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Economic saboteurs DIE HARD III Herman Tiu Laurel 08/15/2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Economic saboteurs

DIE HARD III
Herman Tiu Laurel
08/15/2011
With the US financial system reeling from its asymmetrically exploding fiscal crisis; with Europe staggering amid socio-economic upheaval; and with Japan dimming in the dark cloud of its tectonic and nuclear disaster, local business news reported the inevitable: “Exports down 10.2 percent in June” from $4.557 to $4.092 billion year-on-year, or a loss of almost P25.2 billion. On top of that, the prevailing currency issue has caused the Philippine economy to suffer heavy losses. For our largest dollar-earning sectors alone — the OFWs and business process outsourcing (BPO) firms — every appreciation of the peso to the US dollar already costs billions. And we have not seen the worst of it yet.

Regrettably, even as Filipino entrepreneurs, workers and consumers are hit with these whammies, a Big Business conglomerate is, by contrast, expecting core profits to grow nearly 25 percent, with 31 percent coming from its power unit’s earnings which have grown up to 87 percent annually from 2008 to 2010. Why, Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) CEO Manuel Pangilinan has even forecast Manila Electric Co. (Meralco)’s profits as growing “modestly” to P14 billion in 2011, which, judging from the results midway, the company seems ready to exceed by year-end.

Reports state that in the first half of 2011 alone, “Meralco’s core net income increased 35 percent to P7.82 billion on higher distribution tariffs despite the slightly lower volume of electricity sold because of the cooler weather and lower industrial consumption of power…” Hence, Meralco sold less electricity but got higher profits.
Similarly, another major component of MPIC’s profit this year — which was a surprise despite my constant monitoring of the utilities sector — has been water.
Again, on higher rates, as well as tax holidays, MWSI contributed 41 percent of MPIC’s profits.
Just the same, of all the utility services under the MPIC empire, it is still power that draws the greatest attention.

A February 2011 study by the Philippine Exporters’ Confederation Inc. (PhilExport) and the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop) entitled, “The Impact of High Energy Costs on Exports,” already named the Philippines as having the “highest power cost in Asia.” Citing an October 2010 study by independent think tank International Energy Consultants, it explained that RP’s “average retail rate of electricity of 18.1 US cents per kilowatthour… has eased out Japan at the top… at 17.9 US cents per kilowatthour,” adding, “The high cost of electricity in the Philippines was traced by the group to the fact that all costs — from producing power to distribution and taxes — are passed on to consumers… (And as) the Philippines is the only country in the region that has privatized its electric power sector and has no state subsidy on rates… (with) domestic natural gas coming from the Malampaya gas deposits in offshore Palawan… priced so high… (it is) suggested that the Philippine government renegotiate the Malampaya contract…”

Notwithstanding that, other rate hikes in power also bubbled up this past month: First, with the Supreme Court (SC) siding with both the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and Meralco on a 2009 P0.29/kWh rate hike petition on purely technical procedural grounds, it makes everyone wonder whether PeNoy’s first SC appointee, Justice Lourdes Sereno, really appreciates the substantive issue of Salus populi est suprema lex (The welfare of the people is the supreme law) when she, as ponente, faulted consumers, saying, “They should be more vigilant in protecting their rights.”

And since consumer advocates have to pay for their own fares; solicit volunteer legal representation; and plod through deliberately obfuscated ERC rules and rulings, how can Sereno still claim that we consumers have been remiss? We, therefore, have to ask this of the SC, the supposed last bastion of the people’s hope for justice, which championed public welfare in 2003 by confirming the Return-on-Rate Base (RoRB), as well as vetoed the charging of corporate income tax to consumers and ordered the Commission on Audit (CoA) to sift through the books of the power giant: Has it now been captured, too?

