Friday, June 27, 2008

Trouble at Sea

I've been very busy the past few days at work and with my family life that several recent issues have passed me by already. I have yet to come up with a piece regarding the Ces Drilon hostage crisis, and then the sinking of the M/V Princess of the Stars happens.

Maybe when I find some time (when that time comes, I may never know), I'll try really sitting down to write. In the meantime, I'd like to share a nicely-written feature article from that discusses this most recent maritime tragedy involving -- yet again -- another floating coffin of the Sulpicio Lines. You can read about it yourself by clicking on this

Here's the entire article from It's still lacking in details, but it captures the thought of how grossly mismanaged our local shipping industry is:


The Philippine Ferry Disaster: Those in Peril
Jun 26th 2008 MANILA
From The Economist print edition

Not for the first time, navigating the archipelago by ferry proves deadly

The shipping industry in the Philippines put another big blot on its abysmal safety record when the ferry Princess of the Stars, carrying 862 passengers and crew, sank during a typhoon in the central Philippines on June 21st. By the middle of the week rescuers had found 48 survivors. But 70 bodies had been recovered and 744 people were still missing. The authorities had little hope of finding any more alive. It will probably turn out to have been the most deadly maritime accident in the Philippines for 20 years.

The route taken by the 24,000-tonnes Princess of the Stars from Manila heading for the central city of Cebu took it straight into the path of the approaching Typhoon Fengshen. The coastguard received a signal saying the ship had engine trouble and that it had run aground just off the island of Sibuyan. Survivors said that the order to abandon ship was given, but that the vessel capsized shortly afterwards in high winds and rough seas.

An official inquiry will focus on the captain’s decision to sail into the teeth of an oncoming storm and the coastguard’s decision to allow the voyage. It will also examine the seaworthiness of the vessel and the competence of its crew. The owners, Sulpicio Lines, said the vessel was only 24 years old (positively new, by Philippine standards) and that it met all the safety requirements.

The domestic shipping industry is vital to the economy of the archipelago, but its history is one of lethal mishaps. In 1987 the world’s most deadly peacetime shipping disaster occurred in the central Philippines, when another ship owned by Sulpicio Lines, the Dona Paz, sank with the loss of more than 4,000 lives. The rules governing shipping safety are comprehensive, but they are often weakly enforced and circumvented by corruption. Official encouragement of competition on domestic routes in the 1990s prompted owners to buy newer and bigger ships. But since then the advent of cheap air travel has creamed off the highest-paying passengers. The Philippines provides about one-quarter of the world’s merchant seamen, but the best officers and crew are lured away by the pay offered by foreign shipping lines.

Human failings aside, no one can legislate for the weather. About two dozen typhoons or weaker storms hit the country every year. Apart from sinking the Princess of the Stars, Typhoon Fengshen left more than 700 dead or missing in various parts of the Philippines.

Try This!

Here's something I got off the Internet. It's a very, VERY short and painless quiz that relates colors/food to people in our lives. I tried it and it was quite accurate. Why don't you visit and try it yourself?

There's actually a code showing my answers which I can copy to place in this blog -- but I chose not to copy it. There are just some things about my personal life which I'd rather not reveal. LOL!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I was Tagged!

1. This game starts with 6 weird things about you.
2. People who got tagged need to write a blog entry of their own 6 weird things.
3. They should as well state this rule clearly.
4. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names.
5. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says “you are tagged” in their comments and tell them to read your blog.

I was tagged by my former officemate,
Marly, and it took me quite a while before I can take on the challenge, so...

1. I have this aversion toward fallen hair. Can't stand being in a bathroom with fallen hair left by the one/s who used it before me. Grosses me to Kingdom come. That's why I make it a point to be the first to use the bathroom whenever I'm on a trip with other people so I won't have to contend with their DNA leftovers.

2. I dunno what they call phobia toward worms -- but I have that. Stems back from my elementary days when we were doing some gardening in school. A naughty male classmate of mine suddenly decided to throw a big fat earthworm toward me. It landed on my arm, and I felt it slither. Ewwwwwwwww!!!!!!

3. Some of you who may have been with me during times when I was sleepy/tired would notice this. Banlag ako. My eyes don't seem to be looking at the same direction especially when they're tired.

4. I have this funny head-tilting thing (complete with the raised eyebrow) that I unconsciously do every now and then, especially when I am trying to concentrate on something, or when I'm listening to someone. Makes me look mataray even when I'm not trying to be.

5. I ran in the 200-meter dash in the Rizal Memorial Stadium during the 1982 (or was it 1981?) Palarong Maynila. Of course, I lost. (hehehe) Also lost in the shotput and long jump events. But so damn proud of being able to join a big athletic event like that.

6. I used to dance with my cousins to the complete tune of Menudo's "Explosion." We even had headbands on our foreheads while dancing. *gasp!* It was the "in" thing to do at that time, though. Lea Salonga had it worse: she was a constant guest performer in the Menudo concerts. But in fairness, Menudo was probably the hottest boy group of that era. Ricky Martin was still a new member during that time, and girls swooned over Robby Rosa.

Praying for Hope

After events of last week, it has now occurred to me that I have created one major boo-boo of which I will not be at liberty to elaborate.

My best friend, my kumare, and a former colleague have already made known their frustration at my mishandling of certain matters -- of which I am still not at liberty to elaborate.

