POSTSCRIPT / November 17, 2005 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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What ever happened to NPC privatization?

ARROGANCE: Almost everyday, I find myself being pushed aside by police-escorted idiots who bully their way through traffic-congested EDSA as if they own that vital circumferential artery of Metro Manila.

This is being said in the first person, but I am sure most motorists who have had to endure this arrogant display of power and privilege by retardates who think they deserve special treatment just because they are in government share my disgust.

Hoy, mahiyahiya naman kayo! You are riding luxury vehicles guzzling expensive gasoline driven by government chauffeurs, escorted by motorcycle cops, guarded by security men, and collecting fat salaries and allowances — all at the expense of us taxpayers.

Then you push us taxpayers off the road?

Whatever glowing statistics President Gloria Arroyo recites to us harassed citizens, if she cannot ensure fairness on the road and elsewhere, if she cannot rein in official arrogance (not to mention the run-away corruption), she would sound like an empty drum.

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NOBODY LISTENS: Months ago, on advice of PR experts, Malacanang announced the President’s resolve to enforce the rules on the regulated use of sirens and blinkers on motor vehicles.

To a president, this may be a minor detail to bother with, but advisers probably were able to convince Ms Arroyo in an unguarded moment that many people notice even those little things.

My recollection of the Palace announcement is that only the official vehicles of the President, Vice President, Chief Justice, Senate President, House Speaker, and those of the police and fire departments as well as ambulances may use sirens and flashers.

Either nobody listens to the President anymore or Ms Arroyo usually does not mean what she says, because the illegal use of those restricted gadgets continues to this day.

If officials sworn to enforce the law cannot ensure compliance with such simple rules, the honorable thing for them to do is to resign or cut short their term.

Psst, you know why nobody bothers to enforce that simple rule about sirens and flashers? Because our officials know they will not earn millions doing it. Why bother nga naman?

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SABOTAGE: It seems electricity users are in for a looong wait for the vaunted privatization of the National Power Corp. that was promised by the Arroyo administration as one way of lowering the cost of electricity.

Since the Napocor is saddled with inefficiency and corruption on a grand scale, causing it to lose millions that are then passed on to the government (taxpayers), it was thought that selling it was a smart way to get rid of the problem and raise money.

But a Senate hearing last week stoked suspicion that the privatization is being sabotaged by some Napocor officials who do not want to lose their lucrative insider money-making.

The suspicion was aired by Sen. Sergio Osmena III, who revealed that privatization was “being sabotaged from within.” He warned that this could result in power shortages by 2010.

Briefing reporters after a public hearing by a Senate energy sub-committee chaired by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, the Cebu senator described as “fake privatization” the plan to split Napocor into seven generating groups to compete with one another.

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EPIRA FORGOTTEN?: Napocor is one of the leading government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCCs) that burden the Philippine economy with hundreds of billions of pesos in debt. In 2004, its net loss was P29.9 billion.

“The world would laugh at us, because we ran out of power in 1990 and after almost 20 years we still have not corrected it,” Osmena said. “We never learned.”

The Energy and Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), supposed to reduce consumers’ electricity bills, has not been given a chance to work since its enactment four and a half years ago.

“Until now, they have only privatized less than 10 percent of the installed capacity of Napocor plants,” he said. “We have not even included the IPPs (independent power producers).”

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CONVERSION: Elaborating on the problem, Osmena pointed out that the Calaca coal-fired plant in Batangas still has no land title although “we have been planning this for 10 years already… so you can see it is an internal resistance.”

Asked why there is resistance, he said the officials concerned apparently wanted to keep their “great jobs” that are “very lucrative.”

He explained: “Remember that Napocor is the sole buyer of all energy (coal, bunker, diesel) for IPPs. Why? Napocor has a tax-free advantage for importing. So if it were the IPPs that were importing, they would have to pay three percent tariff, while with Napocor it is zero. So they did all these energy conversion agreements.”

“Conversion” means the Napocor will deliver the imported fuel to the IPPs with an agreement that the latter will convert it to power. That is a neat way of being able to say that Napocor is not buying and selling fuel for IPPs, or that somebody is working on sales commissions.

Napocor’s import bill for coal and oil is about $300 million a year. “Ten percent of that is $30 million a year, or P1.5 billion for us,” Osmena noted, without saying who pockets the windfall.

Senate sources said, meanwhile, that investigators were smoking out some of the Napocor people who approved their retirement benefits running to P12 billion, then rehired themselves. Some of them reportedly put up companies that cornered contracts with the power firm.

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PAL FARE CUT: Starting today, Philippine Airlines passengers will enjoy a P100 reduction in domestic fares — actually a rollback of the fuel surcharge — resulting from the decline in the cost of crude oil in the world market.

PAL executive vice president Henry So Uy said the move, subject to approval by the Civil Aeronautics Board, is the airline’s “way of giving something back to our loyal customers.”

“At a time when the price of most goods and services is going up,” he said, “we thought of sharing with the public whatever benefit is due us in terms of fuel-cost savings.”

The airline also offers a wide range of promotional fares (with limited seats), including “Mega Saver” fares to most domestic points that mean discounts of as much as 72 percent off normal rates.

In recent weeks, the price of crude oil has gone down by about 18 percent to $64.95 per barrel from a high of $79.16 last September.

The airline applied last April 27 a fuel surcharge to its domestic services amounting to P350 per round-trip flight within Luzon, P470 to the Visayas, and P650 to Mindanao.

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TOLLWAY TAG: If you normally travel through various tollways and want hassle-free passage, do you have to mount several electronic devices on your windshield to separate you from the long lines of vehicles queuing up at the toll plazas?

Yes, you have to install several easy-pass devices at present and suffer like a jeepney driver peering through a windshield cluttered with stickers, decals, signboards and other distractions.

But very soon, you will need just one electronic tag to zip through the North Luzon Expressway, the South Luzon Expressway, the Cavite coastal road and the tollways of Southern Tagalog and the 52-kilometer Subic-Clark corridor.

This improvement on expressway service will be possible with toll integration using a common program for all the electronic toll collection (ETC) systems of major expressways by Easytrip Services Corp.

Easytrip is a new company under the flag of Group Egis, the French partner of the Lopez group in the funding, construction and operation of the 84-kilometer NLEx running between Balintawak and Mabalacat, Pampanga.

Jean-Claude Neumann, Easytrip chief executive, was joined Tuesday by Rik Joosten, visiting chief executive of Egis Projects SA, in demonstrating the Easytrip Pass to a group from government and the private sectors.

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HOLY ANGEL: Members of high school class 1956 (Pillars) of Holy Angel University in Angeles City will hold their golden (50th) anniversary homecoming on Dec. 30, 2006, at 8 p.m. on the HAU campus. There will be other activities, including a less formal reunion in the evening of Dec. 28, 2006, at the Casino Pilipino function room in Balibago.

Alumni may contact: Sol O. Flores, tels. (045) 3229659 & 6259133; Raquel P. Frye, (045) 3222259 & 8884589; Donna L. Melchor, (045) 8888969; Nestor Malonzo, (045) 3223875; and October Gueco Bansil in Illinois, USA, (708) 3598889.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 17, 2005)

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