POSTSCRIPT / November 10, 2013 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Politics aside, Visayas needs fast, massive aid

STILL SHORT: Before Yolanda hit the Visayas the other day and left a wide swath of death and destruction, many of us had noticed government moves to prepare the communities in the typhoon’s path and pre-position assistance where it was likely to be needed.

That was commendable of the Aquino administration, considering its spotty preparation and haphazard relief operations in previous rampages by Nature gone wild, particularly in the recent magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Bohol.

Unfortunately, the preparations this time, commendable though they were, still turned out to be insufficient to shield the Visayan population from the year’s most devastating typhoon and to restore the victims quickly back to their feet.

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JUST TOO BIG: Obviously Yolanda’s wrath was just too much for anyone in government to predict and prepare for on short notice. We have not grappled with anything like this before.

Who would have imagined, for instance, that after the howler slammed a key regional center like Tacloban, its power and communication links would be completely cut for several hours – with the rest of the country unaware that scores of bodies were already littering the streets?

Be that as it may, we all cry out for the victims and the survivors. We wish for quicker and more adequate after-disaster operations notwithstanding the infernal dissipation of limited government resources.

Most of us in Manila, stunned by the enormity of the problem, want to help but may not have the means to contribute materially to relief and reconstruction. Maybe the least we could do is not to get in the way of the post-Yolanda civilian and government workers.

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DAP INDISCRETIONS: The calamity, however, does not mean we will forget momentarily the abuse of presidential pork, including Malacañang’s out-of-budget Disbursement Acceleration Program, whose constitutionality has been challenged before the Supreme Court.

We are with the multi-sectoral protest over the pre-planned gathering into the DAP barrel of hefty chunks from programmed funds and using the hoard at the sole discretion of the President, even for pet projects of lawmakers.

We hope Yolanda and such calamities will not be used before the Supreme Court as an excuse or justification for the President’s continued out-of-budget indiscretions.

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GOOD NEWS: Last Friday at the Clark Freeport, we were treated to good news on the finances of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and the Nayong Pilipino sa Clark Expo in spite of prevailing global economic uncertainties brought on by slowdowns in first world markets.

Briefing the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) in Clark, SBMA Chairman and Administrator Roberto V. Garcia reported that the country’s first freeport zone had a profitable operation this year, ending a 10-year losing streak since 2003.

But due to increased expenditures, this year’s gains of SBMA would be somewhat lower than last year’s P800 million on the back of projected year-round total operating revenues of P1.476 billion. In 2012, operating revenues reached P1.151 billion.

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NEW NAYON: The Nayong Pilipino, a miniature Philippines tucked beside the Centennial Expo that had lain idle for years, also began posting moderate gains beginning last year, when its gross revenues soared to P24 million.

Its trustee and executive director, lawyer Apolonio B. Anota Jr., said the facility is growing stronger financially both in gross and net revenues. The Nayon operates solely on its own earnings, instead of depending on subsidy. It even turns over part of its earnings to the government.

He traced the turn-around in the culture-cum-resort project to the increased number of visitors in the past 20 months from measly annual number of 20,000 to 300,000. He achieved this by improving management and introducing new attractions.

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RISING REVENUES: Garcia and Anota were guests in last Friday’s forum of CAMI, composed of members of the working press from Central Luzon and Manila. The group hosts weekly dialogues at its Bale Balita (House of News) in the former American air base in Pampanga.

Garcia reported that SBMA locators’ committed investments this year could hit P24.8 billion, a hefty jump from the preceding year’s P2.3 billion.

Its 1,000-plus locators, providing some 89,921 jobs, are forecast to register a 33-percent dip in export receipts to $650 million this year from $963 million the previous year because of the global economic slowdown.

But there is excitement in Subic brought about by the growing number of prospective locators as well as those that have implemented their plans.

Among them are the rising P20-billion complex of Resom Resort City Subic and the expansion of the floating terminal of Vale Holding Shipping PTE Ltd. that services major iron ore suppliers to China.

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APEC HOSTS: Together with the Clark Freeport, SBMA has been picked to host the senior ministerial meeting of next year’s APEC summit that the Philippines is hosting. This could trigger the realization of the planned Subic-Clark business corridor.

As envisioned, the land on both sides of the 94-kilometer Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) connecting the two freeports and Hacienda Luisita are to be developed into commercial-industrial areas to attract local and foreign investors.

Garcia said SBMA is also looking forward to generating fresh revenues from the planned transfer of some of the operations of the Philippine Air Force to Cubi Point in Subic.

With its improving financial muscle, Garcia expressed optimism that the port could finally pursue the programmed upgrading of its port and other facilities, as well as an increase in the compensation of SBMA personnel.

Sources said that the SBMA management has submitted to the Office of the President its proposed P65-million wage increase package for SBMA personnel.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November10, 2013)

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