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Ramon is an executive who enjoys cooking occasionally for family and friends. Solo is engaged in litigation and management consultancy.
Consumer pain, utility in system loss
P-Noy’s Wasted Inheritance
New columnists, new perspectives
CROSSINGS By BUTCH JUNIA
YESTERDAY, TODAY & TOMORROW By LINGGOY ALCUAZ
After 13 issues, the Opinyon’s editorial staff, as with Linggoy Alcuaz, take pride in the papers strong stand on issues of the week. The paper takes position on national issues without being partisan. In answer to accusation that it is an opposition paper, we say it is hard hitting but never partisan. It politicizes economic issues and give economic perspective to political issues. We are guided by this editorial policy. Read page 4
San Miguel fund-raising sparks alarm bells Can Small Medium EnterWe politicize economic issues and give economic perspective to political issues
NOVEMBER 22 - 28, 2010 • Vol. I, No. 14
prise Market absorb San Miguel Corp.’s huge funding requirement. SHOPTALK PAGE 4
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By Al Labita Who is MVP? He may have built a formidable business empire and reaped prized accolades, but behind the façade of corporate coups hides what critics tagged as “unethical” dealings in the past. stoRy on PAGE 2
EASTWIND JOURNALS by Bernie Lopez MAYNILAD’S DRAMATIC WATER RATE INCREASES 6 THE MIGRANT WORKER by CeeJay POEA EMPLOYEES, NOW INSURANCE AGENTS 7
P-NOY fAvORS BIG INvESTORS AT THE ExPENSE Of CONSUMERS PPP: PAUNANG PAHIRAP NI P-NOY By Ray Junia, page 12
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From page 1
Captive customer’s new foe
By KARLo GoMEZ Consumer groups seeking to foil the Manila Electric Co.’s (Meralco) plan to increase energy rates might find themselves battling a new foe. The debt-stricken Lopezes have appointed Manuel V. Pangilinan as their “legacy asset’s” new chief, which is widely believed to be a move to save them from the brink of financial demise. Pangilinan now sits as the president and chief executive officer of Meralco, and controls more than 40 percent of the country’s biggest power distributor’s shares through Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., Metro Pacific Investments Corp, and First Pacific Holding. Meanwhile, Manuel Lopez remains a nonexecutive chair. He publicly expressed his alacrity to buy more shares to gain control of the utility. In a published report, Pangilinan sought to increase his shares by up to 45 percent by eyeing shares held by Eusebio Tanco’s group. Generally perceived by the public as a positive force to reckon with in the business sector despite plagiarizing a commencement speech, Pangilinan’s historic plunge into the energy industry could be unwelcoming to the 4.8 million captive customers of Meralco. Under Pangilinan, Meralco is seeking to invest in generation facilities that are projected to deliver at least 1,500 megawatts for the next five years according to reports. These planned power generation facilities may cost the power distributor more than seven billion pesos, which will be charged to customers once energy hikes are approved. Pangilinan claims that this strategy will lessen the generation costs that comprise 60 percent of consumer’s bills. However, skyrocketing power rates pose a major challenge to Pangilinan, including consumer advocates’ demand to refund the extra charges. In all these consumer issues, Pangilinan has kept mum and refused to participate in the ongoing hearing at the Energy Regulatory Commission. Also, the consumers are doubtful of the corruptionfree image associated with Pangilinan. With Meralco’s addition to the roster of his gargantuan acquisitions, Pangilinan is set to rule the local business scene with a phalanx of Hong Kong and Indonesian-based cohorts from First Pacific with questionable motives and intentions. By becoming active players in the energy business, the question is what interests First Pacific and its foreign entities have in managing and controlling Meralco. Although Pangilinan never promised a sweeping change, the captive customers are entitled to full disclosure of his objectives that concern the management and direction of the company. Nevertheless, the obtrusive capitalist trait of Pangilinan which he shares with the Lopezes will always be a hindrance to forging better bridges to the consumers. For one, his corporate orientation always seems to favor private actors than consumers. For consumer groups, the battle could be tougher with First Pacific at Meralco’s helm.
Take, for instance, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT). Until now, taipan Alfonso Yuchengco can’t get over that incident in 1995 when he was “forced” to yield his family’s interests in PLDT to Manuel V. Pangilinan in his bid to seize control of the telecom giant. At the time, Pangilinan – often referred to as MVP -- acted as managing director and chief executive officer of First Pacific Co. Ltd, the Hong Kong-based flagship of Indonesian tycoon Soedomo Salim. Salim, whose core businesses range from banking to trading, noodles manufacturing and property ventures, wanted to expand to the Philippines. And that task fell on MVP who started his career as an investment banker. In PLDT’s buyout case, MVP reportedly pulled strings in high places with no less than then president Joseph “Erap” Estrada and his “corporate genius” Mark Jimenez as his
Zobel de Ayala
complained that he was subjected to alleged harassment and arm-twisting by MVP’s minions to sign a waiver. He held roughly an indirect eight percent equity in PLDT through a holding firm, the Philippine Telecommunications Investment Corp., PLDT’s controlling stakeholder led by the Cojuangco family. Bowed to pressures Though Yuchengo’s interest in PLDT was deemed a minority, he had an ace up his sleeve -- his right of first refusal. Meaning, he had the right to match or exceed any bid. To MVP, the taipan was a hindrance to his grandiose plan to conquer PLDT and he had to resort to all means and at all costs to hurdle such
Lopez suddenly found himself booted out by Pangilinan as president and chief executive officer. Frustrations In recent talks to reporters, Lopez could not hide his frustrations over their company’s sudden change of ownership in the blink of an eye. He vent his ire on patriarch Oscar for forging a “secret deal” with Pangilinan. Until now, animosity still persists among siblings of the once high-profile Lopez family, the landed gentry in Panay island who used to control Meralco, their crown jewel in the power supply business. They have yet to gain a full grasp of how they lost Meralco they inherited from their great grandparents. More than pesos and cents, Meralco was intertwined with the Lopez family’s tradition of business acumen. MVP had previously eyed San Miguel Corp (SMC), southeast Asia’s largest food, beverage and packaging firm. But SMC chair Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. quickly rebuffed him. Danding, who had a tight grip of SMC, likened MVP to that of a “parachute investor” who he thought had no longterm interests in the company except to ride on its growth momentum. Then came the government auction in 1995 of the 214-ha prime property in Fort Bonifacio situated on the fringes of Makati city. The property is now part of Taguig city based on a Supreme Court ruling. An MVP-led group tendered a whopping 39 billion pesos bid for the property, the highest among bidders, beating Ayala Land, Inc. Ayalas But the Ayalas, embarrassed in losing out to a strange newcomer in the property business, blanked MVP in every step of the way in his efforts to transform the sprawling area into his envisioned “Global city.” Apparently stung by the dose of his own medicine,
PLDT’s financial fortune is faltering due to fierce competition in the telecoms market, the reason why MVP has shifted his focus to Meralco as the emerging flagship of his business empire.
“facilitators” supposedly for a “fee.” “Unholy alliance” That caught the eye of Senator Panfilo Lacson who, in his privilege speech in 1998, exposed the “unholy alliance” between Erap and MVP. “The bigger and more important question remains: What was the deal in pesos and centavos between Mr. Estrada and Mr. Pangilinan, if any. Or, should we rather ask, how much was involved?,” Lacson said. Oodles of money allegedly changed hands in the PLDT deal. A P100 million check purportedly issued by MVP to Erap was later traced by probers of his corruption case to the “Jose Velarde” bank account. The lawmaker’s expose’ marked the first time that MVP’s name was dragged in the tricky politics of business. Yuchengco, founder of the RCBC banking group, confirmed Lacson’s expose’ and obstacle. And indeed he did succeed. In no time, the taipan bowed to pressures. Poor “Tonyboy” Cojuangco. For a time, MVP allowed him to remain as PLDT non-executive board chairman. MVP eventually yanked him out and took over as chairman. Tonyboy’s fate could likely befall on current Meralco chair Oscar Lopez. Though his family still holds a minority stake at over 13 percent, that could eventually be diluted as MVP is poised to raise his stake in Meralco from 41 to 46 percent. Until now, not a few clan members still agonize over how they lost the coveted power firm to MVP. They feel betrayed that the purchase deal worked out early this year by Pangilinan, the “point man” of wealthy Indonesian tycoon Salim, was kept under wraps all along. After steering Meralco for 24 solid years, raising its profile as one of the country’s most profitable firms, Manuel
MVP gave up his interests in the property and sold them to rival Ayala group even at a loss. That decision to divest only confirmed market talk that MVP was not a long-term investor and was only engrossed with his short-term passion for money. PLDT’s financial fortune is faltering due to fierce competition in the telecoms market, the reason why MVP has shifted his focus to Meralco as
the emerging flagship of his business empire. Like that of the failed Boni property venture, it’s likely MVP will eventually dump the telecom giant and sell it off to a persistent suitor – taipan John Gokongwei – who previously mounted a hostile bid to take over PLDT, but MVP blocked it. With MVP’s shifting fortunes in the corporate world, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
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sage of this law without socio-economic impact studies and proper scrutiny of the problems concerning OFWs is an indication that the government has overlooked many areas which should have been carefully examined. OpinYon: What does the government plan to do with the OFWs who are left unemployed due to banning of some host countries? Lito Soriano: Aside from the insufficient knowledge on the real situation of OFWs and their respective families, the government has not exerted any effort to study the impact and implications of the law before it is enforced. This has further caused the government to be unprepared for circumstances such as massive loss of jobs. Likewise, the government has not prepared a plan of action for OFWs seeking employment abroad. OpinYon: Does this law encourage illegal recruitment due to many restrictions rather than preventing it? Lito Soriano: Definitely, yes. As the policies get rigid, more migrant workers will opt to take illegal means or undocumented migration as an easy way out. Human trafficking and corruption in our airports will thrive. OpinYon: Does the Philippine government have the capability to lobby such changes in other countries? Lito Soriano: If we believe it is the best way to protect our workers, we could have used our long established goodwill with these host countries because we have been dealing with them and they have been our partners for the past 30-45 years. Diplomatically, this is a disaster of epic proportions. We are begging other countries to provide protection to domestic workers that we cannot give them here. We simply do not care for their welfare. The other countries are aware of this and we have become their laughing stock. OpinYon: What will happen to OFWs in certified or not-banned countries
Doing business at the BOC now faster
By Chito JuniA
Traders and importers who are expecting their shipments from abroad to arrive in time for the Christmas holidays have every reason to celebrate. Doing business at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) today is not only faster, but at a lower cost as well, because of the full implementation of its Import and Assessment System (IAS) and the enhanced Risk Management System (RMS) programs. While barriers are in place to detect questionable shipments and high-risk cargoes, release of low risk cargoes and shipments of historically compliant importers can now be done in 30 minutes or less under the BOC’s IAS and RMS programs. According to Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez, the IAS and RMS are just two of the many other programs the bureau is implementing to fulfill its commitment to deliver faster and world class service to the public. The IAS’ Electronic to Mobile (e2m) system covering all the bureau’s ports and sub-ports totaling 48, enables a faster end-to-end cargo clearance process through the use of mobile broadcasting and internet/Electronic Data Interchange Connectivity. The RMS operates like a grading or rating system that guides BOC personnel in the determination of low and high risk cargoes, using the historical compliance record of shippers/ importers. Based on set selectivity criteria, all inbound cargoes’ risk levels will be determined. Those falling under the low risk category will be allowed through the green lane for faster processing, while others may have to go through strict inspection in the red lane. In effect, the RMS establishes a pre-arrival cargo clearance process for low risk shipments and compliant shippers/importers. This program is expected to encourage and motivate importers to be compliant to tariff laws for faster facilitation and release of their shipments. Meanwhile, in its report for the first 100 days, the bureau consistently posted improvements in collection on a month-to-month basis, surpassing last year’s cash collection performance by an average of P 2.8 billion. As a result the agency’s total cash revenues for the period January to September this year surpassed by P 25 billion what it earned from duties and taxes during the same period last year. Vis a vis current year targets, however, there have been substantial shortfalls owing largely to contractions in the global market, the unusual surge of the peso to the dollar and earlier tariff restructuring in compliance with international commitments. The market has shown signs of curtailing the surging peso and the bureau is pursuing revenue leaks in the past that could make up for foregone tariffs. Moreover, with the enhanced RMS and IAS, the Bureau’s performance in the coming months is expected to be even better.
