FAA OnLiNe

Monday, October 31, 2005

BRO VS BRO

Two dead in sibling fights

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THREE pairs of brothers belonging to three different families in Molo, Iloilo City and Passi City must have thought of joining today’s All Saints’ Day in a way different from the common practice of the living.
They must have ambitioned to join their dead by stabbing and shooting each other.
As a result of their deadly actions, two of them were killed.
The first Cain-and-Abel incident occurred at Zone 3, Barangay San Juan, Molo 12:10am yesterday when Dexter Lee, 17, repeatedly stabbed his brother Roland, 25, with a steel bar.
According to the Molo PNP report, Roland came home drunk and attempted to stab their father Rodolfo, 40, with the same steel bar. Roland also threatened to detonate a grenade inside their house.
Roland’s brother Dexter, who was watching TV with their parents, reacted to Roland violent ways. Filled with rage, Dexter grabbed the steel bar from Roland and stabbed the latter with it 32 times.
Neighbors and relatives rushed Roland to the Iloilo Doctors’ Hospital (IDH) but expired minutes later.
Roland and Dexter are among the 10 children of Rodolfo and Linda.
Bruce, brother to both suspect and victim, said Roland is the “black sheep” of their family and would usually hurt any of them every time he got intoxicated.
“He is a drunkard and he was unemployed,” Bruce said.
The father said they will not file charges against Dexter who is now detained at the Molo PNP lockup cell.
In Barangay Buyo, Passi City around 12:30am, Lito Pinuela shot his half-brother Steve Cerbo.
The two were having a drinking spree when Cerbo attempted to shoot Pinuela with a gun of unknown caliber.
However the gun did not fire, giving Pinuela the chance to seize it from Cerbo and successfully shot the latter on the chest, nape and right knee.
Cerbo died at the Passi City District Hospital.
Just like the case of the Lees in Molo, the Passi City PNP said Cerbo was “a cruel brother and son to their family.”
Later afternoon yesterday in West Habog-Habog, Molo, John De La Cruz stabbed his own brother Rolly on the back.
Fortunately, the stab wound was not fatal. Rolly is now recuperating at the IDH.
The Molo police said the two brothers have been at odds for some time now.
John remains at large as of presstime last night. (Published in The Guardian-Iloilo City November 1-2, 2005 issue)

Anthropologist: What aswang?

Breaking the aswang complex

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

FOR a lady anthropologist from the country’s premiere state university, aswang or flesh eating monsters of Filipino folklore is nothing more than an invention.
Worse, the term represents the oppression and colonization experienced by the Philippines.
During Halloween season, stories of ghouls, ghosts, headless priests and other tales from the nether world emerge to spice up the occasion.
But for Dr. Alicia Magos, one of the big names in Philippine anthropology, these stories are offshoots of “combined military, religious and cultural tactics used to conquer the early Filipinos.”
Magos, who has conducted extensive studies into the indigenous culture and traditions of early Panay settlers, said the origins of aswangs are the powerful babaylans or priestesses of pre-Hispanic Panay.
“A datu or a village cannot earn respect if he was not a babaylan. So they resort to ‘hiring’ or getting the services of babaylans, who are mostly female, who are considered the link of the community to the spiritual world. Such was the high regard of our forefathers to these women priestesses,” Magos said.
Since they are the channel of the humans to their spirit gods and goddesses, babaylans performed certain rituals which the Spanish conquerors regarded as “pagan and demonic.”
At that time, babaylans have their own annual convention in Antique which a Spanish friar described as “diabolical.”
Since the datus heeded the advice of the babaylans, the Spanish, who were out to spread Catholicism and grab new territories in Asia, first went after the priestesses.
The first order of the day for the early Catholic clerics was to spread stories that babaylans were “agents of Satan and all that is evil.”
Coupled with the military might of the conquerors, the friars managed to wipe out the influence of babaylans over early Panay communities which eventually paved the way for the colonization of the country.
“It was a perfect religious-military tool for conquering other cultures. Through time, the term aswang was invented and its description became more morbid and cruel as generations passed these fabricated stories,” Magos added.
Even the famous legend of Tiniente Gimo, a purported aswang from Dueñas, Iloilo, was allegedly fabricated by American colonizers against a labor leader in the early 1900s.
The term aswang, which is now used to describe flesh eating and blood sucking creatures, was also used against freedom fighters who refused to bow down to American rule.
Even local folklores narrated of heroes who ate body parts of enemies they killed in the battlefield. “Such act of cannibalism was a badge of courage. Eating body parts of slain enemies serve as battle trophies of the victor.”
Even the word yawa, which is now equated to evil, originally meant supernatural powers.
Magos cited the tale of Malitong Yawa, a character in the epic chant of the Panay Bukidnons in the central part of the island.
“Malitong Yawa was a beautiful woman with extraordinary powers. Later, the Spanish and American colonizers transformed her into an evil creature,” Magos said.
Magos’ explanation was also used to justify the celebration of the Aswang Festival in Capiz province.
Criticisms from Catholic Church authorities and a handful of politicians forced organizers of the festival to rename it to “Lupad” festival.
“We should start to straighten these fabrications so we can recover our own identity which is a viable source of empowerment and development. We must free ourselves of religious and political deceptions that have kept us from advancing. We must be proud to be called aswangs and yawa,” Magos said. (Published in The Guardian, November 1-2, 2005 issue)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

PANAY RAILWAY REHAB NEXT YEAR

SPARED. This old PRI railway bridge in Passi City, Iloilo will be maintained as the national government begins the rehabilitation of the 117-km railroad next year.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

