Monday, May 25, 2015

Pol. Ideology 63, Alternative Economic System

This afternoon, I was one of two reactors to a presentation of a new paper made by the Penuel Group on "Alternative Economic System." The other reactor was Men Sta. Ana of the Action for Economic Reforms (AER).


Good audience, from different Catholic religious groups and NGOs. I thanked Arcy Garcia for the  invite.


The numbered items and in italics are from the paper by the Penuel Group. Then my brief comments plus relevant quotes from various thinkers.


2. “Sovereignty. "The Sovereign agents are the freer beings.  They could exist inside and outside the law.  The sovereign could, at one time, uphold the law, and at another time limit or even suspend it their pleasure.  This description of sovereignty fits the divine; for gods are almost by definition the only ones that could exists inside and outside the law.  Such position is the ultimately seductive. “

Similar to the observation by John Locke

"Social contract between people and government, latter  should protect the life and property of the former. Failure to do so is breach of contract. Sovereign people have the right to rebel against abusive "servant.”


Coercion invites rebellion, today or tomorrow. Thus, failure of coercion after sometime.


The Penuel paper somehow failed to present clearly what is the "Alternative economic system" that they propose after discussing at length their critique of the market system. I mentioned four alternative areas.


Concluding Notes

1.Despite all the warts and imperfections of the planet and its people, we are living a world of rising and continuing prosperity. Rising life expectancy, fewer deaths per age bracket compared to past decades.

2. The planet is not ending soon in a collapsing-burning-flooding-submerging scenario. Climate cycle is cool.

3. Free market means free individuals. All markets are composed of individuals, young and old, men and  women, ;rich and poor, producers and consumers.

4. Alternative econ system is one away from big and intrusive government but towards small, minimal government, and maximum civil society of mature, volunteerist individuals.
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The 15-slides presentation is posted in slideshare.

See also: 

Market Reforms in the 2016 Elections

A friend and  fellow UPSE alumni, Gary, posted in our SE alumni ygroups, a crowd-sourcing of reform agenda for the next President in 2016. He asked us to suggest top three economic initiatives that we believe would be real game-changers for the country. They could be new reforms, or reversals of current policies. Can be outrageous as long as they're not just motherhood and apple pie statements (like "build more infrastructure"). Also explain the world view behind them and practical action agenda to make them happen.

Gary started with his own three:

i. Amend the Constitution to allow totally unrestricted foreign economic participation (investment and labor).
ii. Abrogate land reform and redirect the buy-out funds elsewhere in agriculture.
iii. Abolish the minimum wage (or at least allow people to opt out).

The underlying worldview: The PH now enjoys good macro and fiscal fundamentals thanks only to four reasons: OFW's, BPO, EVAT reform, and a conservative BSP. The problem is, all that liquidity does not automatically translate into productivity gains, which by any economic theory is the only way to enlarge the economic pie instead of just endlessly redistributing it. My suggestions help us get there.

Action agendas: On (i) Charter change in any of its possible forms. On (ii) and (iii), legislative initiatives backed by a lot of media campaigning and political lobbying. And, hopefully, adoption into a campaign platform and/or governance agenda.

I support Gary’s 3 proposals. Have LESS government restrictions and prohibitions, it should NOT restrict (1) foreign investments and  competition, (2) big land ownership, especially corporate farming, and (3) free contract between employers and employees.

Investment (and trade) protectionism, endless and no timetable agrarian reform, endless government-imposed minimum wage -- all are social engineering by lovers of big and intrusive government.

Below are my top 3 reform agenda:

1. Cut income tax, personal  and corporate, max 15% or 18%. Indonesia’s President Jokowi has joined tax competition in  Asia, they cut their income tax from about 25% to 17% (Singapore level).

2. Unilateral trade liberalization, both goods and services. In rice trading in particular, remove NFA marketing and trading function, regulatory function only. Privatize its huge and many warehouses, trucks, etc., proceeds to be used to reduce its huge public debt.

3. Abrogate or significantly amend the Renewable Energy (RE) Act of 2008 (RA 9513), the renewables cronyism law. Extortionist provisions like the feed in tariff (FIT) and renewable portfolio standards (RPS) should be removed. The PH has the 2nd or 3rd most expensive electricity prices in Asia, the RE law will make  it even more expensive.

Example of how stupid that law is: Say midnight of any day, coal power plant will offer power at only P0.50/kWh or even less for a few MW, then wind power comes also with FIT or guaranteed minimum of P8+/kWh. The national grid (NGCP) is forced, coerced and arm-twisted by the law to dispatch power from expensive wind and turn  down the cheap power offered by a coal plant. Wind and solar power are cronies (solar FIT is P9+/kWh).

Some LGUs have dark  streets because electricity is expensive. And we know what often happens when streets are dark -- more vehicular accidents, more crimes, more death and injuries to people. These are real dangers to people’s lives and their properties, more real dangers than that far out “man-made” climate change of more rain and less rain, more flood and  less flood, more storms and less storms, more dogs  and less dogs.

About Makati, here are some of my observations:

1. High local taxes and fees. I saw a business permit of a start up, small office in  Makati.  Above photo is barangay permit + business plate, P1,600 + P300, total P1,900, barangay alone. Lower photo, Makati City Hall’s permits and fees, P23,785.


Not included are BIR, SSS, SEC, other. fees. Also not included are rumored extortion by some  LGU officials if one does not know enough high officials inside. The business has not started yet and the taxes and fees are already high. Then when the enterprise starts operating, there are monthly payments to the BIR, SSS, PhilHealth, PagIBIG.

