POSTSCRIPT / September 20, 2011 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Fearless forecast: ‘Tigil-pasada’ to fail

FIZZLING OUT: Even without delving into the details, we can safely conclude in advance that the supposedly crippling transport strike ongoing in the streets will just fizzle out.

There are at least two reasons why the “tigil-pasada” will fail to achieve its goal of forcing the oil ogres to moderate their greed and lower their fuel retail prices:

1. The drivers (not the utility owners using them) are mostly hand-to-mouth creatures. For every day they fail to ply their routes, they lose earnings that their families are waiting for at the end of the day. They are under extreme pressure to resume their daily trips.

2. The oil giants, joined by smaller operators to form an oligopoly, have so entrenched themselves that they have become untouchable. It seems no President, including the incumbent, can muster the courage to put them in their proper places.

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GOV’T INUTILE: Expect the situation to return to normal shortly – meaning the transport industry and other captive consumers will continue to reel under exorbitant prices dictated not by market forces but by the greed of the oil multinationals.

Now and then, when they want to raise pump prices, the oil firms simply claim losing on their investments. But at the end of every fiscal year, their financial statements always show unconscionable profits running into billions.

In the face of this reality, it is valid to ask President Aquino to announce categorically on whose side he is: the foreign oil firms or the Filipino consumers?

As admitted by his Energy Secretary, the Aquino administration’s role has been reduced to merely monitoring supply, demand and prices. The recent STAR banner that the Palace is helpless is correct.

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HOW MUCH?: Every time President Aquino flies abroad, the toiling masses in this rich but impoverished country ask two gut questions: How much are taxpayers spending for the trip? What economic benefits is he bringing home?

The President’s overly defensive spokesmen, whose survival in the snake pit depends largely on the torrent of words they spew out daily, try answering the questions by:

1. Pointing out that President Aquino is spending less than what former President Gloria Arroyo did on her own trips to the same destinations. Quite an evasive reaction, but understandable.

2. Listing the foreign businessmen that the President sits down with, putting a price tag on each one’s head indicating his company’s promised investment in the Philippines, then adding up the figures to arrive at the total ventures committed.

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OGP ROLL CALL: And if the President’s trip is to the United States, as it is now, a third question takes top spot in the public mind: Is the US President going to chat with the visiting chieftain of the former colony in the Pacific — and for how many minutes?

So now, after one Palace spokesperson boasted that Mr. Aquino will have a one-on-one with Mr. Obama, we are eagerly awaiting her report on how long our President was able to hold on to his host. This is childish, but the spokesperson fueled the guessing game.

In the first place, with so many problems requiring his attention, does President Aquino have to go back to the US after his more substantial visit last year?

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad explained that Mr. Aquino must attend the launch of the “Open Government Partnership” cooked up by the US and Brazil and, by his attendance, make the Philippines an attractive investment location.

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ABAD CONCERNS: To earn a good mark from the White House, Mr. Aquino was also asked to deliver a statement supporting the affair’s “Declaration on Open Government” to signify his administration’s commitment to transparency and accountability.

The Americans would make us believe that they love our claimed commitment to budgetary standards, people participation in budgeting, local development planning and social audit, and adoption of better information technology systems – which are mainly concerns of Abad.

We are being treated like kindergarten kids who get excited being pinned a ribbon for good behavior. Our President leaves his desk for Abad and flies to the US for that?

The President seems to have been conditioned to think he must continue cultivating American goodwill to ensure the inflow of refurbished US war materiel needed to ward off Chinese intrusions and threats to new-found fossil fuel deposits that US oil firms want to exploit.

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LONDON UPDATE: Two Filipina sisters in London have recovered their house in the suburbs that was vandalized and taken over by Romanian squatters while they — Amelita and Lilia Olasa — were vacationing in the Philippines.

My cousin Fe Perfect of the London-based Celestial Travel reported in an email that the Olasa sisters were met by anxious friends at Heathrow when they arrived last Sept. 6.

They called the police before proceeding to their house. Rubbish was strewn in the front yard. The Romanians took all valuable stuff, including mattresses, new clothes, jewelry, ornaments, and even had the audacity to harvest potatoes and apples in the garden.

As soon as one of the squatters opened the door, a police officer stepped in. More policemen barged in. The Romanians were led out covering their faces. There was jubilation among neighbors who had gathered outside the house.

The officers did not leave the sisters until their door lock was changed. Apparently, when the Romanians moved in they changed it.

The sisters were able to reclaim their property that same evening. Had they left it for the following morning, they would have had to apply for court eviction orders that would have cost them thousands of pounds.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 20, 2011)

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