POSTSCRIPT / June 27, 2010 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Praying for a miracle: Aquino before Corona

A SIGNAL: It is a long shot, but even with the oath-taking of incoming President Noynoy Aquino being just three days away, many of us are still praying that a triumvirate of characters in the unfolding drama will make certain historic decisions:

1. Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales to beg off from her assigned inaugural role of administering the oath to the incoming President.

2. President Aquino to request Chief Justice Renato Corona to take the traditional role of being the inducting magistrate in a presidential inaugural.

3. For CJ Corona to step forward as requested and administer the oath to President Aquino as the 15th President of the Republic.

That confluence of inspired decisions will be a signal to Filipinos at home and abroad as well as to the watching world that, having suffered enough, we have decided to embrace one another and move forward together.

As I said, it is a long shot. But until the last moment, we will keep hoping and praying that good faith and political maturity will prevail.

* * *

QUICKSAND: The elections are over. The earlier we allow this reality to sink, the better for all of us. Pursuing the politics of hate and vengeance that had marked the last bruising campaign is counter-productive.

We have institutions and processes to which we can entrust the prosecution of officials who have committed crimes against the people. The search for justice should not distract us from the arduous task of uniting and rebuilding the nation.

The tasks awaiting the incoming President are awesome. He needs focus. He cannot waste his time struggling in the political quicksand of hate and never-ending retribution.

* * *

NENE USED?: Talking of hate campaigns, it seems Sen. Nene Pimentel has fallen for a demolition job running along the rivalry between giant interests competing for the cargo handling operation of the bulk and break-bulk terminals at Subic.

Pimentel appears to have been used, unwittingly, in the media blitz of the opponents of a proposed joint venture between the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and the Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc of the Romeros.

The senator’s initial political statements on the business dispute sounded confused and confusing. In a press release, he urged incoming President Aquino to “review and if possible rescind… the joint venture agreement.”

Clearly, his remarks were based on misleading information given him, the same falsehoods also fed to the public regarding the Subic port row.

* * *

NO DEAL YET: Pimentel is prematurely asking the incoming President to “rescind” a supposed contract that has not been signed. There is nothing to rescind!

The public relations blitz of the parties opposing a business proposal of the HCPTI has created the misimpression that there is a signed deal between the SBMA and HCPTI.

That calculated misinformation may have been reinforced by a complaint filed with the Ombudsman by some port operators in Subic.

The hate campaign glosses over the fact that HCPTI’s joint venture proposal to SBMA has not been signed. It is just an offer that the SBMA appears to view favorably since no viable or better alternative has been presented.

* * *

FAIR HEARING: The PR spin appears to have succeeded not only in misleading the public, but also such well-meaning individuals as the senator.

Nevertheless, there is value in the statement of Pimentel, especially that part where he called on the incoming President to “review” the joint venture proposal.

By being reviewed, the proposal will sort of have its “day in court,” given a fair hearing and a chance to prove its worth and long-time benefits.

By reviewing the HCPTI proposal, incoming President Aquino will see under which arrangement the country can make more money.

* * *

COMMITMENTS: The proposed joint venture guarantees minimum revenue starting at $500,000 and increasing over the 25-year life of the contract. At the end of that period, the country would have earned a minimum guaranteed revenue of $32 million.

The prospective earnings under the present setup that the complaining cargo handlers want to perpetuate could reach up to $16 million only at the end of a 25-year period. And that figure is not guaranteed as it is only on a “pay if able” basis.

A “review” by incoming President Aquino will show also that HCPTI commits P6 billion for the expansion and development of the Subic port facilities, including its bulk and break-bulk terminals.

That money will come from the private-sector partner, not from the government. In contrast, the arrangements with the current port cargo operators carry no such commitment.

* * *

BEST TEST: The only way incoming President Aquino would overlook the advantages of the joint venture proposal would be to allow himself to be blinded by the hate campaign against the proponents, the Romeros.

Unfortunately, while the vicious campaign may damage the Romeros, it could also torpedo the joint venture proposal that until now has not had the regulation Swiss challenge.

The challenge is the best way to attack and test the proposal. But the complaining cargo handlers do not seem to have the wherewithal, the expertise and the commitment to put up a better offer for the SBMA to consider.

The opponents’ strategy, which may just succeed if not brought out in the open, is that since they cannot put up a better offer, they might as well try destroying instead its proponents, the Romeros.

The loser will actually be Subic itself. And the rest of the country.

Perhaps incoming President Aquino should ask the cargo handlers opposing the HCPTI offer: What have you done all these decades to promote Subic, and what is your alternative offer, if any?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 27, 2010)

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