuel oils have properties such as flash points, ignition temperature, upper and lower flammable limits, boiling points, etc. Once these liquids are exposed to open flame, it is but natural that they will be heated. And once they reach the flash point or ignition temperature, the fuel oil will ignite and either go up in flames or explode.

“Gasoline, for one, has a flash point of minus 43 degrees Celsius and flammability grade of 3 which means (under NFPA handbook) ‘Materials which can be ignited under almost all normal temperature conditions. Water may be ineffective because of the low flash point.’

“There are several grades of diesel fuel oil. But their flash points range from 100 to 130 degrees Celsius and has NFPA flammability grade of 2 — meaning ‘Materials which must be moderately heated before ignition will occur. Water spray may be used to extinguish the fire because the material can be cooled below its flash point.’

“I too am against the putting up of the bulk plant in Ipil. For one thing, the area has several beach resorts with very white beaches that can even compete with Boracay. Any untoward accident, or just even a small diesel oil spill, could destroy these magnificent beaches. This is the reason why several marble mills along the shoreline were shut down by the local authorities because of marble dust pollution that destroys the corals.

“Secondly, Ipil faces a deep but narrow channel where all kinds of commercial vessels pass through in entering the Romblon harbor. While sea traffic may be considered light, the possibility of vessels running aground and hitting the underwater pipeline used for unloading fuel from the barge anchored offshore cannot be discounted.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 4, 2002)

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