POSTSCRIPT / July 14, 2002 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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For a change, here’s a positive side of RP

NOSIBALASI: When we survey the political scene, we must always keep in mind the basic fact that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was elected by the people, not by so-called Civil Society. She rose from Vice President to become President by operation of the Constitution, not by the insistence of a street crowd or the sufferance of the military.

We are a republican state and the President is directly answerable to the people, not to Parliament (Congress), not to elitist pressure groups, not to her political party, not to the armed forces, not to campaign fund contributors.

It is preposterous for so-called Civil Society, whoever they are, to demand that the President run this country according to their wishes or that she appoint their nominees to key positions in government.

We’ve asked a lot of people from all sectors what they think of the meddling of so-called Civil Society and we invariably hear the questions:“Nosibalasi — sino ba sila?”  (Who are they?), “Ilan ba iyan?”  (How many are they?)

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EXPRESSWAY TORTURE: It’s only fair that toll collection at the North Luzon Expressway be suspended immediately. It’s ridiculous that we motorists pay to have our vehicles damaged and our lives endangered by the unbelievably bad condition of the road.

President Arroyo should order toll collection suspended until the road is repaired and made safe. We ask the President to please drive unannounced to Clark Field on the rutted road and see for herself.

Also, we long-suffering users of the expressway — started by then President Diosdado Macapagal — are entitled to an accounting of where the toll goes. Obviously, only a tiny part of it goes to maintenance. This is literally highway robbery!

If Malacanang does not order the publication of the latest audit, the only conclusion is that somebody is covering up for privileged individuals, including some tollway officials whose main duty is to collect salaries and enjoy the perks.

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NO INFO DRIVE: At the South Luzon Tollway, the Skyway operator is supposed to start collecting increased tolls on July 16, Tuesday, at the end of a 15-day information campaign that President Arroyo told them to undertake.

To show you the arrogance of the operator and its disdain not only for road-users but also for Malacanang, the President’s order for an information campaign is being ignored. The operator is simply sitting it out to wait for July 16.

We motorists are no better informed today than before about the coming toll increases. We don’t know what we’ve done to deserve such additional impositions.

In fact, the toll operator has covered the toll rates posted at ramps in an incredible move to keep the motoring public in the dark. We are not aware of any serious attempt to explain to motorists what is about to hit them.

For ignoring her instructions, President Arroyo should ask again the operator to postpone Skyway toll rate increases due July 16.

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NO-CHANGE TRAP: This habit of the tollway operator of glossing over the sensibilities of road-users is illustrated by many things, including the so-called No Change lane, where the collector absolutely does not give you your change if you fork over more than the correct toll.

We know that the idea here is to speed up traffic on that lane by expediting the passage of motorists who have the exact change ready.

But not all motorists know the rates by heart. Since there are no rates posted prominently well before the gate itself, how will a motorist know if he has the exact toll for the No Change lane?

That’s why we see many motorists stop, waver and wonder which lane to take as they approach the gates. There have been cases when confused drivers had to suddenly change lanes and, in the process, graze other cars.

Some drivers trapped in the No Change lane rummage through their wallet/purse or wherever they keep their money to gather the exact toll. This holds the line, defeating the purpose for reserving a fast No Change lane. The delay is prolonged if the irritated motorist gets into a heated argument with the toll collector.

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SOMETHING POSITIVE: We hope we didn’t spoil your Sunday by our carping about the torture that waits at the North Luzon Expressway and the upcoming increases in Skyway toll rates. To make up for that, we reprint this positive piece by Intel General Manager Robin Martin:

FILIPINOS (including the press, business people and myself) tend to dwell too much on the negative side and this affects the perception of foreigners, even the ones who have lived here for a while.

The negative perception of the Philippines is way disproportionate to reality when compared to countries like Columbia, Egypt, Middle East, Africa, etc. Let us all help our country by balancing the negative with the positive, especially when we talk to foreigners, whether based here or abroad.

Looking back and comparing the Philippines today and 1995 (the year I came back), I was struck by how much our country has progressed physically.

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MARTIN CONTINUES: Consider the following:

  1. The great telecom infrastructure that we have now did not exist in 1995. The year 1995 was when the telecom industry was deregulated. Since then, billions of dollars have been invested in both fixed line and cellular networks producing a system with over 5,000 kms of fiber optic backbone at a world competitive cost. From a fixed line capacity of about 900,000 in 1995 we now have over 7 million. Cellular phones practically did not exist in 1995; now we have over 11 million line capacity.
  2. The MRT, many of the EDSA flyovers (including the Ayala Avenue flyover), the Skyway, Rockwell and Glorietta 4, the Fort, NAIA terminal 2 and most of the new skyscrapers were not yet built in 1995.
  3. If you drive to the provinces, you will notice that national roads are now of good quality (international quality asphalt roads). I just went to Iba, Zambales, last week and I was impressed that even a not so frequently traveled road was of very good quality.
  4. Philippine exports have increased by 600 percent over the past eight years. There are many, many more examples of progress over the last eight years. Philippine mangoes are now exported to the US and Europe.

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MORE MARTIN TIDBITS: Here are additional tidbits to make our people prouder:

  1. Intel has been in the Philippines for 28 years. The Philippines plant is where Intel’s most advanced products are launched, including the Pentium IV. By the end of 2002, Philippine operations are expected to be Intel’s biggest assembly and testing operations worldwide.
  2. Texas Instruments has been operating in Baguio for over 20 years. The Baguio plant is the largest producer of DSP chips in the world. DSP chips are the brains behind cellphones. TI’s Baguio plant produces the chip that powers 100 percent of all Nokia cellphones and 80 percent of Erickson cellphones in the world.
  3. Toshiba laptops are produced in Santa Rosa, Laguna.
  4. If you drive a Benz, BMW, or a Volvo, there is a good chance that the ABS system in your car was made in the Philippines.
  5. Trend-Micro, makers of one of the top anti virus software PC-Cillin, develops its “cures” for viruses right here in Eastwood Libis, Quezon City. When a virus breaks in any computer system in the world, they try to find a solution within 45 minutes of finding the virus.
  6. By the end of this year, it is expected that a majority of the top ten US Call Center firms in the US will have set up operations in the Philippines. This is one area in which I believe we are the best in the world in terms of value for money.
  7. America Online (AOL) has 1,000 people in Clark answering 90 percent of AOL’s global e-mail inquiries.
  8. Proctor & Gamble has over 400 people right here in Makati (average age 23 years) doing back-up office work to their Asian operations including finance, accounting, human resources and payments processing.
  9. Among many other things it does for its regional operations network in the Asia-Pacific region here in Manila, Citibank also does its global ATM programming locally.
  10. This is the first year ever that the Philippines will be exporting cars in quantity courtesy of Ford Philippines.
  11. The government is shedding off graft and corruption slowly but surely. This is the first time in our history that a former president is in jail and facing charges of plunder. Despite all odds, we are still pursuing the ill-gotten wealth of Marcos now enjoyed by his unrepentant heirs.

Next time you travel abroad and meet business associates, tell them the good news. A big part of our problem is perception and one of the biggest battles can be won simply by believing and by making others believe.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 14, 2002)

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