Second, as Congress has extended the lifeline rate to consumers using 99/kWh per month or less, it means that this doleout will be exacted once again from consumers using upwards of 100 kWh per month, most of whom are also equally poor; this, despite the fact that a bleeding heart such as House energy committee chairman Rep. Dina Abad refuses to shell out a single centavo from her P380-million pork barrel.
Clearly, despite the claim that the wretched 10-year-old Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) was going to bring down rates by competition via the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (Wesm), what happened was the exact opposite: It more than doubled charges! In fact, privatization has not reduced the $18-billion National Power Corp. (Napocor) debt at all.

Then, as if these were not enough, we still have to contend with the ERC’s approval of a P4.5-billion Napocor petition for increase of P0.07/kWh starting August to cover for “losses” from its 2003 to 2009 “missionary” electrification operations.

With such economic saboteurs, the destruction of our economy and the people’s welfare is sure to never cease — that is, until the nation revolts against the entire system.

(Tune in to Sulo ng Pilipino/Radyo OpinYon, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 5 to 7 p.m., and Tuesday, Thursday, 5 to 6 p.m. on 1098AM; Talk News TV with HTL, Saturday, 8 to 9 p.m., with replay at 11 p.m., on GNN, Destiny Cable Channel 8; also visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com for our articles plus TV and radio archives)
(Reprinted with permission from Mr. Herman Tiu-Laurel)

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110815com5.html

Magic in numbers EDITORIAL 08/15/2011

Magic in numbers

EDITORIAL
Click to enlarge
08/15/2011
While nearly all — politicians who are either missing their Internal Revenue Allotment or their pork barrel which is officially the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), private enterprises which are now having a slow business and the individual citizens who are not being hired — are complaining about Noynoy’s administration’s huge cutbacks in spending resulting in the slowing down of the economy, government records showed nevertheless that debts are rising.

In its latest report, the Treasury bureau reported that for last May alone, total debt of the government increased by P65 billion to P4.777 trillion.

The major culprit cited for the increase in debt was the depreciation of the peso against the dollar aside from, of course, actual borrowings..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110815com1.html

Unvarnished truth FRONTLINE Ninez Cacho-Olivares 08/15/2011

Unvarnished truth

FRONTLINE
Ninez Cacho-Olivares
08/15/2011
Malacañang took umbrage at the statement made by former President Fidel Ramos who pointed out that Noynoy’s witch-hunting ways on Gloria and her family have led to a loss of potential investments.

Predictably, presidential spokesman Abigail Valte defended Noynoy and his focus on persecuting the Arroyos, reminding Ramos that Noynoy was elected in 2010 on the basis of his campaign promise, which she said was to seek accountability from those who had done the country wrong.

The Palace resident Lady Gaga also said that contrary to what Ramos claims about the loss of investments, foreign investors are now interested in putting their money in the country due to the “renewed confidence” in Noynoy’s efforts against corruption in the bureaucracy, which she said was what had turned off investors in the past.

Naturally, like her boss, Lady Gaga is all talk and no substance. She didn’t give out data to substantiate her claims of foreign investors now making a beeline to invest in the country on account of her claimed renewed confidence that investors have on the Noynoy government..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110815com2.html

Abused Lebanese women also victims of legal system focus 08/15/2011

Abused Lebanese women also victims of legal system

focus

08/15/2011
BEIRUT — It was only a few months after their wedding in Lebanon that Suha’s husband began what would be eight years of brutal beatings that left her bruised, bleeding and all but broken.

But two years ago, she decided to take matters — and her three children — into her own hands, in a country that has yet to pass a bill criminalizing domestic abuse and marital rape and where women are banned from granting their children citizenship.

“For many years I was stuck and felt I had no choice but to suffer in silence,” Suha, 31 and now divorced, told AFP, asking that her real name not be used.

