POSTSCRIPT / March 15, 2005 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why do Filipinos need KL visas to go to Sabah?

VISA TO GO HOME: Reading the news about expelled Filipino workers being processed for Malaysian visas and work permits to enable them to return to Sabah where they have resided, one wonders if we know fully well what we are doing.

This case of Filipinos going home to and working in Sabah (formerly known also as North Borneo) is not purely a labor or immigration problem.

I admire the hardworking Labor Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas, but with due respect, I submit that this is a serious matter that should be handled on a higher and more discerning plane.

We are losing our pending claim on Sabah slowly, slyly, in bits and pieces, in clumsy diplomacy and legal lapses. The handling of Filipino workers returning to Sabah is part of a diplomatic debacle in progress.

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ALMOST TREASON: To put it simply so the average Filipino will understand this complicated case, let me just say: If Sabah — according to our claim — is Philippine territory, why are we requiring Filipinos going there to first secure Malaysian visas?

Ordinary migrant workers applying for Malaysian visas and work permits may be forgiven, but for high Philippine officials themselves to agree to that trick is bordering on treason — because it jeopardizes a formal claim of this Republic.

Now if our people and our government agree that the claim, initiated by then President Diosdado Macapagal, has no basis and is not worth pursuing, then we should say so formally and finally — and thus improve relations with Kuala Lumpur.

If we do not believe in that claim, let us just drop it. But as long as we hold on to it, let us not say or do anything that could jeopardize it.

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ANOTHER NAIL: Official acquiescence in regard to securing Malaysian visas for Filipinos going to a Philippine territory (Sabah) will be another nail in the coffin where our claim lies in preparation, it seems, for its imminent burial.

Earlier, Kuala Lumpur also tried to trick us into putting up a consulate in Sabah to look after our workers there kuno. Malaysians must be convinced that we are so feeble-minded that we would not see through that ploy.

Such details, as it is with previous lapses, will be cited when our claim comes up for hearing before the international court of justice. The compounded impact of our errors could convince the magistrates that the Philippines had conceded over the years both its sovereign and property rights to Malaysia.

Our Senate, which enjoys foreign relations functions that the House does not, should look into this right away — before our officials sell or cede beyond recall the disputed territory to our scheming neighbor.

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STILL PAYING RENT: Days ago, we saw on the front page a picture of the Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo addressing a big assembly of fellow Muslims gathered near their mosque in Quiapo.

The Sultan, a Filipino, owns Sabah. Until today, the Malaysian government pays rent to him for its occupation of that corner of Borneo.

If Sabah is indeed Malaysia territory, as alleged by Kuala Lumpur and its benefactors in London, why are they paying rent?

Another question: If Britain did not own North Borneo (now Sabah), why did Her Majesty’s government — alas, with the okay of our supposed friends in Washington, DC — unilaterally include it into the Malaysian federation in 1963?

(To give you an idea of how unstable and how unviable was that forced union, Singapore broke away from it after only two years of the shotgun marriage.)

Now if federalism were the idea, the logical union would be for Sabah joining the Philippine federation when such a move is initiated after the Constitution is amended.

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DIRECT TO JOKER: I’m sorry to inform disgruntled celfon-users that I cannot handle all the complaints they have been sending me since I wrote about complaints, including telcos’ imposing an unfair deadline for using up a prepaid celfon load.

I have neither office nor staff. What I have are just friends who help check data for me and with whom I have an informal network using celfons and computers. I would be paralyzed without these friends and gadgets.

Readers with celfon-related complaints can get faster results by communicating directly with the office of Sen. Joker P. Arroyo, whose committee threatens to look into telecom issues.

Arroyo’s phones are 5526601 to 80, local 5567 to 69; 552-6730 (direct line); and 5526790 (fax). His email address is: .

Btw, a number of readers have asked for the text of the March 7 speech of Sen. Ralph G. Recto, ways and means committee chairman, sponsoring the Senate version of the Value-Added Tax bill.

Those interested can access the Recto full text from my website . Navigate to my POSTSCRIPT of March 7 where I have uploaded the speech for easier reference.

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TEXTING FOOTNOTE: For the benefit of those who are not on the loop, here is more material on the raging debate on Sun’s offering cheaper and unlimited texting and phoning services.

Mon Ramirez recalls in his posting on the Plaridel Papers board:

“Last year I met the PR man of one of the two giant telcos. I told him about the complaints of texters, about that expiry clause in the prepaid cards. So I asked him why we are supposed to consume 10 text per day.

“His explanation: From their study of the statistics, the average number of text sent by texters is 10. Since that is the average usage anyway they decided to have that as the limit since the consumers will be using that number of texts anyway. The second reason is technical: If they don’t set a period for the life of a prepaid card, it would clog their computers.

“Hindi na ako nakipagtalo dahil hindi naman siya technical man. Having spent hours at our digital lab at the old RCA lab at Engineering school when computers were clunky and PCs were more than a decade away yet; having used and programmed computers from the days of Apple when your Excel today was Visicalc then and your Microsoft Word was CPM’s Wordstar then and AppleDos’ Apple Writer; and, having exchanged text in the mid-80s using laptops, SSB HF radios and the Packratt terminal node controllers, I know he was pulling my leg.

“They better have solid arguments to present at the Senate hearing.

“From text-for-free to text-for-a-fee: Two or three years ago, there was a hearing in the House of Representatives where Globe and Smart were present. We were then protesting why the text-for-free were scheduled to be phased out and the text-for-a-fee were to be phased in. You will remember that at that time when you buy a P300 prepaid card you get about 150 or so free text credits.

“One major reason presented by Atty. Salalima, the legal counsel for Globe. In so many words characteristic of the talks of many lawyers out to confuse us, he said that they need the additional revenue to be able to set up more cell sites in the remote countryside so that our poor brothers and sisters there could avail of the new technology.

“Bleeding heart talaga ang dating. Well, most HOR members probably agreed with him, which is the reason Globe and Smart, the Shylock twins, with the approval of the National Telecommunications Commission headed then by a classmate in ROTC, retired Gen. Eliseo Rio Jr., went on to charge each text. Goodbye, free text.

“How did text come about? Smart was the first cellular phone company that made it nationwide, but their first network was analog, which did not have the text capability. Globe came a little later, but it opted for the digital technology. They also had their voice calls priced higher.

“Now, according to an engineer friend who used to be with Globe, Globe offered the text since it is built-in in the digital technology. It is there anyway, whether they use it or not. They did not think that it would be a hot item then, but they offered anyway (this) added feature not offered by the leading competitor Smart.

“To their surprise, Filipinos took to texting like crazy. Smart was surprised too of the jump in Globe’s subscriber base. I learned later from the technical executive at Smart that they had to advance the date for the shift to digital technology to catch up with Globe.

“In other words, texting became the goose that is laying the golden egg every fraction of a second, especially after consumers became addicted to texting during the free text days. “So now we have the expiry dates and other features that will ensure added income.

“At almost one billion pesos per month net profit now for each giant telco, it is not difficult to imagine that they are salivating for more billions from the already addicted text users.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 15, 2005)

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