editorial

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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Who Cares About Climate Change?

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opinyon-editorial

NO country on earth has more to fear from climate change than the Philippines—a nation of 7,100 islands and some 98 million souls. The climate has always wrought havoc here and—as shown by Typhoon Yolanda—it’s getting worse. Storms coming to our islands have the entire Pacific Ocean to draw strength from. Sitting astride shifting tectonic plates, we have experienced 13 magnitude 6.0 or stronger earthquakes since 2001—the latest of which was a magnitude 7.2 quake that hit Bohol and killed 222 people.

Since 2002, we have recorded 184 natural disasters. Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) was the 30th named storm of the 2013 Pacific season and the second Category 5 (with winds in excess of 150 miles per hour) to hit the Philippines in the last 11 months. Yolanda—which killed over 5,000 people in the Visayas—is the most powerful storm in history to hit land.
New scientific evidence simply tells that simply, climate change will mean more intense tropical storms. The energy that is stored in the waters off the Philippines will increase the intensity of typhoons and the trend we now see is that more destructive storms will be the new norm.

But who cares about climate change?

Days after Typhoon Yolanda hit the country Naderev Saño—Philippine Climate Change Commissioner—was delivering an impassioned plea during the 19th Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland.

That it is the 19th convention of its kind and that it is still in its “framework” stage, means that Saño’s decision to go on a hunger strike—“until some concrete agreement on climate change is reached in Poland”—was a very bad idea.

Rich countries simply won’t pay up even if they are the biggest culprits in the destruction of the environment and largest contributors to climate change. For now, writing checks and making donations whenever a natural disaster strikes will have to suffice.

But without serious, sustained attention and the kind of sacrifices in lifestyle that few nations seem prepared to make, every coast will feel what our Visayan coasts felt.

Perhaps not as violently, but every bit as surely if nothing is done about climate change.

Bothered, Bewildered and Bewitched

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opinyon-editorial

By Mentong Tiu-Laurel

“PEOPLE are always blaming circumstances for what they are. But the people who get on in this world are those who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, they make them.” – George Bernard Shaw

We’ve see the tragic result of this nation complaining about its circumstances but incapable of defining what it wants and taking steps to making them happen. Vision and planning – strategic thinking, without this activity is just as Einstein described – insanity, repeating a thing over and over expecting a different result. The Philippines has a history of natural calamities and tragedies from Ormoc in 1990 with 5,100 dead to Sendon’s 1300 dead in 2011, and now Yolanda’s 5,000 and still growing number of casualties. It was not always like this, in Marcos’s time government had helicopters, amphibious vessels, and the disciplined government machinery – then Edsa I and the Yellows arrived on the scene.

Bothered

In Yolanda’s wake we find this nation’s “dependent personality disorder” become a trait of the national psyche. A people bothered and blaming ceaselessly, many had in 2010 actually voted to power the inexperienced and clueless government they are blaming today. The circumstances they bellyache about today are also caused by two decades of Edsa I that a majority of the population also supported – including dismantling and privatization of the nation’s strategic assets (power, water, infra, etc.) to local oligarchs backed by global monopoly-finance-capital (Goldman Sachs, Salim, IMF, etc.) siphoning trillions out and leaving the people impoverished, a plundered economy and a government bereft of resources.

The bothersome mendicancy of the Filipinos and its government, was perfected since Edsa I for the resurgence of neo-colonial control by its traditional master – the U.S. which supports corrupt and inept political leadership (Amb. Thomas congratulated BS Aquino even before proclamation) performed with perfect ineptitude in the Yolanda crisis, allowing the “international community” to takeover all aspects of rescue and recovery to smother the last breath of national dignity and sovereignty. The petty Philippine “social media” joined in self-deprecating everything Filipino, contributing to CNN’s blog the insults damning all Filipinos as an incapable of changing their corrupt rulers.

Bewildered

Dependency pervades the Filipino mind, including its bewilderment on climate issues led by environmental groups controlled by Western interests and institutions. Remember W.H.O. peddling the 2009 Swine Flu panic for global Big Pharma’s multi-billions sales of vaccines; the panic was baseless. The IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is another, peddling a “consensus” on Anthropogenic (man-made) Global Warming (AGW) where there is none, while the global financial institutions rake it in on “cap-and-trade” of carbon credits. Haiyan/Yolanda became the “strongest” typhoon to dramatize the Warsaw Climate Change Conference and further instill in Filipinos the false AGW theory.

Meteorologist Dr. Ryan Maue at Weather BELL Analytics, LLC, Florida, formerly with Naval Research Laboratory, Twitted: “Over past 1,000 years, Philippines have been hit by 10-20 thousand tropical cyclones. Don’t be so arrogant to believe Man caused Haiyan.” And demolishes claims that Typhoon Haiyan was ‘strongest storm ever with the “‘Fact: Haiyan is 58th Super Typhoon since 1950 to reach central pressure of 900 mb (1 millibar = 0.145 lbs. /sq. inch) or lower from historical records’ — Maue: ’50 of 58 Super Typhoons with pressure of 900 mb or lower occurred from 1950-1987 — only 8 in past 25 years’” but Philippine media and crying Yeb Sano claims it is the strongest ever.

