Losing partners

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

THE video recording is inadequate and unreliable. That much was proven after the heretofore zealously-watched security camera footage that was expected to show who stole the trees from the center island of the second Osmena Blvd. was finally shown to a select group of privileged people last Friday.
The video reportedly showed only the presence of a backhoe of WT Construction near the trees but not the actual removal of the latter. The camera probably conked out at the crucial moment. The mountain labored and brought forth a mouse.

There is no evidence to pin any blame for the crime on anyone.
The DENR and the others, who want to know what happened to the trees and how, should look elsewhere.

Maybe, they should start looking at nearby shores. It is possible that the trees got scared at the sight of the backhoe and ran to the sea for safety, forgetting that they couldn’t swim.


Today, nearly a month after their drowning, the trees must have already been washed ashore. Assuming that no wicked soul had in the meantime gathered them from the beaches for firewood, their bodies could supply the clue on what happened on that fateful night that they disappeared. I know, dead trees tell no tales but better a dead tree than an inutile security camera.

City Hall terminated its supply agreement with Phoenix Petroleum after
the latter refused to deliver fuel for the city’s vehicles unless it gets paid for invoices as old as January this year.

You don’t do that to your partner, City Administrator Lucelle Mercado (who is turning out to be one of the Rama administration’s pleasant surprises) told the petroleum company.

You should have talked to us. When you have outstanding receivables in the seven-figure vicinity from a single client and your pockets are not
that deep, obliging with niceties is no longer a priority. Saving the business is.

Phoenix is not in the category of Shell, Petron or Caltex. It is one of the so-called independent players in the Philippine petroleum industry. Unlike the three oil giants, it cannot afford aging trade account receivables.

I’m sure Phoenix was aware of the consequences when it abruptly cut the city’s fuel supply. They knew that they could lose the account but were prepared for it. It was not surprising then that they greeted the city administrator’s announcement of the termination of their partnership with a terse “we understand.” What they actually meant was “big deal!”

A few months ago, I wrote in this space the perils in doing business with the government. One – and the biggest – of them is collection. Mercado said the city has the money. The problem is how to get it.

City Hall clearly needs improvement in the processing of vouchers. Under the current set-up, a creditor has to go through the proverbial eye of the needle before it gets paid for services already rendered or for goods long delivered.

A couple of years ago, I was approached by one of the city’s caterers for help in collecting payment. I advised her to just wait and, in the meantime, to stop cooking food for the government. I do not know if she took my advice but she hasn’t come back to the office since.

Not that I think that the city or, for that matter, any government office, intentionally delays payment of its bills (although it is possible that some employees purposely sit on vouchers, a practice that the Tagalogs call pagparamdam).

But whatever it is that is causing it, be it a lousy auditing regulation or a corrupt functionary, the delay has to be addressed otherwise the city will keep losing its partners.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 27, 2014.


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