WILL the glory that was Panay Railways Inc. (PRI) be finally revived?
Retired Colonel and PRI general manager Hannibal Lipado revealed the initial phase of the P23.5-billion rehabilitation project has begun with the dismantling of 44 old railway bridges in various towns in Panay.
Lipardo said the P20-million contract for the demolition of the old rail bridges was awarded to LT Arceo Trading (LTAT) based in Pasay City, Metro Manila.
The Privatization Management Office (PMO) of the Department of Finance (DoF) awarded the contract to LTAT after it won the bidding last October 20, 2004.
Last January 25, 2005, Ricardo Canlas of the PMO signed the deed of sale to LTAT representative Antonio Arceo.
The demolition of the bridges began March 3, 2005.
The 117-kilomoter railway system, which stretches from Iloilo City to Roxas City, Capiz, has 46 bridges but two – Passi City rail bridge and the Drilon Bridge – were excluded from the demolition project.
Lipardo said the Passi City Bridge has historical value as it was the execution site of Ilonggo guerillas during World War 2. “It will be reinforced so the new railway system can still pass through it.”
On the other hand, the Drilon Bridge area has been donated to the Iloilo City.
Last September 28, 2005, the PMO gave LTAT a two-month extension to finish the demolition of the old rail bridges.
Once the old bridges have dismantled, Lipardo said actual rehabilitation works under phase 1 of the project will be undertaken by German firm Siemens next year.
Modifications will be made on the old line as the rail system, which starts from Muelle Loney area in Iloilo City passing through Lapaz district to Pavia, will loop around the new international airport in Sta. Barbara-Cabatuan area.
From the airport area, the rail system will proceed to Iloilo towns of New Lucena, Pototan, Dueñas, Passi City to Dumarao, Cuartero, Dao, Panit-an and Roxas City in Capiz.
Aside from rehabilitating the 90-year-old line, PRI also plans to extend it from Roxas City to Kalibo and Caticlan in Aklan. Another extension is from Iloilo City to Guimbal and Tubungan in Iloilo to San Remigio, Sibalom and San Jose in Antique.
Lipardo said the rail cars are ready for installation once the lines have been constructed.
“The railway will shorten the travel time of the Iloilo City to Roxas City route from three hours to 1 hour and 10 minutes,” Lipardo said.
The contract for the dismantling of old rails was given to a China-based firm for P32.2million.
As to the relocation of occupants along the railway, Lipardo said they will prioritize those who pay rent to PRI.
Early this year, the Philippine Investment and Development Corp. (Phividec) announced the bidding of the rehabilitation project.
Ofelia Bulaong, chair of Phividec, expects the rehabilitation to last for about three years from 2005 to 2007. They want the transit system to be operational by 2008.
The project also involves the procurement of eight trains, consisting of three passenger cars and a cargo trailer for every train unit for long distance traffic.
The railway is also seen to have 25 million passenger trips a year.
Feasibility studies conducted by the consortium of Siemens from Germany, Systra of France, and Voest Alpine of Austria showed that the rehabilitation of the Panay Railways Inc. would cost $658.41million.
This amount would cover the $164.71million for civil works around the facility, $168.97million for the rolling stock, $104.67million for engineering and maintenance and $50million to $60million for the compensation of households that will be affected by the rehabilitation project.
Other costs include the $12.55million for right-of-way acquisition, $25.79million in interest payment and some $100.94 for other miscellaneous costs.
Bulaong said that the undertaking will also work for the compensation of the 1,500 families who are expected to be dislocated by the project.
She said that these families will not be relocated but will be allowed to stay in a community, which Phividec intends to construct near the Panay railway.
“If there is no housing project, there is no rehabilitation,” Bulaong said.
Next year, the PRI will celebrate its centennial year.
The railway was established on May 28, 1906 and went on its passenger operation until 1985.
In 1989, PRI ceased its cargo operations. (Published in the October 31, 2005 issue of The Guardian, Iloilo City)

Murder suspect bolts IRC


ICMG members rushed to the IRC but inmate Jomarie Desilao made good his escape under cover of the night.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


A LIVING out prisoner of the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC) grabbed the caliber .45 service pistol of one of the jail guards and bolted out of the said facility yesterday evening.
Initial reports from IRC personnel identified the jailbird as Jomarie Desilao, 21-25 years old, and native of Anilao, Iloilo.
Desilao and his brother Alberto are detained at the IRC for murder charges.
The daring escape occurred 7pm yesterday after the basketball game of the inmates.
IRC personnel said Desilao snatched the pistol of an unidentified jail guard and jumped over the fence behind the jail facility.
Several jail guards opened fire at Desilao but the latter made good his escape.
Investigators said a getaway vehicle may have been waiting for Desilao behind the IRC to facilitate his escape.
Jail guards said Desilao is considered a living out prisoner since he is not detained in one of the IRC cells.
In return for the relaxed treatment he gets, the escapee serves as an errand boy of the inmates and jail guards.
Jail personnel described Desilao as fair complexioned, 4 feet and 11 inches tall, chubby and wears a short hair.
He wore a white polo short and dark maong pants.
Aside from the pistol, Desilao also took away undetermined amount of cash bets from the basketball game of his fellow inmates.
Heavily-armed members of the Iloilo City Mobile Group were seen milling around the IRC compound as they prepared for a hot pursuit operation against the Desilao.
The Guardian tried to get additional information from IRC Warden Juan Mabugat but he was busy interrogating Alberto Desilao for possible leads of his brother’s location.
Desilao’s case is the most recent jail break after Jerry Suficiencia escaped last year.
The provincial government has been rushing the construction of the new IRC facility in Barangay Nanga, Pototan, Iloilo for the some 800 inmates crammed inside the old facility. (Published in the October 31, 2005 issue of The Guardian, Iloilo City)

P600-M WASTE?


WHITE ELEPHANT? The Pinamucan plant at Dingle, Iloilo looks grandiose but still unoperational.


What’s bugging Pinamucan plant?

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

WHAT’S stopping the Pinamucan power plant from serving the power needs of Ilonggos?
After almost two years, the 110 megawatt diesel power plant has yet to operate to augment to the rising demand for electrical power of Panay consumers.
The project, which includes the transfer of the plant from Bataan to the National Power Corporation (Napocor) facility at Barangay Tabugon, Dingle, Iloilo, began on February 18, 2004 with a total cost of P629,503,111.
The Dingle II Consortium, which includes the Napocor and the DM Consunji Inc. (DMCI), is the contractor of the project.
President Gloria Arroyo ordered the transfer of the diesel power plant last year to address the growing power requirement in Panay
The Department of Energy had projected that existing power baseloads in the island are not enough supply the energy needs of Ilonggos in the next three years.
As an immediate solution to the power problems of Panay, the DoE encouraged the construction of power plants in the island.
So far, Mirant Philippines and the DMCI are actively working for the establishment of two coal-fired power plants in Barotac Viejo and Concepcion, respectively.
In particular, various towns in Iloilo province have been suffering from rotating brownouts due to lower power supply.
The plant was supposed to be inaugurated on September 30, 2005 with no less than President Arroyo as guest of honor.
But sources at Napocor said during testing of the plant, engineers found defects in the machine which required extensive rehabilitation.
The sources did not elaborate the problems besetting the plant.
The inauguration was moved to November 9 but latest report from the Consortium said it might be postponed once more.
But the Napocor clarified in a statement that the long delayed operation of the Pinamucan plants cannot be attributed to the “load shedding/brownouts recurring in Panay Island.”
“To stabilize the system voltage in Panay Island, it is imperative that an additional capacitor bank be installed to come up with a permanent solution to the recurring problem of brownouts,” the Napocor said.
The government-owned power producer added its Cebu-Negros-Panay power grid has “an excess of 7MW as per daily operations report of the System Operations Division of the National Transmission Corporation.”
“Hence, there is no shortage of power, and therefore the National Power Corporation should not be blamed for any blackout/brownout that is happening now,” the statement said.
Aside from the Pinamucan plant, the national government also deployed two power barges as additional sources of power for Panay.
Reportedly, one of the barges was transferred to Davao for rehabilitation.
If all ten engines of Pinamucan go on operation, it is expected to generate an effective 80 megawatt energy.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

STOP!
















STUMPED ONCE MORE. Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas encounters another obstacle in the form of the TRO against the capitol's loan for the purchase of heavy equipment.


