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Just privatize PNR

 By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star)

The current PNR general manager should probably be given a medal for his heroic efforts to make the government-owned railroad company run its trains again all the way to Bicol. He is most probably of my generation, albeit a few years younger, to feel so passionately about the Bicol Express. There is something romantic about the PNR in those days… it wasn’t the Orient Express but it served our needs.

So now we are being told that after years of neglect and abuse, PNR will once again run a Bicol Express service. According to newspaper reports, they apparently conducted the test-run the other weekend and it covered more than 400 kilometers through a newly refurbished locomotive train with several hand-me-down tourist class coaches donated by the Japanese government.

“In my assessment, the Bicol test-run we conducted was 95 percent successful and we are nearing our objective to put back in operation the commercial PNR trips to Bicol region,” said PNR general manager Junio Ragragio Jr. The Manila-Naga trip took nine hours, shorter than the usual 10-hour travel time through bus, Ragragio said. He added that all train coaches for the “Bicol Express” will be air-conditioned.

“We also have two types of sleeper coaches. One is a family suite that is good for a family or barkada of four to six persons. And we also have the executive class for passengers who would like extra privacy and the inclusion of a dining car with the ambiance of a first class restaurant,” he added.

“In the tourist class we have reclining chairs with more leg room compared to commercial buses. This includes a wide screen LCD with state-of-the-art sound system to comfortably watch movies during the long trip,” Ragrario said. We didn’t even have it this good in the good ol’ days.

They will also renovate several train stations traversing along the provinces of Laguna, Quezon, Camarines Sur and Albay. I also heard that they will try to get back the historic Paco Station and restore it to its old grandeur. They are also thinking of putting up railway connections to Batangas, Camarines Norte and Sorsogon. Definitely too good to be true!

Back to reality… the coaches are 30 years old. . . the Japanese gave us train coaches they have already junked. Maintenance costs will be high… for ‘brakepads’. (common source for PNR graft), aircon/engine repairs and extraordinary expenses for regular mishaps and accidents (diskarel) will plague this band-aid solution. . . expect the usual landslides along the old tracks resulting from typhoons and continuous rains during the rainy season.

I e-mailed Ray Altarejos, Ragragio’s high school classmate and fellow Bicolano about this development. Altarejos is a New York-based entrepreneur who is now in Brazil looking for business opportunities. Here is his comment:

“I told Jun Ragragio to focus on changing the narrow-gauge PNR tracks to wide-gauge and make it run freight trains all the way to Sorsogon. In the 1930’s, PNR (then known as the MRR or Manila Rail Road) was extended to Albay to haul abaca to Manila. Manila hemp was a major dollar earner.

“But a PNR for freight has no political constituency. Warren Buffet is now making tons of money with his big bet on Burlington Northern. With the high price of oil, Burlington Northern has stolen the business of long-distance trucks. Brazil has a great train system into the interiors hauling soybeans, corn and iron ore bound for China.

“Bicol despite the usual typhoons could have a dynamic agri sector.”

At least they are doing something to resuscitate the PNR rather than pillage what is left of PNR assets, which politicians in the past apparently did quite well. The next 12 months will show whether the P500M P-Noy gambled on these old coaches running on the old PNR tracks will be worth it. . .

Worthy of praise as these current efforts are, I think there is a better way: privatize PNR. The faster they do this, the better before more of PNR’s assets get dissipated. Somebody in a past administration even sold its air rights over the tracks!

It isn’t as if there isn’t any private sector interest. San Miguel made a proposal to buy 51 percent control of PNR and still have government as a partner in its development. At no further cost to taxpayers, San Miguel offered to develop a national railroad system starting with the Luzon line of PNR that will run slower trains on at-grade level and fast trains on top.

Ramon Ang told The STAR last year that they have commissioned a group that includes international companies with experience in bullet trains to study the possibility of building a bullet train railway that will run from the north to the south end of Luzon. San Miguel proposes to run the bullet train railway on the Laoag-Manila-Bicol route. SMC’s top executive expressed optimism about the possibilities that this venture… a high-speed train service is also expected to help boost the economy in general.