Bewitched

Bewitching PMSM, Phil. MainStream Media, serves Western propaganda and discounts China’s view, as in “US bombers enter China’s claimed air defense zone” highlighting U.S. spokesman Jen Psaki “This will raise regional tensions … “. ADIZes are not new, from Wiki:  “An air defense command … was developed in 1950 … The Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is an area – in which the ready identification, location, and control of civil aircraft over land or water is required … under … North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) … aircraft entering an ADIZ is required to radio its planned course…” Jets and missiles fly 60 km. per minute, crossing China’s ADIZ takes only 3 minutes.

From Yomiuri Shimbun Nov. 27, 2013, “Countries such as Japan, the United States, South Korea and Taiwan have set their ADIZ in areas surrounding their airspace, asking aircraft that pass through the zones to give prior notice for the purpose of confirming whether such aircraft pose a threat.” But as far as PMSM is concerned the Western interpretation of news is highlighted and China’s ADIZ is treated pejoratively. PMSM is also biased for dumbing down the pubic, like making boxers heroes (like Pacquiao) and quibbling over his tax tiff with government while scant priority is given to meager salaries of weather experts who are thus leaving the country in droves for high paying foreign jobs.

Also, befuddled

News touted the World Bank’s $ 500-M loan for Yolanda assistance, but in July 2012 the Philippines lent $ 1-billion to Europe! Media trumpets that GDP will not be direly affected by Yolanda, yet the P 2-Billion the privatized NGCP’s (National Grid) will charge taxpayers for damage to its grid in Yolanda’s wake – that goes into the GDP “growth”. A business daily headlined “National government debt drops to P 5.61T” – fantabulous good news, but behind the lead is the real story: “The total national government debt, however, increased by 7.6 percent if compared to the P 5.213- trillion recorded in September last year.” Arroyo’s 2010 debt was P 4.9-T, Aquino added almost P 600-billion in three years.

The Filipino is really befuddled in his economics. The U.S.-Iran “detante” changing the face of Middle East politics has brought down world oil prices. U.S. gasoline prices have gone down as a consequence, equivalent to P 42/liter in peso terms, but in the Philippines gasoline is still P 52/liter while auto LPG has gone up by almost P 2.00/liter. People complain not about this but about the BIR’s Pacquiao tax persecution (reportedly because he didn’t drop by Malacañang after winning vs. Rios). Two top Inquirer columnists wrote about Pacquiao, i.e. “Being a hero” and “TKO” but nothing on these befuddling material issues (get it?). No wonder this nation is befuddled in almost all the important matters.

Strategic thinking

The Filipino nation is bothered, bewitched, bewildered and befuddled because it has no strategic view – a strategic vision – of what it wants, how to attain it and who can lead the nation with intellectual honest and executive ability. Observe the leadership choices in the past five elections and two coup d’états disguised as “People Power” – the social elite, the PMSM (mainstream media), the social media and its core of “civil society” political-socialites defined the circumstances. The people were hoodwinked to accept BS Aquino, they’ll be hoodwinked again with a new set of false hopes (especially one poe-seur) who are from the same storeroom of puppets of the Status Quo.
***
The People’s Struggle should be focused on clarifying this strategic vision and leadership. Keep reading this space for it. (Watch “Nature’s defence for shoreline communities” with environmental “Bakawan” advocate Jaime Layug: 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)

Inciting Upheaval

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opinyon-editorial

By Ray L. Junia

RAPID changes are occuring in the economic front, hence OpinYon’s focus on its dynamics and how it shapes the fate–and future–of ordinary Filipinos as they plod on with their daily lives.

Research-based and interpreted in a layman’s language,  the story aims to be a wake-up call for the decision makers, both in government and private sectors, to assess how and why policy measures failed miserably in stemming the surging tide of disparity in democratizing the wealth of the nation.

Our Asian neighbors like Thailand and Malaysia succeeded in scaling down the dominant control of their economy by a few families, and there’s no reason why we can’t do the same for the sake of millions of Filipinos who continue to languish in silence under the yoke of poverty and deprivation.

Certainly, the people are sick and tired of glowing and self-serving government statements that the economy is booming. To them, economic growth is an empty boast as it has failed to uplift the quality of their lives.

Our government takes pride in being democratic. But in reality, it’s a subtle form of dictatorship by proxy in disguise because it it allows the oligarchs to reign supreme in the economy.

Unless decisively addressed, the worsening rise of poverty incidence vis-a-vis the insatiable appetite of the rich to rake in more profits may be likened to a ticking time bomb.