“I could not go back to my parents’ home because to them, divorce would bring shame to the family and they could not take me in with three children,” she added..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110815com3.html

It’s Mayor Hagedorn’s move C.R.O.S.S.R.O.A.D.S Jonathan De la Cruz 08/15/2011

It’s Mayor Hagedorn’s move

C.R.O.S.S.R.O.A.D.S
Jonathan De la Cruz
08/15/2011
We extend our congratulations yet again to newly proclaimed Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel who took his oath before a huge crowd of supporters in Mati, Davao Oriental last Friday. With the conclusion of his protest, he will now serve the remaining two years of the Senate term he won in 2007. It was a long, arduous struggle for the topnotch lawyer who braved on despite the odds. We had followed the contest between him and resigned Sen. Migz Zubiri almost from the time of the latter’s proclamation to the very day that he resigned. It was classic maneuvering on all fronts. That it took the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) all of four years to finally write finis to this battle is a testament to our jurassic election rules and practices. In fact, a number of our friends from the legal community held the view that had the amiable solon from Bukidnon decided to fight things out, as it were, it would have been next to impossible for Koko to claim his seat. They noted that Zubiri had a pending counter protest on thousands of precincts which, under the rules, would have taken at the very least up to the end of the term in 2013 to finish. The Pimentel petition would have been mooted. Indeed, in the end as the tide of the animated battle the two protagonists endured at the SET over the past four years turned, their innate civility set in..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/

Gov’t vacancies a source of fund conversion, warns solon 08/15/2011

Gov’t vacancies a source of fund conversion, warns solon

08/15/2011
The funds for almost 67,000 unfilled positions in the bureaucracy could be a source of conversion by some state agencies, an ally of President Aquino in the Senate yesterday warned.

Sen. Franklin Drilon, chairman of the Senate finance committee scrutinizing the proposed P1.816-trillion national budget for 2012, said a total of P23.4 billion is currently appropriated in the budget for the hiring of personnel.

“Looking at the entire government structure, there are 66,957 unfilled items which are funded in the current year. Therefore, this is a source of conversion not only in the military but also in other agencies which would come in the form of bonuses and other emoluments in addition to the basic pay,” he added.

Drilon said that what happens is that a position, which is unfilled but is funded, will be considered as savings, and will be realigned to other items other than what it is intended to..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20110815hed3.html

Luisita referendum not needed — SC By Benjamin B. Pulta 08/15/2011

Luisita referendum not needed — SC

By Benjamin B. Pulta 08/15/2011

The Supreme Court (SC) has clarified that a referendum is not needed to resolve the controversy involving the implementation of the government’s agrarian reform program in the controversial Hacienda Luisita, which is owned by the family of President Aquino, in Tarlac province.

Contrary to the claim of its critics, the high tribunal did not require in its July 5, 2011 decision a referendum among the original 6,296 farmworker-beneficiaries (FWBs), but instead leaves it to the individual farmer to decide whether he or she wants to remain as stockholder or acquire a piece of agricultural land, Court Administrator and SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said.

A referendum is called to settle or decide an important public issue through a majority or popular vote.

In the SC decision on Hacienda Luisita, a majority vote is not required since the choice of an FWB would not affect the other qualified beneficiaries, Marquez said..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20110815hed2.html

Fighting among MILF factions worsens as talks in KL near 08/15/2011

Fighting among MILF factions worsens as talks in KL near

08/15/2011
As clashes erupt between rival factions of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Muslim-dominated provinces in Mindanao which are being linked to the recent talks of President Aquino and MILF spokesman Al Haj Murad in Tokyo, the Palace maintained that consultations “will not be done in the dark” when the government peace panel presents its counter-proposal to the MILF on August 22 to resolve the 40-year insurgency during exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

About 3,000 people huddled in evacuation centers in Maguindanao seeking to escape fighting between the two Muslim armed groups.

The rivals were in a stand-off but more violence could break out between them at any time, said regional police chief Senior Supt. Marcelo Pintac.

“This is a family feud. We have an effort (to open peace talks) but they don’t want to stop. They want war,” he said..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20110815hed5.html

Top gov’t security officials attend Mutual Defense Board meeting in Hawaii By Mario J. Mallari 08/15/2011

Top gov’t security officials attend Mutual Defense Board meeting in Hawaii

By Mario J. Mallari 08/15/2011

Top security officials of the Philippines flew yesterday to Hawaii for the annual Mutual Defense Board (MDB) meeting with the United States.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. headed the Philippine delegation which also includes Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Raul Bacalzo and Philippine Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Ramon Liwag.