I still have a ray of hope, though. Perhaps I can still make things right. And it calls for a drastic change on my part.

I am crossing my fingers that this time, everything falls into place.

I used to say that I'm leaving everything to fate -- in God's hands. But this time, perhaps I need to do something on my own -- but with His guidance, of course.

It's time for action. Something desperately has to be saved.

For us.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Home is where the Heart is...

This photo on touched me so much...

This is one testament to the fact that home is where the heart is -- even when there aren't any roofs and walls.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Maybe Juday Knows: The Meralco Scuffle

Just a short take on the present scuffle for ownership of Metro Manila electric cooperative, Meralco.

Backgrounder. Meralco is currently serving electricity needs of the Greater Manila Area. It is partly-owned by the Lopez clan -- a very rich and powerful clan that has primary business interests in media (ABS-CBN Network, ANC, Skycable, and TFC). The Lopezes also have formidable political clout, considering that several of their erstwhile news anchors have turned into major Philippine political figures. (Incumbent Vice President Noli de Castro and Senator Loren Legarda come into mind.) Politics considered, it is widely-known that the Lopezes tend to lean toward the Opposition side of the political spectrum.

On the other side of the Meralco ownership is Government. Among those representing the administration on the Meralco Board of Major Stockholders is Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) President Winston Garcia. This solon's integrity has been shot down several times over for his ineptitude in doing typical GSIS functions. He attempted to "streamline" functions in GSIS through the creation of an e-card for its members. Instead of the intended "streamlining," it actually caused major delays in the release of pensions to several retirees, and up to the present this problem has yet to be resolved.

Now, Garcia has found an issue that would essentially sweep his GSIS boo-boos under the perennial carpet and turn him into a "people's superhero" of sorts: the alleged high rates Meralco is imposing on consumers.

Present issue. Meralco is now under fire for placing too many charges in the bills of their consumers. Among the charges under question is the systems loss charge which the said electric cooperative is making the consumers absorb. Garcia contends that systems loss should not be passed on to Meralco's consumers and instead, the company should be the one absorbing this.

Meralco is also being charged for buying electricity from the National Power Corporation (Napocor) -- the country's leading power producer -- at a time when their bid prices are high. Napocor officials have since issued a flat rate to be given to Meralco to minimize the problem of overpricing by the power cooperative, as well as to eliminate Meralco officials' alibi about Napocor being a factor in the jacking up of electricity bills.

At the helm of all this noise regarding Meralco's overcharging is -- as I said earlier -- Winston Garcia. Whispers in the background say that this issue on Meralco came up as a diversion to overshadow the Arroyo administration's alleged involvement in numerous anomalous transactions, the most recent of which is the NBN-ZTE scam.

Meanwhile, Garcia seems too overly-passionate about this issue. It's as if he has some personal tiff with the Lopezes. What gives, Garcia?

Developments. During the latest stockholders' meeting of Meralco, voting was made to select its new Board of Directors. At the end of the day, results came out with the Lopezes still owning most of the seats in the Board -- much to Garcia's chagrin. In true cartoon villain fashion, he was brandishing his finger in the air, saying, "This is not the end!!!"

Oh, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has also entered the Meralco fray after issuing a seize-and-desist order, contending that proxy votes should not be honored in the selection of the Board of Directors. The Lopezes did not heed the said order, saying that the SEC should not be interfering in internal affairs of companies registered under them.

Now, everything's such a beautiful mess with no resolution in sight.

My take. Probably it would be best (and more readable) if I just stated my case in several bullets.
  • If Winston Garcia thinks that Meralco would be better off in the hands of government, thene's dead-wrong! The Lopezes may be running Meralco like a business (a losing business at that), but if government took control of this entity, it may just turn into another tool for graft and corruption.
  • Maybe Garcia should be concentrating more on the problems in his own company than on an electric cooperative of which he has no idea how to run. Or probably that's the same problem he has with GSIS: he doesn't know how to run it.
  • I remember from my days in media that when there's a block sale in the Philippine stock market and the source of this sale cannot be traced, people in media circles know that government through GSIS or SSS has been playing with members' money in the stock market without their knowledge. Paging Garcia...
  • I'm not much of a Kapamilya, and I know for a fact that the Lopezes are very frugal when it comes to money matters. Their acquisition of Meralco was a bad move from the start, but at least they managed to keep this losing cooperative alive. I doubt it if government people can even equate what they have already done.
  • Regarding systems loss charges, I have to agree with Garcia in the sense that consumers should not be paying for this. Meralco officials state that all other electric cooperatives in the country are letting their respective consumers absorb these charges -- so why can't they? Like duh: bandwagon mentality! It's not the consumers' fault that there are some enterprising people out there who decide to steal electricity instead of paying for it. Meralco now even has Judy Ann Santos taking the cudgels for them regarding systems loss charges. I'd really like to see that "law" which discusses consumers absorbing systems loss charges. Or maybe we can ask Juday.

To conclude. Meralco under the Lopezes may be a burden to its consumers, what with the exorbitant and sometimes unnecessary charges. However, I'd take Meralco under the Lopezes anytime than a Meralco under government control -- much less, a Meralco under Winston Garcia's control.

Postscript. Well, what do you know? Winston Garcia is now being considered as a senatorial bet for the administration come 2010! Now I understand the reason behind his less-than-discrete "paperings" (in Tagalog, pagpapapel) with regard to the Meralco issue.

I should have known...