If the economic system is flawed, then why the heck do we insist on it? The clamor for a drastic change is resounding and unless we heed it, we may find ourselves jolted again by an onslaught of an irreversible
political upheaval.

Kamag-Anak, Inc.

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opinyon-editorial

ONLY modest reductions in poverty have been made since the economic and political collapse of the mid-1980s. Without doubt, severe regional disparities remain and the gap between the rich and the poor of this country continues to widen.

While 75 percent poor Filipinos live in rural areas, the urban poor have contributed to the rising share of total poor population since 1971. Manila, once the bustling center of post-war business activity, is no longer the promised land it used to be. Migrating to the city is no longer a guarantee of a better life.

By World Bank calculations, urban poverty stood at around 23 percent and rural poverty at 53 percent in 1991. The numbers are far worse today. Most of our poor have little education and are engaged in the agriculture, fishery and forestry sectors and anemic government support have driven our farmers and fisher folk to the brink of poverty.

Compared with the rest of East Asia, government performance on poverty reduction has been downright disappointing, because the Philippines has not been able to sustain growth long enough to better the living conditions of the poor.

Stranger even is the fact that poverty declines remained modest even during the times of rapid economic growth as government policies discriminated against labor, subsidized capital-intensive production and gave low priority to agriculture and exports. This resulted in growth that was narrowly based and inequitable—trapping many Filipinos in low-paying jobs while capitalists made money out of labor’s misery.

The rich get richer while the poor stay poor—and multiply. If you look closely, the rich in this country bear the same face with politicians and government executives. People who run big business are—more often than not—related to someone in government. “Kamag-anak Inc.” never really left the building. The same evils hounding our society back in the 70s remain with us today.

There is no quick fix and panacea for everything that bedevils this nation. But getting rid of crooks in government and in big business is definitely a good place to start.

Kamag-Anak Inc.

Posted on Updated on

ONLY modest reductions in poverty have been made since the economic and political collapse of the mid-1980s. Without doubt, severe regional disparities remain and the gap between the rich and the poor of this country continues to widen. While 75 percent poor Filipinos live in rural areas, the urban poor have contributed to the rising share of total poor population since 1971. Manila, once the bustling center of post-war business activity, is no longer the promised land it used to be. Migrating to the city is no longer a guarantee of a better life.

By World Bank calculations, urban poverty stood at around 23 percent and rural poverty at 53 percent in 1991. The numbers are far worse today. Most of our poor have little education and are engaged in the agriculture, fishery and forestry sectors and anemic government support have driven our farmers and fisher folk to the brink of poverty.

Compared with the rest of East Asia, government performance on poverty reduction has been downright disappointing, because the Philippines has not been able to sustain growth long enough to better the living conditions of the poor.

Stranger even is the fact that poverty declines remained modest even during the times of rapid economic growth as government policies discriminated against labor, subsidized capital-intensive production and gave low priority to agriculture and exports. This resulted in growth that was narrowly based and inequitable—trapping many Filipinos in low-paying jobs while capitalists made money out of labor’s misery.

The rich get richer while the poor stay poor—and multiply. If you look closely, the rich in this country bear the same face with politicians and government executives. People who run big business are—more often than not—related to someone in government. “Kamag-anak Inc.” never really left the building. The same evils hounding our society back in the 70s remain with us today.
There is no quick fix and panacea for everything that bedevils this nation. But getting rid of crooks in government and in big business is definitely a good place to start.

FROM THE CHAIRMAN: Inciting Upheaval

Posted on Updated on

By Ray L. Junia

RAPID changes are occuring in the economic front, hence OpinYon’s focus on its dynamics and how it shapes the fate–and future–of ordinary Filipinos as they plod on with their daily lives. In this week’s issue, we are delving into the widening and alarming rich-poor gap, often glossed over by the mainstream media in favor of sensational political stories. Research-based and interpreted in a layman’s language,  the story aims to be a wake-up call for the decision makers, both in government and private sectors, to assess how and why policy measures failed miserably in stemming the surging tide of disparity in democratizing the wealth of the nation.

Our Asian neighbors like Thailand and Malaysia succeeded in scaling down the dominant control of their economy by few families and there’s no reason why we can’t do the same for the sake of millions of Filipinos who continue to languish in silence under the yoke of poverty and deprivation.

Certainly, the people are sick and tired of glowing and self-serving government statements that the economy is booming. To them, economic growth is an empty boast as it has failed to uplift the quality of their lives.

Our government takes pride in being democratic. But in reality, it’s a subtle form of dictatorship by proxy in disguise because it it allows the oligarchs to reign supreme in the economy.

Unless decisively addressed, the worsening rise of poverty incidence vis-a-vis the insatiable appetite of the rich to rake in more profits may be likened to a ticking time bomb.

If the economic system is flawed, then why the heck do we insist on it? The clamor for a drastic change is resounding and unless we heed it, we may find ourselves jolted again by an onslaught of an irreversible political upheaval.