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New Year, old fight DIE HARD III Herman Tiu Laurel 01/09/2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Year, old fight

Herman Tiu Laurel
I got this text from Butch Junia last Jan. 5 on the rate reset application of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) before the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC): “The first hearing on… ERC case 2011-088 is set on Jan. 16 at 2pm. This is the first hearing on merits after ERC granted provisional authority in Oct. 2011, to take effect July 1, 2012. The rate granted is P1.58/kWh but consumers led by Naro Lualhati say it’s only P0.90/kWh. ERC up to now has not addressed consumer opposition. Let us build awareness/interest/involvement of the public. Also work up media coverage. Can we also solicit help/appearance of Alan and Bono? Thank you.”

Not even a week of the New Year has passed and our consumer crusaders are back on the ball again, raring to engage the “enemies of the people” in the continuing war to bring public interest and consumer welfare back to the top of the nation’s priorities. It will be a daunting task for sure, as we need to overcome the oligarchy and mainstream media’s mass mind manipulation with “red herring” issues such as that “Little Girl” and Corona.

Still, we have to doggedly go at it, lest Meralco has another year of bonanzas courtesy of the “provisional authority” granted to it by the ERC. We must remember that this provisional authority is granted even before issues meant to protect consumers are threshed out, which means that these are almost never resolved. And in the few times that they are, such as in the P30-billion Meralco refund case won by consumers in 2003, almost a decade passes and still the money owed by Meralco doesn’t get to be entirely paid. Worse, there is even an allegation that the power giant actually gets money for these payments from its hapless customers — an issue that remains unresolved to this day.

To refresh our memories, Mang Naro Lualhati had already questioned in 2010 the ERC-approved Performance Based Regulation (PBR) rate-setting scheme due to the fact that “overstated annual capital requirements” actually become the basis for massively distorted rate translations, which, in turn, discriminate against residential consumers who have to pay as high as P4/kWh (in distribution rates) while overwhelmingly favoring industrial/commercial users who only pay as low as P0.30/kWh — this, as the ERC-approved rate of over 15 percent is far beyond the legal reasonable 12-percent limit set by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), among other issues.

Jojo Borja, part owner of power company, Iligan Light, and now recognized as an “oppositor” by the ERC, has also charged Meralco with overpricing many components of its service — from its transformers and electric poles priced five times higher to its substation installations with an even higher overprice — facts that the foreign consultants of the ERC and Meralco had even admitted to.

And, as we transition from the old to the New Year, let us examine the many economic year-enders that have attempted to trace our economic problems. I included Ben Diokno’s “2012 will be better but…,” “Economic lessons from 2011” by Sonny Africa, “Riding out the turbulence” (Malaya editorial), Raul Fabella’s “Elite capture,” and many others. Yet none has ever mentioned “the highest power cost in Asia” as a major root of our country’s economic problems.

I don’t know if they are actually being deliberate in missing this, but industry leaders, from the Philippine Chamber of Commerce to the Confederation of Philippine Exporters and the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, to name a few indicative groups, have already identified the exorbitant power rates in the country as the major hindrance to encouraging investments and, hence, industry and employment.

Tragically, BS Aquino III has not made a single quip on this problem in the past 20 months, preferring to make a mountain out of an alleged P14-million condo unit of Corona instead of the P14-billion annual larceny in the power distribution sector and hundreds of billions in the other power units, compelling the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. to borrow and burden taxpayers with P85 billion more in loans for 2012, after getting P75 billion in 2011.

The current year will usher in more “magic” for the power sector as four Napocor (National Power Corp.) power barges (101 to 104) are set to be privatized while a power shortage is created in Mindanao (see Jan. 5 headline “Rotating outages to hit south-central Mindanao”). At the blink of an eye, these four power barges sold off to oligarchs are sure to suddenly come on line at the opportune time. But wait. There is another momentous event coming in the power sector that we should brace for.

Little noticed was the recent creation of a new agency, the “institutionalization of an independent market operator (IMO) that shall oversee the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (Wesm)… (assuming) vast powers in the approval of market rule changes and in the appointment of board memberships.” What we are about to see is a concentration of power over policies and prices in a body that the public has no control over, which is likely beyond what the Epira had ever envisioned.

The members to the five-man IMO are required not to have any relations with any member of the Wesm, or the private power companies, at least two years prior; but that’s a joke since even today many Cabinet officials have conflicts-of-interest with their former (and prospective) corporate employers.

What we need is a body with members who are unquestionably on the side of the consumers and taxpayers — something that we will never see under the present dispensation.