For many decades, about ninety percent of Filipinos working in other countries were men.
Originally, it was for low-skilled agricultural jobs mainly as plantation workers in Hawaii and then as fruit and vegetable farm workers in California. Virtually, all became permanent migrants. But with the massive development of the oil and gas industries in the Middle East starting in the sixties, both the occupations and the temporary 2-3 year duration of the work attracted many skilled construction and engineering workers to the deserts to the deserts of the Middle East and then to industrial and manufacturing plants in Europe and other Asian countries. They could earn much better salaries and still call the Philippines home. In the last few years, however, the dominance of the male over the female in the deployment of OFWs is fast disappearing. We have been witnessing a disturbing gender shift as women now outnumber men working in foreign lands. Today nearly 70 percent of OFWs deployed are women. In the overseas employment sector, experts claim this situation is disturbing as women are the most vulnerable and they work in low-skilled positions often without the normally accepted protections afforded to males. Our domestic workers are not part of the host government labor force thus not covered by their labor laws. Lito Soriano, a labor migration expert and a former OFW in Saudi Arabia, says most of these women are employed as domestic workers for the champions of industries, decision-makers, and in the homes of business and government leaders in their host country. “As domestic workers they are the country’s best PR agents before industry leaders as they earn the trust of their employers. The trust they earn is a trust also earned for their country,” Soriano stated. At this point, domestic workers comprise over 30 percent of properly documented deployments. To this must be added the illegal and human trafficked departures. Earlier this year, a law was passed that bans the deployment of OFWs to countries that do not have laws protecting migrant workers. Lito Soriano has expressed alarm on the effect of this ban. Following is an interview with Lito Soriano to have better understanding of Republic Act 10022. OpinYon: Can you tell us about RA 10022. Lito Soriano: RA 10022 is an act amending RA 8042, the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995. Basically, the amendments aim to enhance the protection of Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs. These include Sec. 3 stating that a host country should have existing laws, protecting the rights of migrant workers, a signatory to and / or a ratifier or multilateral conventions, declarations or resolutions in relation to the protection of workers and migrant workers, and have concluded a bilateral agreement with the government on the protection of the rights of OFWs.
By REA Ann sAntos
The ban on deployment to non-compliant countries will cause an alarming increase in the number of unemployed workers. These prospective OFWs have no other option but to seek jobs here. Since unemployment rate is ballooning, returning OFWs will become jobless, as well.
As a result, only a few nations are likely to meet the criteria mentioned and most of those which will be certified as acceptable are highly developed countries, thus, the Middle East, North African nations, and a number of job destinations in Asia that account for 70 percent of all land based deployments are unlikely to meet the requirements. This now will definitely affect OFWs as they will lose their jobs. The government has also amended the section on penalties and fines. There is now an increase in penalties. If a person is found guilty of illegal recruitment, the [recruitment] agency is also liable. Ngayon kahit hindi ikaw ang nagpapatakbo ng kumpanya, at shareholder ka lang, pwede kang isama sa charge at pwede kang makulong. A person will now suffer 12 to 20 years of imprisonment and fines are increased up to P1 to P2 million depending on the gravity of the case. Also, failure to submit reports is now a criminal offense. OpinYon: How will the law impact the families of OFWs? Lito Soriano: The ban on deployment to non-compliant countries will cause an alarming increase in the number of unemployed workers. These prospective OFWs have no other option but to seek jobs here. Since unemployment rate is ballooning, returning OFWs will become jobless, as well. OpinYon: What prompted the government to pass the law? Lito Soriano: RA 10022 embodies past governments’ responses to seek greater protections for OFWs. The paswho will complain of exploitation, maltreatment, illegal dismissal? Lito Soriano: The government has not crafted any provision to cover cases such as this in the implementing rules and regulation of RA 10022. Ironically, the law which is supposed to protect the migrant workers will invite more problems and issues concerning both compliant and non-compliant countries. OpinYon: Will the law affect the existence of recruitment agencies in the country considering the fact that there will be a decrease in number of OFW deployment? Lito Soriano: Yes, this will impact the recruitment agencies as we expect lower number of overseas employment opportunities and limited countries for job destinations. The government, however, has not expressed any initiative to respond to the issue on the existence of recruitment agencies. Other labor exporting countries exert huge efforts to replace Filipinos as the preferred workers of host countries. OpinYon: How do you feel as an agency owner, do you think the government treats you fairly as a partner of the OFWs? Lito Soriano: The government appears to be unjust in the creation of this law, not only for recruitment agencies but also for OFWs and their family as well. The government has positioned recruitment agencies as illegal even when these are operating inside the law. Sadly, it is ambivalent with respect to migration even when it uses remittances in recognizing economic sustainability and growth.
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By RAy JuniA
the only opinion Paper, We Take a STand
the paper to every next issue. This inspiration comes from our believing in what we are doing. Believing in our vision and advocacies. Believing on what the paper stands for. OPINYON is a newsmagazine that takes a stand on issues of national concern. While it is serious in most parts, we have a light read in Margie Holmes, Behn Cervantes, Marivic del Pilar, and others. I have received reports that some parties accuse OPINYON to be an opposition paper. I wish to disabuse their minds. OPINYON is not partisan. But it takes a stand on issues and explains its position. In doing so, it politicizes economic stories and gives economic perspectives to political stories. It has been accused of being the tabloid paper in the business community. Of that we plead guilty. We give color to an otherwise dull economic story. We have gathered top minds who share their opinion on public and even private concerns. That’s why the name of the paper is OPINYON. That is why Linggoy and the rest of the writers and staff of OPINYON are proud of being part of the country’s only opinion paper.
Last Monday Linggoy Alcuaz dropped by the office as he usually does to pick up his copies of OPINYON. That Monday he found time for a short chat. He explained his inspirations for writing his column; like they are results of talks with persons of trust, some in his family. He wants to write what people think of situations. But he is more inspired at how lately people who frequent media forums look forward to getting a copy of the opinion paper. That Linggoy is inspired is not strange in the editorial room. We all are. We are inspired by the calls for subscription, the stories contributed even by students, the experts who guide us in our stand on issues. We are most inspired by the volunteerism that has moved
A Loose Cannon
At the rate he’s pursuing new ventures at a fast clip, businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan or MVP for short may well be likened to a loose cannon. From telecoms to power and tollways, he’s now zeroing in on the commuter train business by snapping up a sizeable stake in private sector-led Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC). How MVP, whose sneaky entry into power retailer Meralco triggered an unprecedented surge in power rates, would temper MRT‘s governmentpegged fares is a US$64 question that can’t be left entirely to a laissez faire philosophy. While MRT is mainly a business proposition – a veritable profit center --it is vested too with public interests as it caters to mass commuters, many of them daily wage earners. Like Meralco and other public utilities, what’s emerging in the MRT case scenario is a potential clash of intrinsic values, pitting the government’s social stabilization agenda against the private investors’ obsession for return on equity and capital investments – in short, profits. Basically, MRT is a mass-based transport system crisscrossing the key parts of Metro Manila. Though government-owned, MRT is being run by a private consortium on a 25-year build-operatetransfer scheme. Over the past years, MRT fares had been heavily subsidized by the government as part of its socialized pricing policy. Lately, the cash-strapped government felt it could no longer bear the burden of a costly subsidy. Its plan to jack up the fares, however, has sparked a mounting public outcry. Roping in new moneyed investors like MVP is one decisive way out of the government’s current impasse over the planned fare increases. At least, it is hoped that with the financial risks spread out among the stakeholders, both in government and private sectors, the fares will remain stable. Still, the key challenge is how to strike an acceptable and fair balance between the government’s social concerns and the private investors’ profit considerations. Any miscalculation is potentially disconcerting which, given the Filipinos’ temperament, can ultimately lead to a social, political and economic upheaval.
San Miguel fund-raising sparks alarm bells
It may not admit it, but San Miguel Corp. (SMC) may be reeling from its costly diversification to heavy industries.
Its massive fund-raising exercises had triggered alarm bells among stock analysts, especially those tracking big cap issues such as SMC. Next year, SMC will float an unprecedented US$3 billion worth of shares in the equities market as part of its capital buildup to finance its entry to mining, power generation, tollways and other “big ticket” infrastructure projects. Whether the market can absorb SMC’s huge funding requirements is a perplexing question that has left most analysts gasping for breath. The equities market may be highly liquid, given the current inflow of so-called “hot money” from bullish foreign funds that pushed the bellwether stock index to record highs over the past weeks. Whether or not the market can sustain its bull run until next year remains to be seen, given that share trading is a feast-and-famine, boom-andbust cycle. ernment. As some wisecracks say, the taste of pudding is in the eating. Only later years of P-noy would probably bear out the naked truth or barefaced lie of his grandiose promises. •••••• Speculations are rife that the recent travel warning issued by the United States was meant to pressure the Aquino government to refrain from messing up with Visiting Forces Agreement which allows American troops to hold their annual “war games” on Philippine soil. While P-noy quickly reacted to the terrorism-related advisory as a deterrent to flow of foreign tourists and investments to the Philippines, the realities on the ground seem unperturbed. Last week’s Manila visit of former US president Bill Clinton for a speaking engagement was the best argument against Washington’s adverse travel advisory. Even tourist spots such as Boracay and Palawan reported a brisk traffic of fun-loving foreign tourists.