I asked Ramon how he expects to make money considering the large amount of capex he must invest on it upfront. He said he is looking at PNR not only as a train company but a general logistics company. Consumer goods marketers will find the railroad the more efficient way to do Luzon wide distribution of their products… exactly what Altarejos was suggesting. San Miguel will run telecom, water, electricity lines along the right of way. He will develop the adjacent real estate and make money on malls and other property ventures near train stations.

Ramon said he has made a pitch to Secretary Ping de Jesus who just gave him a polite “we will study” kind of reply. But from the discussions, it was clear that the bureaucrats, specially the powerful usec that Ping depends on, do not want anything that does not require ODA financing. They also want to keep government control over PNR even if the past decades have shown government is totally incapable of running it, except to run it to the ground.

It is stupid to ignore a proposal like this. What is there is lose with taking Ramon Ang on his word? PNR isn’t exactly the epitome of operational efficiency and profitability. If Ramon Ang fails, the attempt would still have generated economic activity and the failure will cost PNR and the taxpayers nothing. But if the venture succeeds, the government and the people benefit tremendously.

ODA will only get us so far in rehabilitating PNR. In fact, ODA has failed to do anything for PNR for years now. If San Miguel is willing to stake its money and its reputation on reviving a dead duck like PNR, they should be given the chance to do so. We need bold measures like what San Miguel has proposed.

San Miguel would not give me a copy of their proposal out of respect for Secretary Ping who promised to study it. But such proposals should be made public if only to put pressure on unimaginative bureaucrats that they have to think boldly to move this country onward. Or could it be that the bureaucrats are afraid of losing lucrative rackets imbedded in ODA-financed projects? Secretary Ping should not forget how to think like a private sector manager. Right now, he is allowing his usec to repeat proven failures… the old bureaucratic way.

We are spending money on international road shows supposedly to entice foreign investors to invest on our PPP initiatives. But here, we have a local investor ready and willing to invest big bucks on a major infrastructure program and all our government could tell them is that they “will study it”. This is absolutely ridiculous. The earlier P-Noy cracks the whip to get his people moving and thinking boldly, the better for his credibility rating and for our country’s future.

Filed under: Government, Information, Innovation, Invest in Sorsogon, Sorsogon News Updates, Technology, , , ,

Personal flight possible

source: Top Tech Inventions Shaping 2011

Image source: Engadget

Martin Jetpack

Ask just about anybody (that doesn’t have a fear of heights) what superpower they wished they had- and I’ll bet the ability to fly would probably top the list. Personal flight will become possible thanks to the Martin Jetpack (which is not a jet or rocket-powered) and will sell for a hefty sum of $100,000.

The Jetpack, designed by Glenn Martin of New Zealand’s Martin Aircraft Company, uses a premium gasoline engine with 200-horsepower and two ducted fans to provide lift. It can reach a speed of 60 miles per hour, an altitude of 8,000 feet, and fly for about 30 minutes on a full fuel tank.

Unlike earlier devices called “jetpacks”, the Martin Jetpack is the first to be considered a practical device. Initially designed with the leisure market in mind, commercial demand for the Martin Jetpack has seen the research and development program focus on readying the product for use in a number of sectors including emergency response, defense and recreation, with numerous applications in each sector.

Watch this mega hunk of carbon-fiber in action:

Filed under: Information, Innovation, Inspiration, New Ideas, New Invention, , , ,

Apple iPhone 4 – 32GB – black


Product summary

THE GOOD: The iPhone 4 offers enhanced performance, a lovely new display, and an improved design. It also adds a ton of sorely needed features, both by itself and through the iOS 4 update.

THE BAD: Multitasking entails some trade-offs, and home screen folders are limited to 12 apps. AT&T reception continues to be spotty.

THE BOTTOM LINE: With iPhone 4, Apple again shows that it is a powerful player in the smartphone wars. It won’t be for everyone, and AT&T remains a sticking point, but the handset’s striking design, loaded feature set, and satisfying performance make it the best iPhone yet.


Read more  via: http://reviews.cnet.com/smartphones/apple-iphone-4-32gb/4505-6452_7-34117595.html?tag=nl.e404

Filed under: Innovation, Mobile Technology,

Preparing for iPhone 4 launch day

NEW YORK–Google CEO Eric Schmidt made a guest appearance at a press conference here Wednesday where Google, Motorola, and Verizon Wireless unveiled the new version of the popular Android Droid smartphone.

