JANUARY 29, 2010 (STAR) By Jess Diaz - Two administration congressmen urged Pilipinas Shell yesterday to pay P7.34 billion in unpaid excise taxes on its gasoline importations.

“Shell should give to Ceasar what is due Ceasar. It’s the least a high-earning multinational like Shell can do,” Tarlac Rep. Jeci Lapus said.

He said the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is justified in threatening to seize the oil firm’s imports for February and May worth $923 million to cover its tax deficiency.

Since Shell is determined not to pay its back taxes, confiscating its incoming importations “would be the best alterative for BOC,” he said.

“The Bureau of Customs should not let Pilipinas Shell get away with it. The company should be made to pay its five-year tax deficiency,” he said.

In November last year, the BOC ordered Shell to pay P7.34 billion in excise taxes on its unleaded gasoline imports from 2004 to 2009, which it declared as catalytic cracked gasoline (CCG) and light catalytic cracked gasoline (LCCG).

Shell claims that CCG and LCCG are blending components, which, under the law, are not subject to excise tax. On the other hand, the customs bureau asserts that the shipments were finished products and not blending materials.

Shell went to the Court of Tax Appeals and got a 60-day restraining order, which expires on Feb. 11 or 12. After that, BOC intends to seize the firm’s gasoline imports.

Like Lapus, Rep. Rodolfo Albano III of Isabela supported the bureau’s confiscation plan to force Shell to pay up.

Albano said Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales should make his word stick.

“Making Shell pay for its unpaid excise taxes is part of the commission’s job of raising revenues for the government,” he said.

He said he does not believe Shell’s claim that confiscation of its gasoline importations could lead to a fuel shortage.

Shell is just one of the companies supplying the country’s oil needs. The other oil firms, including independent players, will be able to meet our requirement,” he added.

Albano pointed out that Shell’s market share is 30 percent, second to Petron’s 46.7 percent, while Chevron (formerly Caltex) holds about 22 percent of the local market.

He added that there are 22 small distributors of oil products.

Some business groups are supporting Shell’s refusal to pay up, while others are urging President Arroyo to intervene in the case, which they claim is hurting the business environment.


Google is China's best friend DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) Updated January 29, 2010 12:00 AM

China’s response to Google’s threat to quit the country to protect the sanctity of Google accounts is vintage China. But China cannot forever invoke cultural differences every time its attention is called for practices that are less than acceptable in the world community... Internet censorship, for example.

As China emerged ahead of the West from the economic crisis, it was thrust into a position of world leadership it is apparently not ready to assume. Making the right investment and other business decisions in the capitalist market economy require free access to information for long term success.

China’s leaders must realize that other than free trade, free exchange of ideas is just as important in the globalized world. Free access to uncensored information is not a cultural invention of the Western World. It is a human right that everyone must enjoy.

In a sense, China should thank Google. It is taking the trouble of helping China transition into a new order where the Internet is an important medium not just of commerce but of understanding among nations. By expressing its misgivings as forcefully as it did, Google has called the attention of China’s leaders that they must adjust policies and practices to make them more in line with world expectations today.

China cannot forever be a nanny state, anyway, constantly telling its citizens what to think and what to say. The wealthy and educated segments of Chinese society, including a large number in its bureaucracy, will want greater freedom to think and interact freely with the rest of the world. A significant portion of the Chinese people already exposed to the world will no longer be content to the old ways where only the Communist Party knows best.

A small enough country like North Korea may indefinitely keep its people isolated, militarized and gagged. But you cannot keep more than a billion Chinese, who know how the rest the world lives (unlike the North Koreans), from thinking beyond what the Party thinks is good for them.

Google could have kept quiet and just followed the Microsoft approach of just protecting its business. But intruding into e-mail accounts and blocking out websites are not sustainable strategies for Google and for China. Sooner or later China must face up to the reality that it must stop acting like an insecure third world communist dictatorship. China is not Cuba. China is not North Korea. China can’t even afford to be Russia.

This is why I think China should thank Google for doing what it did. Google is helping ease its transition to the more modern, more global approach that allows citizens to think for themselves. Given the patriotism of the Chinese people, I see little danger in Beijing progressively easing up on the tight reins on free communication. Keeping the controls tight is not only counterproductive but a losing battle, in any case, with today’s technology.