(Tune in to Sulo ng Pilipino/Radyo OpinYon, Monday to Friday, 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/20120109com5.html

Just do it, endorse FoI EDITORIAL Click to enlarge 01/09/2012

Just do it, endorse FoI

Click to enlarge
At long last, it seems that the Freedom of Information (FoI) bill showed signs of life after a long period of uncertainty under Noynoy who had pledged in the 2010 campaigns that this would be a priority of his administration. But after his election, he started to change his tune, citing the danger to the nation of too much information being released from government.

A draft bill with the apparent approval of Noynoy is being readied for transmittal to Congress. According to Malacaang, the rehashed proposal has been the product of long consultations with the media and others who are concerned about the availability of state information.

The Palace did not say, however, whether or not Noynoy would endorse the bill as his administrations priority.

The bill is well debated since it has the potential of assuring transparency in government by requiring it to release nearly all forms of information that the public will require and the trade off, according to Malacaang might be the compromising of national security objectives. Nonetheless, the Philippines with the lack of commitment from government is one of the shrinking group of countries that has remained resistant to an FoI..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20120109com1.html

NYPD raids studio used by OWS live-streamers

NYPD raids studio used by OWS live-streamers

The New York City headquarters of a group cooperating with the Occupy Wall Street movement was swarmed by the NYPD on Tuesday in a raid that left half a dozen people involved with the Globalrevolution.tv website in police custody.

Cops entered the Bushwick studio used by Global Revolution on Tuesday after posting a notice on the door of the space occupied by the group the night before. According to authorities, the space at 13 Thames St in the Brooklyn, NY neighborhood hosted conditions “imminently perilous to life” and had to be vacated by all occupants, although failed to provide any details on what factors had led to such a case. When cops returned the next day and found a handful of people on the premises, they were arrested..... MORE


URL: http://rt.com/usa/news/studio-ows-revolution-global-221/

Gitmo’s evil twin: Afghanistan slams torture in US-run Bagram jail (w/ Video)

Gitmo’s evil twin: Afghanistan slams torture in US-run Bagram jail

The US military has been accused of abuse and torture at its notorious detention center in Afghanistan. Investigators say most detainees at Bagram prison are being held without charge or firm evidence of guilt.

­Inmates of the US-run prison outside Bagram Air Base north of Kabul complained of freezing cold, humiliating strip searches and being deprived of light, according to Gul Rahman Qazi, who led an investigation ordered by President Hamid Karzai..... MORE


URL: http://rt.com/news/bagram-torture-afghanistan-investigation-359/

Obama’s new Pentagon strategy: strip benefits and buy more weapons (w/ Video)

Obama’s new Pentagon strategy: strip benefits and buy more weapons

Pensions and health care plans for US troops will be drastically reduced under a new budget presented by US President Barack Obama on Thursday. Not all aspects of the DoD will be annihilated, however.

The DoD will ditch medical benefits for troops but continue to spend on its expensive arsenal of doom.

President Obama joined Defense Secretary Leon Panetta from the Pentagon early Thursday in a rare public address from the two to talk changes made to the ledger in regards to the operation of the US military. As the US begins to scale back on foreign operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama administration is finding less of a need for the servicemen and women that have been on the battlefronts for the last decade. In order to cut costs, the new budget will thus eliminate positions from the armed forces and initiate changes to the pension and health care plans for military vets..... MORE


URL: http://rt.com/usa/news/obama-panetta-pentagon-strategy-251/

Iran sentences American ex-Marine to death for spying

Iran sentences American ex-Marine to death for spying

 American Amir Mirzai Hekmati, who also holds Iranian citizenship, has been sentenced to death by a judge in Iran for spying for the CIA, local media reported on Monday.

­The 28-year-old received the death penalty for “cooperating with a hostile nation, membership of the CIA and trying to implicate Iran in terrorism," the verdict said, according to the country’s semi-official Fars news agency.

Last month, Fars reported that the prosecution had applied for capital punishment because the suspect "admitted that he received training in the United States and planned to imply that Iran was involved in terrorist activities in foreign countries" after returning to the US..... MORE

URL: http://rt.com/news/iran-death-sentence-american-391/

The Sereno dissent C.R.O.S.S.R.O.A.D.S Jonathan De la Cruz 01/09/2012

The Sereno dissent

Jonathan De la Cruz
The youngest member of the Supreme Court(SC), Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, has proved to be a dependable advocate (partisan would be too strong a word) of the Aquino administration. This is not to suggest that she is and will continue to be beholden to P-Noy being his first appointee to the high tribunal.