Ryan & Allen
Moreover, there are creeping doubts about the financial viability of SMC’s ambitious and strategic forays in such areas as mining, energy and tollways where profitability remains uncertain. •••••• P-noy, sounding too utopian, must be referring to another government when he assured prospective investors in infrastructure of a hasslefree bureaucracy. He’s barely five months in office and making promises this early is too presumptuous for a president who has barely scratched the surface in reforming a red tape-plagued, inefficient and corrupt gov-
When everyone grows up, time changes. Things in our life seemed like it just began yesterday. Like 2 years ago you had a successful job with a business, but now it felt like it was just yesterday that it happened. Another example is that in the old days, the pictures were black and white, but now they are colorful. Time changes everyday. Do you agree?
Micka J. Yngson is a twelve-year old, sixth grade student at The Learning Child in Ayala, Alabang. Asked what she wants to be, she says she wants to be a writer. But even that changes everyday, she says. This space is for contributions from young mind, even kids.
RAY L. JUNIA Publisher
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DAVID S. CAGAHASTIAN News Editor RICARDO G. VELARDE Art Director Atty. RICKY M. RIBO Legal Counsel
NESTOR L. ABREMATEA Vis-Min News Bureau Chief EROS ARBILON Online Editor
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Simply sucking us dead
trading and transmission companies. It started with the Meralco’s 60% increase in profits from September last year of P 7-B to its target of P 11-B which it said it would even surpass. A week later we highlighted the Aboitiz Equity Venture’s 187% surge in its net income to P 16.8-B of which 80% came from its power generation operations, including the bargain prices for which it bought two power barges from Napocor and overpriced by 300% to the ERC as basis for its power rates for electricity from those two same power barges. The, last week we highlighted the WESM (Wholesale Electric-
Our OpinYon column the past weeks has focused on the skyrocketing rate increases and leapfrogging net incomes of the power generation, distribution,
Consumer pain, utility gain in system loss
“Meralco trims system loss to record 7.8%”, said the business banner of a morning broadsheet. Wow!
Here is the real deal in system loss. While Meralco claims its system loss has been trimmed to 7.8% from the mandated 9.5% ceiling, the ceiling in other countries have been much lower. In the United States, the ceiling was already at 6.5% three years ago, and could be significantly lower now. System Loss, from a technical point, is natural heat loss in the conveyance of power from the source to the end-user. From the point of a pampered, favored and spoiled utility, it is simply the difference between the power purchased and power sold, regardless of whether the loss is racked up from reckless inefficiency or imprudent management of the system or from the normal course of operations. Let’s do the numbers on the latest Meralco brag in utility management. The 7.8% system loss is computed based on the combined cost of generation, transmission, and distribution. What is the implication of this? The net effect is that Meralco’s system loss is bloated by as much as 70% when we take into account that the combined generation and transmission cost could account for 70% of the total cost. Why do we say that?
generated the gargantuan increase of its profits: “… earnings growth was delivered by EDC coming mainly from the increased contribution of the plants that it acquired last year. We are fortunate that these developments are aided by the positive sentiment and growth in our economy today,” according to First Gen president Giles Puno. So, a national patrimony which gave very cheap electricity is privatized so prices can be jacked up just to profit one family (and its foreign partners behind the scene). The profit upwelling for the four privatized power operations cited here brings the sum total of the additional burden on the Filipino power consumers from Luzon to Mindanao to P 28.766-Billion. This sum wouldn’t have been added to our electricity bills if there had never been privatization inflicted on our power industry. This is P 28.766-Billion less money for the pockets of Filipinos who would otherwise have spent it on other needs and consumables, from food to medical care, to education and entertainment, to clothes and transportation costs, to several more visits to the mall and trips to provincial relations or a trip to the beaches to spread a little more money in the rural areas. The privatization of our power generation, transmission, trading and distribution industry is not just sucking us dry, it is sucking us dead. Consumers have only one choice – fight back. How? Stay tuned to our reports.
Butch L. Junia
There can be no system loss in generation for the simple reason that this is where electricity is produced, before it is conveyed or transmitted to the distribution utilities, and therefore there can be no heat-loss. Transmission, on the other hand, has its own imbedded system loss, so that any collection of Meralco on top of that bill is double- over- billing. Given the technical definition of system loss as wire loss, it should be imputed to the distribution cost only, excluding even the supply and metering charges as non-wire services. We took a sample bill of about 165 Kwh with a system loss charge of P 107.75, based on Meralco’s way of computing system loss. The generation charge on this account was P892.00; transmission P158.00; distribution P333.00. We did the right way of computing system loss, applying the 7.8% factor to the distribution charge ofP333.00 only, and the
So, a national patrimony which gave very cheap electricity is privatized so prices can be jacked up just to profit one family (and its foreign partners behind the scene).
ity Spot Market) petition for a rate increase for electricity transacted through its trading floor to the power distribution networks; upon which we concluded that the profiteering: “.. it just goes on and on, keeping our power rate the highest ever in Asia. This week brought us a new shock report of the oligarchs’ profiteering, the Lopez family owned First Gen Corporation reported a net income of $ 66.5-Million or P 2.8-Billion from $ 7-M or P 301-M in just nine months. First Gen said its Energy Development Corporation (EDC), the Napocor geothermal company privatized by its government appointed president Paul Aquino who then joined the private EDC as CEO (so much for the ethics of the Aquinos),
system loss should only be P 26.04, not P107.75. This is an over-charge of P 81.70, and this is only for one customer in the lower consumption level. In effect, the P 107.75 system loss charge of Meralco if applied to distribution only is 32.26%, not 7.8%. Moreover, in its latest filing for rate increase, Meralco booked as operating expense hundreds of millions of pesos in the so-called own-use electricity which was previously charged as system loss. With the change in the booking of this account, Meralco’s system loss has been trimmed further. We still pay for the own-use electricity under a different item, making Meralco look more efficient than it actually is. When you see the Meralco Christmas Tree brightening up Ortigas and Meralco Avenues, you can be sure that you are still paying for those lights, even if it now comes from one of your pockets instead of the other. So, next time Meralco makes those loud claims of efficiency gains, look at the fine print. There could be more to it than what they say. Apologies. There was a copy reading lapse in our last column. The title should have been “Hearing with a Heart.” An extra ‘t’ strayed into the head, changing it to ‘Hearting’. Like that winning ad said, we will try harder. l Email firstname.lastname@example.org for comments, suggestions and concerns.
P1 B Capital fund for Small and Medium Scale IT Start Up Companies – Legarda
Senator Loren Legarda proposes the creation of an IT venture capital fund for small to medium-scale IT start-up companies in order to encourage more Filipinos to venture into the very dynamic industry of information technology. “There is a need to widen the participation of the poor in the IT sector, particularly through entrepreneurial activities. The proposed fund, which amounts to P1 billion, shall be administered by the Department of Science and Technology.” Legarda filed Senate Bill No. 1407 - AN ACT TO ACCELERATE THE DEVELOPMENT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY START-UP COMPANIES BY PROVIDING AN IT VENTURE CAPITAL FUND - to assist entrepreneurs and likewise provide incentives for the proliferation of IT-related businesses throughout the country, thereby increasing connectivity, particularly in underserved areas. “Such measure will allow the IT industry to penetrate even the grass roots level, thereby making IT services accessible to the marginalized poor. “ “In the year 2009, the Philippines ranked 47th out of 66 countries in the Information Technology (IT) Industry Competitiveness Index in a study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit. While the same study notes that the Philippines has a generally favorable business environment, there were weaknesses and inefficiencies in the IT sector that need to be addressed in order to improve its standing.” “Resident doctors are the main workforce in hospitals and as such, they are sometimes on duty for three straight days, during which meals and sleep are missed. Surely, these dismal conditions make raising a family and living decently a very difficult endeavor for Filipino doctors in the country.“
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Maynilad’s dramatic water rate increases
We present here in Part 1 historical data from 2007-08 to show past unfair water rate increases of Maynilad.
On November 28 and December 4, 2007, Maynilad conducted public hearings, which were required before the MWSS could approve its new water rate increase for the next five years effective January 2009. The hearing was considered by attending consumers a circus because Maynilad never gave a satisfactory explanation for the dramatic rate increases. The increase for Manila Water was effective last January 2008. Maynilad was asking for a rate increase of P10.96 per cubic meter or 40% without revealing the data to justify it. The table below reveals the dramatic jump in rates. When Maynilad won the concession in 1997, the existing rate was P4.96 per cubic meter, according to the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC). Maynilad
Aug 97 Jan 99 Basic Rate 35.28 Others Total 45.36 80.64 39.75 46.30 86.05
Total Others Basic Rate
P-Noy’s wasted AquinoCojuangco inheritance
We have had fifteen luckiest Filipinos since we first had a national president. As ERAP puts it-“the Presidency is Destiny!”
The fifteen are Emilio Aguinaldo, Manuel Quezon, Jose P. Laurel, Sergio Osmena, Sr., Manuel Roxas, Elpidio Quirino, Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., Carlos P. Garcia, Diosdado Macapagal, Jr., Ferdinand E. Marcos, Cory C. Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph E. Estrada, Gloria M. Arroyo and Benigno C. Aquino III. Among the fifteen of them, the luckiest of the luckiest is P Noy. Among all of them, P Noy recved the biggest inheritance from his parents. We don’t mean the biggest in terms of material wealth. What we mean is that he among the fifteen inherited the biggest legacy from both his parentsNinoy and Cory. We hardly know who the parents of the others are except for Gloria Arroyo (President Diosdado), Ferdinand (Assemblyman Mariano), Fidel (DFA Secretary Narciso) and Erap (Engineer Ejercito). We only know that Laurel, Osmena andRoxas came from aristocratic families in Batangas, Cebu and Capiz. Aguinaldo, Quirinoand Garcia came from Cavite, Ilocos Sur and Bohol and belonged to not so badly of families. Magsaysay was painted by the CIA to have just been a mechanic. Dadong was a real poor boy from Lubao, Pampanga. Quezon was born out of wedlock. Cory came from two distinguished political families-the Cojuangcos of TarTreasury. On the other side, P Noy’s grandfather, Benigno Aquino Sr. was the second highest ranking national level Japanese Collaborator. He was the Secretary of the Interior in the Laurel Puppet Government. But while Jose P Laurel is perceived in our history of the Japanese Occupation as the Good Collaborator, Aquino was considered the Bad Collaborator. And so, official Philippine History includes Laurel in the Roster of our Presidents. Aquino, as the Secretary of the Interior, was in charge of the Puppet Philippine Constabulary as well as of the local police. He was the organizer and leader of the KALIBAPI, the pro Japanese Civil Society of the Occupation period. We believe that it was the sins of their ancestors that made both Marcos and Aquino excel. In the case of Ferdinand, he had also been charged, convicted and finally acquitted of the murder of his father’s rival, Assemblyman Nalundasan. However, the greatness of their fathers were not shared in full by the sons Bongbong and Noynoy. In Noynoy’s case, the reverse happened. Oftentimes, male children of a great father suffer from comparison and expectations that they cannot cope with. Daughters are hardly affected. When the male is the eldest son or the only son, the negative effects are worst. Ninoynaangtatay, Cory pa angnanay at may Cris pang bunsong kapatid!Wow! It was too much for Noynoy. turn to page 11
Bernardo V. Lopez
reveals that the rate was a staggering P334.87 by January 2007. This is a scandalous increase of about times 56 or 5,600%. Even if we consider Maynilad’s report of a rate of P80.64 in August 1997, this is still a huge increase of times three or 315%. The table below in pesos per cubic meter for those consuming more than 30 cubic meters a month says it all.
