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The national plundering goes on DIE HARD III Herman Tiu Laurel 02/17/2012

Friday, February 17, 2012

The national plundering goes on

Herman Tiu Laurel
It is a news item that gets little notice as it does not relate to the impeachment hearings. But if the government and media were truly alert, they would have spotted it right from the get-go.

The claimed “uprating” of the Agus VI hydroelectric plant in Mindanao, to be undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), is geared toward increasing the facility’s “output to augment limited supply on the island.” This was the official announcement from Josefina Patricia Asirit, undersecretary of the Department of Energy (DoE), who said that the “uprating… needs to be presented to the Neda (National Economic Development Authority) Board.”

Simply put, uprating means Agus VI will soon be able to produce 62 megawatts (MW) from its present 50. The question is: Why only now when it could have been done much earlier?

They, of course, allege that Mindanao is short of power today. And with the scheduled brownouts causing massive economic displacement in the island, this has been turned into another reason for the private sector to be given new independent power producer (IPP) contracts that will double Mindanao’s generation cost.

The Agus VI uprating confirms our charge these past decades that authorities delayed rehabilitation deliberately to create an opportunity for electricity plunder. It confirms the conspiracy led by multilateral financial institutions in tandem with the Philippine oligarchy and its corrupt political class.

We have time and again seen through these conspirators’ modus operandi: Create power shortages; announce actions (though delayed) to justify government expenditure for “rush jobs;” then announce the privatization of a particular facility once its rehabilitation is completed and its systems are fully operational.

In this instance, the pressure for the privatization of the entire Agus-Pulangui hydroelectric complex has been on for years now. Only opposition from many crusading Mindanao power sector NGOs, civic leaders, and political leaders, such as Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, has stopped them so far. Sooner or later, though, the multinationals and multilaterals will descend upon Malacañang to get their way.

It is therefore important to keep refreshing the historical memory of our people about the pressure exerted by, say, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) through its dangling of a $300 million standby loan on our politicians in 2001 to pass the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), a law that caused, among other things, the onerous and devastating privatization of power, the creation of the administrative and corrupt monster that is the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), as well as its Satanic offspring, the Performance Based Regulation, which pushed the country’s power rates to become “the highest in Asia,” if not the world.

For the swift enactment of that law, which allegedly cost P500,000 per congressman plus millions in electricity projects, Gloria Arroyo back then was hailed by the foreign chambers of commerce, the Makati Business Club, and other oligarchs. It is not surprising then that these very same people are now showing all their love for PeNoy for providing the impeachment distraction as their power plunder continues.

As Agus and Pulangui supply the vast majority of hydro power in Mindanao, the same report last Monday also stated that the DoE is similarly pushing the dredging by government of the Lanao River that supplies water to Pulangui VI. Our question again is: Why only now?

Mindanaoans have demanded the dredging of these facilities years ago. But, as no action was taken, the power crisis started allowing the DoE, Psalm (Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp.), and the NGCP (National Grid Corp. of the Philippines) to issue ”red alert” bulletins of power shortages to justify their call for more privatization and new emergency projects (e.g., power plants and transmission connections).

The caveat is, every time new projects are approved, new capex (capital expenditure) requirements are submitted, which are added to the power bills consumers pay for.

When will Congress and Malacañang do something about this — only after a genuine political revolution sweeps these corrupt ruling classes away?

On another related note, we have this item on the “wholesale savings” being stored with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas for 4.25 percent interest and used as a tool for managing the country’s money and currency, called the Special Deposit Account (SDA): It has already grown to P1.721 trillion the past month.
UP Economics professor Ben Diokno explains: “(The high level of funds in SDAs) indicated still weak demand for loans, suggesting lack of investment opportunities or banks still careful in extending loans… SDAs are short-term while PPP (Public-Private Partnership) financing requirements are extremely long-term…”

Really? But why do I see strong demand for loans from coconut and dairy, as well as other small manufacturing import-substitution sectors? Ah, but these are genuine industries that are not encouraged by the present economic planners.

