POSTSCRIPT / December 11, 2008 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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When private rights, public interest clash

SHUTDOWN: Malacañang should act on the impending shutdown of the 230-kilovolt (kv) Sucat-Araneta-Balintawak power line because its disconnection affects millions of residents in and around Metro Manila.

The Supreme Court has denied with finality a motion filed by the National Power Corp. (Napocor) and the National Transmission Corporation (Transco) to reconsider the SC’s barring their transmitting electricity through a line running near the posh Dasmarinas Village in Makati City.

Napocor and Transco have repeatedly warned the Makati regional trial court and the SC that stopping power flow through the Dasmariñas area would reduce power loads, cause brownouts and raise electricity cost in Metro Manila and elsewhere.

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HEALTH HAZARD?: The contested line traverses a 3.2-kilometer area from Lawton Ave. (inside Fort Bonifacio) to Pasong Tamo Ext. near Tamarind Rd. in Dasmariñas Village.

Transco, which has assumed the transmission task of Napocor, would have to increase its charges to recover the expense of building an alternative line, the Solicitor General earlier told the court.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed in 2000 by some Dasmariñas residents with the Makati RTC seeking, among other things, a permanent order for Napocor to remove the steel towers and high-voltage transmission cables near Tamarind Rd.

The residents cited studies downloaded from the Internet showing, they said, that exposure to electromagnetic radiation from transmission cables causes cancer, brain tumor, leukemia, abortions and birth defects.

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PAGING PALACE: The Napocor lost the case despite its showing contrary evidence and arguing that an injunction violates PD 1818 prohibiting courts from restraining infrastructure and natural-resource projects and public utilities operated by the government.

The 230-kv Sucat-Araneta-Balintawak line is critical to the national transmission grid since electricity generated from Southern Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao passes through it.

Rerouting the power lines is estimated to cost P1 billion, which will be shouldered by all consumers on the grid. Add to this the cost of tapping alternative power sources.

Malacañang should step into this conflict between the rights of a small village in Makati and the interests of the greater public.

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TEXT VS CALLS: With the Philippines touted as the texting capital of the world, one would think that Filipinos prefer to send short messages (texts) than make mobile phone calls and that texting is more practical and economical.

The pervasiveness of texting can be gleaned from an estimate that 14 to 16 million mobile phone users generate 150 to 200 million text messages daily. The peso value of those messages is staggering.

A recent independent study of Integrated Marketing Solutions, however, has brought out data challenging the widely accepted assumptions of the practicality, affordability and dominance of texting over calling.

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COST-DRIVEN: A telephone survey was conducted by IMS involving 300 Filipino mobile and landline users, with 150 respondents coming from Metro Manila and the rest evenly distributed from Baguio, Bicol, Cebu, Iloilo and Davao.

The interviewees were 65 percent female and had an almost equal representation from the age brackets of 18 to 21 (23 percent); 22 to 27 (21 percent); 28 to 37 (20 percent); 38 to 47 (23 percent); and 48 to 55 (12 percent).

The study showed that the seeming preference for texting is driven mainly by cost rather than any other benefit.

When asked “Why do you send text messages more often than making voice calls?,” 84 percent of 291 respondents who texted more often than they called said they considered texting as “mas matipid” (more economical) and that “mas mura ang text” (text is less expensive).

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CALLS PREFERRED: But when asked “If given a choice, would you rather text or call when you need to say something to someone?,” 85 percent said they preferred to call. This indicates that only 15 percent would choose to text if they could call.

When asked the corollary question “What if calling and texting cost the same?,” the 15 percent of the respondents who chose texting dropped to only 2 percent.

The discrepancy between usage behavior (predominantly text messages) and usage preference (predominantly voice calls) apparently stems from a perception that texting costs less than calling.

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UNDERESTIMATED: When asked “On the average, how often do you send text messages?,” respondents said they send an average of 37 messages per day.

At P1 per text over 30 days, the average of 37 messages sent each day add up to a monthly bill of P1,110. This is more than double the supposed P544 cost of texting estimated by the same respondents.

The cost of texting is obviously underestimated because respondents used P544 as basis for claiming that texting costs less than calling.

The reality, however, is that the availability of unlimited wireless landline services can make calling less expensive than texting.

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PERSONAL TOUCH: I know this to be so, because I have been using Bayantel’s UNLIMITED wireless landline services for calls within my Metro Manila base.

Texting with a handphone is cumbersome and time-consuming. It is very dangerous when done while driving. With misspellings and contractions used to shorten messages, texting is confusing, requiring follow-up texts.

When mobile phone calls cost as much as text messages, a direct voice call is definitely superior. Calling has the added value of personal touch and instant clarification not possible with texting.

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CLARIFICATION: The well-received “Obama isn’t a friend of RP” item last Tuesday was written by Mike Gonzalez. It was e-mailed to us by Joey Tabaco, who was mistaken for the author. Go to the original piece at http://mpgonz.blogspot.com/2008/12/obama-snubbed-philippines-please.html.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 11, 2008)

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