Jan 03 153.31 70.15 Jan 04 74.28 Jan 05 89.69 Jan 06 92.59 Jan 07 242.22 92.65 334.87 158.56 212.58 227.70 232.84 302.27 320.29
yeSterday, tOday & tOMOrrOW
lac and the Sumulongs of Rizal. With respect to their parent’s pedigree, P Noy beats them all. P-Noy is the son of our youngest ever Senator, National Hero and Martyr Ninoy and Saint and President Cory. Now, let us pause a while in our analysis of the present President, as well as our comparison of the fifteen luckiest Filipinos, and take a look at their ancestors. Quezon had a Spanish Friar for an ancestor. Marcos’s father was alleged to have been a low level Japanese collaborator. According to former National Archives Director Ricardo Manapat, the Cojuangcos had a grandaunt who was the love of Gen Antonio Luna and the custodian of the jewels of the Revolutionary Government. According to Ric, who was “Smart Piles” Publisher, Editor and Researcher in the early nineties, and who died on Dec 24, 2008, when Gen Luna was assassinated in Nueva Ecija, the Cojuangco clan of Tarlac inherited a big portion of the
Jan 00 Jan 01 Jan 02 41.95 46.76 88.71 44.88 47.37 92.25 68.38 93.35
Source – Maynilad Business Plan 2007
Note that ‘others’ does not move so much, increasing by about 100% from 1997 to 2007, but the basic rate is soaring to the high heavens, increasing by about about 700%. How did the rate get so high in such a short time? First are a series of allowance for foreign exchange losses, which simply means, every time the peso degrades against the dollar, the increasing dollar loans are charged to consumers. The ‘forex’ allowances are redundant and compounding. There was the original Currency Exchange Rate Adjustment (CERA) of one peso per cubic meter, the Foreign Currency Differential Adjustment (FCDA), which was P4.07 per cubic meter at a certain time, according to FDC reports, the Accelerated Extraordinary Price Adjustment (AEPA), and the Special Transitory Mechanism (STM). These are all charged to consumers and they were secret amendments to the concessionaire’s contract, ‘secret’ in the sense that there were no public consultations to present these increases. Because they are ‘secret’, they can be questioned in court and be the subject of refunds, like what is happening right now to Meralco’s illegal charges to consumers. In the latest public consultations, Maynilad had no answer to why these were done without consultation. No one has challenged in court the right of utilities to pass on foreign exchange losses to consumers. Consumer advocates argue that the risk of
dollar loans is the burden of the utility firm as investor, not the consumer. Another reason for the dramatic rate increases is secret capital expenditures, again secret because they never revealed to the public the breakdown and details for these capital expenditures. Capital expenditures refer to maintenance and expansion projects. Because there is no breakdown, we do not know if these are bloated or if they are projects which have nothing to do with water service. Remember Meralco charged their sports complex to consumers. This was kept secret for a long time and discovered only many months after. Asked during the public consultations why they did not reveal these capital expenditure breakdowns, instead of answering the questions, they just promised to do so, which they did not do, similar to their empty promises in the past. Only a congressional or judicial subpoena can make Maynilad reveal its capital expenditures. The table below shows the planned capital expenditures of Maynilad for 2008 to 2012 in millions of pesos, whose details or breakdown have never been revealed. Only five of the 15-year depreciation period is given here. Note the sudden rise of 33% from 2008 to 2009. To be continued l For comments, write to email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Another terror storm on the horizon
“If we understand the mechanism and the motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it?”
(Taken from the book Propaganda by Edward Bernays who is considered as the Father of Public Relations) The discovered bomb packages from Yemen to Chicago could be considered a failure. For they did not serve the intention of destroying the aircraft where they were found; nor did they reach its destination. The alleged sender of the packages as reported is the “al Qaeda” in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)-“brand name” that is always conveniently used by its creator whenever there’s a need. It is no different with the Philippine setting of using the ASG-Abu Sayyaf Group, NPA-New People’s Army, ABB- Alex Boncayao Brigade and now JI-Jemaah Islamiyah, etc. as the usual suspect. The pattern is easy to comprehend especially if the information is coming from the usual operators who are “experts” in fearmongering. Unfortunately, the intention to sow fear and tension among the American populace and the rest of the world was achieved by the operator(s) of the failed bomb plot because of their assets in the media who readily leaked the myth without validating the story.. For those who are aware of such action, one can clearly
Erick San Juan
2008 Real cost of Capital Expenditure
Source - FDC
identify this as a false flag operation covert operations conducted by a clique in governments, corporations, or other organizations which are designed to appear as though they were carried out by other entities. Clearly the entity here is no less than the AQAP who many believed was a creation of an intelligence agency and state sponsored. To name a few of the false flag operations that happened in contemporary history: Reichstag Fire (1933), Operation AJAX (1953), Operation Gladio (1947-1981), Gulf of Tonkin Incident (1964), Operation Northwoods, the London bombing (2007) and the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center bombing. For every act of terror, one cannot help but ask the nagging question who benefits? Remember the failed underwear bomber plot from last year? The plot is being played
to the hilt on the TV media and especially on Fox “news.” After reading recently that The Washington Post allowed a lobbyist to write a news story that preached the lobbyist’s interest, I wondered if the manufacturers of full body scanners were behind the heavy coverage of the Underwear Bomber, if not behind the plot itself. In America, everything is for sale. Integrity is gone with the wind. (Is Anyone Telling Us The Truth? by Paul Craig Roberts, January 07, 2010) Obviously, some governments use fear to control its citizenry and in the process the citizens surrender their rights in the name of security. In the case of the former US President George W. Bush, he benefited from the 9/11 terror attack in several ways. The Indict Bush Now came out with this report of how Dubya Bush gained from 9/11 : 1) Bush got to implement the PATRIOT Act, which gave him an extraordinary amount of personal control by fiat over the country’s society, commerce and economy, 2) Bush’s War on Terror scared people into re-electing him for a second term, 3) the demolition of WTC7, which was executed under cover of the attacks, meant that records supporting the SEC’s case against Enron, which Bush’s longstanding friendship with Enron CEO Ken Lay left him susceptible to, was in an instant, vaporized. These are just some of the turn to page 11
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Amicus curiae 1
With the decision of Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz increasing the separation package but affirming an earlier ruling that threw out the notice of strike and disposed in favor of management the issues raised by the union, the only chance left to win back the case in favor of the workers is to challenge the decision at the Court of Appeals all the way to the Supreme Court. It is just as well that the long drawn labor dispute between PALEA-TUCP and PAL will have to be resolved by the courts and not by a strike, a call for revolution, blame throwing or a presidential intervention. None of these options are feasible or advisable at the moment. The interest of the riding public is just as paramount as that of the workers, the owners and the government authorities. Sadly, there is no other reasonable way. Sadder even is the possibility that a third party resolution may not satisfy the workers at all. Confronted by this situation, as in the case of the Hacienda Luisita farm workers or the rebellion charges against Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, it may be inviting for the parties to exert all efforts to strike a win-win solution before the judicial gavel strikes down a law, a busi-
The dispute between the Philippine Airlines Employees Association-TUCP (PALEATUCP) and the management of the country’s biggest passenger aircraft carrier will now be fought in a court of law. Or so, it seems.
POEA employees, now insurance agents
Officials of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), as displayed by a huge tarpaulin poster at the lobby of its Ortigas office abhor fixers.
“No Fixers Allowed”, the poster strongly relays the message to those wanting to earn quick money at the POEA. A good move by POEA officials to cleanse its premises of unwanted and exploitative fixers who may have victimized countless overseas job applicants of hundreds of thousands of pesos. But how about its employees who are now practically selling the compulsory insurance coverage to agency-hired migrant workers? Should they not be banned, reprimanded, suspended or even fired for conflict of interest as well? Are they not also trying to earn quick money through illegal means? Under the country’s insurance Law, only licensed insurance agents are allowed to offer and sell insurance products. But, at the POEA, with its captive market of recruitment agencies, some of its employees are now acting as virtual insurance agents. Only on its second week of implementation the compulsory insurance coverage program for agency-hired workers took effect last November 8, 2010- this writer has already learned of recruitment agency owners and Liaison Officers getting their insurance requirements through POEA employees/officials, either through referrals or in some other ways. There is obviously conflict of interest here since the POEA is the government’s
tHe MIGraNt WOrKer
regulatory agency in the overseas manpower placement industry. And because POEA employees/officials facilitate and process the deployment and licensing requirements of recruitment agencies they exercise influence over them. Thus, this will not level the playing field for the other players in the industry.
There is a growing consensus that trade unions must unite and do all they can to win the case that the PAL union is fighting for: against contractualization masquerading as legitimate outsourcing
ness practice or a solomonic presidential discretion. The last time PALEA brought a case on the same issues in 1998, it lost. It then paved the way for the spinoff of the maintenance and engineering division of PAL into what is now Lufthansa Technik Philippines. That loss also ushered in the era of “CBA moratorium” that Gerry Rivera, then vice-president and now, PALEA president, questoned before the Supreme Court but again lost. There is a growing consensus that trade unions must unite and do all they can to win the case that the PAL union is fighting for: against contractualization masquerading as legitimate outsourcing. The fear is that, should PALEA fails to convince the Court of Appeals and the
Supreme Court this time, outsourcing as management puts it, or contractualization as the workers see it, will become the rule instead of the exception in employment relations. The era of unbridled outsourcing-cum contractualization will have been formalized and legalized in a big way. The fear therefore, is real and frightening for the trade union movement. Ironically, the only way the trade unions can prevent this from happening is to eschew the same route taken by PALEA in 1998 when they lost the case. Lawyers will tell us that the chances of winning a lost case using the same old arguments are not encouraging. This is like fighting the present war by using the strategies and weapons of the last war. One can pursue the PALEA-PAL dispute from another angle, from a different perspective. It is to this window that the gaze of the courts must be directed. Let PALEA enter the front door; let those who want to help win the case take the backdoor. This way, all doors and windows will be adequately covered. Let the case be argued from a higher plane, from the vantage point of appropriate public policy, from the transcendental purview of the mandate of the Constitution itself. Raise the fact of “hire and fire” as nothing but the fruit of a poisonous tree called “liberalization.” PAL made clear its intention to terminate 2,600 employees. They also said that they will persuade the third party service provider to absorb the laid off employees. This honest confession could turn the tables against PAL given a stricter interpretation of our laws on sub-contracting involving jobs of regular employees who are members of a union. Extend the argument a little further, and argue that “privatization” in the case of PAL, a national airline, a national treasure and a public carrier was flawed and is repugnant to the public interest clause of the Constitution. Why, Manila Hotel could not be so easily sold because it partakes of our national patrimony, so said the Supreme Court. To be continued
success and assure payments on future claims. Recruitment agency owners must bear in mind that the new compulsory insurance program for agency-hired workers was designed not only to protect the workers, but recruitment agencies as well. They must be prudent in choosing the insurance companies they deal with and fully understand the features of the insurance product they are getting. Are they getting their insurance requirements for their workers from a licensed insurance agent? Are they getting a group or individual insurance policy for their workers? If it is through a group insurance, have they been provided with the master policy of the group insurance? These are just some of the questions recruitment agency owners must ask their agents, if only to avoid future problems in claiming
Under the country’s insurance Law, only licensed insurance agents are allowed to offer and sell insurance products.
