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Evil ‘Transformers’ DIE HARD III Herman Tiu Laurel 08/29/2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Evil ‘Transformers’

Herman Tiu Laurel
No, it’s not the sci-fi action flick we are writing about. It’s about the real “Transformers” in our world — those giant, steel-hearted, mechanical monsters roaming the boardrooms of power companies that “transform” public utilities into humongous profit machines. It’s about power companies that transform the public’s need for electricity into an unimaginable nightmare for millions of Filipino consumers.

Once the Lopez Group, the Philippine Electric Corp. (Philec) and the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) are both seen in this light. One supplies actual power transformers and related equipment to the other at what many consider as massive transfer prices of up to 500 percent or more. Our source, who will only testify in public once Congress musters the courage to conduct an honest-to-goodness investigation, claims to have the goods on this.

For a time, as Meralco transitioned from the old guard to the new, sanguine hopes about the eventual dissolution of the tight embrace between the two said companies were raised. It was even claimed that power prices will be brought down since that kind of a set-up will end with the change in management.

It has been pointed out by industry watchers that these so-called “sweetheart deals” form a major component of Meralco’s capital base submission to the state regulatory body, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), upon which the past 12-percent Return-on-Rate Base (RoRB) and the current 15.8-percent Performance Based Regulation (PBR) rate setting schemes are computed. If the supplies and equipment — from transformers, electric poles, to project costs of installations such as substations or plants — are overpriced by exponential percentages, then so are our electricity rates.

The source of this news has, in fact, gone directly to the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of Philec which price power transformers for each mega volt-ampere (MVA), similar to horsepower in engines.
In the Taiwan OEM plant visited by our informant for the purpose of getting the real bottom price, for instance, a quote of P250,000/MVA was given — far less than the P600,000/MVA reported in the Philippines, even if the usual discounts of 30 and 15 percent given to buyers, including most Philippine electric cooperatives, were to be deducted.

Further, if a high-end Japanese brand is preferred, which the Taiwanese plant also officially produces, then a simple expedient of tacking on the Japanese brand’s steel plate for it to be priced higher is resorted to. Is this what Meralco does?

In claiming the need for a top-of-the-line variant, it uses the Japanese name plate to increase the quote as well as its capital base with the ERC — which the regulating agency unfortunately approves without as much as a whimper — to the tune of P1,600,000/MVA!

When the Lopez Group sold control of Meralco, there was indeed that opportunity to cut the monopolistic relationship between the two inextricably linked power firms, with hopes that rates will go down in spite of the already escalating bent of the onerous PBR. But nothing has changed. Filings made for the power distributor’s capital expenditures continue to be based on vastly overpriced claims; hence, its 80 to 90 percent yearly profit increases.

Fortunately, power consumers all over the country have begun to understand more comprehensively the massive swindle that is the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), or the post-Edsa II power privatization law that has spawned many “monsters:”

From the ERC that is believed to be captured by Meralco; to the state holding firm Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (Psalm) that is petitioning for consumers to shoulder the Universal Charge that will pay for $18 billion (still!) in National Power Corp. (Napocor) debts, which were promised to have been paid with privatization but never were; to the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) that wants to raise rates to pay for damages caused by typhoons “Ondoy,” “Basyang,” etc., leaving its multi-billion insurance untouched; to the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (Pemc) that wants to raise rates for “administrative modernization” (a euphemism for raising officers’ salaries); to its adjunct, the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (Wesm), which averages rates based on the highest (instead of the lowest) fluctuations, there are certainly more Epira monsters to discover — and decipher.

What puzzles is that Congress, which is into every sort of investigation imaginable, has not touched on the festering and oppressive electricity scams being perpetrated right before our very eyes. It seems the likes of Rep. Henedina Abad and Sen. Serge Osmeña, who head their respective chamber’s energy committees, are oblivious to appearing as stooges of these power giants.

Given this, will anyone else take the cudgels for the suffering Philippine economy, our industries, and our people? Or is everyone just too scared of the Philippines’ very own, steel-hearted, steel-fisted “Transformers”? The answer need not be more than meets the eye.

