POSTSCRIPT / February 20, 2005 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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CHEd officials see new nursing schools as rivals?

CHED BIASED?: With the rising worldwide demand for nurses and other professional health workers for the next 10 to 20 years, one would think we would be expanding and upgrading our nursing education.

We are not, if owners of new nursing schools are to be believed. On the contrary, they complain, the Commission on Higher Education is standing in the way.

With opening of classes just around the corner, several new nursing schools are denouncing the refusal of the CHEd to allow them to operate despite their having complied already with licensing requirements.

Officials of affected schools are making sumbong to President Arroyo and congressional leaders that CHEd Chairman Rolando dela Rosa, a priest who comes from two schools offering nursing courses, has not been fair and refuses to meet with them.

The CHEd under Fr. Dela Rosa, they say, is coddling existing nursing schools, even those with bad track records, while giving the run-around to new schools that have proven their quality training of nurses.

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CODDLING THE OLD: Calling the CHEd chairman “oppressive, unjust and tyrannical,” they deplore CHEd’s having published a list of nursing schools that it had closed without first informing them.

The new nursing schools complain that “many of us are better off than older existing schools by the level of our compliance to requirements” and as shown after so many inspections and evaluations.

“CHEd should close nursing schools producing low quality graduates and performing poorly in the board exams over the years,” they add. “Instead, CHEd should encourage promising new nursing schools complying with requirements.”

“In our recollection, this fiasco has never happened before,” they recall. “During the time of former CHEd chairman Rolando Dizon, we were given provisional permits as an opportunity for us to comply completely with all CHEd requirements.”

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SERIOUS BUSINESS: The complaining schools say that CHEd had allowed nursing schools in the past to operate on a year-to-year basis:

“These schools initially had to comply with the requirements for First Year, then with the requirements for Second Year the following year, then for Third Year the year after that, until they fully completed all the requirements thereafter.

“But now the new nursing schools have to comply with ALL the requirements of CHEd before it grants them the regular permit to operate. Could you just imagine the huge amount of money needed to do this?”

Putting up a nursing school is serious business. The core school requires a startup capital of at least P5 million pesos, which includes the cost of buildings, modern facilities and development of an updated curriculum.

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CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The role of CHEd and other relevant agencies of government, according to the complainants, should be “encouraging and liberating, not suffocating and restricting; assisting and guiding, not trampling and oppressing.”

They deplore the apparent conflict of interest involving CHEd’s chairman and some members of the CHEd’s Nursing Technical Committee who, they claim, are connected with nursing schools whose interests they are presumably protecting against newcomers.

They also complain that state universities and colleges are able to operate nursing schools without having to submit to CHEd’s or the Nursing Board’s requirements.

“This double standard is highly unjust and unfair to the investors of private education who are filling the gap that the government cannot fill in educating the youth,” they say, giving as examples the Pangasinan State University and the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University.

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PROVEN RECORD: “We are not fly-by-night schools,” they lament. “Many of us have a proven track-record for excellent service and good educational performance.”

Their roster includes such established and promising schools as STI (various campuses), La Consolacion (Caloocan campus), St. Louis University of Cagayan, Cagayan Colleges of Tuguegarao, Perpetual Help University, Salazar Institute of Technology (Cebu), Cebu Technological School, Colegio de San Antonio de Padua (Cebu), and Foundation University (Dumaguete).

“We are only asking that we be given the chance to operate and be guided in doing so by agencies like CHEd and the Board of Nursing,” they say. “We are the partners of government in education and nation-building.”

They add: “We have been allowed to apply for the nursing course in the first place, and most of us have been endorsed by the CHEd regional offices and inspected by the Board of Nursing. We have complied with CHEd and BoN directives in good faith, even if we find some of them capricious and unreasonable.”

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NTC HEARING: Although patronage — or the decision of which product or service to buy — is for the customer to decide, the National Telecommunications Commission has to resolve complaints of alleged violations of its rules governing cellular phone companies.

So come March 7, the day set for the hearing of a complaint against Sun Cellular’s 24/7 promotions of cheaper and unlimited texting and calling, the NTC will have to resolve the administrative and technical questions raised.

One central question is whether or not newcomer Sun Cellular, which has a 5-percent share of the cellphone market, complies with the performance standards that the NTC has set for the industry.

That should not be too difficult to sort out since, I assume, NTC has the technical capability — and the objectivity, I hope — to monitor and regulate the operations of telecom companies.

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CUSTOMER DECIDES: Ranged against Sun are the older Smart Communications and Globe Telecom. Smart holds more than 19 million (59 percent) of some 33 million cellphone subscribers nationwide, leaving 12.5 million (36 percent) to Globe and 1.5 million to Sun.

Smart netted P16 billion in 2003 and P11.6 billion in the first half of its fiscal 2004. Globe’s net earning in 2003 was P10 billion and P12 billion in 2004, while Sun reported losses during the same two years.

As for service, we can leave to the subscribers to decide which company gives them the best. If indeed Sun’s service is bad as claimed by its competitors, its subscribers will be the first to know. They will know what to do without NTC having to tell them.

Competitors of Sun claim that Sun phones have a successful call-up rate of 38 percent or 38 successful calls out of 100 calls on the first attempt. We ordinary cellphone users can leave these technical rules to the NTC to enforce.

Our consolation as consumers is that there are enough serious players out there. I am confident that market forces freely playing can decide the Sun case to the public’s satisfaction.

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IN THE MAIL: Reader Florian Villasenor of 1348 Hen. Hizon St., Makati, said in an email:

“The issue here is not ‘free competition’ but fair competition — fair not just to the players, but also fair to the public.

“If Sun Cellular is allowed to continue with its ‘24/7 for P250′ plan, time may come when all other mobile phone companies would do the same at the expense of good service. The National Telecommunications Commission was established by Congress precisely to ‘regulate’ telecommunications services for the protection of the public interest.

“Sun Cellular is able to undersell its competitors because it is violating NTC’s service performance standards for cellular mobile telephone service. That standard sets a Grade of Service (GOS) of 7 percent or 93 percent successful calls on the first attempt. However, tests show that Sun Cellular mobile phones experience a call setup success rate of only 38 percent or 38 successful calls out of 100 calls on the first attempt. At the same time, a successful call is cut off automatically after 15 minutes. NTC limits Drop Call Rates to only 5 percent.

“Precisely the major mobile phone companies are appealing to the NTC to apply the rule of law, including the provision that new rate charges in the industry should be subjected to a hearing involving all parties concerned. This did not happen in the case of Sun’s Plan 24/7.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 20, 2005)

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