MANILA, May 5, 2005
 (STAR) DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco - When life hands you a bagful of lemons, the only thing to do is make lemonade. Thatís just about the best lesson on life I have learned the hard way. You canít really have the best of circumstances always. I know it is easier to despair (which I did after Martial Law cut my budding journalistic career short), or you can give up or you can make the best of what you have.

Thatís really how we should think of the nationís situation today. True, we donít have a leader who knows how to lead, nor have the moral authority to lead. But sheís all weíve got for the next five and a half years unless we want to make things worse through another one of those street uprisings that brought her to power, in the first place.

What is so depressing with all those supposed leaders offering themselves to us in the form of a junta or some council in place of the ineffectual leader we now have, is that none of them are real choices. What we have here is a bunch of washed up former military officers or Cabinet members of a man who has also disowned them.

What worries me more is that any perceived weakness of government could give the communists the chance they are waiting for to take political power. Ominously, two very similar calls were made by retired General Fortunato Abat and exiled Communist leader Jose Ma. Sison. Abat has proposed that a council or a junta should take over from the Arroyo administration. Sison, on the other hand, suggested that a "transitional council of leaders" be formed in the event of another popular uprising that will oust Mrs. Arroyo.

Abat, who was Eddie Ramosí defense chief, publicly announced on the eve of the Labor Day rites that he and his group, the Coalition for National Salvation (CNS), want the creation of a "revolutionary transition government" that will replace the Arroyo administration. Sison, for his part, released on Sunday from his foreign home base in Utrecht, the Netherlands, a statement saying that "a broad united front of organized forces" should now work for the downfall of the Arroyo administration.

It is not an accident that Sisonís statement was made amidst rumors of destabilization. It is also not surprising that it was addressed to the radical labor group, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), which also celebrated on May 1 its 25th founding anniversary. The labor group had always been suspected of being a legal front of the underground communist group that gets its inspiration from Sison.

One thing the country does not need now is a takeover from the extreme left and/or the extreme right. However bad the Arroyo administration may be today, things would become infinitely worse should the extremist forces succeed to create chaos and thereafter, grab political power. As it is, all these high profile calls for a power grab is doing the country a lot of harm. Abat and Sison accentuate the high probability of political risk for any potential investor still brave enough to consider coming here and creating jobs. That worsens our economic problems and could make any call for a junta or revolutionary council a self fulfilling prophecy.

But that so-called revolutionary situation can only happen if we allow it to. Government and peace loving citizens can do a lot to make any power grab by the left or the right extremely difficult, if not impossible. Unfortunately, the volatile situation now makes a power grab possible in one split second unguarded moment. Government has failed to show real leadership. And citizens, in despair over current conditions, have not given a strong enough message that they wonít tolerate a power grab.

It is also unfortunate that the few good people in government we could trust to have no other agenda but the good of the country, are starting to leave. The Dominican priest who headed CHED, for instance, resigned after pressure surrounding his drive to ensure real high quality education in nursing schools. Then, there is Haydee Yorac. According to her, the Palace pushed her out. We donít have to guess why. If you are losing the good people in your team, you must have a problem and in her case, we know she does.

Last Sunday, I watched this movie The Interpreter and I thanked God that we do not live in a country led by a crooked and murderous ex-revolutionary (somewhat Mugabe-like) in that movieís fictional African country of Matobo. Yet, the thought occurred to me we could be closer than we have imagined, to becoming one such country, if we allow the extreme left or extreme right to grab political power. Note how the local communists have killed each other in the underground, and they are not even in power yet.

True, we cannot waste the next five and a half years muddling through under a leader who has not been able to show enough leadership. She has failed to inspire our people to deal with our various and very real problems of crisis proportions. She cannot even get her party mates, who are in the majority in Congress, to pass the VAT law. But sheís all we got, unless we want to risk another messy transfer of power, one that also guarantees nothing.

Yet, the strategy is clear. Ate Glo should stop being a plodder and be more decisive. But, given her known egocentricity, does she know she has a problem? I know it is tiresome to practically nag her to be the statesman leader we need, and possibly for her controversial husband to go on a voluntary self exile, but we just have to work harder at it.

Many middle class folks in their mid-50s are establishing residences in foreign countries just so they would have a Plan B, just in case... The feeling among the middle class today is like Hong Kong before the turnover. They are voting with their feet and perhaps, they owe it to themselves and their families to do that. But we cannot give up this early...

For now, the bottom line is, we are stuck with her. Let us do what we can to make sure she does not make a real mess of governance that would make it easy for the extremists to gain power. We must help her lead this nation at this crucial juncture in our history. Otherwise, we might as well rename our country, Matobo!

European Route

On the more mundane matter of business, I was wondering if either of our two major flag carriers have been doing their homework on the European market. Based on my recent experience, I would say that our airlines are missing a lot by surrendering the route to the European and Middle Eastern airlines.

The KLM direct flight to Amsterdam I took was booked solid to the last seat going to Europe and coming back to Manila. In fact, I should have been on Lufthansa, since the Germans sponsored my trip, but the German carrier couldnít give me a confirmed reservation on the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt and back.

As I wrote here earlier from Bonn, a Filipina travel agent specializing in ethnic tourism to the Philippines is also of the opinion that PAL or Cebu Pacific should start flying to Europe. Even better, the flight could have a stopover in the Middle East to cater to our OFWs.

I understand that PAL and Cebu Pacific are fighting over additional flights to Japan and South Korea, and potentially, to the United States. Look guys, there is Europe. The code sharing of PAL with KLM is not enough. The KLM flights I was on had mostly Pinoy passengers and just a sprinkling of Europeans. It is not true that more European tourists are coming here on those flights. The one I was on felt like the PAL transpacific flights.

Maybe when Cebu Pacific gets delivery of its new Airbuses this October, they would consider going to Europe and the Middle East and serve our growing Pinoy community there. PAL should be able to get approval from its creditors to resume its European flights. We should be able to capture the foreign exchange our expat community spends on air travel.

Of course PAL must do everything to improve the quality of its customer service, in the light of recent negative reports. Personally, I have found PALís service more than adequate (but its in-flight meals can stand improvement). On my recent flight to Vancouver, not only was it able to take off on time, it landed an hour earlier, making it easy for me to catch the connecting flight to Ottawa.

And as far as I am concerned, nothing beats being on a flight managed by fellow Pinoys because only Pinoys know our needs. I am sure our OFWs feel the same way.

Relatively Even

Reader Norbert Goldie sent in this one.

Bubba and Homer were sitting in back of their trailers, shooting the breeze. Bubba asked Homer, "If I snuck ovah to yore house while you wuz out fishiní aní I made love to yore wife, aní she got pregnant, would that make us kin?"

Homer scratched his head for a bit then said, "I donít think so, but it shore would make us even..."

Boo Chancoís e-mail address is chanco@gmail.cbom

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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