Privatization: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

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By Mentong Tiu-Laurel

ONE of my youngest (twins) who has been on his first job came home last week and said over the dinner table, “My officemates were shocked to see what the impact of the P 3/kWh Meralco increase is going to be. Many of my officemates, first time job holders, are now the ones paying for electricity at home. They complained that their presents for X’mas to parents and relatives would have to be cut down. But, (anticipating what I would be asking) they don’t think they can do anything about it.” A day later I asked my son to invite these officemates to the house for dinner so I could explain the history of the Grinch who stole their X’mas and what we can do about it.

The government privatization program started Corazon C. Aquino and continues to this day, that’s the Grinch stealing the Filipino people’s Christmases. The Grinch is a popular children’s story by Dr. Seuss that tells of“a bitter, grouchy, cave-dwelling creature with a heart ‘two sizes too small’” who decided to stop Christmas by stealing children’s presents, trees, and food for feasts. Disguised as Santa Claus with a sleigh, he steals and tries dump all the presents into an abyss. Foreign and Filipino oligarchs incarnates the Grinch who stole “our crown jewels” – publicly owned power plants, water systems, toll ways, telecommunications and profits greedily from them.

How to Get Back Our Presents

First, the people must be informed what presents they had under their X’mas coconut trees. When power plants, water systems, toll ways, telecoms were under public government control and strict regulation they all existed to serve the Public Welfare, never solely for profit. But a grand swindle before the very eyes of the people was conducted by Cory Aquino and her oligarchy cohorts behind mainstream media’s blinding éclat of the “democracy icon” Cory, like a political Santa Claus with the gift of sham democracy. Twenty-five years later the Philippines has among the highest if not the highest power, water, toll ways, telecom charges in Asia and the World.

Secondly, the people must be shown how to get those presents back – by taking action, informing others of the Grinch and how they stole our presents, by taking concrete action like signing petitions, going on “social media” to wage the information campaign, join pickets and rallies, and support political candidates that vow to fight the Grinch. This is not a Revolution, but it is these small things that begin revolutions. In April 2013 in Bulgaria, in protest against electricity price hikes Ventsislave Vasilev burned himself to death. We are not asking for such drastic sacrifice, just daily efforts in anti-privatization social media, reading “A Radical’s Nut”, joining protest pickets, etc.

The Facts on Oil, LPG, Power

World market prices of energy sources are going down due to the peace talks between the U.S. and Iran, take note of these global headlines: Agence France Press, Nov. 25, 2013 “Oil prices drop on Iran nuclear accord”; Star.com, U.S. Nov. 22, “Good news! Gas prices to drop ….until the end of the year continuing a trend begun in August.”; The Observer, U.S. Nov. 19, “Propane (LPG) prices down 14.3 percent”. With global oil and gas prices on the down trend, why are Philippine gasoline and diesel prices going up, Meralco’s electricity up by 30% and LPF up by 25%? One reason is manipulation by the oligarchs: Shell-Chevron shutting down Malampaya natural gas and Saudi-Aramco’s arbitrary hike.

Cory Aquino started the privatization madness in 1986 by turning over Meralco to the Lopezes without any payment but which government paid for in 1973, then signing IPPs (Independent Power Producer) contracts in 1992, followed by Ramos and the Gloria Arroyo’s EPIRA in June 2001 in exchange for World Bank bribery standby loan of $ 800-million. Oil company Petron was privatized during Ramos’s time, to Saudi Aramco. Water was privatized from 1997 on by fooling the people that rates would go down, but Marcos had started modernizing the water system with huge investment that Cory Aquino sabotage to provide the excuse for privatization.

In concrete, after returning public utilities to public control: government should increase buffer stocks of oil and LPG from one month to at least four months, buying low and releasing during world market price peaks or when global players are manipulating the commodities; in the power sector return to a fixed and low return-on-rate base of 12% or below allowable profit and depreciate assets according to regular accounting rules (now assets are always adjusted to latest valuations); likewise in water and telecommunications sectors. All the buy-back can be done with the surplus foreign reserves of $ 20-B and Special Deposit Account of $ 40-billion with the Bangko Sentral, and installment.

Aquino’s Boss: Oligarchs

“Gov’t can’t stop oil, power rate surge”, Dec. 4, 2013, BS Aquino’s spokesman sonny Coloma said. So what is government for if it can’t protect the people from the oligarchs’ manipulation, abuse and profiteering. We will tell BS Aquino what government can do: follow 1) the Constitution which command government to “promote the common good” and not profits of the oligarchs; 2) the EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act) that demanded “stable and reliable supply at a reasonable price” of power; 3) BS Aquino’s own words “Kayo ang boss ko” and not the oligarchs. The highest power cost in Asia is destroying industry and employment, living standards and the National Economy as a whole.

Some have the mistaken belief that only local oligarchs are the culprits behind Aquino. No, they are together with the global oligarchs in imposing Philippine compliance to global privatization rules. Filipino water consumers were supposed to get 10% to 20% reduction in water rates in October due to MWSS ban on Manila Water and Maynilad from passing on income tax and other expenses to consumers. This reduction is on hold forever when the water companies raised the issue to the International Commercial Court where international business protection rules will be superior to the Philippine Constitution and all its laws designed to protect the people. We need to withdraw from these.

Million Man March vs. Price Hikes?

There were many anti-pork “leaders” who claim the credit for the Million Man March against pork. I wonder if they can organize such a march against the power, LPG, oil products price hikes, and still get the massive propaganda support of the oligarchs controlled mainstream media like ABS-CBN, ABC 5, GMA7, and the major dailies. The Catholic Church was also active in the anti-pork, why have we never heard anything from them on the P 850-billion annual scam that is the privatized power industry of the country which charges exorbitantly based on up to 500% overprice of power transformers and 1,00% overprice of power poles that go into the rate base computations.

Some crusaders should also be asked, why did they support the EPIRA and privatization when it started in 2001? This includes many in the middle class and professional sectors. They were used in 2001 by the Grinch. Are they really on the right opposition track now, to demand the end of privatization and return to public or socialized ownership of the public utilities to include not only power, but fuel, water and other industries essential to the “common good”. There are some congressmen who made token protests about EPIRA, like the former customs man Mindoro solon Rey Umali who said in Sept. 2013 the Epira flaws cost more than pork, but now he’s silent. He, a BS Aquino compadre, is likely a Grinch too.

Revolt, Prosecute and Reform.

Anti-EPIRA crusader Mr. Jojo Borja, in memory of the late Mang Naro Lualhati who helped with the P 30-billion refund from Meralco’s overcharging back in the 90s, is reviving a case drafted by Atty. Alan Paguia, to sue Energy Regulatory Commission chair Zenaida Ducut (of pork barrel fame too) and Meralco CEO Manny Pangilinan before the Ombudsman – someday putting them behind bars. The BMP led by Leody de Guzman initiated a picket in front of Meralco last week, and we will follow through with more mass actions in the next few weeks. In the past we had countless “light out” campaigns at night, which should be revived. At some point we should “occupy” Meralco and ERC, and then Malacañang, over these issues.

(Watch “The Power Grinch who stole X’mas” with Mr. Jojo Borja and Arnold Padilla: GNN Destiny Cable Channel 8, Skycable Channel 213, www.gnntv-asia.com Sat., 8 p.m. and replay Sun., 8 a.m.; tune to 1098AM, Tues. to Fri.5pm; ; visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com; and text reactions to 0923-4095739)

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