As I have said in my last column, the compulsory insurance program for agency-hired migrant workers is the best thing that ever happened to OFWs. With its comprehensive coverage, OFWs can now have peace of mind. However, because of the magnitude of the market and business in the compulsory insurance program for migrant workers, strong monitoring and regulation of insurance laws must be established and enforced, if only to ensure its benefits. At US$ 144.00 premium for a two year policy contract for each of the over one (1) million OFWs deployed by recruitment agencies each year, this is a seven billion business which are currently enjoyed by only five (5) insurance companies accredited by the Insurance Commission of the Philippines for the program. Under the program, the cost for the workers’ insurance shall not be charged to the OFWs. Recruitment agencies or employers shall pay for it.
Gov’t plans for Pocket Open Skies
By ViC BERt siA Philippine aviation industry is set to crash land as Malacañang is preparing an executive order to implement a “pocket open-skies ”. During the Infrastructure Summit at the Marriott Hotel last November 18, President Aquino addressed the participants that he would put a “teeth” to Executive Order 219 that established the domestic and international civil aviation liberty. Aquino said that “what remains to be done is putting teeth to existing policy.” He added that the government will pursue a full implementation of EO 219 in international aviation. EO 219 had only been applied to domestic aviation. He also mentioned that the national development “requires promoting an open and competitive international aviation sector that enables Philippine and foreign air carriers to expand their operations, maintain a strong Philippine-based aviation industry...” Aquino said in an interview that it will start first with what they called pocket open skies. In 2007, Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific Air, Air Philippines, Asian Spirit and Pacific East Asia Cargo Airlines banded together to oppose the plans by the Arroyo administration to grant foreign airlines full access to our two international airports. The group emphasized that the Philippines’ skies is part of our sovereign territory and national patrimony therefore flight entitlements by foreign carriers must be evaluated on the basis of reciprocity, the welfare of the local aviation industry and national interest. Just this year, PAL, the country’s official flag carrier, was plagued with numerous setbacks caused by the stiff competition and labor woes. In January, PAL was downgraded to Category 1 from Category 2 by the United States Federal Aviation Administration due to their declaration of Philippines as an unsafe port of origin. In August, PAL workers staged a strike due to scrapped flights and its plans to outsource some of its departments. If the Philippines will open its skies freely for foreign airlines it would put P150 billion in investment and 15,000 jobs at risk. It will create a surge of foreign competitions which makes the aviation industry in the Philippines even tougher than it is now. The airlines would have to either cut jobs or close the establishment entirely. During the summit however, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said the EO for the pocket open-skies policy is still being drafted. He said that the issue is very sensitive that they have to be very careful in structuring the order. The government seems to believe in the old saying, “the more, the merrier”. However, it won’t be merry at all if the Philippine skies will open to foreign airlines, even though if it’s just pocket-sized.
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Pilipinas Kay Ganda
Yesterday our Department of Tourism launched it’s new PR Campaign for our country. The slogan was “PILIPINAS KAY GANDA”.
Hours after the new slogan was launched, there have been a landslide of criticisms attacking the very slogan used. Why is it in Tagalog? How do those two words depict our country? Etc. The DOT also launched it’s Pilipinas Kay Ganda website which was pulled out hours later because the website is said to have been hacked because when one clicks it, one is transferred to a porn site. Having said all these I no longer want to focus and join in the bickering and criticism. That is their problem. Instead I want to share one destination in the Philippines which exemplifies something truly beautiful in the Philippines. I am talking about Batanes. Very few have visited these northern islands. Some are scared of going there because they hear there are very few
traVeLLING IS My LIFe
Marivic Del Pilar
flights and fear getting stranded in case strong rains hit the islands. For the few who were brave, we have just seen and experienced one of the most beautiful places the Philippines has been keeping for all these years. I would liken Batanes to a very young woman, kept inside the house by her parents. But once you catch sigh of her, you will forever be entranced and in love with her beauty. I experienced this beauty from
Day 7 Sept 19 Sun Reflection I inhale love to exhale hate I inhale encouragement to exhale discouragement I inhale positivity to exhale negativity I inhale peace to exhale anger I inhale generosity to exhale greediness I inhale compassion to exhale selfishness I inhale hardwork to exhale laziness I inhale creativity to exhale dullness I inhale divine providence so I can be abundant I inhale mental growth so I can do mentorship I inhale emotional intelligence so I can understand more I inhale spiritual intelligence so I can be closer to my Creator I inhale blessing so I can bless others I inhale miracles so I can be one I inhale love so I can be loved I inhale Jesus Christ I am always up at 4 am, no mater what time I sleep in the evening. This is the time God talks to me, because I am still brain dead, no thoughts but just do silent worship. 5am will start to update and edit this travel blog. Birds start to chirp, dawn has set. While having a lovely breakfast, daing from Maitum, warm rice, coffee, vegetable omelet, beach front, wonderful meal, the mosquitoes are having us for breakfast also. I wonder if they have malaria or dengue there. There is a Holy Eucharist at 8am in local dialect, I joined anyway even though I don’t understand it, but can surely follow the pattern of ceremony. While Maricar goes snorkeling again. The Dive boat picked us 9:30am, met Maeng, set up my own gear. Met divers from Taiwan, Malaysia, Germany, Korea, Canada, China, and Japan. Mixed divers, photographers, intros, openwaters and advance group. Drift dove behind Samal Island twice. Practice spotting for critters, thou I don’t have my dive camera yet, but dream of having one soon. I also practiced my kicking skills and stationary potions for photo opps. Maricar had her intro dive and I think will get hooked also, she used the other tanks that was given
the moment the plane landed in Batanes. Their airport is unpretentious. It blends with their environment and their culture. Its simplicity is what makes it beautiful. Our hotel was not fantastic, however, this did not matter because when in Batanes, one stays outdoors for most of the day. All the people in the island were warm and open to tourists. We could knock on the doors of any house in their heritage village and we were allowed to enter and their way of life was explained to us. The scenery in Batanes is phenomenal. No wonder photography enthusiasts frequent the place. When I was there, I felt like I was in the Swiss Alps. As I walked and hiked the hills, I did not feel like I was in the Philippines. Batanes has an ambience that is romantic and relaxing. This was where I realized that the saying, “there is no place like home,” is very true. To travel is to feel the beauty of the world around us. It is when I travel that I feel fully alive and inspired. Life is beautiful. Pilipinas kay ganda!
up by the introdivers because of fright, and she stayed longer like a pro. On our way back, I had a great conversation with a Chinese Malaysian married to a Filipina, and learn how to have a happy married life. Chinese guys traditionally keeps the money, but in Filipino culture, all money should be given to the wife. Just imagine the culture and value conflict handled gently and gracefully. I am glad I learn the wisdom from this encounter. After the dive, we got our underwater photos from Maeng and souvenir Tshirt. Hope they join the DOT Accredited Dive Guide Training in Davao first week of December. We checked in at our funny hotel, the entrance are motels both left and right side and at the end of the road is ours. We always have to explain to our taxi drivers, sir there is really a hotel at the of the road, promise. And the drivers will always laugh. Janice Ikeng met us at the Iron Horse w dinner buffet at P99/pax, it is just ok. Sea Foods are really so great. Had coffee and durian Sansrival. We planned our trip next day. I wana try Durian cheese cake, durian halo halo, durian coffee, durian crepe, durian float and more. We board the cab on the way home with expected funny surprise to our taxi driver again. Our hotel do have an elegant lobby and swimming pool, 70s restaurant and wifi. Good enough to spend the night. l Ms. Imperial is a community based ecology tour provider, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) organizer, nature lover and scuba diver
Singapore in Parañaque1
With a mostly middle to high income level population of 65,000 residing within 770 hectares, BF Homes in Paranaque City plays host to a number of unique eating places.
One such place is Food De Sentosa on Aguirre Avenue right across Puregold Jr. One evening, my wife and I had a craving for gado gado. While looking for the Indonesian restaurant in BF Homes that we heard served that salad consisting of steamed and fresh vegetables and potatoes served with a rich peanut buttery sauce, our searching eyes were attracted by the bright lights and eye-catching tarpaulin ad of Food De Sentosa. Its ad proudly announced “NOW AVAILABLE Authentic SINGAPORE SATAY w/ peanut sauce”. We slowed down our car to absorb the words, “w/ peanut sauce”. A hasty conjugal decision was made upon advice by our stomachs that we just really wanted to eat anything with a savory peanut sauce and not necessarily gado gado, and by our brains that we should not be searching for what could be an elusive Indonesian restaurant without a map. Food De Sentosa is a cozy 20 to 30 seat restaurant run by family members led by a Singaporean father who takes care of the cooking and his daughter and son by a Filipina wife. They are assisted by three waitresses dressed to look like the friendly stewardesses of Singapore Airlines. The father claims to be retired and takes his cooking as a serious hobby. According to his daughter, their menu keeps getting better as her father conjures new dishes. using local labuyo, then they must be doing so with extreme caution. Their sambal was perfect with our main course, stingray. It was lathered with a paste made of various pounded spices, wrapped in a banana leaf and barbecued. To complete the authentic Singaporean dining experience, I ordered an iced Tiger beer. Stingrays might be stricken soon from their menu if a bill banning their capture becomes a law. Pompanos would probably be the best near substitute. Or one can just take a low budget plane from Clark to Singapore and enjoy the real thing. My advice on eating stingray is not to eat the head or parts near it. Thinking that the stingray was like most fish with the head as a prized delicacy, I went for it and got punished for my ignorance with a strong burst of what tasted like iodine. A few gulps of Tiger beer quickly brought back the equilibrium in my taste buds. Their dessert choices were rather limited though. But I can’t complain because the charming daughter treated us to their version of fruit gulaman and sticky rice porridge. My wife and I were touched by the hospitality of the family and the sincerity of their food. We promised to come back to try their Claypot Rice which is cooked slowly for close to an hour. We did return the next night but then I will write about that in my next column. Abangan ang susunod na kabanata. l Ramon M. Borromeo is an executive who enjoys cooking occasionally for family and friends. His cooking can be described as ouido in that he cooks what he learns from watching cooking shows on television.
