POSTSCRIPT / May 8, 2003 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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SC ruling on Piatco: Shock & awe effects

GOV’T TAKEOVER: Malacanang moved yesterday nearer to taking over the nearly completed $600-million Terminal-3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport after the Supreme Court declared the contract with Piatco (Philippine International Air Terminals Co.) null and void.

The adverse court decision will set back Piatco’s bargaining with parties being tapped for bridge financing. The Cheng group that controls Piatco needs around $100 million more to correct more than 40 deficiencies in the terminal to be able to open it.

Piatco is expected to move for reconsideration, but the ruling voiding the mother contract and the amended followup contracts indicates that the legal flaws are all over. This makes reconsideration difficult and complicated.

The continuing “shock and awe” effects of the SC ruling will reach back to some officials of the Ramos administration who had signed some of the questioned contracts for the building and the management of Terminal-3.

It also serves notice to other holders of controversial government contracts, including foreign investors, that the SC is not beyond disregarding economic issues in pinpointing legal flaws in government deals.

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FRAPORT ENTRY?: A government takeover of Terminal-3 will enable Malacanang to enter into various financing and management contracts with parties that have expressed interest in the project.

Fraport AG of Hesse, Germany, is among the foreign groups reportedly interested in coming in as professional manager of the airport that it helped design. The German outfit designed and manages the giant Frankfurt international airport.

After having pumped in considerable sums into Piatco and apparently lost them, Fraport is looking for ways to recover losses and report some good news to its stakeholders.

In the negotiations that will follow, Piatco is expected to get reimbursement for its reasonable and legal expenses, but not for questioned disbursements such as the mysterious millions paid to a shadowy Liongson who it paid huge sums for doing what has been described as liaison work.

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ISSUES ARE CLEAR: Resolving the question of whether or not we should send a 600-strong humanitarian/peacekeeping force to Iraq and spend P600-million in the process should not be that difficult.

Sending a humanitarian mission is laudable. The problem is that we have not been asked by the Iraqis to help them since they still don’t have a government to speak for them. If we go there, it would be as uninvited do-gooders.

But haven’t we been asked by the United States? If this were so (although Malacanang has failed to show the written request), this would still be problematic. The US is not Iraq and therefore cannot substitute or speak for either the Iraqi people or the Iraqi government.

The truth is that Iraq does not need so-called humanitarian aid from us. There is a flood of humanitarian aid already clogging the pipeline that has been rendered inefficient by the war brought upon the Iraqi people.

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R.P. NOT NEUTRAL: As regards going to Iraq as part of a peacekeeping force, we cannot presume to be that, unless we come in under the aegis of the United Nations.

But that is unlikely since the US has assigned (yes, Virginia, Uncle Sam can now do that!) to the UN only a humanitarian and not a peacekeeping role.

Without UN cover, we cannot be peacekeepers on our own or as a token unit imbedded with the US occupation forces. How can one assume the role of a referee when he is on the side of one of the protagonists?

We are not a neutral force. We have acknowledged, and even bragged, that we are avid supporters of the US-led coalition that invaded and occupied Iraq under the pretext of eliminating alleged weapons of mass destruction.

How can we be perceived to be neutral when (and if) we wade into that war-torn country as peacekeepers? Our personnel might end up being stoned or heckled out of Iraq.

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HELP YOURSELF FIRST: Any Philippine contribution to a peacekeeping force may have to march under a dark cloud. It will be pelted with questions about the Philippines’ record of peacekeeping in its own backyard, particularly in Muslim Mindanao.

It is much like sending a volunteer fire brigade to the next town when we cannot even contain the conflagration in our own neighborhood.

We say this with due respect to our men in uniform — the soldiers and policemen whose patriotism, professionalism and dedication has never been in question. They are operating in an environment that is not conducive to the accomplishment of their mission.

There is also the question of funding. Spending P600 million or even just half of that for a foreign operation of dubious urgency will be hard to explain in the context of our chronic scrounging around for scarce funds.

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HARDY CABBIE: Have you heard this story from Singapore about a taxi driver who picked up last April 3 a 27-year-old designer who planed in from Beijing suffering from SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)?

The driver took the victim from the airport directly to the TTS Hospital. The designer died two days later, while her mother who was with her on the taxi was found to have been infected.

For six days, the Singapore government searched the island for the driver, who it turned out went into hiding, scared. He told the police later, after he surrendered, that he stayed drinking beer every day and night.

Doctors immediately conducted tests on him — and found that he was in good health. His body fluids were found negative for the SARS virus. The virus, if any, must have been killed by alcohol.

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ALCOHOL POWER: We are not sure who made this last statement about alcohol killing the virus, but email reaching us indicates that medical researchers may have said something like that.

One email said a Dr. Rolland Ten, KAYLP, NTT, spent 21 days into research and confirmed that alcohol may kill SARS virus.

Our San Miguel friends may be happy to note that beer was mentioned as one of the possible sources of alcohol that adds to the body’s resistance to viral infection.

Brewing, which is the process in beer-making, involves fermentation. Sugar and starches are decomposed into ethyl alcohol, which is a depressant drug.

Both beer and wine contain ethyl alcohol. Ethyl alcohol, which is found in beer, wine, whisky, etc., is also used widely in medicine. It kills germs and viruses, but can also damage brain cells when taken in large quantity.

But it is always best to go to your doctor, instead of your favorite bartender.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 8, 2003)

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