Schmidt took the stage first and touted the importance of the smartphone category.

It’s that time of year again when throngs of people line up, sometimes days in advance, for the latest and greatest version of the Apple iPhone.

Thursday is the official release date for the iPhone 4. And from the looks of things, this year could be the biggest of all iPhone launches.

AT&T says that demand for the iPhone 4 is 10 times what it was for the iPhone 3GS. And Apple says it took 600,000 preorders for the new phone through its sales channels.

The iPhone 4 goes on sale Thursday, though the white version won't be available.

(Credit: James Martin/CNET )

The iPhone 4 goes on sale Thursday, though the white version won’t be available at first.

If history is any indication of what to expect, initial sales of the iPhone 4 are likely be a doozy. Apple sold more than 1 million iPhone 3GS smartphones the first three days it was on sale. The original iPhone sold about 270,000 units during its first weekend in June 2007, while the iPhone 3G sold around 1 million when it launched in July 2008.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs called the iPhone 4, which is the fourth generation of iPhone, the “biggest leap since the original iPhone” was launched in 2007. With a new homegrown processor like the one used in the iPad, a bigger battery, a 5-megapixel camera that can record video in high definition, and a new FaceTime video chat application, the iPhone 4 is expected to be a hotter device than all previous iPhones.

Unfortunately, for customers waiting to get their hands on the new phone, there are already signs that supply may not keep up with demand. On Tuesday, AT&T announced that only preordered iPhone 4s will be in stock in its retail stores Thursday. Anyone looking to buy an iPhone 4 at an AT&T store without having preordered the device will have to wait until June 29.

AT&T’s preordering system also crashed over and over on June 15, the day the iPhone 4 was made available for preorder. Potential customers attempting to buy the phone saw error messages as they tried to process their orders.

So what is an expectant iPhone 4 user to do? Check out this FAQ to get a better handle on what will be happening on launch day. For updated information from AT&T, the company suggests checking out its Facebook page.

by Marguerite Reardon and Erica Ogg

Read more via: http://news.cnet.com/8301-30686_3-20008509-266.html?tag=mncol

Filed under: Innovation, New Ideas, New Invention, Technology,

Motorola Droid X unveiled, ‘made for video’

Attendees to Wednesday’s New York press conference get a rundown of the new Droid X’s features.

(Credit: Bonnie Cha/CNET)


Motorola Droid X

“This is not a toy or app engine,” he said. “It is a powerful kind of operating system. What is happening now is that people are thinking mobile first instead of desktop first.”

He cited the importance of a robust wireless network, as well as hardware with fast processors and big screens. But Schmidt said Wednesday’s event is notable not just for the announcement of the new Droid, but for the emergence of the entire category of device.

Indeed, the new Droid X epitomizes this. The newest version of the Google Androidphone made by Motorola offers an HDMI output, a 4.3-inch display, and 720p video capture. The device also comes with faster processors that will offer faster Web browsing. And it has an 8-megapixel high-definition camera.

John Stratton, executive vice president of Verizon Wireless, said the device is made for video. And there will be new apps designed to take advantage of these features, including a deal with Blockbuster to provide movies for purchase or rent.

The Droid X will cost $199.99 after a $100 rebate and will go on sale starting July 15. Unlike AT&T, which has switched to tiered pricing for its iPhone, Verizon said it will keep its unlimited mobile data plan for smartphones, which costs $30 a month.

The new Droid X also offers Wi-Fi hot spot capability, which allows users to connect up to five additional Wi-Fi devices to the Verizon 3G network. This feature will cost $20 extra a month for 2GB of data for the month. If users exceed the 2GB, they will pay 5 cents per megabyte.

Verizon is altering its upgrade policy to sweeten the deal for current customers looking to upgrade to the Droid. It will allow any Verizon Wireless customer whose contract expires in 2010 to upgrade to the Droid when it comes out on July 15.


Executives at Droid X kickoff

Google CEO Eric Schmidt joins executives from Adobe, Motorola, and Verizon Wireless onstage at the kickoff for the new Droid X. From left to right: Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe; Andy Rubin, vice president of engineering for Google; Sanjay Jha, co-CEO of Motorola; and John Stratton, executive vice president of Verizon Wireless.