Guimbal RTC restrains Capitol’s P100-M loan

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AN OPPOSITION member of the Iloilo provincial board secured a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the P100million loan agreement between Governor Niel Tupas Sr. and the Land bank of the Philippines (LBP).
Judge Teodulo Colada of the Regional Trial Court Branch 67 in Guimbal, Iloilo heeded the plea of BMs Emmanuel Gallar, Macario Napulan, Bernardo Silla and Licurgo Tirador to bar Vice Governor Roberto Armada and 2nd district and majority floor leader Rodolfo Cabado from signing the SP resolution confirming and ratifying the loan agreement.
Gallar filed his motion for declaration of nullity, certiorari, prohibition, injunction and restraining order on Wednesday.
Gallar, through his lawyer and former provincial legal counsel Manuel Justiniani, argued that the loan, which the capitol will use to purchase brand new heavy equipment, is illegal due to the absence of a resolution from the LBP board of directors authorizing Mercy Ann Chiongson, OIC of the LBP-Iloilo Lending Center, to sign the agreement.
The broadcaster-turned-politician also questioned the use of the capitol’s P687.47million Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) as collateral for the loan.
“This loan will cause irreparable injury not only to the SP but also to the whole province. Imagine giving away our IRA share which is the source of the salaries and benefits of our employees aside from the 20 percent development and 5 percent calamity funds,” Gallar said.
When asked why he filed his civil suit docketed as Civil Case No. 300 in Guimbal, the hometown of the Garins who are Tupas’ political rivals, Gallar said it was Justiniani’s choice.
“We have the liberty to file civil suits in any RTC in the province,” Gallar said.
Interestingly, Colada’s son is married to a daughter of former Rep. Oscar Garin who lost to Tupas in the 2004 gubernatorial race.
In issuing the TRO, Colada ordered Armada and Cabado not to affix their signatures, within 20 days, on the resolution which authorized Tupas to consummate the loan in behalf of the province.
The SP passed the said resolution during its regular session on September 27, 2005.
Colada also trashed the motion for inhibition filed by provincial lawyer Salvador Cabaluna “for lack of factual and legal basis.”
‘A travesty of justice’
In a statement to The Guardian, provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada labeled the TRO as “a mockery of our laws and a travesty of justice.”
“In handing down the order, Judge Colada disregarded the failure of the petitioners to establish the irreparable damage and harm that would be caused them as well as ignored the solid arguments of provincial lawyers against the issuance of such TRO,” Mejorada said.
Mejorada also accused the judge of allowing himself to become “a tool for a clear act of political obstructionism, the sole purpose of which is to block the plan of (Governor Niel) Tupas Sr. to acquire new heavy equipment for the province.”
“Judge Colada also showed lack of delicadeza in dismissing outright the motion to inhibit filed by lawyers (Salvador ) Cabaluna III and Teofisto Melliza on the ground that there is animosity between him and the Tupas administration,” he said.
Mejorada also stressed the pending administrative complaint filed by Tupas against Colada before the Supreme Court for a similar act of issuing a TRO, and then an Injunction, last year.
“The injunction was eventually lifted by the Court of Appeals which chided Judge Colada for his refusal to inhibit from that case despite his being “balaye” of (then gubernatorial candidate Oscar) Garin,” Mejorada averred.
Mejorada further said: “The TRO, which Attys. Cabaluna and Melliza received at about 3:35p.m., will make our judicial system look ridiculous. The acts sought to be stopped or prevented – the signing of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan resolution by the floor leader and presiding officer – are a fait accompli. The resolution has already been approved by the Governor even without the signature of Vice Governor Armada as presiding officer. The issue has become moot and academic. There is nothing to stop or restrain.”
The administrator also made potshots at Armada by accusing him of taking part in the legal maneuvering against the loan.
“There is strong reason to believe that Vice Governor Armada is part of this legal maneuver to stop the acquisition of heavy equipment. His overt act of refusing to sign SP Resolution No. 2005-156 despite the fact that it is just a ministerial duty on his part betrays that malicious intent to block this project,” he said.
He also hit the conscience bloc at the SP, which includes Gallar, for not respecting the rule of the majority.
“The petitioners have no right to question SP Resolution No. 2005-156, as they, together with the majority bloc, unanimously voted for its passage during the SP session on September 27, 2005. Such resolution was ratified and made official on October 4, 2005 when the minutes of the previous session were adopted. So how could they now go to court and seek its nullification? If ever, this TRO is an empty, hollow victory for the minority-bloc Board Members. They call themselves the ‘conscience bloc’, but they have the gall to block this vital project that would immensely benefit our people.”

DYNAMITED

Cop blown to bits

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A PAROLEE who went berserk literally blasted to bits two police officers of San Dionisio, Iloilo who tried to restrain him Wednesday afternoon.
The suspect, Jose Edsel “Kabug” Francisco, 32, of Barangay Agdaliran, San Dionisio and SPO1 Mike Talaban died of massive injuries due to improvised dynamites thrown by the former.
The dynamites were fashioned from bottles containing ammonium nitrate.
The incident occurred 6:30pm the other day at Barangay Agdaliran, 18 kilometers from San Dionisio proper.
Talaban, the chief investigator of the said town, received a call about a man who ran amuck by throwing explosives around Agdaliran.
Along with PO2 Rey Bedua, Talaban responded to the incident on board a motorcycle.
The two cops stumbled upon the bloodied Jefferson Pajonilla, elder brother of a 10-year-old girl whom Francisco allegedly raped.
Talaban also found out that Francisco already set to fire his own house and Pajonilla’s.
He tried to convince Francisco who was hiding in a nipa hut to surrender but the latter cannot be swayed.
While in the middle of the negotiations, Francisco emerged from the hut brandishing an improvised explosive in one hand.
Talaban attempted to grab the dynamite but it was too late as Francisco already threw the deadly device towards the rushing cop.
The sheer impact of the explosion ripped apart Talaban’s groin and abdomen and disintegrated his scrotum and penis.
Bedua rushed Talaban to Sara District Hospital (SDH) but the latter died a few minutes due to massive hemorrhage.
Despite the fate of his fellow cop, Bedua went back to Barangay Agdaliran to arrest Francisco.
But the suspect chose death over incarceration by blowing himself up with his own weapon.
The dynamite also blew Francisco’s right arm to bits aside from lacerations on his abdomen, cheeks and legs.
Bedua also sustained cuts on various parts of his body due to flying shrapnel from the homemade dynamite.
Francisco expired at the SDH 11:20am yesterday while Pajonilla and Bedua are recuperating at the same hospital.
According to SPO1 Gilbert Gonzales, San Dionisio PNP investigator, Francisco was charged with rape by the Pajonillas three weeks ago.
Francisco, a native of Negros Occidental, went out of prison on parole one year ago. He moved to San Dionisio where he worked as a fisherman, thus his ownership of the improvised dynamites.
Gonzales said Francisco went berserk after he was charged with rape. “He did not want to go back to prison since he is still on parole.”
Tthe remains Talaban and Francisco lie in a funeral parlor at San Dionisio.

‘WE’RE NO DUMMIES’





THE GREAT DEBATE. Commissioners Ronald Adamat and Carmen Pedrosa are locked in an animated discussion with a businessman from Bacolod City during the consultation on the change in the form of government Wednesday.