WOOdeN SPOON & FOrKS
Ramon M. Borromeo
For starters, we ordered their roti bread which was accompanied by a curry sauce which had a low spice level that even my wife, who has a low tolerance for tongue-burning food, enjoyed it. Of course we asked for the chicken satay to get our fix of peanut sauce. It must have been very good as I recall only having one bite from one of the four sticks with the rest enjoyed by my wife. We also tried their oyster cake which had a very generous helping of oysters as a filling to its omelet base and as a topping as well. I had my share of their sambal sauce which was mildly spicy and did not overpower the taste of the fresh oysters. Opinyon: Sambal sauce could have become a staple condiment for Filipinos just like patis, toyo or catsup. But our local labuyo is far hotter than its counterparts in Asia. Even my Indonesian friends who like their food spicy find our labuyo too hot. But Food De Sentosa’s sambal sauce tastes the same as the ones I have enjoyed in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. If they are
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Manny’s 8th crown
Manny Pacquiao has most definitely put our nation on the map. If not the geographical map, the former poor boy of Dadiangas has put our grateful country on the boxing map.
The native of General Santos (formerly Dadiangas) is considered ‘pound for pound’ The Best Boxer in the World. That is a credit to the athlete Manny. Our nation judges Pacquiao a national hero. In fact, whenever he has an international fight, the nation stands still. Even crime rates go down while the telecast of his latest fight is watched by an admiring nation. Those who can afford PayPer-View do so in pubs. The rest do it at home or watch the event in neighbors’ sets. Politicians fly to the arena where they have ringside seats. What is the Pork Barrel for? As Manny has become a member of the Lower House himself, some colleagues flew there on Manny’s invitation. What are friends for? We take pride in Manny’s unprecedented 8th world title. I am happy for Manny. I pray Manny counts his many hundreds of millions (pesos) of blessings and considers retiring soon while he is on the top of the variable heap. There are many who were world champions. Now, many are ill and poor. Mohammed Ali is one. Ali was once a gorgeous hunk of man. Ali is a shadow of the Mocha Adonis that he
Jovit Baldevino. If we want rock, there is Arnel Ignacio. They will do very well, thank you. You have duties enough in Congress. You can enjoy the Karaoke but do it in private, please. And, do it with your mom. Aling Dionisia and you can sing, dance and act to your hearts’ content. But, do it in private, please. DO NOT impose yourself on the public. At first, it was cute. It seemed nothing more than a case of bigay hilig, after all. But, now that you do it for real- feeling singer at dancer na talaga -we squirm because you and your dear mom ‘try hard’ to sing, dance or act. We are also most uncomfortable when you mistake English vowels. We thus wonder what the heck were you saying? Fight a couple more times and retire while you are top, Manny. That is best for you. But, please choose your battles. Singing, dancing and acting are NOT three of them! Fighting with your vowels and consonants is a lost battle! By the way, congratulations for defeating the larger and taller Antonio Margarito.
was. Now, he is a trembling, slurring heap of flesh aided by a caregiver and suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. We pray for Manny and hope he does not end up like the once graceful, fast and almost invincible Ali. Manny is now a Congressman. If he studies his regions’ needs and feels for his constituents as he claims, he might surprise cynics about his performance in Congress. However, Manny likewise has an interest in acting and singing. Frankly, he should stop pursuing the last two because he obviously has no talent in those fields. You are pound for pound The Best Boxer in the World. Rest on your laurels and forsake Showbiz. We have Sarah Geronimo and little
Margie Holmes talks about clinical depression
By REA Ann sAntos “Depression is a thief”, says Dr. Holmes. “It takes away your joy, sense of wonder, the taste of your favorite food, even the smell of freshly washed hair.” Margarita Go-Singco Holmes, a certified clinical psychologist and author of best-selling books about gender issues and sexuality comes out with a new series, “Down to 1: Depression Stories”. Her latest book, which took ten years in the making, aims to combat depression and eliminate false notions about depression that a person might have. Filipinos are well-known to be more emotionally resilient as compared to other races. Much has been said about how happy Filipinos are as a nation, despite widespread poverty, natural and man-made catastrophes, political turmoil, and economic challenges. However, this does not mean that they are immune to depression and other mental health issues. A recent study concluded that Filipinos are very emotional people and that they are also prone to depression. Skillfully designed to contextualize clinical depression in the Philippine setting, the book unravels the personal accounts of ten courageous Formerly / Currently Depressed personalities (FCD 10) in the country. Dr. Holmes carefully crafted a comprehensive understanding of what clinical depression really is from a personal perspective through the life stories of the FCD 10. With the help of the FCD 10, the book provides insights as to how depression functions in life and how it affects the life of a Filipino. Thus, compiled personal accounts give hope for the readers who are under a similar condition, that they too, will surpass the difficult circumstances. The honesty in these anecdotes is refreshing, making the book very character-centered. There’s an appeal to emotion when the FCD 10 share information, observations and feelings, down to all the incidental details. “Down to 1: Depression Stories” discusses the link between severe depression and suicide, which could come about among readers who are clinically depressed. The book contains the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association and a research which deals closely with clinical depression. It also has specific sections that allow readers to rate and recognize whether or not they are clinically depressed and hopefully be familiar with the available assistance in store for them. When it seems that all else fails, we need someone to lean on. Fortunately, this book allows us to experience the company of people who are going through the same journey and tapping us to be more mature in dealing with the reality of depression.
We pray for Manny and hope he does not end up like the once graceful, fast and almost invincible Ali.
Questions being raised at the 2010 Cinema One Originals Film Festival awards night
No doubt, the annual Cinema One Originals Film Festival spearheaded by Cinema One, the movie cable channel of ABS-CBN, has given the local film industry the necessary impetus to enliven the art and the business components of the trade.
Since 2005, the Ronald Arguelles-run film arm of the Lopez media conglomerate has produced quite a number of movies which are qualified as commercial and artistic as well. The recently concluded 2010 Cinema One Originals Film Festival awards night, though, has a share of thought-provoking questions being raised by some quarters. One of them is nominations for the best actress category. According to Puloy Cadayona, mom of young actress Ria Garcia who starred in “Ishmael,” no actress, new or veteran, regional or Manila show biz-bred, was nominated to the section, even the lead, titular star in “Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria Kirschbaum” Donna Gimeno, when she is the central figure in the story, after all. Although Cadayona was surprised about the results of the contest, she was very thankful her daughter was chosen to play a pivotal role in a Richard V. Somes masterpiece about an ex-army (Ronnie Lazaro) who killed his wife for adultery, got jailed for years but went out a freeman later but had to save a young kept girl (Garcia) from a false messiah religious cult leader (Mark Gil). Lazaro didn’t attend the awarding ceremonies because he had some very important matters to look into. He was Best Actor winner a couple of years ago when he starred in “Yanggaw,” a folk thriller also directed by debuting Somes. Pen Medina won Best Actor this year for his performance in “Layang Bilanggo,” another fugitive film while Marc Abaya clinched the Best Supporting Actorplum for “Dagim,” a Joaquin Pedro Valdes on a man lost in a strange mountain. Jodi Sta. Maria took home the Best Supporting trophy for her convincing portrayal of a girl revisited by her balikbayan boyfriend in EJ Salcedo’s “Third World Happy.” Michael Angelo Dagnalan, meanwhile, got the Best Direction nod from the jurors for his “Layang Bilanggo” which also won Best Film. •••••• Shorts—1970s popular sexy actress Carmen Ronda succumbed to cardiac arrest due to complications of the ovarian and breast cancers and multiple vital organs malfunction last November 15 at a Davao City hospital. Her body was brought to Manila and will be buried in a still undisclosed time and place…Nora Aunor is set to return home in March next year, according to her only son Ian de Leon…Judy Ann Santos and Ryan Agoncillo’s first born Lucho was baptized at the same time Manny Pacquiao was breaking the nose of Antonio Margarito.
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“We enjoyed naman. Pinuri ni Mark si Ia (Ria’s pet name) on stage. That alone made her so elated. Joel Torre (who was a guest during the awards night) told Ia that same night, ‘I’m a fan.’ Kaya it was more than being nominated and even winning,” said Cadayona in a text message. There were members of the jury, of course, who voted among the virtual bests. “Wala daw nag-qualify for best actress since wala daw bidang girl in any of the movies,” clarified Cadayona. “What about ‘Damgo ni Eleuteria’? The story of ‘Ishmael’ revolves around Agnes na in the end, patay ang lahat ng male leads,” she observed. No, it wasn’t sourgraping. It was just a critical acumen. But the decision of the judges was final for they knew better than any ordinary moviegoer. ••••••
(top) opinyon publisher Ray Junia (extreme right) and editorial staff with Margie holmes (3rd from left) and Jeremy Baer (2nd from left) at the book launching. (Left) holmes merrily signs copies of her new book, Down to 1: Depression stories.
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“Sustainable” is still a big word in the development circles, but it seems that the bigger word “ecological” has overtaken it.
These two words are actually compatible, and are in fact mutually exclusive. By comparison however, “sustainable” seems to be a spent word, because it is already given that it should be done in the first place, whereas “ecological” is still a relatively emerging word that suggests imperative actions that still have to be done. A number of my friends pointed out to me that the correct terminology is “ecological capital” and not “ecology capital”, and I stand corrected. I also stand corrected that ecological capital is not exactly a new concept, except that it has not really gained in popularity. Perhaps what is relatively new is the notion that when combined together as joint assets, ecological capital and social capital could become a powerful resource that could generate a lot of financial capital. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the Debt for Nature Swap (DNS) are the two huge sources of ecological capital that are still relatively untapped by both the national government agencies (NGAs) and the local government units (LGUs). This is really very surprising to note in a country that is hungry for capital, when in fact these two sources of money are already staring at us in the face. Also known as the carbon credits scheme, CDM is quickly becoming very popular worldwide as its mechanics are becoming clearer, and as its manner of applicability is becoming more defined. Essentially designed to reduce the carbon footprints of countries in general, its methods of applicability have gone down to the level of compliant companies, and it is evolving to a point that it is now down to the level of personal carbon footprints. Strictly speaking, the DNS scheme does not really condone our foreign debts, although that is true in a figurative sense. What actually happens is that we will in effect pay for our external debts not in the form of cash, but in the form of ecological capital that we would internally generate,
Largeness of spirit
Her face bears some of the weariness of close to two decades of detention, but it still exudes an uncommon serenity and strength.