Financial forensics expert Hiro Vaswani even contends that what this fund shows is that we are indeed a relatively rich nation. The only fly in the ointment is that lowering the rates and releasing it could create havoc due to the fact that we have no strong State that sets its own economic goals by directing the huge fund for our own productive developmental investments.

Reflecting further on Vaswani’s analysis, it dawned on me that the PPP program is but a concession to global capital, which, in fine, involves highly financially leveraged “rentier” projects (just like apartments and market stalls that are built and rented out to the public) with government guarantees that are not directly productive.

Although these may support some productivity in agriculture and industry, the fees and rates are just too high, making such an exploitative set-up work against productivity in the long run.

Taking note of the impact of such high toll and harbor fees, not to mention the high cost of energy projects being entered into, the PPP may very well stand for “Private Plunder Projects.”

(Tune in to 1098AM, dwAD, Sulo ng Pilipino/Radyo OpinYon, Monday to Friday, 5 to 6 p.m.; watch Destiny Cable GNN’s HTL edition of Talk News TV, Saturdays, 8:15 to 9 p.m., with replay at 11:15 p.m., on “The evils of corporate mining behemoths;” 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/20120217com6.html

Workers oppose SSS plans to increase premiums to generate PPP funds

Workers oppose SSS plans to increase premiums to generate PPP funds

KMU deputy secretary-general Leandro Gerodias said the agency’s main objectives in pushing for higher contributions is to generate more funds for business projects and investments, and not so much to benefit workers in the long run.


Members of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) picketed the main office of the Social Security System (SSS) in Quezon City to protest against the agency’s plan to increase members’ contributions and invest in the Aquino government’s public-private partnership projects.

As early as April last year, the SSS, through its president and chief executive officer (CEO) Emilio S. de Quiros, announced the agency’s plan to increase members’ premiums from 10.4 per cent to 11 per cent. The announcement was met with protests and the SSS was forced to delay its implementation.

Members of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) picket the main office of the Social Security System (SSS) to protest against the agency’s plan to increase members’ contributions and invest in the Aquino government’s public-private partnership projects. (Photo courtesy of KMU / bulatlat.com)
If the SSS’ plans are implemented, members will have to pay P51.20 ($1.19) monthly instead of P46.68/month ($1.08) . This applies for workers earning a minimum wage of P8,520 ($ 198.13) for Metro Manila non-agricultural sector, and P7,780 ($181) for Metro Manila agricultural sector. For workers in Metro Manila receiving the minimum wage, P404 or $9.40 plus the P22 or $ 0.51 cost of living allowance daily, the 0.6 percent increase will amount to a more than P60 ($ 1.40) reduction in monthly pay.

According to de Quiros, the increase in contributions will be shared equally by both employers and workers. Currently, employers and minimum wage earners pay a combined amount of P809 to P886 ($18.8 to $20.60) monthly in SSS contributions. With the 10.6 percent increase, contributions from workers and employers will increase, amounting to P855 to P937 ($19.88 to $21.80) The higher the wages, the higher the contributions.

In the meantime, the SSS also explained that the proposed increase will also extend the benefits and pension to its members from the year 2039 to 2049. Based on an actuarial valuation done in 2007, SSS’ funds are sufficient for the next 27 years or until the year 2039.The SSS has more than 29 million members.

By comparison, the contribution rate of SSS’ 10.4 percent is less than half of the 21 percent rate of the Government Service Insurance System, the equivalent pension fund for government employees. The last time the SSS imposed an increase in contribution rates was in 2007, with premiums being adjusted by one percent.

The SSS posted net revenues of P24 billion ($558 million) in the first 11 months of 2011, or 12 percent higher that what it earned in 2010 during the same period.

Increase benefits and pensions

The KMU is against plans to increase workers’ contributions to the pension fund.

(Photo courtesy of KMU / bulatlat.com)
KMU deputy secretary-general Leandro Gerodias said the agency’s main objectives in pushing for higher contributions is to generate more funds for business projects and investments, and not so much to benefit workers in the long run.

