POSTSCRIPT / November 24, 2005 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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China birds with flu can't reach Candaba

ANGELES CITY — It is so uncharacteristic of Mayor Jerry L. Pelayo of Candaba to be quiet about the bird flu threat that almost everybody is expecting to be wafted to these shores from the China mainland.

Pelayo should be out there defending the swamps and the feathered flock that swarms to the hospitable environs of Candaba whenever the winter cold drives birds of all feathers migrating from the mainland to warmer climes.

There is that unfair line being unrolled by flu freaks that the migratory birds gathering in the Candaba swamps might be carrying the dreaded avian flu. Pelayo should shoot that down.

If they are merely warning about the possibility of contracting flu from migratory birds, there is basis for such a warning since we are free to scare ourselves anytime all the time about anything.

But, although I am no medical doctor or a veterinarian or an expert on flu, human or avian, I dare say that I doubt if these migratory birds are carriers of flu from the mainland.

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MARATHON FLIGHT: Can you imagine a bird suffering from flu flying all the way from China to Candaba and making it? If the bird or fowl is able to fly that marathon flight of several thousands miles, it must be in peak form. It cannot be sick.

If a Peking duck or some Chinese bird afflicted with the flu attempts to migrate to the Candaba swamps, it would literally drop dead before it could be within sight of the northernmost tip of Luzon.

If we ever get avian flu, it could be through other carriers, including humans arriving from such infected areas as China.

We are lucky that the Philippines is surrounded by a vast sea, over which no flu-infected bird can possibly fly and survive.

If we still do not have bird flu in these parts, it is not because our public health preparedness is that excellent. It never was. Our best quarantine, I think, is that protective marine water around us.

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P.R.S.P. PAIR: We had two public relations experts with us yesterday morning saying more or less the same thing about the PR problems bugging President Gloria Arroyo.

Charlie A. Agatep, president and CEO of the PR firm bearing his name, said the President should not be deterred by all that volley and thunder from the opposition. She should “just do it,” he said, referring to her program of government.

Joel D. Laxamana, corporate communications director of the Manila Water Co. Inc., said good performance should carry her through. A leader who is doing her job, he added, need not worry too much about public approval.

The two practitioners from the Public Relations Society of the Philippines were the resource speakers at the weekly Kampus Kapihan at the Angeles University Foundation here.

Agatep approached the subject of public relations and advertising from the external viewpoint of a PR agency servicing a client. Laxamana gave his views from the internal vantage of an insider servicing his own company.

They were mainly sharing with the masscom students in the crowd the finer points of public relations, but were “forced” toward the end of the session to give their considered opinion about the communication program of the President.

Agatep also clarified news reports that the PRSP offered its services to the President when its officers called on her at Malacanang days ago. He said they did no such thing.

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FACING REALITY: I heard from them an echo of the words of our chairman, Manong Max, in his PhilSTAR column yesterday that “too much posturing and palabas lead to zero progress.”

We have to admit that we Filipinos talk too much. We whine and complain endlessly about almost everything. While this may be good release, it could reach a point where it becomes counter-productive and unhealthy for us individually and collectively as a nation.

“Why get all het up about the latest (Pulse Asia) Ulat ng Bayan survey saying that nearly six in 10 Filipinos (58 percent) want La Glorietta to ‘exit’ from the Presidency?” Max asked in his column. “Perhaps it’s true. Okay. But the reality is that GMA’s in the Palace and holds the reins of power.”

About Gloria Arroyo holding the reins, many people seem to have forgotten that there is a presumption of regularity — without which there would be endless debate and, as Max said, “zero progress.”

Ms Arroyo was elected president in an election generally accepted at the time as orderly and honest, proclaimed winner after the canvassing, and inaugurated as president. While there was a protest, it did not prosper because the alleged cheating was never proved and the electoral protest was dismissed when, almost like divine intervention, the complainant died.

Tapos na po ang eleksiyon ng 2004, at may nanalo na!

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CHRISTMAS HUMP: Asked what he thought of the theory that this Christmas better be a relatively happy one otherwise it would all be downhill after December, Laxamana said, on the contrary, the onset of the Yule season might just make most people more understanding of the problems we all go through.

Agatep said it would not be right to predict that it would be all downhill for the administration after the holidays just because some people would not have a happy Christmas. There is more to it than that, he said.

Asked what would be their main PR advice to the President, both practitioners were careful to limit themselves to saying that Ms Arroyo should focus on doing a good job and that the rest would follow.

Both speakers told the students that PR is generally more effective than advertising, although the latter has some positive points absent in the other.

While advertising uses a more direct approach, PR is subtler — a quality that makes it usually more effective with most target audiences. The irony is that while advertising is expensive, PR is for free (in the sense that the PR man does not pay for time or space while the advertiser does.)

But the two speakers pointed out that PR and advertising usually go in tandem, one complementing the other.

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ROAD HOGS: We continue to get email and text messages expressing disgust over government vehicle bullying their way through crowded streets escorted by motorcycle cops and security men with sirens blaring and red lights flashing.

I wonder if the President or her advisers ever noticed that this is one small matter where she might be able to score some big points.

People are fed up with arrogant officials and minor functionaries using government vehicles, gasoline and personnel to force their way through traffic while the rest of us patiently wait for our turn.

Filipinos are a patient lot. We can wait. In fact, we sometimes tarry and wait too long before we move. But when we see supposed leaders in government, some of them unelected, abusing their position, we react.

It would be refreshing to see President Arroyo acting on this simple rule of everybody waiting for his proper turn.

But we ask complaining readers to please send us the license plate numbers of the vehicles and the place and time they saw the occupants abusing their presumed privilege.

(One problem here is that we might be fed with wrong information and get into trouble. Huwag naman po.)

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 24, 2005)

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