Commissioners debunk rubber stamp yarn

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MEMBERS of the Consultative Commission (Con-Com) tasked to gather proposed changes to the 1987 Constitution brushed aside reports that their group is a rubber stamp of the Arroyo administration.
The Con-com conducted a consultation with various sectors on what are the possible amendments to the 18-year-old charter at Amigo Terrace Hotel Grand Ballroom yesterday.
Joji Ilagan-Bian headed the delegation which tackled proposed changes in the structure of the republic, form of government and national patrimony and economic reforms.
Early this week, several Con-Com members fear their efforts to go around the country might become a formality as they already approved a draft report on the change in the form of government.
But Lito Monico Lorenzana, Con-Com secretary-general, said they cannot become a rubber stamp commission “since we are only tasked to gather and study proposals from various groups around the country.”
“In fact, we are not receiving any salary or honorarium from our participation. Most of us left our day jobs to heed the President’s call to gather modifications to the Constitution. We are not government employees, we have nothing to gain instead the privilege to help the government,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana added the report that was voted upon by the commission members was just a pro-forma document on which to base the consultation-cum-debates. “After three months, that draft report will be amended and forwarded to the President who in turn will submit it to Congress.”
Atty. Ma. Romela Bengzon said they were only invited by the President “and our only commitment was a pledge of support for the efforts to revise the Constitution.”
Bengzon added their proposals will be accepted by Congress based on their talks with several congressmen.
Commissioners Ronald Adamat and Carmen Pedrosa said the differences in opinion among the Con-Com members and in the consultations prove the independence of the commission.
“If we were paid then maybe they can say we are a rubber stamp group. But then we are not paid for this,” Adamat added.
Pedrosa, who has been supporting for charter change for several years, said she joined the commission upon invitation of Mrs. Arroyo “because this is what I have been advocating for.”
Former Minister Vicente Paterno was more emotional in his explanation: “I shed off my interests in various businesses just to join the commission. I am doing for the future of my family. So, am I a rubber stamp of the President? No (I’m not). But for my family, yes.”
The Con-Com was formed by virtue of President Arroyo’s Executive Order 453 and composed of businessmen, lawyers, former public officials, journalists and political and social scientists.
Conservative
Focusing on the three issues, the commissioners divided themselves into three groups to spearhead the panel discussions.
Paterno, Bengzon and Francis Chua led the panel on national patrimony and economic reforms; Pedrosa, Adamat and Sister Luz Emmanuel Soriano was in charged with the form of government; the group of Bian, Emily Marohombsar and Rey Magno Teves handled the discussions on the structure of the republic.
Based on the initial data gathered by the commissioners, majority of those who attended the consultation agreed to change the formats of the republic and the government from presidential-unitary to federal-parliamentary. The latter proposal gained much support with the presence of pro-federal figures like lawyer Leopoldo Causing of the Citizens Movement for Federal Philippines.
But when it comes to liberalizing vital sectors of the economy to foreign investors, Bengzon said Ilonggos are more conservative than Cebuanos.
“Cebuanos are more aggressive when it comes to business that they are willing to allow foreigners to wholly own public utilities, media and education entities and real properties. But Ilonggos are different. Except for agreeing to repeal the Filipino first policy, opening up of the education sector and public utilities to foreign capitalists, Ilonggos don’t want foreigners to buy lands and own business by themselves. Capitalists can rent but they cannot own,” Bengzon explained.
The commissioners will fly to Davao City today for the Mindanao leg of the consultations.
The Visayas leg opened in Cebu on Monday headed by Con-Com chairman Jose Abueva.

‘ALARMING DELAY’

Iloilo intl airport construction very slow - Suplico

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

After one year of construction, the contractor of the New Iloilo International Airport Development Project (NIADP) at Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara area has accomplished barely 20 percent of the P6.8-billion structure, imperiling the project’s target completion late next year.
Rep. Rolex Suplico (5th district, Iloilo) yesterday presented the August 2005 status report of the project which indicated an “alarming” 55.60 percent slippage which is equivalent to a cumulative slippage of five months.
Construction of the airport project began on April 19, 2004 after the contractor Taisei-Shimizu Joint Venture (TSJV) received the notice to proceed from the national government through the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
The planned progress for August was 5.19 percent for a cumulative completion rate of 33.32 percent.
But actual progress for the same month was only 1.58 percent for a total completed work of 14.80 percent.
According to the status report, which was prepared by the Japan Airport Consultants, Inc. and Basic Technology and Management Corp., “the continuing rainy season is having an ongoing effect on overall progress, but particularly to critical earthworks, and the rate of progress is worsening with the overall delay now being estimated at five months.”
The report also said revealed that only 15,000 cubic meters of filling material was embanked on the runway area for the whole month of August, which pales on comparison to the 10,000-daily requirement to recover lost time.
Although works in the passenger terminal and the control tower and operations buildings are ongoing, these are still behind the program of works.
Because of the delay, the contractor is in talks with the national government to propose a new completion date of June 2007 although the TSJV has yet to substantiate its proposal.
Despite the catch-up program, which was implemented in December 2004 to make up for lost time, the project slippage is still at 40.32 percent.
The make up program excludes works on the fuel supply facilities which is a vital part of the operation of the airport.
A breakdown of the progress of the project according to work areas also reveals staggering slippages.
Civil works, which includes the airport and the access road, has a (-11.10) percent; utility works (-11.48) percent; building works (-34.70) percent; navigational aids (-8.79) percent; and airfield lighting works (-9.68) percent.
“This is very problematic because the gap between the actual work completed and the slippage is getting wider,” Suplico said.
Suplico said it is “unbelievable” that the project will be delayed just because of inclement weather.
“The only solution to this is to sack the contractor and look for a new one. This has been done before when the government blacklisted contractor RII Builders, Inc., JM Luciano Construction, Inc., and 3310 Construction Specialist Corp. on October 6, 2005 when they incurred a -33.86 slippage in the implementation of the Bacuag-Claver Section of the P511million Surigao-Davao coastal road. There is no reason not to suspend Taisei for its 55.60 slippage,” the solon said.
Suplico said he will write to DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza asking him to consider rescinding the contract with TSJV.
Although it has no direct involvement in the project, the provincial government said it is not easy to just boot out the TSJV from the project.
Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada said weather problems have indeed affected the progress of the project “but there is not cause for alarm on this.”
“The project engineers and the provincial government will make sure that the project will be finished in time. We cannot do anything if the weather gets in the way of the construction,” Mejorada said.
Mejorada also said there is no need for the capitol to call the attention of the project contractor on the delay “since it is the project of the national government.”

Monday, October 24, 2005

TUPAS BACKS MALONES


‘Rock crusher transfer not easy’

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

RELOCATING the rock crusher plant from Barangay Caigon, Maasin, Iloilo nearer the international airport site in Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara area is not as easy as changing one’s home address.
Gov. Niel Tupas said due process should be followed before the rock crusher, which is reportedly owned by the in-laws of his son Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul Tupas, is transferred to another area.
Earlier, Rep. Arthur Defensor (3rd district, Iloilo) told Maasin Mayor Mariano Malones and the Sangguniang Bayan to revoke the business permit of the plant and transfer the facility somewhere in Cabatuan or Sta. Barbara.
Defensor ordered the transfer to minimize the number of heavy-duty trucks passing through the Marcos and Tigum Bridges in Cabatuan en route to the airport site.
Government engineers fear the bridges will collapse if trucks continue to traverse the already shaken structures.
Tupas said the owners of the plant also invested money to put up their business in the said town.
“We have to consider that a lot of money was spent to put up the plant, how much more in transferring the facility. Due process must be observed in this matter,” Tupas said.
Instead of moving the facility to another location, the governor suggested for an alternative route from Maasin to the airport site, thus bypassing the Cabatuan bridges.
Aside from the inconvenience on the part of the owners, Tupas said they also have to consider revenues that Maasin will lose if the plant transfers to another location.
“I will talk to the mayors of Cabatuan and Maasin to settle this problem. We are also concerned with the safety of the people but we also have to consider the businessmen’s plight,” Tupas said.
Tupas also said aside from trucks delivering aggregates to the airport site, vehicles loaded with sugarcane are also the main cause of road damage.
Defensor had warned he will not shed a centavo of his pork barrel fund to repair the badly beaten roads and bridges in Cabatuan and Maasin if the rock crusher stays.
Yesterday, personnel from the Land Transportation Office (LTO) headed by assistant regional director Eric Lenard Tabaldo have setup checkpoints at the Tigum and Marcos Bridges.
The checkpoints will monitor trucks that exceed the 20-ton load limit of the bridges. But in the absence of portable weighing scales, which are expected to arrive from Cebu today, LTO personnel will just warn the trucks not to overload.
Tabaldo said they will install the weighing scales when they arrive today.
Aside from regulating the load, trucks will only pass the bridges one at a time.