Her diminutive sarongwrapped frame belies a quiet, if fierce, dignity, made emblematic by the spray of bright flowers she always plants on pulled-back hair. Upon her persona of feminine courage and moral clarity a whole nation rests its hopes for democracy and a secure future – away from the decades-long nightmare of a junta-ruled country that has made what was once Southeast Asia’s most prosperous country the poorest and most repressed. She is to millions of her countrymen simply called “The Lady.” But to the brutish ruling military junta of Burma, she is everything they are not. She is the biggest threat to their continued rule and singularly represents a people desperately yearning to be free. She is Aung Sang Suu Kyi, only daughter of General Aung San, Burma’s independence hero, who led his country out of British colonial rule but was assassinated not long after Burma gained its independence in 1948. To the world she is the 1991 Nobel Peace Laureate who in 1990 led the National League for Democracy to an unprecedented victory by winning over 90 percent of the seats in national parliament. The junta,
by way of nature related projects. Of course we have to invest money to generate the ecological capital, but the value added we get is very much worth it. “Green communities” is a generic term that applies to buildings and villages. In both cases, the common denominators are the building associations and village associations that are composed of the residents. On a slightly bigger scale, this would apply to barangay councils that are in effect composed also of the residents. All told, buildings, villages and barangays could now go green if their organizations would decide to do so. It is already a forgone conclusion that the funds that are available from the general appropriations act (GAA), the internal revenue allocation (IRA) and the countryside development fund (CDF) sources are not enough to finance the local development projects. Given this reality, it is now time for the NGAs and the LGUs to start tapping the ecological capital sources that are already widely available. Ecological cities or eco-cities are the ways of the future. Many countries have started many years ago to create new cities or to recreate old cities in such a way that these population centers would have very low carbon footprints, while at the same time keeping or raising the standards of living that used to be fed with high carbon resources. The time to act is today, because tomorrow is already too late. If we do not act today, we will be left behind by the countries that already started their ecological moves yesterday. l IKE SENERES is a syndicated columnist, broadcaster, information technology consultant, and television producer. He was formerly Director General of the National Computer Center (NCC).
Dr. Neric Acosta
stunned by a massive display of people power, cancelled the elections and returned the country to the path of a closed society, throwing Suu Kyi and thousands others to jail. In the last 18 years, Suu Kyi had been detained and locked up in her lakeside home in Rangoon, deprived of access to the world, including her own family. She has had no Internet connection, television or contact with her party colleagues. When her husband, British academic Michael Aris, was dying of cancer a few years ago, he and their two sons were barred from visiting Burma to be by her side. To this day Suu Kyi has yet to meet her own grandchildren. This week, however, the world rejoiced in her release from detention. There was celebration to be sure, but cautious optimism as well, considering how the junta
conducted largely fraudulent and sham elections early this month blatantly excluding Suu Kyi’s NLD and guaranteeing 25 percent of parliament seats for the military. Was Suu Kyi’s release conditional, and simply a crude public relations stunt for a ruling junta to create a façade of democratization? Or was this turn of events a hopeful sign, at last, of change for a long-suffering Burma? Only time will tell. In a BBC interview Suu Kyi eloquently spoke of conciliation and peaceful collaboration; asked if she would want the regime to fall, she answered without a hint of rancor and with great charity: “I do not wish to see the military regime fall, but for it to rise to more dignified heights of doing what is best for democracy and the aspirations of the people of Burma.” It was Suu Kyi who had said it most cogently about power, revising Lord Acton’s famous quote, and declaring that in truth “it is not power that corrupts but the fear of losing it.” It is indeed the fear of losing power that drives tyrants to oppress their own people and stand in the way of their nation’s potential. It was fear of losing power that drove a terrified junta to ruthlessly deny the people the democratic mandate they had entrusted to the NLD in 1990. turn to page 11
Our social obligation to Metro Manila
Recently, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) came out with a study that Metro Manila, like other Asian metropolises, will be very vulnerable to climate change.
This means that the tragedy caused by Typhoon Ondoy which struck Metro Manila and nearby Rizal and Laguna municipalities last year will likely happen again. Why? All the indicators are still there. Our ratio of garbage production versus garbage collection and disposal remains indirectly proportionate. Our population of 14 million, more than 2 million of whom are informal settlers, are taking the toll on our basic services and public infrastructures. Coastal lands, esteros and water basins, particularly the Laguna and Pasig Rivers, have been polluted with garbage and human waste. These, while government interventions for crisis management remain reactive rather than proactive and a culture of apathy and lack of discipline pervades our people. The ADB paper drives us to conclude that Ondoy was not the culprit. It only revealed the ugly state of our metropolis -- urban decay. But it is not too late; nor are all hopes lost to save our metropolis. We need however to put in place long term as well as short term interventions from both institutional as well as individual actors with dispatch. Of course, the foremost actions must come from our government institutions, namely our Local Government Units (LGUs), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) would be overt actions leading to positive results. The Run for Sagip Pasig Movement, the effort of Rotary Club of Manila to clean Manila Bay, and peoples’ organizations making merchandise items out of recycled materials are few private initiatives worth emulating. These initiatives should be synchronized and harnessed to complement our government initiatives. Cutting across these interventions, the spirit of “Bayanihan” or volunteerism which ran high during the Ondoy incident must drive us in our common objectives. Many members of our police, military, media, socio-civic groups, community organizations and even young people displayed exemplary acts of heroism amidst such natural calamity last year. We thus need to learn how to tap the Bayanihan spirit during crisis situation, but more importantly before it occurs. At the end of the day, everyone has a social obligation to save Metro Manila from further urban decay. Sans the LGUs, MMDA and LLDA, the burden to take care of our metropolis and all other cities and municipalities in our archipelago, lies upon those who enjoy its amenities, benefits and privileges. This means that every single person, male or female, young and old, rich and poor – for we are all metro citizens. As we savor the benefits of metro living, we should be accountable to make it liveable. l Atty. Tibe is engaged in litigation and management consultancy. He also serves as Legal Counsel to the National Federation of Labor Unions.
Atty. Solo V. Tibe
and the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA). They have the mandate and they should take the initiatives. Intervention should come in many forms, namely, strictly enforcing our environmental laws and sanitation policies, improving our public sewerage system, relocating the informal settlers in Pasig and Cainta Floodway as well as those on tilts and lying on esteros and shorelines, raising public awareness on garbage disposal system, recycling, reduced use of plastic materials and other pro-environment advocacies. It can be done. During the time of Vice President Noli De Castro and MMDA Chairman Fernando, informal settlers living in the railways from Northern to Southern Luzon were successfully relocated. There is no valid excuse that it cannot be done now. The private sector of course has its key role to play. This begins with a right attitude of caring for the environment much like caring for oneself and one’s family, neighbours and the next generation. Next
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PPP: Paunang pahirap ni P-Noy
From page 12 FCI also cited the protest raised by the Road Users Protection Advocates (RUPA) which questioned the P6B cost claimed for the upgrade of an existing road that was already paid for by the public under pre-existing franchise and toll arrangements. Also questioned at that time was the financing package, where practically the whole project will be funded from loans for which consumers will not only pay the principal but interest as well, on top of margins the investors will exact as part of their ‘entitlements’ under the project. “Foreign investors will bring in 10 percent of project cost and borrow the rest from local banks. Under this arrangement, the investor develops the project from financing obtained on a cash flow which, in turn, is driven by state-mandated rates, FCI said, adding that ultimately, consumers could be paying for an overpriced project that may not have gone through bidding to get the best price. In support of this scheme, the Monetary Board already announced the virtual lifting of the single borrowers limit on lending to infrastructure projects to give the Public-Private Partnership projects easy access to bank funds and credit. FCI is concerned that while the schemes for these projects seem best suited for the pockets of government and the investors, nobody has bothered to ask what is best for the consumers, who will pay for the cost of overpriced projects. The PPP projects under Pres Aquino, consumers warn, could be worse than the existing BOT projects. According to the President, these are solicited projects. Consumers are asking for full disclosure and transparency in choosing the projects, selecting the private partner and evaluating the cost. Under the current BOT, unsolicited proposals are subject to Swiss challenge. Under PNoy’s solicited PPP projects, it is not clear as to who will do the solicitation, how the solicitee is chosen, and how the solicitude is checked or evaluated. The PPP scheme, consumers warned, is highly susceptible to suspicion and may be vulnerable to corruption, especially if consumers are excluded from the solicitation process. While they realize that there is no such thing as a free lunch, consumers fear they could end up paying for an extravagant feast under PPP, where only the people of P-Noy may partake. “The President should fire the people who have made him appear like an ally of private business but an enemy of the people,” FCI said. Referring to P-Noy, they asked: Sino ba talaga ang Boss niya? Leaders of the consumer group said the President seemed unaware of the consequences of his latest policy, which not only turns all regulatory regimes inside-out, but could even moot and negate judicial decisions which he promised to side-step with massive doses of taxpayers’ money. Whoever advised the President on this must be among the lightest of the cabinet lightweights that Senator Miriam Santiago threatened to annihilate at the Commission on Appointments. The way things are in this Aquino administration, nothing has changed: big projects are packaged o protect investors at the expense of the ordinary citizens and consumers. Why is this happening? The answer is obvious to every Filipino, including our elementary graduate domestic who asked how come her neighbor who works at the Toll Regulatory Board owns a fleet of cars and built a mansion. Not far behind or even up ahead in lifestyle change are government officials in the energy sector. The Energy Regulatory Commission has been accused of being used by MERALCO in making life very difficult for ordinary consumers. To the hapless and harassed consumers, will PPP eventually mean PANIBAGONG PAHIRAP ni P-Noy? Time should tell. But we fear time may not be on our side. will come our way especially with the help of the internet. Vigilant groups through their blog sites can easily spread the word of an impending terror act so that it could be exposed. Like what we are doing here in our country, vigilance is always the antidote against the criminalminded individuals and vested interest groups. Let us expose their plans before they can implement them. In this way, several lives will be saved in the process and such perpetrators will have to think twice before doing another criminal act. Let us not allow another 9/11. We can do it if we will always be alert and equipped for the next terror storm.
What’s delaying RFID refund?
It has been almost one year since the Land Transportation Office (LTO) under the Arroyo administration had forced upon the motorists
registering their vehicles the requirement to pay an additional P350 for the radio frequency identification (RFID) stickers. Some of those who opposed the RFID charges even claimed that the unlucky vehicle owners who had to pay for RFID before it was stopped by the Supreme Court paid as much as P519.06 because they also paid P169.06 in “computer fees,” a fee as intangible as RFID itself. In the short time that LTO’s information technology contractor Stradcom had been collecting fees for the RFID, it had collected P31 million from about 90,000 vehicle owners who registered their vehicles at a time when the RFID project was being pilot-tested. Until finally in January this year, the Supreme Court intervened and granted a petition to stop the RFID project, and ordered LTO and Stradcom to refund to the vehicle owners the P31 million it collected for RFID. But almost one year after the Supreme Court decision, those unlucky victims who had registered while RFID was in effect have yet to get their money back. LTO chief Virginia Torres said that she has been pushEven Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) commissioner Kim Henares said that if the Supreme Court and COA had already ruled and ordered to refund the money, then it should be done without delay. The money is supposed to be in escrow and in the hands of a disinterested party. It was definitely not remitted to the national treasury to facilitate its release if ever the RFID project was questioned and struck down by the courts--which subsequently happened. But what’s delaying the refund of the money almost one year after the Supreme Court had issued the order? Even if the DOTC reverses the ruling to scrap the RFID
ing for the refund of the RFID collections in cash, which is the lawful thing to do because the vehicle owners paid for the stickers in cash. Regardless, however, of the mode, the refund should push through immediately. The Supreme Court had already issued a status quo ante order on the RFID project. That was ten months ago. Sometime in August, the Commission on Audit (COA) had issued a separate order to LTO to refund the P31 million. Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) secretary Jose de Jesus had also approved the refund, although he is still reviewing whether a similar RFID project should be implemented under the new Aquino administration.
