POSTSCRIPT / September 2, 2004 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Those who sucked NPC dry must be made to pay

JUST LIKE THAT?: It is unfair to ask the people to absorb the huge losses of corporations whose bad loans have been guaranteed by the government — without going after those responsible for the losses.

Take the case of the National Power Corp., whose unpaid debt (around P500 billion, by some estimates) had been transferred to the government as an acquired liability and then passed on to us taxpayers.

Ganoon na lang ba? Who is tracing the causes of that gargantuan loss and pinpointing responsibility? When a business suffers losses, the reason is not always faulty pricing. It could be inefficiency, incompetence or somebody is stealing from the company.

The people are entitled to know (1) those responsible for the corruption that robbed Napocor of millions, and (2) the executives whose inefficiency or incompetence drove it to ruin. The Arroyo administration should unmask and prosecute the culprits.

Unless problems of this kind and magnitude are resolved first, it would be difficult making the public shoulder an added tax burden and pay higher power rates.

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DOUBLE WHAMMY: The public is being dealt a double whammy. We are being taxed to raise money to cover Napocor debts that the government has assumed, AND we are being charged higher electricity rates to shore up its sagging finances.

Some idiots in government always take the line of least resistance — charging everything to taxpayers. They probably find it easier to tax a dazed population than to improve the efficiency or cut the cost of corruption in a distressed corporation.

Another convenient escape route that has been a favorite lately is privatization.

Once Napocor, or any similarly situated company, is privatized, that means goodbye to its dark past. We write off its loans and losses, and let go those responsible for gross inefficiency and those who made millions off it.

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POWER TITANIC: The government should analyze Napocor’s inefficiencies and correct them. We want to see an earnest effort to ferret out the thieves and make them return the money while languishing in jail.

Napocor used to be one of the biggest earners in the country. It was solid and seemingly impregnable. Its executives were wallowing in wealth and had an easy time running the corporation as it cruised on its own momentum.

Then, something calamitous went wrong. That was unusual, because a monopoly as rich and powerful as Napocor, with its well-defined policies and operating procedures, would not just crash even if all its top officials went on an extended vacation.

But Napocor, the Power Titanic, went down. Why?

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WHO MILKED IT?: When did Napocor start to founder and eventually hit the iceberg? That should be easy to find out. Who milked it? That is a bit tricky. Who was in Malacanang then and who were on the Napocor board? Easy.

Isn’t anybody interested in finding the answers and telling the public?

The people must be told first the answers to these basic questions before they are asked to shoulder the P500-billion bad debt of Napocor — and before they are forced to pay exorbitant rates for unreliable electric supply.

Note that this is just Napocor. There are other giant corporations — such as the Public Estates Authority and the National Electrification Administration — whose guaranteed loans bloat the public debt.

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KUDOS TO 4 SENATORS: For the record and so a grateful people would remember them, we engrave in big letters the names of the senators who have given up their pork barrel to reduce the ballooning budget deficit.

While colleagues were clinging to the annual P200-million pork for each senator (compared to P65 million for each congressman), these senators have given up what is called the Priority Development Assistance Fund in the budget:

Senate President FRANKLIN DRILON and senators PANFILO LACSONJOKER ARROYO and ALFREDO LIM. Lacson’s name should come out bigger and brighter, because he voluntarily renounced his pork long before the fiscal crisis hit town.

The more than 220 creatures inhabiting the pond in the House of Representatives are of a different breed. None of them has renounced his pork allocation. But some of them have grudgingly accepted a 38-percent cut proposed by Malacanang.

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SMALL PEOPLE: It is heartening, yet also sad, that common people have been more spontaneous in offering contributions to a proposed common fund to help pay the public debt and trim the deficit.

Many of them expressed the hope that contributions will not just end up in some politician’s pocket. That is how tattered is the people’s trust in their officials.

Not a word was heard from the moneyed elite and the country’s officialdom about chipping in, except for around five congressmen led by Speaker Jose de Venecia who drew from their personal resources to contribute.

The spectacle rends the heart. Here are the victims of colossal financial mismanagement being the first to offer rehab funds, while those who had inflicted the injury — and possibly stole millions — quietly wait in the shadows.

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ROAD MAP NEEDED: But, if you notice, all these well-meaning gestures are scattered efforts without a unified direction. Each move is good in itself, but how does it mesh into a total national effort?

That is just the problem: While the Debt & Deficit crisis has been defined and measured, until this late date, there is still no integrated, cohesive rehabilitation plan.

Pardon our being makulit, but we have been waiting for the Top Economist in the Palace to blow the trumpet and, before an expectant nation, unfurl a Road Map to Recovery.

A total plan, that Road Map, is needed so we can minimize spills. We cannot afford wastage, lost time and motion. We cannot have everybody doing his own thing however good may be his intentions.

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PINOY SCIENTISTS: In Denmark, two Filipino scientists and their research team from the Risø Research Center have scored a breakthrough in laser manipulation of cells and other microparticles.

By successfully moving and sorting cells with laser light, they have uncovered entirely new possibilities in biotechnology and laser treatment. The team presented its findings in a recent conference in Colorado.

Members of the scientific community confirmed that it was a major breakthrough. Researchers around the world have been trying during the past two decades to devise optical techniques for handling cells and microparticles. Until recently, nobody has been able to manipulate more than a very limited amount of particles at a time.

But Filipino scientists Dr. Vincent Dario and Peter John Rodrigo, together with a Danish senior researcher from Risø, have developed a so-called laser pincer, enabling scientists to manipulate large columns of microparticles.

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IMPRESSIVE RECORD: The Risø system could open countless new applications in the fields of bio, materials, micro and nano-technology, including many technical applications that have not been feasible until now.

The news reports in Denmark focused on the Danish team leader, and generally ignored the Filipino scientists who actually did the research and scored the breakthrough.

Rodrigo, now working for his PhD at the prestigious Niels Bohr Institute, was most outstanding MS Physics graduate of the University of the Philippines in 2002.

Dario is a professor on-leave from the UP. He has received awards in the Philippines, including the 2003 Gawad Chancellor award: Most outstanding invention and innovation, Techniques for generating three-dimensional distribution of defects in integrated circuits; and the UP-Diliman 2001 Gawad Chancellor award: Most outstanding invention and innovation, Laser Scanning Microscope.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 2, 2004)

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