Rubber stamp

The perception that the Constitutional Commission established by Malacañang to gather data and inputs about Charter Change is a mere rubber stamp erodes the patina of credibility that the members of the commission have lent to the commission.
There is no denying that the members of the commission are intellectual and political heavyweights in their own rights. Just look at the roster of members: journalist Jarius Bondoc, former Cebu Gov. Pablo Garcia and the former UP President Jose Abueva and many more bright boys and girls from the business, civil society and political circles.
It is very disturbing, however, that the members of the commission themselves would wonder if they are really a consultative and data-gathering body or just an approve-now-consult-later clique.
In a country that has yet to harness and maximize the potentials of the presidential form of government, ramming the federal-parliamentary setup down the throat of hungry Filipinos will just deepen the political apathy and cynicism that has shrouded this god-forsaken country.
As what academicians and the religious sector have observed, cha-cha sounds Greek to most Ilonggos and Filipinos who spend most of their time grappling with the crises affecting their lives. It is but proper that they should understand why there is a plan to tinker with the Constitution, why do we need to change our form of government and what are the alternatives.
The commissioners maybe the best and the brightest in the country, but the appointing power that constituted them and gave them a staggering P10-million budget is the very same person accused of stealing the 2004 elections and enriching her clan’s coffers with jueteng money.
This is the very reason why the credibility of the commission is very much in question. The credibility-­crisis worsened with the pronouncements of its own members who raised their eyebrows on the practices and policies they have adopted like approving a report on the change in the form of government.
Don’t tell me that these commissioners will go around the country to seek and feel the pulse of the people when they already agreed on what to recommend to the President and Congress. What is this, a multimillion countryside junket?
The commission is given two to three months to gather inputs of concerned sectors around the country. Is this enough to come up with an encompassing and comprehensive report on what should be changed in our charter?
For a sensitive issue such as tinkering with our Constitution, three months is only enough for the debate phase.
To be a truly recommendatory and consultative entity, the Con-com should have refrained from drafting a template report on the form of government. In the first place, do all Filipinos, except for the local politicians, want a shift from presidential to parliamentary?
Or do we need to have a change of heart and conscience?

AIRPORT FOR SALE


Ayala firm wants domestic airport

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A MANILA-BASED real estate developer is one of the companies interested in buying the Iloilo domestic airport site in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.
Kagawad Eduardo Peñaredondo confirmed that Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI) is bent in buying the 62-hectare lot once the new international airport in Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara area operates.
Ayala Land is the Philippines' largest and only full-line property developer of real estate and hotels and is one of the most successful operators of prime commercial spaces in the country.
Aside from the Ayala-owned firm, also mentioned were “two local firms and foreign outfit” that also want to develop the old airport facility.
A source from the Ayala Group of Companies also confirmed Peñaredondo’s statement saying the ALI is planning to put up a business center in the area.
“If the new airport opens, there would be no problem putting up high rise buildings in Iloilo City. We want to develop the old airport site into a business destination just like in Makati and Cebu City,” the source said.
Based on the computations of Air Transportation Office (ATO) Manager Allan Java, sale of the Mandurriao airport lot will generate the national government P6-12billion, which is enough to pay the loan used to construct the international airport.
Early this year, the ATO has begun the inventory of existing structures at the Mandurriao airport lot to facilitate its sale to the winning in the future.
Peñaredondo also revealed that Mayor Jerry Treñas had lobbied with President Gloria Arroyo to use the proceeds from the sale for developmental projects in Panay.
Peñaredondo said the national government is planning to use the revenues from the old airport for the construction of a superhighway from Iloilo to Kalibo, Aklan.
“But all these are still under negotiation with the City Planning and Development Office representing the Iloilo City government,” Peñaredondo said.
Based on the present land value assessment of Iloilo City, the old airport lot costs between P1,000 to P2,000 per square meter.
Engineer Jaime Puzon of the Taisei-Shimizu Joint Venture, contractor of the new airport facility, said they expect to finish the airport by middle of 2007.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

‘DON’T DARE ME’


Rep. Defensor tells Malones: Rock crusher must go

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MAYOR Mariano Malones of Maasin, Iloilo has more to lose than gain if he refuses to evict the rock crusher plant in his municipality.
This was the stern warning of third district Rep. Arthur Defensor to Malones after the latter showed resistance to the former’s desire to relocate the rock crusher facility nearer the international airport project in Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara area.
Defensor said Malones has “to choose between the revenues his town gets from the rock crusher or the convenience and safety of his people.”
Defensor sought to pull out the rock crusher from Maasin to either Cabatuan or Sta. Barbara to minimize and reroute the traffic of heavy-duty trucks passing through Marcos bridge in Barangay Amerang, Cabatuan.
The facility is said to be owned by the Montesclaros family from Bukidnon, the in-laws of Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul Tupas and son of Gov. Niel Tupas Sr.
“He (Malones) will have to weigh his options between the safety of his townspeople or the money from the rock crusher. He will not only suffer from bad roads but also the complaints of his own constituents,” Defensor said.
Defensor reiterated his threat on Thursday that he will not shell out a centavo of his pork barrel if Malones defies him.
“It’s up to him if he defies me. If he does not my instructions despite my explanations, I will no repair the bad roads of his town because that rock crusher is the root of our woes. If he wants to make his people suffer in exchange of the revenues from the rock crusher, so be it. Anyway, he will be blamed by his own constituents. I already told them of the consequences,” Defensor warned.
Defensor said the roads in Maasin were in good condition prior to the operation of the facility. “But after it began operating, the roads in Malones’ have deteriorated to the detriment of the commuters and motorists. We fear that the Marcos Bridge will further weaken if it continues to operate.”
Defensor on Thursday also told the Sangguniang Bayan of Maasin to pass a resolution urging Malones to revoke the business permit of Montesclaros’ facility.
He also told the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to inspect the plant and make a report on its environmental effects.
In the event that he refuses to repair the roads of Maasin, Defensor said the town will have to use its maintenance and other operating expenses fund “which is not enough even for asphalt overlay.”
Yesterday, Malones met with SB members to discuss the conditions set by Defensor.
Malones said the council has referred the matter to the committee on infrastructure chaired by SB member Jesse Miado.
The mayor said he is torn between their desire to solve their road problems and the revenues from the plant.
“But we hope to reach a solution that is beneficial to all,” Malones said.
The Tupas camp, however, was mum on the issue. “No comment,” was the reply of one of the governor’s aides.
Defensor denied that politics is behind his dogged desire to pull out Montesclaros’ rock crusher plant.
“I’m not running for governor, why should politics rear its head in this issue? In fact, I did not mind the existence of that plant until this problem came about. I did not expect that it will cause much hassle. But the town officials abused the situation and failed to regulate the load and frequency of trucks transporting crushed rock from the plant to the airport site. There is no politics here. I have no vested interest in this since I am not engaged in the quarry business nor do I own a rock crushing plant,” Defensor said.