(My new e-mail: mentong2011@gmail.com. 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, 8:15 to 9 p.m., with replay at 11 p.m., on GNN, Destiny Cable Channel 8; 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/20110829com5.html

China and Gloria EDITORIAL 08/29/2011

China and Gloria

Click to enlarge
The long held view that the United States had resented the expanded ties between China and the Philippines during the administration of former President Arroyo was challenged by recent leaked cables from the whistle-blower Web site Wikileaks.

Instead of condemnation, the US post in the country considered the warming up of relations in both trade and political spheres as a natural consequence of the expanding influence of China in the region and the thrust of the US government then against terrorism which was perceived as incompatible to the country’s goals.

The communication did not hide the fact about perceptions that most of the Chinese contracts with the government are tainted with corruption, but the overriding interest of the US was obviously how the dealings with China would impact on the traditional role of the Philippines as its closest ally in the region.

The encompassing message from the leaked cable was that China is using its new found economic strength to buy off influence in the region and that the botched National Broadband Network (NBN) project awarded to Chinese supplier ZTE was one of such efforts..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110829com1.html

Opaque government budget FRONTLINE Ninez Cacho-Olivares 08/29/2011

Opaque government budget

Ninez Cacho-Olivares
The rationale behind the scrapping of intelligence funds in many government departments, so claimed Budget Secretary Butch Abad, was that these were not involved in any intelligence gathering, which does sound logical.

But it then must be asked why Noynoy has increased his intelligence funds by P200 million, bringing a total budget outlay for 2012 to some P600 million in intelligence funds for him alone, since the Office of the President certainly is far from being engaged in intelligence gathering.

At the same time, the intel budget for the Nica (National Intelligence Coordinating Agency), which is an intelligence agency and presumably into intel gathering, was slashed. So was the military intelligence budget when the Armed Forces of the Philippines, at least through the Intelligence Service of the AFP or Isafp, is into intelligence gathering. What then is the justification of slashing the AFP intel budget, while increasing the Philippine National Police and related agencies’ intelligence budget?

Even more glaring is the fact that while Noynoy had his intel budget increased by P200 million, it was reported that the Office of the Vice President’s intel budget was completely scrapped. Why then, if the Office of the President needs an additional P200 million for Noynoy’s intelligence funds, is the Budget secretary scrapping the intel funds of the Office of the Vice President?.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110829com2.html

DOTC Sec Mar Roxas backs MRT fare hikes, increasing penalties, PPPs

DOTC Sec Mar Roxas backs MRT fare hikes, increasing penalties, PPPs

Mar Roxas’ proposed budget slashed by 38-percent the government subsidy on MRT for 2012—from P6.9 billion ($162.7 million) to P4.29-billion ($101.15 million), despite reports of annual increases in passenger load.

MANILA – Transportation secretary Mar Roxas is earning the ire of Filipino workers and people, said the progressive labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) in a statement, as Roxas defended the privatization of the MRT and LRT and, according to KMU, also justified the hiring of strike-breakers in PAL (Philippine Air Lines).

Privatizing the railways and subsidizing the profits of private contractors, like what is happening now, has been blamed by various peoples’ organizations as the reason behind the looming fare hikes in MRT and LRT.

“We don’t think this is the best way to prepare for the next elections,” warned Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of progressive labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), to Mar Roxas who is perceived as gearing up for the next presidential elections.

Begrudging subsidies for mass transport

In the budget deliberations in Congress, Roxas said that if the budget would be raised to increase the government’s subsidy per train passenger, then they (the DOTC) would not run out of funds for subsidies and so they would not have to consider “burden-sharing,” or increasing the MRT and LRT fares.

Roxas and other DOTC officials at the budget hearing in Congress.(Photo by Marya Salamat / bulatlat.com)
Roxas’ proposed budget slashed by 38-percent the government subsidy on MRT for 2012—from P6.9 billion ($162.7 million) to P4.29-billion ($101.15 million), despite reports of annual increases in passenger load. Asked by Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Rafael Mariano if the cut meant there would be fare hikes, Roxas replied that they will not be sourcing all the resulting budget shortfall on fare hikes alone.

Roxas asked the Congress to “realign” the country’s tax-based spending because, he said, reminding the lawmakers that it was they who had pointed it out, “only the Metro Manila train riders have been enjoying a train ride that’s P55-subsidized per rider, when the rest of the country who are not in Metro Manila and not riding these trains have also been paying taxes.”

