POSTSCRIPT / June 21, 2005 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Pinoy scientist wins Expo award for coco coir project

FATIGUE: I have grown tired of the noise swirling in the polluted air about wiretapped conversations, congressional inquiries, threats of sedition charges, calls for President Arroyo to resign and her stout retort that she won’t, et cetera….

The whole thing is already bouncing off my head. Not much is registering in my tired mind.

I am no longer that interested in listening to the taped conversation, authentic or not. As for the news, I just glance at headlines and scan whatever fits on the front page. I no longer follow the story to the inside pages.

With other tired taxpayers, my basic expectations are just for a clean and safe neighborhood and ample means to meet my family’s growing needs. I do not hanker for a three-ring circus to distract me from my problems.

As a citizen, I also ask where is that thing grandiosely called the Government, the agency supposed to carry out the will of the people.

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FULL & UNEDITED: Since there are several recordings (compact discs or CDs) of alleged wiretapped conversations circulating, the conscientious listener must know for sure which version contains the unedited and full reproduction of the conversations.

Note the two modifiers: “Unedited” and “Full.”

Unedited — The tapes or CDs must be appreciated raw, with nothing spliced, altered removed, added, or even enhanced.

Full — The entire tape used from the start to the end of the wiretapping must be heard, to give the listener the correct full perspective. Noise, gaps or unwanted or seemingly irrelevant portions should have been left untouched.

To me, if these two requirements are absent, the recordings are worthless.

For something like a high-level inquiry, copies — even if claimed to be full and unedited — may prove to be not as satisfactory as the raw originals.

Now, who will guarantee that the recording offered to be played is a raw original, or a full and unedited copy?

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NO TALK, NO MISTAKE: From the side of President Arroyo, I can understand why she would not want to say a word about the wiretapped recordings.

She is in the same predicament as a witness being forced to testify at the risk of self-incrimination.

But if she is not the woman whose voice is in the recording, she should have no problem telling the whole world that it was not her. She should not fear the possibility of self-incrimination.

That she hesitates to say either it was her or not means, to me, that either (1) she does not want to say anything that may incriminate her, or (2) there is a possibility that it is her on record, or (3) both.

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PUBLIC CONVICTION: But assuming that parts of the recording are confirmed to be her voice, that in itself will not prove any wrongdoing. In fact, there is a probability the unauthorized recording cannot be accepted as evidence in court.

The President’s problem is actually not about being criminally liable or liable enough to be impeached, but that she could be convicted of some wrongdoing in the impressionable public mind.

The opposition knows that. I would not be surprised if that is the objective of all this noisy exercise — to convict Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the public mind and continue to destroy the legal and moral foundation of her presidency.

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PINOY SHINES: While the nation is bogged down in endless talk, Dr. Justin Arboleda, a Filipino scientist, developed a use for coconut coir for environmental protection. As reader Mon Ramirez said in an email to Plaridel Papers:

“We produce 6 billion kilos of coconut husks which are normally thrown away, sometimes burned, in the process harming the environment. What to do with the trash that you can have for free?

“That’s what this Filipino scientist also asked himself. His answer got him a World Expo 2005 award, and his product is being used in many countries, including China and India.”

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ARRESTING EROSION: Arboleda’s technology is discussed in http://www.agham.org/stnews.shtml, which says:

“Dr. Justin Arboleda, Filipino scientist, pioneered the use of coconut coir as geotextile nets, which are installed on eroded slopes and other degraded landscapes to arrest soil runoff and promote re-greening by protective vegetative shoots.

“Geotextiles made of coco coir degrade naturally at a rate allowing for the recolonization of the ground by plants. Other similarly organic materials degrade too fast.

“While arresting soil erosion, Arboleda’s textile has found an ecologically and economically beneficial use for the Philippines’ some six billion kilos of coconut husks that constitute the biggest bulk of the country’s farm wastes, which harm the environment when burned.

“Arboleda’s technology, which will be awarded during the 2005 World Expo by the Japan Association for the 2005 World Expo in September, is now being used in Sri Lanka, India, China and Japan. The technology was also awarded the Nature’s Wisdom Award of the 2005 World Expo two weeks earlier in Japan.”

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ALCOHOL FUEL: Also from Plaridel comes this item written by Marla Dickerson in the Los Angeles Times of June 16 and sent in by Antonio Jose Perez:

“SAO PAULO, Brazil — While Americans fume at high gasoline prices, Carolina Rossini is the essence of Brazilian cool at the pump.

“Like tens of thousands of her countrymen, she is running her zippy red Fiat on pure ethanol extracted from Brazilian sugar cane. On a recent morning in Brazil’s largest city, the clear liquid was selling for less than half the price of gasoline, a sweet deal for the 26-year-old lawyer.

“ ‘You save money and you don’t pollute as much,’ said Rossini, who paid about $18 to fill her nearly empty tank. ‘And it’s a good thing that the product is made here.’

“Three decades after the first oil shock rocked its economy, Brazil has nearly shaken its dependence on foreign oil. More vulnerable than even the United States when the 1973 Middle East oil embargo sent gas prices soaring, Brazil vowed to kick its import habit.

“Now the country that once relied on outsiders to supply 80 percent of its crude is projected to be self-sufficient within a few years.

“Today about 40 percent of all the fuel that Brazilians pump into their vehicles is ethanol, known here as alcohol, compared with about 3 percent in the United States. No other nation is using ethanol on such a vast scale.

“The change wasn’t easy or cheap. But 30 years later, Brazil is reaping the return on its investment in energy security while the United States writes checks for $50-a-barrel foreign oil.”

“Much of Brazil’s ethanol usage stems from a government mandate requiring all gasoline to contain 25 percent alcohol. Vehicles that ran solely on ethanol fell out of favor here in the 1990s because of an alcohol shortage that pushed drivers back to gas-powered cars.

“But thanks to a new generation of vehicles that can run on gasoline, ethanol or any combination of those two fuels, more motorists such as Rossini are filling up with 100 percent alcohol again to beat high gas prices.”

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R.P. ASLEEP?: With vast areas planted to sugar cane in the Philippines, the crop’s alternative use for producing alcohol as fuel opens an exciting economic horizon. The idea is not new, really, but….

Philippine sugar has lost its big share in the sugar import quotas for the United States, the old traditional market. The diversion of some of the produce to making alcohol could take up the slack resulting from the loss of a major share in the sugar quotas.

This enterprise will require money and technology. But for something as viable as the production of alcohol as a cheaper fuel for motor vehicles and similar engines, it should not be that difficult getting funds and expertise for it.

What seems to be lacking, as least to many of us laymen tied to expensive oil-based fuels, is imagination on the part of government leaders.

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TOP U.P. ALUMNI: The alumni association of the University of the Philippines announces that the 92nd homecoming of the state university will be at 4 p.m. on June 25, a Saturday, at the Bahay ng Alumni on the Diliman campus.

The Jubilarians are classes 1945 (Diamond), 1955 (Golden), 1965 (Ruby) and 1980(Silver).

The awardees this year are: Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., most distinguished alumnus; Prof. Solita Collas-Monsod, most distinguished alumna; engineer David M. Consunji, lifetime distinguished achievement award; and Dr. Thelma Navarrete-Clemente, lifetime distinguished achievement award.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 21, 2005)

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