‘ANGRY ART’


Defensor badgers govt agencies,
LGUs to protect roads, bridges

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

REPRESENTATIVE Arthur Defensor (Third district, Iloilo) virtually played god during the strategic meeting on the deteriorating bridges and roads at his district caused by overloaded trucks carrying quarry materials to the international airport project site at the Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara area.
The meeting was held yesterday at the conference room of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office and attended by representatives from the Land Transportation Office (LTO), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Taisei-Shimizu Joint Venture (TSJV), and subcontractors of the airport project.
Mayors Ramon Yee of Cabatuan, Mariano Malones of Maasin and Ellery Gaje of Badiangan were also present.
All throughout the meeting, which was meant to come up with measures and policies to arrest the gradual destruction of easements and bridges at the third district, Defensor showed to all present “who’s boss.”
“We must realize that there is present and clear danger to public and private properties if we don’t get our acts together. If we just let other people, who have no concern over our roads, on their own, we will be courting disaster,” Defensor said.
Defensor said he will not “waste a centavo of my pork barrel if we just allow overloaded trucks to trample on our roads and bridges.”
Haulers were compelled to go over the capacity of their trucks to cover their expenses in delivering sand, gravel and basalt to the airport site.
Also during the meeting, the DPWH presented the results of their ocular inspection on the Tigum and Marcos Bridges in Barangays Tabucan and Amerang, respectively in Cabatuan.
In the presentation, government engineers discovered cracks and gaps on the spans, pilots and steel supports of the 30-year old Tigum Bridge which connects Cabatuan to Iloilo City.
The condition of the Marcos Bridge, which links Cabatuan to Maasin, is worse as the footing of its pilot or foundation was already exposed due to erosion.
The footing, DPWH engineers said, was supposed to be buried under the river bed. “But because of extensive quarrying activities near the bridge, sand and gravel that were supposed to cover the footing were eroded by the rushing river.”
With the weakening status of the two structures, the engineers fear that trucks loaded with quarry materials will cause the collapse of the bridges.
And like a father to his children, Defensor told representatives of each agencies present in the meeting to do their part.
The congressman specifically told the LTO to send a team complemented by PNP personnel to monitor trucks passing by the two bridges.
LTO assistant director Eric Lenard Tabaldo said they will implement Defensor’s biddings Monday by putting up checkpoints at the two Cabatuan bridges.
Presently, trucks carrying 20-ton load can only pass through the said bridges one at a time on a 20-kilometer-per-hour speed.
Defensor also told the DENR to monitor quarrying activities at the Tigum River to prevent further damage on the two bridges and to look for ways to reduce the fees in securing quarry fees exacted on haulers.
He also told the environment department to inspect and ascertain the permits and status of the rock crusher plant in barangay Caigon, Maasin.
Defensor wanted the plant to be transferred either to Sta. Barbara or Cabatuan to minimize the number of trucks passing through the Marcos Bridge.
“These overloading trucks get heavier if loaded with crushed rock. And that will surely weaken our only link to Maasin,” Defensor said.
Defensor warned the DENR officials of the dire consequences that will come their way if they don’t heed his order.
“The DENR must act on this in any legal way. You will visit and inspect the rock crusher, make a report and decide. If you don’t act on this, I will immediately complain to the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources. And if the DENR secretary (Michael Defensor) does not make a recommendation, I will report directly to the President. He is my nephew and I am not afraid of him. I am not afraid of any king for the sake of public safety,” Defensor said.
The Ilonggo solon also told the Sangguniang Bayan of Maasin to pass a resolution urging Mayor Malones to withdraw the business permit of the rock crusher.
However, Mayor Malones was a bit resistant to Defensor’s desire to relocate the rock crusher plant as “we might lose millions of pesos in taxes.”
“We will discuss this matter with the Sanggunian. We also want to follow the wishes of the good congressman but we also have to consider the welfare of our town,” Malones said.
Defensor also asked the TSJV to sit down with the haulers and discuss the possible increase in the rate per cubic meter of the aggregate materials delivered to the site.
Engr. Jaime Buzon of TSJV said they are willing to negotiate the price of the quarry materials. At present, the Japanese contractor pays P300 per cubic meter of aggregates delivered by the haulers.
“This problem can be addressed easily as we have been cooperating with the national and local governments,” Buzon said.
The BIR will also invite the haulers and TSJV to discuss their tax payments and ease the expenses of the former.
After the meeting, a memorandum of agreement will be drafted and signed by the concerned government agencies.
Defensor further warned each agency to fulfill their roles immediately.
“Let’s forget about profit and business. We must make some sacrifices. We cannot allow those who want to fatten their pockets with money from the airport to destroy our roads and bridges. I will re-align part of my pork barrel intended for other project to the repair and maintenance of our deteriorating thoroughfares. Now you must do your part or else disaster will fall us,” Defensor said.

OVERLOADED


By Francis Allan L. Angelo

OVERLOADED trucks which transport aggregates and materials to the ongoing Iloilo international project at the Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara area are taking toll on two major bridges and roads of Cabatuan town, 24 kilometers west of Iloilo City.
Cabatuan Mayor Ramon Yee revealed they are overly concerned with the weakening foundations of the Tigum and Marcos Bridges at Barangays Tabucan and Amerang, respectively, due to wear and tear caused by heavy-duty trucks.
The trucks are owned by some 30 sub-contractors of the Taisei-Shimizu Joint Venture (TSJV), the contractor of the airport project, who supply sand, gravel and other materials for the construction.
Last Friday, Yee and other mayors from the third district spearheaded a dialogue with the Departments of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Environment and Natural Resources, Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and the Iloilo provincial government to discuss the problems brought about by the project.
Third district Rep. Arthur Defensor also attended the said dialogue.
Citing the assessment of the DPWH regional office, Yee said the 30-year-old Tigum Bridge has shown structural defects such as cracks in the spans.
The said bridge’s weight capacity also diminished from 27 tons to 20 tons because of wear and tear through time.
A similar observation was noted in the Marcos Bridge due to its shaky foundations.
Yee revealed almost all trucks are carrying as much as 27-30 tons of aggregates “which further weakens the bridges.”
The mayor added majority of roads in his town that lead to the project site are in a deplorable state because of overloaded trucks.
But why overload?
A top municipal official of Cabatuan who declined to be identified said sub-contractors are trying to maximize their deliveries to the project site to cover their expenses for the numerous fees they are paying.
“They have to pay for P600 road-right-of-way fee, another P20 as delivery fee to the provincial government and many more fees aside from their operational expenses. With the rising prices of oil, truckers resort to overloading their trucks to earn more,” the source said.
During last week’s dialogue, Defensor said he might have some problems as regards funding for the maintenance and repair of the bridges and roads in at his district due to the financial crisis besetting the national government.
Although he batted to continue the airport project, Defensor said he does not want the roads and bridges to be sacrificed.
Yee said municipal officials can be held liable if disaster occurs at the two major bridges.
“And we also have to consider public convenience and transportation. Cabatuan is the nearest link of four third district towns to Iloilo City and other parts of the province. If something happens to our infrastructures, we can be held liable and face charges,” Yee said.
Temporary remedies
To prevent the bridges and roads from deteriorating further, the municipal government of Cabatuan has instituted regulations on trucks passing through his town.
Heavy duty vehicles are only allowed to pass by the Tigum and Marcos Bridges “one at a time” to avert further damage to the said structures.
A weigh bridge has also been installed at the approach of the Marcos Bridge to monitor the load of trucks.
Yee also asked the TSJV to increase its payments for supplies and materials to discourage truckers from resorting to overloading.
He is also pushing for the transfer of the rock crusher plant from nearby Maasin town to an area near the project site to minimize the number of trucks passing through Cabatuan.
Recently, Yee secured authorization from the Sangguniang Bayan to negotiate and enter into a memorandum of agreement with the TSJV to re-route trucks from passing through the town proper.
The TSJV, however, will have to help maintain the roads included in the new truck route since most of these thoroughfares are unpaved.
The alterative route will pass through Barangays Gaub, Duyan-Duyan, Calayo, Tupol and Bacan on the way to Maasin town.
From Maasin, the trucks will pass through the villages of Salacay and Acao to the project site.
Yee said he will meet with national government offices and other local government units in the third district to finalize the solutions to the problems faced by his town.
“We are happy with the airport project but we also have to make some sacrifices to ensure public safety and convenience,” he said.
But the anonymous municipal official lambasted the national government for its lack of forethought in implementing the P6-billion project.
“The national government did not foresee the possible effects of the project on the surrounding communities we fear that the airport will be delayed even more because of this project,” the source said.
Reports from the Japanese contractors said the project has encountered an 18 percent slippage due to bad weather and in delay the arrival of materials and equipment.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Basaan - Brrrrr.... Grrrr...


