COLUMN:  HIGH OIL PRICES ARE NOT EXCLUSIVE TO RP ONLY!

MANILA, August 11 , 2004 (STAR) INSIDE CEBU By Bobit S. Avila - Itís great to be back home... and as the old saying goes, "Thereís no place like home" and let me tell you that I felt at home right away when I checked in at the PAL counter in San Francisco to take my PAL flight, PR-115, on my way back to the Philippines last Friday night, where my Saturday all but disappeared, and arrived here Sunday dawn. It was almost midnight when the plane took off and as I watched the city lights of the Bay Area slowly disappear under the clouds and the lights of the Golden Gate Bridge fade away fast, I had, as I always do, a mixed feeling or emotion.

I was thinking, here I am leaving the United States, a superpower, the land of plenty, the object of every other Pinoyís dream, and I am headed for home. Donít get me wrong, I certainly had no plans to stay longer in the United States than what Immigration allowed me, plus I really miss my home, my family and friends. Though I submit that it was really tempting for me to stay longer, as my family and friends in the US wanted me to stay a week more.

Mind you, the temptation is even greater with the fact that technology allowed me not to miss a single column when I was away. Thanks to my editor Tony PaŮo who made sure my articles wouldnít miss a single beat. But as we all know, the US is but a dream and we have to go back to the reality called the Philippines. We may not be the best nation on this earth, but it is still our home and we have to make the best of it regardless of our circumstance.

If I was having mixed emotions, perhaps it is because I was leaving a better country and returning to a badly run nation like ours. Yes, it is difficult to comprehend that so many of our political leaders come and go to the United States either for an official visit, a vacation or plain junket and they come home without benefiting or learning from their trips aboard. If you didnít know, during medieval times, rulers sent their best envoys to foreign lands to copy the best that the other countries had to offer so they wouldnít be behind or at least, their country could catch up with the other nations.

Alas, this is not so with the envoys of today... they come and go to foreign lands, marvel at their technology or discipline, then come home to the Philippines and shrug their shoulders and accept all whatever is wrong in this country and say, "only in the Philippines!" It is for this reason why I believe that our Diaspora is good for us... that Filipinos are forced to travel to strange and foreign lands to find jobs and a better life so that when they come home, theyíll wonder why things arenít better in our country and have the courage to demand that things change for the better.

Perhaps this is the motivation that drives me to write columns... as it brings some kind of hope that someday, this land would be on a par with or better than the United States and then, there would be no need for the ordinary Filipino to hope and dream of acquiring a Green Card to seek a job abroad. Well, this is just food for thought and I guess the time has come for me to stop daydreaming! * * * As I got back to the office, I scanned the old newspapers to find out what had happened in my three-week absence. While I had the advantage of being able to check the local news through the Internet, I really didnít do that simply because I wanted to be totally away from the local scene. Indeed, a lot of things have happened to this country in just a few weeks and perhaps our biggest concern should be the economy... especially stories like what appeared in The STAR last Monday which blared, "Soaring oil prices to derail Asian economic growth."

With the prices of crude oil hitting a record $45 a barrel, this is really a grave concern for our country. Mind you, this is not the problem of the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to solve... it is for the entire Filipino people to understand that if need be, we have to tighten our already tight belts and brace for the ripple effect of the expected storm or turmoil that high oil prices bring. Iíd like to point out that whenever our nation faces a bleak scenario such as a huge oil price increase, it should not be taken by the opposition as an opportunity to question or take the present administration to task because we know too well that this is beyond our call or control.

Let me point out further that we should use this occasion to help one another through these difficult times. Mind you, the Philippines is not alone in experiencing world record oil prices. In the United States, theyíre just as badly affected by this, where pump prices in California have reached a record high of $ 2.16 per gallon. Multiply this figure by P56 that would come to P120.96 per gallon. If there are four liters to a gallon, that means the Americans are paying P30.24 for every liter of gasoline and mind you, America is an oil-producing nation! I hate to say this, but since we are paying only P 27.05 for 95 octane premium gasoline or P26.41 for every liter of Vortex Silver and P20.90 per liter of diesel, these can still be considered truly a blessing!

What about our current power crisis? That the Philippines needs P400 billion over the next 10 years if it is to avoid recurring power shortages is a reality we all have to face and hopefully, our politicians wonít use this issue as a political football as we need to solve these problems, not debate it! President Arroyo urged Congress last Friday to swiftly pass a proposed law that will complete the privatization of the loss-making state utility National Power Corp. (Napocor), saying this was necessary to bring in the investment for the required power facilities.

Thereís no question that we need to satisfy our power needs and if the studies indicate that the country needs an additional 6,000 megawatts in generating capacity over the next 10 years, then by all means, we must satisfy this demand if this nation has to grow economically. Congress ought to understand that our problem is not finding the P400 billion required to satisfy our power demand... the problem comes when we canít satisfy our power needs and the Philippines can no longer be competitive with the other nations as we donít have enough supply for our power needs. I hope Congress understands this!

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For e-mail responses to this article, write to vsbobita@mozcom.com. Bobit Avilaís columns can also be accessed through www.thefreeman.com. He also hosts a weekly talk show, "Straight from the Sky," shown every Monday, at 8 p.m., only in Metro Cebu on Channel 15 of SkyCable.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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