(Credit: Marguerite Reardon/CNET)


By Marguerite Reardon

Via: http://news.cnet.com/8301-30686_3-20008606-266.html?tag=nl.e498

Filed under: Innovation, New Ideas, New Invention, Technology, ,

Smart Clothes may Save your Life

Printed sensors on the elastic band of your underwear could monitor your sweat through chemical-sensing electrodes, and diagnose changes in your health.

Why put them in underwear? The elastic gives the best contact with the skin.

They could even trigger the release of drugs. For example, if an accident victim went into shock, the sensors could be programmed to administer a pre-determined treatment.

By http://www.ideaconnection.com

via: http://www.ideaconnection.com/new-inventions/smart-clothes-may-save-your-life-03693.html

Filed under: Innovation, New Ideas, New Invention, , , ,

Airborne Wind Turbines?


Yes, the day is not far off when reaching for sky is the new motto for generating cost-effective renewable energy. Initially it was considered to be technically non-viable to tap high-altitude winds. But today, technically-advanced materials and innovative computer know-how are giving new life to this scheme with innovative autonomous aerial structures using wind energy to generate power.

Joby Energy, Inc. model:
Joby Energy Inc., exploring wind turbine technology, has developed a computer-controlled multi-winged kite-like structure which floats around 2000ft height for generating power. Mr Bevirt is the inventor of this aerial kite. The DC power generated is transferred to ground through tether to a ground station to be converted to AC power ready for consumption via a power grid.

Advantages of high altitude wind turbines:
Extolling the virtues of these autonomous aerial power generators, Mr. Bevirt said, “Operating at five times the height of a conventional turbine increases both wind speed and consistency resulting in more power, more often.” Professor William Moomaw, Director,
Centre for International Environment and Resource Policy at Tufts University, Massachusetts, agreed, “The higher speeds at the greater altitudes should produce significantly more electricity.”

Mega source up above:
Actually statistics is strongly in favor of these air-borne wind turbines because globally tropospheric winds carry nearly carry potential to produce 870 terawatts of energy whereas our total demand put together is only 17 terawatts. Along with Joby Energy Inc., other companies like Kitegen focusing on power kites, Magenn Power’s Air Rotor System called (MARS) with a helium filled blimp design and Sky WindPower with flying electric generators are trying to tap this mega source to produce clean and cost effective power.

Tread with care:
US Federal Aviation Administration has asked the flying altitudes restricted to 2000 ft or less in spite of the potential to reach heights up to 35,000. Also Professor Mick Womersely, Director of Sustainability, Unity College, Maine, expressed the obvious concerns about possible hazards and reliability of these prototypes.

Reassurance about safety:
Mr. Bevrit confirmed about the safety measures like ability to ground the turbines in gale-force-type winds, multiple motor designs to circumvent motor failure and on-board stand-by batteries to land the system in case of tether malfunction. He assured that road-testing in sparsely-populated areas with good strong wind is being planned and all safety measures will be paid attention to.

Joby Energy’s aim:
Joby Energy aims to create enough systems to power 150 homes (about 300kW) and move on to larger systems producing 3MW or more. In Mr. Bevirt’s words, “Our goal is to deploy airborne wind turbines globally to produce cheap, consistent, and abundant electricity for a prosperous planet.”

By: ALTERNATIVE ENERGY NEWS

Source:  http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/airborne-wind-turbines/

Filed under: Innovation, New Ideas, New Invention, Technology

Car Converts to a Bedroom, Office and Gym

SAIC’s SheLL concept is exploring what else can be  done with an automobile to make it more useful when  you’re not driving it, and what other roles it can fulfil  when it is parked.



The vehicle is not only an automobile, it also transforms into a bedroom, office and gymnasium. As we said, this is a concept from far-left-field

The SheLL concept also explores new materials and how they can be used to reconfigure spaces. Inspired by folding fans and paper lanterns, SAIC has applied elastic membrane technology to the vehicle’s bodywork, so that the Shell is elastically adjustable and capable of adapting itself to various applications and meeting different user requirements.

The SheLL will also connect seamlessly to buildings and public facilities by way of what is expected to become a standard interface for vehicles – a docking station so it can supplement the home or office with another working or living space.


Filed under: Innovation, New Ideas, New Invention,

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