POSTSCRIPT / February 16, 2006 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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GMA's vaunted Epira failed to cut power rates

SUSPICIOUS: Pasig Mayor Vicente Eusebio’s bulldozing of the shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride ) market operating in barangay Palatiw close to his City Hall office is suspicious.

Why was he in a hurry to obliterate the scene of the crime and destroy part of the evidence?

Why did he not extirpate the cancer before, and not after, a PNP Special Action Force contingent and an anti-drugs task force direct from headquarters swooped down on it and rounded up more than 200 persons in the premises?

In the first place, those 50 or so shanties selling illegal drugs in the compound would not have been able to operate in flagrante all this time without the mayor being aware of it. One wonders how many reasons are there for his playing blind?

Or if he was totally ignorant of that well-organized shabu trade that everybody in the neighborhood knew had official blessing, why is he still sitting as mayor?

Then, why oh why was Eusebio frantically trying to erase the site instead of preserving it as evidence, at least until the prosecution has gone under way?

Director General Arturo Lomibao, PNP chief, is on the right track cracking down on all police officers assigned to the area. Like Mayor Eusebio, the local police could not have been unaware of that shabu market in their area of responsibility.

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PADDED FIGURES: The lies peddled by officials of the National Power Corp. about the mandated privatization of its generating companies (gencos) seem to be getting bigger with every revelation.

Napocor officials announced recently they had privatized 10 percent of assets. That was way below the target set by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) that says that 70 percent of its gencos must be sold within three years after the law’s passage in 2001.

That 10-percent claim was a lie, I said in POSTSCRIPT last Feb. 5, because a computation of the Joint Congressional Power Commission (PowerCom) had shown that only 3 percent of Napocor’s gencos had been sold as of Dec. 31, 2005.

Now it turns out that that generous estimate of 3 percent is a gross overstatement.

Sen. Joker R. Arroyo, chairman of the powerful Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Blue Ribbon) committee, told me the other day that the correct figure is not 3 percent but only .15 percent.

Note the decimal point before 15, which makes it even less than 1 percent! The figure .15 percent is arrived at when we divide 8.5 megawatts (total generating capacity of the gencos sold so far) by 5,625 megawatts (total targeted capacity).

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EPIRA FAILURE: To recap, against the mandated 70-percent 2004 target, the generating capacity sold so far is not 10 percent as claimed by Napocor officials led by their president Cyrill del Callar , nor 3 percent as I said in an earlier column, but a minuscule .15 percent.

The verdict of the senator from Makati is that the Epira, upon which President Gloria Arroyo had pinned her and her Strong Republic’s hopes for cheaper and stable electricity, is a gross failure.

He recalled that President Arroyo (no relation) called Congress to a special session in June 2001 just to pass Epira, which became the very first law enacted under her administration.

The goal was to (1) lower power rates and (2) reduce Napocor’s debts that at that time had grown to P600 billion. (Don’t you find Napocor’s money count dizzying, what with P1 billion looking like petty cash?)

Clearly, the Arroyo administration has failed to use its vaunted Epira to achieve the law’s twin goals.

Should Epira now be revised, repealed or replaced? Meantime, what do we harassed consumers do to survive the electric shocks that are getting deadlier with every ruling of the Energy Regulatory Commission?

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HEMORRHAGE: A summary prepared by PowerCom Executive Director Evelyn S. Rojo showed that the total capacity of Napocor gencos marked for privatization is 5,625 mw. This includes the combined 104-mw capacities of the plants in Mindanao, Talomo, Agusan and Iligan.

Against this 5,625-mw target, Napocor has sold only a total of 8.5 mw broken down into: Loboc (1.2 mw), Barit (1.8) and Cawayan (0.4) in Luzon and the Visayas; and Talomo (3.5) and Agusan (1.6) in Mindanao.

The five plants fetched a price of $5,208,000, which translated at the time of sale to P286,440,000 using the then P55=$1 exchange rate.

That revenue did not make a dent in the P600-billion debt that privatization sought to whittle down. What made a difference was the absorption by the government (or us taxpayers) of P200 billion, leaving a balance of P400 billion.

But the P400 billion, I was told, had ballooned to some P700 billion with the continued corruption and inefficiency in the state firm, as well as the piling up of loan interests and penalties.

When will the massive hemorrhage stop? Not within the foreseeable future, considering the resistance to privatization of some key Napocor officials who do not want to let go of the cash cow.

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NBI BOSS: Talking of the police, a number of former police officers, including a non-lawyer like the late Reynaldo Wycoco, had been called in the past to lead the National Bureau of Investigation.

In most cases, the transition from leading a top police unit to leading the NBI had been smooth. This may be attributed to the appointees’ preparation along similar lines and the parallel functions involved in managing the NBI and a police force.

In the case of Sen. Alfredo Lim, who had served with distinction as Manila police chief before he entered politics, he moved over in a smooth transition to the NBI as its director. More than his being a lawyer, Lim’s successful stint at the NBI can be attributed to his hard training as a police officer.

I am noting this, because of suggestion from some quarters that Chief Superintendent Pedro Bulaong, Manila Police District director, be named NBI director to take the place Wycoco, who passed away recently.

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BULAONG RECORD: Considering his career record and his personal qualities, Bulaong has the marks of an effective NBI director.

Under Bulaong, the Manila police have cleared 602 drug-affected barangays, representing 67 percent of the total 897 localities within the city. He established the text hotline 700PIT (700-748) for immediate police action on complaints sent from within the capital city.

The Manila police under Bulaong take pride in having arrested suspected bombers and confirmed members of the Al-Qaeda-linked terror group Jemmah Islamiya last year. Recovered from the terrorists were high-grade explosives and other paraphernalia.

If Bulaong is reportedly on top of the short list of those being considered for the post of NBI director, it is partly due to a series of No. 1’s in his career, including his having graduated first honor and valedictorian, his being one of the first graduates of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA), and his being the first police general to come from the roster of the PNPA.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 16, 2006)

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