“The SSS is going after workers’ hard-earned income to funnel the funds into the coffers of big foreign and local capitalists. We will not take this sitting down,” he said.

“The SSS has the funds to increase workers’ pensions without increasing workers’ premiums. We want an increase in our pensions, but not in our premiums.”

The labor leader pointed out that the SSS wants to raise workers’ premiums because it wants to aid the Aquino government in its PPP projects, as well as big business groups that want assurance for their investments..... MORE


URL: http://bulatlat.com/main/2012/02/16/workers-oppose-sss-plans-to-increase-premiums-to-generate-ppp-funds/

UN passes symbolic condemnation of Syrian government

UN passes symbolic condemnation of Syrian government

The UN General Assembly has called on Syrian President Assad to step down. The resolution passed Thursday is worded similarly to a document vetoed in the UN Security Council by Russia and China. The adopted resolution has no executive power.

­The Assembly has passed the Egypt-sponsored resolution with 137 in favor, 12 against and 17 abstaining. It blames the Syrian government for “widespread and systematic” violation of human rights, and voices support for an Arab League plan for a transition of power in the country..... MORE


URL: http://rt.com/news/un-assembly-vote-syrian-resolution-521/

Groundhog year: Cooking Syria ‘Libya-style’

Groundhog year: Cooking Syria ‘Libya-style’

Libya is marking the first anniversary of the revolution that brought the country plenty of destruction, but not as much democracy. And while NATO denies intentions to interfere with Syria, Libyans have learned the hard way “freedom” is exported.

­NATO has 'no intention’ 2.0

­"NATO has no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria. We appreciate very much all the efforts to find a solution to the conflict in Syria. I appreciate the work of the Arab League. I do believe that a regional solution has to be found," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Brussels on Wednesday..... MORE

URL: http://rt.com/news/syria-nato-libya-intervention-523/

Friendly advice: France, UK to command ousting of Assad?

Friendly advice: France, UK to command ousting of Assad?

Coordinating help to the Syrian opposition is among the things French and British leaders are discussing on Friday. The anti-government troops lack proper training, and military advisors sent by the west may change the situation.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and the French President Nicolas Sarkozy are expected to discuss practical ways of helping the armed branch of the Syrian opposition, the Free Syrian Army (FSA)..... MORE


URL: http://rt.com/news/france-uk-syria-advisors-569/

Government should act decisively against human trafficking– Gabriela

Government should act decisively against human trafficking– Gabriela

“The growing poverty, unemployment and landless in our country exponentially increase the vulnerability of women and children to sex trafficking.” – Rep. Luz Ilagan, Gabriela Women’s Party

Last Valentine’s day February 14, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan called attention to the issue of human trafficking, saying that a mere four days previously, the Gabriela rescued eight women from a bar owned by a Korean national in Baguio City.

According to a report by Northern Dispatch, an alternative news agency based in Baguio City, the women arrived in Baguio on Feb. 1, three of them were minors and all eight coming from various rural poor areas in Mindanao. They were reportedly recruited by a certain Korean named Nora Chang who promised P10,000 ($232) in advanced salaries to each of the women’s families.

Ilagan said the women discovered that the recruiter received P130,000 ($3,023) from the owner of the newly-opened bar in Baguio City, but she did not give the promised P10,000 ($232) to the families they left behind.

From Feb. 1 to the day they were rescued, each victim was given an allowance of P150 ($3.48), but P50 ($1.16) was withheld as payment for their “costumes” and the remaining P100 $2.32) was allotted for their food. They were, however, unable to buy food because they were not allowed to leave the bar’s premises and they were locked inside from from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Only when they were brought to the bar in the afternoon could they have a meal..... MORE


URL: http://bulatlat.com/main/2012/02/16/government-should-act-decisively-against-human-trafficking%E2%80%93-gabriela/

CPP brands troops rotation as ploy to put up new US base By Mario J. Mallari 02/17/2012

CPP brands troops rotation as ploy to put up new US base

By Mario J. Mallari 02/17/2012

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) yesterday branded the planned rotation of thousands of United States troops to the Philippines from Okinawa, Japan as meant to establish another Subic, thus providing military base for the American forces.