Or that she is the Palace’s embedded member and designated hitter in the high tribunal. It is just that she has become, in the eyes of many observers, the main gatekeeper of the Aquino “agenda” however that may be translated now and presumably when she retires in 2030.

So congruent has Sereno’s ideas been with Malacanañg’s that she could very well pass off for Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and vice-versa in discussing various issues brought before the Court specially those involving the past administration and now Chief Justice Renato Corona..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20120109com4.html

Black Nazarene terror plot bared By Fernan J. Angeles 01/09/2012


Black Nazarene terror plot bared

By Fernan J. Angeles 01/09/2012

President Aquino bared before national television yesterday that authorities supposedly discovered a terrorist plot to disrupt the annual Black Nazarene religious procession in Manila that draws millions of Filipinos, warning at the same time that plotters had not been arrested.

At a hastily called press conference at the Palace, Aquino, along with Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, went on national TV to warn devotees attending the procession to be “extra careful and vigilant” even as he hinted that the government has deployed additional troops from the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other security units to the event.

Aquino said police had been tracking the group, which he did not identify, that was allegedly planning to sow terror during the feast of the Black Nazarene today..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20120109hed1.html

US high court ruling for Pinoy could stall massive deportation 01/09/2012

US high court ruling for Pinoy could stall massive deportation

A decision by the United States Supreme Court last month, staying the deportation of a Filipino immigrant convicted of voluntary manslaughter, could slow down the deportation of nearly 393,000 people in the fiscal year that ended September 30, half of whom were considered criminals.

Joel Judulang, 45, of Los Angeles, California, was ordered released from detention by a unanimous decision last Dec. 12 of the Supreme Court penned by Justice Elena Kagan, describing the new policy of the government’s Board of Immigration Appeals “as arbitrary and capricious on its own merits, even apart from retroactivity concerns.”

Judulang was born in the Philippines and was brought to the United States in 1974 at the age of eight..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20120109hed6.html

Toll in Compostela landslide rises to 31 01/09/2012

Toll in Compostela landslide rises to 31

Rescuers retrieved three more bodies from a landslide that buried part of an illegal gold-mining site in the Compostela Valley, raising the death toll to 31, officials said yesterday.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the toll could rise with up to 39 while others still unaccounted for. Heavy rains sparked a landslide on Thursday that buried part of the site in the town of Pantukan, Compostela Valley.

There had been confusion over the exact number of missing because authorities said gold prospectors do not necessarily register themselves with local authorities and no proper census was kept..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20120109nat2.html

Sayyaf terrorists blow up another bridge in Sulu 01/09/2012

Sayyaf terrorists blow up another bridge in Sulu

Suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists exploded another bridge in Sulu province on Saturday night, barely a day after the United States issued a travel advisory against the Philippines, rendering the structure impassable to all vehicles.

Quoting reports from the field, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz Jr. said that an improvised explosive device (IED) was exploded at the Km 15 Bridge in Barangay Pangdanon, Patikul town around 10:40 p.m.

“As a result, the bridge was totally damaged and presently not passable to all types of vehicles,” Cruz said. “Initial investigation disclosed that the IED was planted by ASG (Abu Sayyaf) members operating in Patikul, Sulu.”.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20120109nat3.html

Despite criticisms it received, Palace behind DoT new slogan By Danessa O. Rivera 01/09/2012

Despite criticisms it received, Palace behind DoT new slogan

By Danessa O. Rivera 01/09/2012

The Palace is “staunchly behind” the campaign of the Department of Tourism (DoT) with the country’s new slogan, “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” to attract more tourism by 2012, while the growing number of reactions to the new slogan — online or in print media — is proof that the campaign to attract more visitors to the Philippines is working.

Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said the entire government is on board and the President has not said anything to effect any review of the DoT slogan.

“We are staunchly behind the campaign of DoT and, more importantly, we are relying on the support of the public. As Secretary Jimenez said, “It will work if it we make it work. We are the primary reason why it’s more fun in the Philippines,’” she said..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/metro/20120109met1.html

Malacaang announces fugitive Palparan will be captured soon By Fernan J. Angeles 01/09/2012

Malacanang announces fugitive Palparan will be captured soon

By Fernan J. Angeles 01/09/2012

Malacaang is almost certain the government would be able to capture fugitive former Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. who has been eluding arrest for nearly a month.

Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said Palparan would eventually fall even if it may take a little more time.

We are sure we will capture him. It might take some time but we are sure he will be found eventually, she said on government-run dzRB radio..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/metro/20120109met2.html

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