Okay, nalamigan at nabasa ang mga pantog, batok and likod ng isang dating bise presidente, isang dating gobernador, isang senadora, mga obispo at iba pang mga taong sumama sa mapayapang prayer rally malapit sa Malakanyang.
Baka naman medyo trigger happy na ang ugok na bumberong yun at di na nakapagpigil pang magpa putok ng kanyang, kwan... hose syempre.
Cannonized... yun ang termino ang na naglalarawan ng nangyari sa mga pulitiko and obispo na nandun.. hindi po iyun patungkol sa pagsasanto ng tao nag alay nga buhay sa simbahan. ang nangyari po ay sagupaan ng galamay ng bulok na pamahalaan laban sa mga grupo at mga taong nagpapanggap na sila ang tamang alternatibo subalit wala rin palang pinag-kaiba duon sa mga binabatikos nila.
Sa puntong ito, ang naging pangit na eksena duon ay ang pagkaka dawit at pagkabasa ng mga pari at obispo sa eksenang yun. Kung wala siguro ang mga men of the cloth duon, parang normal lang na pangyayari yaon. Mas makulay sa punto de bista ng pulitika pero wala syang moral na aspeto.
kung away mung mabasa, wag kang sumama. tama nga naman... pero mali pa rin... kahit gaanu man ka baluktot ang mga kaisipan ng iban nating kababayan, hindi natin silang pigilan, ni ng baha, sa pag lalabas ng kanilang saloobin...
kung hindi siguro magulo ang mga rali okay lang yun. pero kung naalala natin ang rali ng partido Liberal sa Plaza Miranda, maiisip natin na kung sino pa yung laban sa pang-aapi ay siya ring kampon ng gulo at kamatayan.
gusto mo pang mabasa? kung sa kalayaan at katarunga, sama ako... pero kung yun ay pari sa ibang uri ng hari at kawatan, sige lunurin mu sarili mo...

Friday, October 14, 2005

Bawal magkasakit


Minsan pag may lagnat ka, lalo kang nagkakasakit sa tuwing iniisip mo ang gastos mo sa gamot. okay lang yan pag nadadala mo ang katawan mo sa pamamagitan ng tubig at mamisong paracetamol. Pero kung tutuusin, mas malala yaong mga kaptid natin na nasa mas malubhang kondisyon. Paano kung ikaw ay may kanser, sakit sa baga, namamaga ang atay o may sakit sa puso? Sa pagtingin pa lang ng haba ng reseta at nagmamahalang presyo, minsan tuloy ay parang gusto mo na lang mamatay para mapawi ang pait na dulot ng nanghihinang katawan at butas na bulsa.
Kung ikukumpara natin sa ibang bansa, ang tableta na para sa sakit ng tyan o lagnat na ibenebenta ng mga naglalakihang botika dito ay halos syento porsyento (100%) na mas mahal. Kung sa India ang paracetamol ay nabibili sa piso kada tableta, ang presyo sa Pilipinas ay umaabot nga P4-5.
Buti na lang duon sa mayayamang angkan dahil sila ay may perang magagastos. Paano na lamang ang 70% na Pinoy na nasasadlak sa kahirapan?
Ito ang epekto ng kartel na sumsaklaw sa paggawa at pagbebenta ng gamot.
Sa ngayong panahon na ang inaatupag ng mga bwitre sa pamahalaan ay pulitika at pera, malabong maaksyunan ang problema natin sa kartel sa gamot.
Mas mainam nga na idaan ang mga solusyon sa kooperatiba at sa mga komunidad datapwat mahirap kalabanin ang kartel ng gamot na syang pumipiga sa mga mahihirap nating kapatid.
Ikaw, ano ang masasabi mo?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

‘DRUG CARTEL’