The CPP, in a statement, noted pronouncements made by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta before the US Senate, announcing ongoing negotiations between the Philippine and US governments for a “rotational presence” of more than 3,000 American troops from Okinawa to the Philippines.

“US plans to setup a mini-Subic military base, service facility or exclusive dock in the Philippines have become increasingly apparent as officials of the Obama government announced it is going to rotate at least 3,300 troops from its Okinawa base in Australia, Singapore, Hawaii and the Philippines,” the CPP stated..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20120217nat2.html

PSBank bares Banal as leak 02/17/2012

PSBank bares Banal as leak

Yesterday’s Senate court trial heard testimonies from two bank officials from the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank), testifying that Chief Justice Renato Corona owned several accounts at the bank and closed down two peso time-deposit accounts at the PSBank Katipunan Branch on Dec. 12, 2011, the same day that he was impeached by the House of Representatives.

PSBank branch manager Annabelle Tiongson testified that Corona’s two accounts with account numbers 089-121019593 and 089-121021681 were both closed on Dec. 12, 2011. The two accounts had a total balance of P19.7 million as of end-December 2010.

The count of the total amount of the Chief Justice’s accounts was over P30 million..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20120217hed1.html

Another likely SF blunder seen in Laguna misencounter By Mario J. Mallari 02/17/2012

Another likely SF blunder seen in Laguna misencounter

By Mario J. Mallari 02/17/2012

Two supposed hunters were killed while two others were wounded in what could be a case of mis-encounter between the civilians and members of the Army’s elite Special Forces (SF) in Laguna province early morning yesterday.

Military reports showed that elements of the Special Forces were dispatched in Barangay Ilayang Atingay, Magdalena town along the tri-boundaries of Magdalena-Majayjay-Liliw at around 1 a.m. following reports of presence of armed men, suspected to be members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), in the area..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20120217nat4.html

High court orders CHR, CA to study carefully case against Fil-Am activist By Benjamin B. Pulta 02/17/2012

High court orders CHR, CA to study carefully case against Fil-Am activist

By Benjamin B. Pulta 02/17/2012
A human rights violation case filed by a Filipino-American activist has been remanded by the Supreme Court (SC) to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Court of Appeals (CA) after the tribunal ruled that despite lacking evidence, an outright dismissal of the case would be a disservice to justice.

In an 11-page resolution, the SC en banc stressed that while the investigation into the complaint filed by activist Melissa Roxas conducted by the CHR failed to sufficiently establish the identities of those behind her abduction and torture in 2009, her petition for the issuance of a writ of amparo and habeas data against key military officials should not be dismissed since the Philippine National Police has yet to complete the investigation..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/metro/20120217met3.html

Permanent sanction vs Argentine boxer pushed 02/17/2012

Permanent sanction vs Argentine boxer pushed

Condemning the riot that took place in Argentina last Feb. 12, San Juan City Rep. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito backed the government’s filing of a diplomatic protest against the Argentinian government while at the same time asking for sanctions to be meted on Argentine boxer Luis Lazarte and his team from entering the boxing ring permanently.

The lawmaker aired his appeal in a House resolution which urges Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) to take actions and push for Lazarte’s team to be penalized by the World Boxing Council..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/metro/20120217met4.html

Full-blown investigation sought into rice import By Charlie V. Manalo 02/17/2012

Full-blown investigation sought into rice import

By Charlie V. Manalo 02/17/2012

A farmer-turned lawmaker has asked the House committee on agriculture and food to conduct a full-blown congressional investigation in aid of legislation into the massive rice importation, irregularities and other anomalies in the trade which allegedly defrauded the government some P1 billion in taxes.

Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano called on the House leadership to act on House Resolution 183 seeking to investigate the controversies as he filed the continued complaints of huge amount in lost revenues because of the supposed irregularities besetting rice importation which is also jeopardizing the livelihood of millions of local rice farmers..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/metro/20120217met1.html

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