Roxas said it is the taxpayers in other regions who are “losing” in the railways’ operations and not the government. Such imbalance in using public money was not invoked, however, for the rest of the DOTC’s proposed P26.5-billion ($625million) projects in 2012 to build or upgrade airports, ports and lighthouses. Many of which would facilitate the operations of foreign investments in its covered districts, said some lawmakers who asked Roxas to fast-track or improve the said projects.

Roxas emphasized in the budget deliberation and in media interviews the need for “burden-sharing” between the government and the commuters in financing the operations of MRT and LRT.... MORE


URL: http://bulatlat.com/main/2011/08/28/dotc-sec-mar-roxas-backs-mrt-fare-hikes-increasing-penalties-ppps/

Can America be trusted? C.R.O.S.S.R.O.A.D.S Jonathan De la Cruz 08/29/2011

Can America be trusted?

Jonathan De la Cruz
The question being asked as P-Noy prepares for his five-day state visit to China tomorrow is not so much the possible outcome of this trip. It is clear that despite the heated exchanges over the Spratlys including the misplaced and insensitive issuances spewed out by administration officials on the Luneta hostage tragedy, the Chinese will ever be the gracious hosts they have always been known to be. I am sure they will do all they can to give P-Noy and his huge entourage (is it true some 200 businessmen will accompany him on this trip?) all the courtesies and perks befitting a head of state. Thanks to their solid understanding of historical ties, the Chinese will shower P-Noy with loads of bacon in terms of investments, trade, aid and tourism packages as well as directed people-to-people exchanges.

But the test, the real question which will definitely hang over this visit, is whether P-Noy can summon the courage and the stamina to acknowledge that our country’s future will require balancing his decidedly pro-American tendencies with that of enhancing proper and responsible fraternal relations with China — our big neighbor and the world’s other emerging power. Which is precisely why in a previous column we noted that P-Noy and his advisers may be misreading the wave of the future by unduly hyping the Spratlys issue which is widely seen as a US induced “problem” while down playing if not totally ignoring the more immediate and, yes, solvable issues on hand such as those related to the Luneta fiasco. That is a No-No by any measure..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110829com4.html

De Castro, ex-subordinates not yet off the hook — solon By Angie M. Rosales 08/29/2011


De Castro, ex-subordinates not yet off the hook — solon

By Angie M. Rosales 08/29/2011

Former Vice President Noli de Castro and members of the board of Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF), also known as the Pag-IBIG Fund, during his term are not yet off the hook regarding a P12-billion housing loan scam and could also be charged over the multibillion-peso anomaly as they were the ones who approved the loans that defrauded the government.

Sen. Sergio Osmena III said the possibility of the former Vice President and Pag-IBIG officials being indicted along with Globe Asiatique Realty and Holdings Corp. executives is not remote considering the role they played in approving the release of the loans made by alleged fictitious borrowers.

Last Wednesday, the Department of Justice (DoJ) recommended the filing of syndicated estafa charges against officials of Globe Asiatique led by Delfin Lee, its president and chief operating officer, and four others in connection with loans granted to it by HDMF through “special buyers” and “ghost borrowers.”.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20110829hed1.html

‘Mina’ death toll rises to 8; over 100K people affected 08/29/2011

‘Mina’ death toll rises to 8; over 100K people affected

Super typhoon “Mina” killed at least eight persons and left flattened bridges and blocked roads in its wake as it moved away from the Philippines and churned toward Taiwan, officials yesterday said.

The toll of dead and missing is likely to rise as officials assess the full impact of the storm, the strongest to hit the country this year, Emilia Tadeo of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) damage report section said.

“After the rains have subsided, that is only when we find the additional casualties and damage, when the local responders submit them to us,” Tadeo told Agence France Presse.

Five were killed by landslides, including two children, buried by an avalanche of rubbish at a tip in the northern mountain city of Baguio, the OCD said..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20110829hed3.html

MILF to push Bangsamoro bid despite deadlock By Mario J. Mallari 08/29/2011

MILF to push Bangsamoro bid despite deadlock

By Mario J. Mallari 08/29/2011
Despite the “deadlock” in the peace negotiation with the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would still push with its proposed establishment of Bangsamoro substate to address the decades-long Mindanao conflict.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said that the government’s counter proposal was way behind the MILF expectations, citing previous agreements by the peace panels, including the “reframing” of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) which was junked as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2008.

