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A nation dumbed down? DIE HARD III Herman Tiu Laurel 06/17/2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

A nation dumbed down?

Herman Tiu Laurel
Over the past week a systematic campaign of misinformation was being waged with few, if any, noticing it. This is regarding the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC)’s decision on Manila Electric Co. (Meralco)’s petition for PBR (Performance Based Rate) for the regulatory period from this year to 2014. The report in almost all mainstream newspapers is that the ERC denied the increase Meralco sought and reduced the rate by passing a lower PBR. The truth is, it’s a collusion of the ERC and Meralco in a gigantic sleight-of-hand to hoodwink the millions of Meralco consumers and the public. During the first week of June, ERC announced its denial of Meralco’s 2011 PBR application of 1.70/kWh, setting it at P 1.58/kWh which it boasts to be lower than the 2010 PBR of P 1.65/KWh. It looks so nice for the ERC until one takes a comprehensive historical look and find that under the original RoRB (return-on-rate base, 12 percent allowable profit) the rate was only P 0.70/kWh — since the PBR rate of 15.8 percent this has more than doubled.

That is only half the story, senior consumer advocate Genaro “Naro” Lualhati (who was among those who won consumers its first refund of P 30 billion) has investigated the cost computations of Meralco for its capex (capital expenditure) and has found it bloated by 37 times. His findings are corroborated by Mr. Jojo Borja who has produced documents showing the massive overpricing and transfer pricing of Meralco power generation equipment, which has been presented before ERC hearings but are not reflected by the ERC final determination of the PBR rates. Mr. Naro Lualhati’s own computation shows that the proper Meralco rate for this period should only be at the maximum of P0.90/kWh. Meralco has been putting out its song-and-dance about how it needs to tighten its belt due to ERC’s reduction of its rate and mainstream media has been pandering distorted story and dumbing down the public; the truth is that Meralco is continuing its power plunder of the people.

On the matter of the Stradcom deal that’s bedeviling the BSA III administration and inflicting its damage on the public coffers and transport regulatory system, we have here a perfect example of the idiocy of subcontracting such essential government functions to private corporations. The computerization of the LTO records does not require a complicated computer system, there’s no rocket science to it. Why is government shelling out P140 million a month for this very basic computer system? It’s been going on for several years now that the amounts have reached staggering billions of pesos that two factions of the subcontracting company are now fighting over — and getting the BSA III embroiled in its dirty quagmire. So much for Teddy Locsin’s talk and Conrado de Quiros’ about BSA III’s personal “honesty,” he is drenching in the corruption all around him; besides the fact that he is wallowing in the corruption of his family which even stoops to collecting illegal toll fees on public roads.

What the public isn’t being told is that the subcontracting of that computerization of the LTO functions should never have happened. It shouldn’t have happened in the same way that the computerization of other institutions like the GSIS, which has been experiencing endless glitches, shouldn’t have happened. Information systems of government are crucial to national security as well.

The basic outrage in all this, however, is the huge amounts paid to the private subcontractors that further deplete the national coffers and the public’s purse. Then the public gets to learn that in this case, Stradcom gets twice more that the LTO from the fees the public pays. It is no surprise, too, that political strings were pulled for the awarding of the contract. Why do we allow this to happen?

Now comes the hare-brained idea from the Gloria Arroyo’s special economic adviser upon whose advice the Philippine hunger incidence spiked from 2003 to the present. Albay Gov. Joey Salceda earns political grandstanding points by riding the patriotic tide over the Spratly’s issue and suggesting a boycott of Chinese imports. This one time a gofer of the securities section of an international bank is suddenly a celebrated economist? Salceda cited RP’s trade deficit of $1 billion with China in 2010, but he forgets that it was a surplus of $750 million in 2005; trade seesaws and with the future mineral demand of China will tilt the balance in favor of the Philippines again. Imagine the massive inflation push when Chinese products stop flowing, from DVD players to garlic. Now, if the Philippines is ready to subsidize its agro-industrial entrepreneurs again we have a fighting chance; but with Salceda’s love of “globalization” (duh?) a boycott and out economy would be doomed.

A balanced view of the Spratlys issue comes from Sen. Antonio Trillanes who, over merienda with two ambassadors, said that there are “hawks” as well as “doves” in the Chinese government and one must deal with the controversies with this in mind; while asserting the Philipines’ rights vigorously. I added that while there is psychological warfare underway (Vietnam is rumored to be calling for conscription of tis citizens to prepare for war), there are sufficient formal agreements on the negotiated settlement of issues and sharing of resources to ensure an amicable conclusion in the coming times. Trillanes did give a caveat, that the Chinese should be careful not to put too much “face,” i.e. its prestige, on the line with the “hawks” or it may lead to uncontrollable events. As for Salceda’s boycott, I told others that we never heard him support the “Buy Filipino” call we issue every year of the past two decades.

(Tune in to Radyo OpinYon, Monday to Friday, 5 to 6 p.m., and Sulo ng Pilipino, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 6 to 7 p.m. on 1098AM; Talk News TV with HTL, Tuesday, 8 to 9 p.m., with replay at 11 p.m., on GNN, Destiny Cable Channel 8, topic: ”GSIS Union victory vs. Winston’s outrages”; visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com and http://hermantiulaurel.blogspot.com for articles, TV and radio archives)
(Reprinted with permission from Mr. Herman Tiu-Laurel)

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110617com5.html


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