The 53rd RP-US annual MDB and the 6th Security Engagement Board Meeting, being held under the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), are scheduled on Aug. 15 to 16 at the headquarters of the US Pacific Command in Camp Smith, Honolulu.

“The Mutual Defense Treaty has long been in existence for almost 60 years and because of it we have continued to engage in partnerships and agreements with the US manifested through Balikatan Exercises which is held annually,” said Oban, who co-chairs the board meeting with US Pacom Commander Adm. Robert Willard..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20110815nat5.html

Anti-trafficking office sets up in Tawi-Tawi, says Binay By Michaela P. del Callar 08/15/2011

Anti-trafficking office sets up in Tawi-Tawi, says Binay

By Michaela P. del Callar 08/15/2011

The government is bent on blocking a major transit point for Filipino trafficking victims, setting up an anti-trafficking office in Tawi-Tawi, Vice President Jejopmar Binay said yesterday.

Binay, concurrent chairman of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), said the presence of an Overseas Passenger Assistance Center (OPAC) in the province would deter traffickers from using Tawi-Tawi as “southern backdoor” exit point for their victims bound for Malaysia.

The center in Tawi-Tawi plans to duplicate the success of the OPAC in Zamboanga which resulted in various rescues and interceptions of human trafficking victims, one of the highest in the Southeast Asian region. The Philippines is currently in the Tier 2 category of the United States government’s global human trafficking watch list.

Binay said the Tawi-Tawi OPAC will assist the Bureau of Immigration (BI) in the processing of exiting passengers in Tawi-Tawi by profiling potential victims of human trafficking. Upon interception, the victims will be properly endorsed to the BI agents who have the authority to off-load the passengers..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20110815nat3.html

Solon, analyst: Roll back to P8/liter fuel prices 08/15/2011

Solon, analyst: Roll back to P8/liter fuel prices

08/15/2011
The oil companies must roll back to P8 per liter the prices of their petroleum products after the peso gained strength against the dollar and the recent reduction of crude oil price in the world market which is now at $50 per barrel.

This is how Agap party-list Rep. Nicanor Briones and stock market analyst Astro del Castillo described the prevailing situation after the US credit rating was downgraded by a prestigious financial services company during the Balitaan sa Tinapayan Forum in Dapitan yesterday.

“Hindi dapat papiso-piso ang pagbaba ng gasolina, dapat sa simula pa lamang ng pagbaba ay P2 na agad at base sa pag-aaral ng mga eksperto dapat ay umabot na sa P8 ang ibinaba ng presyho ng gasolina (It should not be a slow P1 decrease in the price of petroleum and it should start at P2 reduction immediately and according to some experts the price should be lowered to P8),” Briones said.

Transport sector earlier had complained about the small rollback in fuel prices that was implemented by the oil companies..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/metro/20110815met3.html

CA junks P67-M estafa raps filed against lawyers of late billionaire By Benjamin B. Pulta 08/15/2011

CA junks P67-M estafa raps filed against lawyers of late billionaire

By Benjamin B. Pulta 08/15/2011

The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld a decision by a Pasig City court dismissing the P67-million estafa charges filed against two former lawyers of late billionaire and Marcos crony Potenciano Ilusorio.

In a 12-page decision by Associate Justice Florito Macalino, the CA’s Sixth Division turned down the petition for certiorari filed by lawyers Demaree Raval and former Rep. Rolex Suplico seeking the reversal of the Oct. 8, 2007 order issued by Pasig Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 167 presiding Judge Agnes Reyes-Carpio.

Associate Justices Juan Enriquez Jr. and Ramon Bato Jr. concurred.

The Pasig RTC, in its order, quashed the estafa charges filed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) against the petitioners’ former law partners Luis Lokin and Salvador Hizon for lack of probable cause and non-payment of required docket fees..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/metro/20110815met2.html

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