‘DRUG CARTEL’
MNCs behind high cost of medicines

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MANY Filipinos die not because of diseases but due to prohibitive prices of medicine.
This was the sad assessment of Roberto “Obet” Pagdanganan, chairman and president of the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC), as he exposed the so-called cartelization of the Philippine pharmaceutical industry.
Pagdanganan, a former governor of Bulacan province, yesterday keynoted the 2005 International Cooperative Month celebration at the Iloilo provincial capitol which focused on health coop business and the Botika ng Bayan program of the government.
In a Power Point presentation before cooperative members and officers in the province, Pagdanganan outlined how multinational corporations (MNCs) manipulate the manufacturing and selling of medicines in the country.
Pagdanganan said approximately 70 percent of P80-billion pharmaceutical market is in the grip of MNCs.
For one, Interphil, a giant pharmaceutical maker, controls 80 percent of toll manufacturing while its sister company Zuellig Pharma/Metro Drug also controls 80 percent of the wholesale distribution of its products.
About 70% of medicines is sold to the public through giant drugstore chain Mercury Drugs which has an estimated annual sale of P30billion.
Because of this setup, Pagdanganan said “the Philippines has the highest drug prices in the world in relation to per capita income.”
The overall picture of the types of medicines sold in the country also reinforced Pagdanganan’s observation – 69 percent of the market is comprised of ethical or prescribed (Rx) drugs which are mostly branded while the remaining 31 percent are proprietary or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.
Despite the Generics Law, which aimed at giving consumers the chance to buy cheap but effective drugs, 97 percent of medicines sold in the country are branded.
Because of this lopsided condition of the industry, giant drugstores are the ones who eat up the P80-billion industry, accounting for 88 percent of the total sales while the remaining 12 percent goes to hospital sales.
When compared to other countries, prices of medicines sold in the country are 99 percent higher. For example, a 500-milligram tablet of Ponstan (a brand of painkiller) costs P 20.98 here when one can buy it for only P1.46 in Pakistan and P2.80 in India.
Pagdanganan said the cartelization of the pharmaceutical industry in the country has resulted to 40 percent of 82.7million of Filipinos not having access to medicines. Worse, 70 percent cannot buy medicines because of prohibitive prices.
Aside from the control of MNCs over the industry, Pagdanganan said “the current system of patent registration and protection favors of the biggest players, exorbitant marketing/administrative costs and the lack of price control even for off-patent products are also factors why we suffer from high cost of drugs.”
“There are manufacturers who even re-label their off-patent products by literally sugar-coating the capsule. They will promote it as a new and slow-acting drug but in reality it does not contain new base ingredient, it’s only a sweetened capsule,” Pagdanganan said.
To solve the problem of overpriced drugs sold in the country, the PITC chief said they are taking the cudgels of importing cheap drugs from manufacturers in India and Pakistan.
The PTIC is also working for the establishment of a government-owned drug factory in the country which will result to lower prices of medicines.
Pagdanganan also lauded the efforts of 4th district Rep. Ferjenel Biron who filed a bill with Congress which seeks to regulate drug prices and break the cartel that controls the pharmaceutical industry.
At present, the Botika ng Bayan program is the conduit of the PTIC’s efforts to bring cheap but effective medicines.
Their efforts, however, are not without “harassments” from the pharmaceutical giants, Pagdanganan said.
“They have been threatening us with lawsuits while sowing wild rumors about the proliferation of counterfeit drugs because of our importation program. But we are not bothered about it,” he said.
The PTIC is eyeing cooperatives to help establish Botika ng Bayan (BnB) outlets in the country.
Pagdanganan said Iloilo is a potential area for the BnB because of the strong support of the local government units to cooperatives here.
“For a P500,000-capital, our cooperatives here can put up BnB outlets. While earning, they can help our less-fortunate countrymen. Iloilo has a strong cooperative base compared to the rest of the country,” he added.
The Jaro Archdiocesan Social Action Center is one of the BnB outlets in Iloilo City.
(Published in the October 14, 2005 issue of The Guardian-Iloilo)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

lingering fear


nowadays, reading the newspapers and listening to the news give us the creeps... heck, martial law is approaching daw... we can see it through EO 464 which bars top government officials from appearing before congressional and senate inquiries... the CPR (calibrated preemptive response for the political idiots) or a more painful definition would be cruel and painful response.... then wer have the national emergency ek-ek... whew... are we doomed to be ruled by opportunists, dictators and despots... what have we done that we were accursed with inept leaders like actors, actresses, lunatics (do i hear Madam Miriam?), former athletes and military men, disgruntled relatives of some fallen plunderer and other scums of the world?
does this call for a revolution? but what if the so-called reformists are no different from those we want out of our system? sounds grim and hopeless but that's the truth... i think we should go back to history and learn what went wrong...

The answer to the oil crisis: Bio-diesel from used oil


By Francis Allan L. Angelo

DIESEL fuel from used oil? Why not.
An Ilonggo inventor from Mandurriao, Iloilo City has found a way to beat the rising prices of fuel by turning waste cooking oil into clean and environment-friendly bio-diesel.
It took almost a year for Jasper Aguilar, 33, of Imperial Homes 5, Mandurriao to perfect his technique of trans-esterification – the process of separating dio-diesel from impurities.
He first stumbled upon bio-diesel in the late 90s when he was doing his research on one of his projects.
Bio-diesel began in the US and Europe in the last two decades but it is only now that the Philippines showed interest in the technology of making alternative, organic fuel.
In fact, the coco methyl ester fuel which the national government is sponsoring can be traced to the advent of bio-diesel.
The 33-year-old bookworm and electronics buff became obsessed with pioneering the said technology in Iloilo which was basically hinged upon the principles of chemistry.
One stumbling block Aguilar met was the tropical climate in the Philippines which affects the process of making bio-diesel.
“In the US and Europe which are located in the temperate zones, the process vary. So I have to improvise a process that is tailored for our climate,” said Aguilar who hails from Batad, Iloilo.
Also, the raw material used in western countries is different from available oil here. “Americans and Europeans use canola oil while here the most common type of oil is from coconut.”
Likewise, Aguilar had to improvise his own equipment for his bio-diesel factory.
He converted a machine drill to a mixer while his reacting and washing vats are made up of welded metal sheets.
Aguilar studied electrical technology in a university in Bukidnon province for three years. But he did not limit himself to wires and circuits as he also took interest in chemistry and other fields of sciences.
The process of trans-esterification requires mixing of alcohol and catalyzer with used oil to separate clean and organic diesel fuel.
Aguilar uses methyl alcohol which is also present in rubbing alcohols. However, he declined to reveal the catalyzer of then formula. “It’s a trade secret.”
When the three components react at the right temperature, triglycerides separate from diesel oil.
While it is considered a waste product of trans-esterification, triglycerides can be used as weed killers. On the downside, it is also an ingredient for the highly unstable explosive nitro-glycerin.
On the average, Aguilar can concoct 180 liters of bio-diesel in a process which takes about 24 hours of mixing, settling and washing.
So far, a number of jeepney drivers and Aguilar’s neighbors have been patronizing his product because it is cheap – P25 per liter. The average price of diesel is from P30 to P33.
His hometown Batad is also going gaga over his invention with majority of diesel-run vehicles making bulk orders of bio-diesel.
“If drivers use bio-diesel, they can save at least P100. That’s P3,000 a month which is a significant amount for our drivers. Most of the time I run out of supply and I have to tell our clients return when we have stocks already,” Aguilar said.
Since it is organic, engines running on bio-diesel have very clean emissions.
“In fact, the scent of the oil based can be smelled from the emission,” Aguilar jokingly said.
Also, vehicle owners don’t have to modify their engines to suit bio-diesel. “It is similar to commercial diesel but much cleaner and efficient.”
Aguilar gets help from his father-in-law Bert Felongco and G-Boy Bollo and both have also mastered the formula and process of trans-esterification.
But while Aguilar admitted they also earn minimal profit from their product, the venture has limitations.
“We find it hard to look for raw material like used oil. Our main competitor for getting used oil from fastfood chains and restaurants are chicharon manufacturers. Also, we have to ship our chemicals from Cebu which also entails freight costs,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar also noted the lack of support from the national and local government on projects that could benefit the public in times of crisis.
“There are many inventors who have made innovation that may have significant impacts on our lives. But sadly, we lack the support from the government. We are not asking for money. Technical support will do,” Aguilar said.
Recently, the Department of Science and Technology took interest in Aguilar’s project and pledged to help him by way of upgrading his equipment and patenting his formula in his name.
Aguilar is also suggesting to the city government to put up a recycling facility for used oil where he can apply his “homemade technology” of manufacturing bio-diesel.
While he invested much of his money, time and effort in his bio-diesel project, Aguilar also believes in sharing his knowledge to the common folks.
“I want to transfer what I know to the public by writing a book about this. It would be satisfying on my part if other people can also have their own backyard bio-diesel refinery,” Aguilar said. (Published in The Guardian newspaper-Iloilo City August 19, 2005)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

martial law?

what's happening folks? felt like being squeezed by the events around you? well, i don't feel guilty because i did not vote that matron occupying the Palace by the river....
i don't know but i don't feel right about things... hmmmm