Google on the other hand, should be patient and not give up on China. China has a lot of unlearning to do. The mere fact that China is increasingly participating in the world community means it is just a matter of time before China adopts the prevailing ways of the rest of the world.

Bill Gates, for his part, seems to just be smarting from the competition Google is giving Microsoft in its home market. In saying that the Chinese censorship is not that much, Gates brings up the question of what is an acceptable level of censorship? And the only answer to that question is none. By failing to put aside its business competition with Google and take the right position taken by his own government through Secretary Clinton, Bill Gates is being shortsighted even as he sells the democratic ideals of his country short.

Change is on its way. Where China’s economy goes, so will its values... so will its behavior. China’s business interests have forced it to take a more global economic view. Thus, its values and standards of behavior will soon have to be more global, whatever its spokesmen now say about “cultural differences.”

Google is China’s best friend because best friends tell each other what they should hear, not what they want to hear. Think about that, Microsoft!

Reproductive health

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a forum where I heard prominent Filipino-American leader Loida Nicolas Lewis deliver a pretty strong endorsement of the Reproductive Health bill. While there is little chance the bill will be considered by this Congress, some of what Ms. Lewis said bears repeating.

For instance, Ms. Lewis delivered a stinging rebuke of the Catholic hierarchy’s intrusion into the bedroom. Yet, she is a product of prominent Manila Catholic schools and from what I remember from college days at UP, she was an active Student Catholic Action leader. She said:

“I believe that no one should be in the matrimonial bedroom, not even the Holy Father the Pope, when the man and woman express their love for each other in that most intimate expression of love – their physical union. I also believe that the ultimate decision of how many children the couple should have remains between the husband and the wife, because they alone know how best to maintain the harmony and love they have for one another and their children.

“Therefore, it is imperative that the couple be given the information on how best to plan their family members, whether the means for reproduction be the so called natural or artificial method. Those words are meant to divide what is really a unified act – the act of love that during a woman’s child bearing years, still could produce pleasure for the couple on that act of love.

“Since it is the woman who bears the fetus in her womb, I believe that she more than a man has the absolute right to know how to best control her reproductive powers, and decide how many children she should bear, during that act of procreation, by using those methods that are helpful and healthful to her wellbeing.

“A word about the natural method proposed by the Catholic Hierarchy. As a married woman before I became a widow, I believe that the natural method is most unnatural.”

I remembered Ms. Lewis’ speech as I was browsing Facebook and came upon the posting of Gel Santos Relos, one of our news anchors at ABS-CBN in the 90s when I headed its news department. Gel is now in the US and anchors Balitang America on The Filipino Channel (TFC) and ANC.

Gel’s post: “Teenage pregnancy is UP for the first time in more than 10 years. Directly correlated to more money being spent by government in the past decade toward abstinence-only education?”

One of Gel’s friends posted: “Abstinence only doesn’t work... you need to give kids tools to protect themselves with. Plus, abstinence only makes sex out to be the forbidden fruit – and we all know how teenagers are with things like that.”

Gel responded: “Especially when we have a lot of influences who glorify teenage pregnancy – popular media teenager, Bristol Palin – they become role models, whether we like it or not.”

In other words, calling for abstinence is not going to do it. I don’t think it even works among priests and nuns going by the large sums of money various dioceses of the Catholic Church have spent settling cases of sexual abuse committed by the clergy. I remember a story in the Bible where Christ himself told the Pharisees that they should not put more burdens on the people than they themselves can bear.

For developing countries like ours where poverty and hunger are still rising, a good population management program is urgently needed. How to get that message into the thick skulls of many of our political and religious leaders is quite a problem.

Professional skill

Ferdinand Parañal sent this one.

A kid swallowed a coin and it got stuck in his throat. So his mother ran out in the street yelling for help.

A man passing by took the boy by his shoulders and hit him with a few strong strokes on the back, and so he coughed the coin out.

“I don’t know how to thank you, doc...” his mother started.

“I’m not a doctor”, the man replied, “I’m from the BIR. We know how to make people cough it out.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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