POSTSCRIPT / May 11, 2006 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Must anyone nominate himself for an award?

NOMINATE THYSELF?: Some friends have received letters from civic groups asking them to submit their curriculum vitae, pictures and endorsement letters/forms so their nomination kuno for some great annual award can be processed.

Some of the projected awardees are irritated, asking aloud why they should put together and submit the materials required, in effect nominating themselves. Many artists, writers and the like abhor erecting their own pedestals.

If they did something great for humanity or if they produced some compelling documentary or wrote truly great articles that had triggered significant social reforms, they should just be recognized for it without having to call attention to themselves.

It is not that difficult, really, writing a series of articles with one eye on snagging a particular national award. You just tailor your content, context and conclusion to what the award-givers want — never mind your integrity and personal conviction.

But the artists and writers I am talking about who disdain nominating themselves for an award are the type who just does his job in a straightforward professional way.

If the awarding organization has not been monitoring and evaluating the works of prospective awardees, how can it presume to hand out awards at the end of the year?

It should not insult outstanding individuals by asking them to nominate themselves, nor judge an artist or writer on the basis of just three or five samples submitted for evaluation.

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MEDIA CREATION: Some years ago, I was approached by friends of a big shot who wanted his son, a novato in big business, to win one of that year’s awards for youthful achievers in their respective fields.

They wanted to inveigle me into a public relations campaign to build up the youth and make him ripe for picking as an awardee.

I declined before I could start vomiting. Sorry, but the boy was masyadong hilaw pa (too green).

But that did not stop his dad. He hired image-building experts and an advertising firm. Soon the boys’ name and pictures started to appear in media with the obvious (to me, because I knew the plan) angle of projecting him as somebody outstanding in his field.

An advertising team documented in a glossy portfolio the paid-for media exposure. Doing the creative job were expensive artists and writers who could re-make a third-rate fairy tale into a blockbuster Oscar film.

To make the story short, after months of expert PR and publicity work, the media-created product that was The Son made it to the final list of awardees.

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NEW CONTRACT?: The Malacañang press office says that President Gloria Arroyo, on a state visit to Saudi Arabia, was able to extract from the Saudi oil minister a commitment to sell oil to the Philippines in case the supply is interrupted.

Was this commitment embodied in an enforceable contract? Is the contract, if there is one, on top of the supply contract that the Philippine National Oil Co. already has with Saudi Aramco (which holds 40 percent of PNOC)?

Is it the Philippine government that is buying the additional oil supply or a private oil firm with a refinery? For whom was President Arroyo negotiating?

The only two oil firms with refineries in the country are the PNOC (which can refine 180,000 barrels per day supplied by Saudi Aramco and marketed by Petron) and Pilipinas Shell (100,000 barrels). Caltex has closed its refinery.

Why the need for the President to go oil-shopping? Are we having problems with the Saudi Aramco oil supply contract?

If a problem is developing, the President should tell all stakeholders so former President Fidel V. Ramos, who was responsible for the Aramco contract, can do something about it.

But if the supposed new oil supply commitment is just padding stuffed into the joint communiqué and press releases without actually creating a new or additional contract, Malacañang should not create much drama — and raise unwarranted expectations and questions — over it.

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VENTURE CAPITAL: The problem of how to pump more blood into the local software industry was the focus the other day in discussions of select executives during the Software Innovations Philippines 2006 forum in Makati.

The first-of-its-kind forum showcased Philippine software in three areas: business processes, mobile connectivity and personal lifestyle. Exhibits showing the creations and innovations of local software-makers ran parallel to the event.

The few government officials who attended, notably Speaker Jose de Venecia, gave the mixed gathering an idea of what some officials like himself have in mind doing to promote the industry.

De Venecia proposed the creation of a Philippine venture capital fund for information technology that could rake in, he said, $10 billion a year in revenues and create up to one million jobs.

He asked Microsoft founder Bill Gates, through his Asia representative Cris Atkinson, to take the lead in creating the fund that the Speaker described as a “pole-vaulting and leap-frogging strategy.”

Managing Director Antonio Javier of Microsoft Philippines said the forum was meant to be where government and business leaders could “look at common priorities and directions to help the Philippines achieve high visibility in the global market as a provider of excellent software products and services.”

* * *

LOCAL STATUS: Data from the Department of Trade and Industry show that there are about 300 software companies in the country.

Some of their products deal with analysis and design, prototyping, programming and testing, customization, reengineering and conversion, installation and maintenance, and education and training. There are hardly any for the mass market.

Examining the capabilities and potentials of the software industry, Javier noted that India’s software industry exports $12 billion annually in applications and software-related services, while the Philippines exports about $200 million.

“What will it take to accelerate growth?” he asked. “What could be the unique value proposition of the Philippines?”

No answers were immediately forthcoming. If the forum moved enough of the participants, the coming months may yet produce positive responses not only from the industry but also from the government and the academe.

* * *

COPYRIGHT: One area where government action will be felt in a big way is in the protection of intellectual property rights and the promotion of quality education in information technology.

It was pointed out during the forum that some 70 percent of the software being used in the country is pirated. That figure may be a bit exaggerated, but judging from what I have seen around, the correct level is definitely more than 50 percent.

With piracy plaguing the industry, how can software-makers be encouraged to put their heart into their business? Many valuable locally produced software have faded (in sales and usage) after unauthorized copies promptly invaded the market.

The US government has made strong statements, probably aimed partly at the Arroyo administration, about it wanting to see intellectual property rights zealously protected in this country swimming in IT applications.

We have not noticed any encouraging reaction from the government. In fact, Congress does not seem to be in a hurry to update laws on IPR and e-commerce. The subject simply cannot compete for attention versus pork barrel, charter change and such gripping (to lawmakers) issues.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 11, 2006)

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