The MILF negotiator stressed that he does not know if the government could reconsider its proposal “but the MILF would push through with our proposal.”

Iqbal, however, admitted being “frustrated” by the GRP’s counter proposal which meant that the long years of negotiations went back to scratch..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20110829nat1.html

House panel approves P1.816-T budget for 2012 By Gerry Baldo 08/29/2011

House panel approves P1.816-T budget for 2012

By Gerry Baldo 08/29/2011
The House committee on appropriations has approved the P1.816-trillion proposed national budget next year and is expected to deliberate on the measure in plenary on Sept. 6.

According to Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya, chairman of the panel, the House is right on track in the budget deliberations even the 2012 budget would be ready for signing by the President before the year ends.

“We passed the committee report last Friday. We will sponsor the general appropriations bill in the plenary on Sept. 6,” Abaya said yesterday.

Abaya added the proposed budget, which was approved by his committee, was no different from what Malacañang had proposed and that it included the controversial P39.4 billion allotment for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)’s conditional cash transfer..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20110829nat2.html

DepEd announces NCAE moved to Sept. 28 By Jason Faustino 08/29/2011

DepEd announces NCAE moved to Sept. 28

By Jason Faustino 08/29/2011

The Department of Education (DepEd) announced over the weekend it had moved the National Career Assessment Examination (NCAE) from August 31 to September 28.

Changes will also be made as Education Secretary Armin Luistro said the NCAE will now be administered for third-year high school students both in public and private secondary schools.

“We deem it better to administer the NCAE to third year high school students to give them sufficient time for comprehensive career guidance before they enter the tertiary level,” Luistro said.

Also expected to take the NCAE are fourth year high school students applying for scholarship programs of the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).Under DepEd Order No. 28, fourth-year students who will take the NCAE for Ched and Tesda scholarship should belong to the top 10 percent of each secondary high school regardless of school size..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/metro/20110829met2.html

Solons want blood donors strictly monitored By Gerry Baldo 08/29/2011

Solons want blood donors strictly monitored

By Gerry Baldo 08/29/2011

Members of the House of Representatives yesterday urged the Department of Health (DoH) to strictly monitor its blood donation program in the light of reports that some donations may have been tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV-AIDS).

Citizens Battle Against Corruption party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna stressed the DoH must strictly monitor blood donation in the country so as not to jeopardize the lives of so many people and stop the spread of the virus.

“We have to closely look at blood donation scheme in the country because the possibility of serious HIV spread is always there, especially if the system is left unchecked,” Tugna said.

Tugna also stressed the need for the other concerned government and private agencies to intensify the information drive on the fight against the spread of HIV-AIDS..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/metro/20110829met3.html

Grand Old Lady of Katipunan’s remains to be transferred to her birth place By Arlie O. Calalo 08/29/2011

Grand Old Lady of Katipunan’s remains to be transferred to her birth place

By Arlie O. Calalo 08/29/2011
Exhumation of the remains of the Grand Old Lady of the Katipunan, Melchora Aquino, from Himlayang Pilipino for transfer to the Tandang Sora Shrine now has a good chance of gaining congressional approval after the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) backed Quezon City’s claims to have the remains transferred to the heroine’s birth place on Banlat Road in Tandang Sora.

The non-inclusion of Himlayang Pilipino in the list of NHCP’s national historical shrines and the failure of the memorial park’s administration to provide the city government with valid documents supporting claims that Tandang Sora should remain buried there, have bolstered QC’s interest to pursue the transfer of the heroine’s remains which has long been requested by her family.

Tandang Sora’s remains were transferred to Himlayang Pilipino in 1970.

“QC is not giving up its claims to exhume Tandang Sora’s remains. Nothing will be more timely and fitting than to have her rightfully buried in her original birthplace during the commemoration of her bicentennial year on Jan. 6, 2012,” said Mayor Herbert Bautista during a meeting with members of the QC Task Force Tandang Sora..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/metro/20110829met4.html

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