WhAT’S DELAyING ThE REFUND OF ThE MONEy ALMOST ONE yEAR AFTER ThE SUPREME COURT hAD ISSUED ThE ORDER?
project, which is now under review, the government would still have to refund the P31 million it collected from the vehicle owners who never got to use the RFID’s purported sophisticated technology. And Stradcom would still have to prove whether the RFID stickers indeed do what it’s supposed to do, instead of being just an embellishment on your windshield.
From page 6 Instead of becoming great, he became small. Being small, he chose lightweights as his friends. When he won and became President he preferred lightweights for his cabinet and officialdom. His lightweights preferred more lightweights as their Undersecretaries and Assistant Secretaries. In the end, it becomes a vicious circle of mediocrity begetting more mediocrity. We thank God for answering our Double Barrelled Prayersof two weeks ago. Pacquiao did not lose and P Noy did not commit any major mistake during his visit to Japan for the APEC. As usual, he only complained about his favourite scapegoat and whipping boy, the Media. Nothing new! By the way, the late October Pulse Asia survey results were similar to the earlier September SWS survey. P Noy slid down and has not rebounded yet. Usually, an incumbent President has the power of rebound. Ramos displayed this in 1995 after the FlorContemplacion execution, Ipil raid and rice shortage. GMA displayed this over and over again inspite of her negaand timber resources of Burma ensure the generals of steady support from China and India, just as South Africa was long a source of copious minerals for the global markets. But domestic resistance and global demand for democracy and human rights fueled the drive for international sanctions and growing multilateral pressure on both countries to open their societies to change.
From page 6 benefits enjoyed by the former
President and the so called ‘chicken-hawks’ who actually warned the Americans and the rest of us that the war on terror may last a hundred years! With the continuous scaremongering coupled with actual acts of terror by greedy and evilminded individuals, humanity will always be faced with fear and tension. To address this dehumanizing terror, people of the world must be united and watchful at all times. Methinks that with our concerted efforts, we can endure every terror storm that
tive ratings. P Noy still has high gross ratings but seems to be in a continuous dive from which he may never recover. Unlike Erap, he is unable to overcome his shortcomings. Unlike GMA, he has no stamina for work. Unlike Ramos, he has no sense of institutions. P Noy runs a government of men(Some say of juveniles, not men.) and not of laws. Unlike his mother Cory, he is not blessed but perverse. Unlike Marcos, he is not brilliant but mediocre. Unlike everybody else, he did not have to work his butt off to become President. Unlike everybody but Gloria, he cannot become greater than his father. Like Gloria, he will diminish the legacy of his parents. P NoyGising! What do you have to show today for your 145 days? When the next major crisis hits, how many supporters and sympathizers will you have left? Will you in more ways be worse than Gloria? Will Gloria be better in more ways than you? In the past three weeks of November, we have discovered that very few of your huge army of supporters of a year ago remain standing. They lie demoralized. Stricken down from their former heights of glory by their own leader. And for both nations, the face of such resistance and heroism were individuals who had the ‘largeness of spirit’ – Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years as a political prisoner, and Suu Kyi, who has paid a high price for the principles she has lived by. Like our own Ninoy Aquino, incarcerated for over seven years under martial law but returning from exile to meet his martyrdom in 1983,
From page 12
The property developer reportedly plans to convert the sprawling piece of land into commercial area with possibly a posh mall as anchor. Now, there’s a connection why the same company continuous to play the infomercial in their cinemas that has PGMA in the closing credits despite being an avid supporter and benefactor of the new government. n a drunken stupor, a lady party-list solon, smitten with her superstar colleague, initiated a raffle of airline tickets for the superstar’s recently held “show” in the US for the local media covering them. The lady party-list solon put the also tipsy superstar on the spot but with millions under his belt, why not. The lady solon offered to pay for the hotel of the winners. Of the winners, only two has existing US visa. The other winners begged to “monetize” their prizes but this apparently fell in deaf ears. The deniable rumor is that the lady party-list solon and the colleague superstar had a one night tryst and it seems the lady is yearning for one more “rumble.”
From page 10 It is the same fear that made the generals crush most brutally the massive protests led by Buddhist monks in 2007 against rising commodity prices and increasing repression. Burma’s pained narrative is not unlike South Africa’s – years of oppression by a police state, the clash between the
pragmatic requirements of realpolitik and international trade, and the call for sanctions and greater democratization. As with South Africa for most of the apartheid years, many countries have turned a blind eye on human rights violations and the suppression of dissent in Burma because of the extraction of it’s rich natural resources. The natural gas and oil fields, abundant minerals
such are towering exemplars of humanity, humility and courage, that continue to inspire peoples across the world. Just as a freed Mandela ushered in change for a new South Africa and became its first postapartheid president, the world awaits with bated breath and prays for Daw Aung Suu Kyi to claim at last what is her and the Burmese people’s rightful place in history.
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noVEMBER 22 - 28, 2010 / Vol. i, no. 14
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Secretary Purisima for making so much fuss over the difference between the Independent Power Producer (IPP) contracts and the PPPs, where he highlights our paying for undelivered electricity as an upside of PPP. They belittled such attempts at a strained differentiation calculated to make PPP look good at the expense of IPPs. While stressing that the IPP had its downside and was downright expensive, consumers said Purisima was either unfamiliar with the regulatory process, or he was not being forthright on the matter. In all these PPP projects, it was pointed out, recoverable cost will include development and construction cost (which must be prudent and reasonable) and return on investment or capital, which must also be reasonable. The revenues to cover that cost will come from user fees, whether as toll or fare or payment for services like electricity. In these cases, variables like projected passengers or users or sales volume of electricity, together with the agreed period for recovery of investments, will determine the applicable rate. Unless Secretary Purisima has lately been gifted with such prescience as to say with absolute certainty that the number of passengers on the trains, the users of the roads and the passengers at the airports will be as they will project in their solicitation of these PPPs, there will be years when he will be paying for empty seats on the PPP trains, phantom cars at the PPP toll ways and ghost passengers at the PPP airports, they said. Fears of consumer groups like the Forum for Consumer Interests (FCI) seem well-founded, as they cited the Philippine experience in toll roads, mass transit, telecommunications and power. “We’ve had Build Operate Transfer (BOT) projects built at extravagant development cost and outrageous cost overruns that resulted in very high recovery costs from consumers,” FCI) said. We are asking the President to explain how he intends to promote and protect investors without sacrificing consumer interest under PPP, the group said. We need to know how PPP will be different from BOT, they added. FCI cited the case of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) which was recently upgraded by a Malaysian company. “When they were selling the project to government, they said in a public hearing that the project cost is between P6B and P7B. They are now saying the project cost is about P12B which is almost double the original proposal,” the group complained. Under PPP, will the President pay the Malaysians the P5B difference, even if the claimed development cost is being questioned, FCI asked.
By thE stAFF
fter the premature guessing-game on who would replace who in the PNoy cabinet, Flea Market kibitzers have now shifted talk on who in the cabinet would get the inaugural Ombudsman case. Like Pacquiao, the cabinet underling heavily favored to be the first Ombudsman case of the PNoy presidency is his wellinsulated shooting buddy. This presidential buddy could be picked from the “police line-up” for at least two major misdemeanors: jueteng bribe-taking and the Manila Hostage Crisis. The second Ombudsman “candidate” is the social welfare secretary for her ugly past called Peace Bonds. Well, the opposition may get lucky by throwing a book at Dinky for her expected bungling of the multi-billion CCT program. The third, mind you, could be the chief executive himself for bad influencing and mismanaging his “student council.” foreign-based event organizer tapped by the finance department for its Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) Summit last week (Nov. 18-19) nearly fomented a local media revolt by being extra picky with the list of Filipino journalists that it should accredit. The private event organizer was really prepping the event as an international gathering that it wants to fill up the media gallery with foreign journalists. Slots for local media were too limited akin to getting a seat in a Pacquiao fight. Some local media outlets were not even given a slot to the outrage of their editors and staff. The private event organizer must have been really trying to impress their Filipino employers led by the DOF that it wants an all-foreign media covering the event. They should be worth every single dollar since they just made “sulot” of the job from a local event firm with a top finance official as their “padrino.” Lo and behold, on the day of the event itself, the staff of this event organizer suddenly became scarce hours after the Media ID tags were dispensed, denying the other journalists who came late a chance to be “accredited.”
PPP: PAUNANG PAHIRAP NI P-NOY?
President Benigno C. Aquino III assured some 500 foreign and local investors who attended the recent launching of his Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program of ‘zero risk’ in big-ticket projects as his government will pick up the tab, big or small, whenever they are faced with regulatory losses.
By RAy JuniA
The Philippine Daily Inquirer aptly described it: “Solicited projects get regulatory risk surety.” Quoting the President further, Inquirer wrote: “If for some reason, a court decision threatens the (rate) adjustment, the government will compensate the private concessionaire for the difference between what the tariff should have been under the formula and the tariff which it is actually able to collect.” Assurances of that clear tenor and unmistakable certainty, especially coming from the highest elected official of the land, was music to the investors’ ears and drew applause that shook the hotel’s chandeliers. This policy, however, was met with groans and moans from the consumers who will now have to pay for those projects either directly through user fees or indirectly through their taxes that P-Noy will have to dip into to make good the difference between regulated rates and contracted rates. Consumer groups said P-Noy obviously did not do his homework. Or his advisers did not, n o V E M B E R 2 2 - 2 8, 2 0 1 0
and therefore should be fired for putting the President on the spot. With his popularity waning and his government failing to gain traction on any front, P-Noy will now have to explain to irate and furious consumers why they were flushed down the drain in this bailout of big ticket projects. Using government financial institutions (GFIs) to launder whatever bailout money is thrown at losing projects does not mean that it is not taxpayer money, they said, considering the subsidies these GFIs get. Funds from World Bank and Asian Development Bank are additions to the national debt, which is again shouldered by taxpayers. After listening to Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima describe the so-called regulatory risk guarantee mechanism, consumers warned we could hold the distinction of being the only country to put up a bailout fund, long before any financial leaks or crisis. More significantly, consumers are concerned over this latest policy that virtually renders the regulatory process irrelevant and
the courts inutile. What is the point, they ask, in subjecting service contracts to regulatory review if the President will just make good the difference between the contracted price and the regulated price? What will be the point in questioning in court any abuse, malfeasance or nonfeasance of a regulator, if the President will just make good the difference between the regulated price and what the consumers, or the courts, consider an equitable price, they ask. In all cases, they said, the “make good” money of P-Noy is tax money. Consumers also scored
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Consumer groups said P-Noy obviously did not do his homework. Or his advisers did not, and therefore should be fired for putting the President on the spot.
he real story behind the abrupt evacuation of state charity agency from its previous domicile was because the property, which was considered a backwater piece of real estate some decades back, piqued the interest of a major property developer supportive of PNoy. The Flea Market talk is that the leading property developer, whose corporate name starts with the first letter of the alphabet, is getting impatient on getting hold of the prime real estate before other business groups take similar interest. turn to page 11