2. Lots of Nos and Prohibitions. Which are signs of a lover of BIG government. Vans that bring ordinary office workers from their houses to Ayala avenue are being apprehended left and right. These people have no cars, or may have cars but are tired to drive in heavy traffic. The alternative is 3-4 rides from house to makati, one way, meaning 6-8 rides a day. If one wears corporate attire, or carrying a laptop or important documents, then ride a tricycle, then jeepney or bus, then squeeze in another bus or MRT, then  take another jeepney ride. Repeat the ordeal going home. The aircon vans ("colorum" daw) are market solutions to the hassles of driving in heavy traffic, or  taking 6-8 rides a day. Yet many of these vans are prohibited and are flagged down, harassed and penalized.  

3. Many lousy welfarist programs advertised in Ayala pedestrian underpasses -- free movies daily, free vitamins, supplements, monthly, etc. for  senior citizens,  Rich or poor can  avail of these welfarist programs.

Compare #1 and #3, over-taxing people and entrepreneurs even if they have other personal and household needs, part of the money to be used for movies and free vitamins even if the senior citizens are economically well-off.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

LTO Bureaucracy 8, No Driver's License Available

I don't understand what is really happening at the LTO, DOTC and Sec. Jun Abaya. You bring your car for the mandatory annual registration, (a) No car stickers, (b) No car plate available, And if you get a driver's license (DL), (c) No DL available, only a temporary paper license, and you pay P473 for it.


I covered my address, DL no., date of birth. When I asked one LTO officer when they will give that small laminated plastic DL, he said "mga 3-4 months po sir, balik kayo."
hayyy, dagdag abala naman yan pabalik ng LTO.

Here's a breakdown  of the P473 payment.

I asked them also when they will release the new car plate. Last month, they said "after 3-4 months" meaning by July or August. Yesterday, one staff said "mga August-September pa po sir."

1. Car stickers, about P50.
2. Car plate, P450.
3. Driver's license, P473.
All paid for by motorists and car owners, all not available.

Ano ba nangyayari dyan Sec. Jun Abaya? First time yata nangyayari ito, at mag reflect kay boss PNoy mo ito.

In the private sector, there is often over-supply especially if the sector or sub-sector is under fierce competition. That is why there are many "eat all you can" restaurants, "buy 1 take 1" shops or "weekend madness sale" malls, cheap mobile phones, etc. Entrepreneurs and suppliers anticipate demand, so they supply a lot in advance.

In contrast in government, like LTO-DOTC, supply is far far behind. Notorious inefficiency, or outright competition for robbery among factions in some government agencies. 

Plus slow MRT trains, often malfunctioning train air-con, despite the fare hikes. Plus crowded airports and things that are government-owned and operated. Good that buses and buslines are private. Otherwise, there would be shortage of buses, very crowded bus stations everyday.

I waited almost 2 hours at LTO Makati to get this temporary DL It was fast at the beginning, then slowed down later, especially in the picture taking and signature (window 4), then payment/cashier (window 7), then getting the temporary DL (window 5).


My original DL I lost to bus thieves last Wednesday who stole my wallet. A consolation that the LTO could have done, is to extend the expiry of the new DL that they will issue. My orig DL will expire in 2016. The temporary DL they issued will also expire in 2016. They could have made it May 2018 for a full 3 years DL. They did not do it, thinking that they will get more money from me and other driver's next year.

Comments from friends when I posted that temp. DL and my initial observations in  my fb wall. I did not ask permission from them to use their comments, so I am only giving their first names -- all are real people, not fictitious. Readers should focus on the ideas and sentiments, not the identity of people.

1. Bayani: they simply refuse to improve.

2. Manny: A simple agency to manage if only it is not a money-making machine for crooks! We need to privatize a lot of govt agencies and lessen govt intervention on our lives!!!

3. Paul: makapal ang mga pagmumuhak ng mga taong yan, wala silang pakialam, nasa pilipinas kasi. kaya abusado ang mga taong yan.

4. Ador: Incompetence.

5. Waltzing: PDAF may budget ninanakaw. You paid all the fees. No ID?available?

6. Jorge: Abaya us running for the senate ano kaya ang gagawin nya?

7. Ricardo: This is the noynoy-brand of decay. Tuwid na daan indeed.
Abaya, de lima, et al are all running for senate in the hopes of gaining immunity from suit for the anomalies they did that will all surface after 2016.

8. John: They should break up DOTC, merge the transport units with DPWH and create a DICT. LTO should be merged with LTRFB. Remove developmental mandates from CAAP and PPA and make them purely regulatory agencies. Outsource or privatize everything that is not regulatory in function.

9. Leo: Jun Abaya has got to be the most incompetent DOTC Secretary in its history. Nearly all the major visible public-affecting problems, e.g., MRT, LTO, LTFRB, are in his department. And despite his gross incompetence he's still there, continuing to wreak major damage to the institution and the nation.

10. Casey: Registered two cars last February. No stickers, no plates, until today. That happens when incompetents appoint other incompetents.or criminals. Look what happened at MRT. Something that never happened in 40 years. A foreign company accused the MRT crook of extortion. A foreign ambassador even came to testify about it, something never seen before. And what happens? Nothing. A huge black mark.

They prosecute senators and even the VP for corruption, which is good, if they are guilty. But prima facie evidence about the MRT heist is swept under the rug. Not exactly the straight path. The only good thing is that next year they will probably all be taken out by someone who is more honest

11. Stephen: Ricardo,  I hear what you're saying. As I did some reading in media reports I learned that the company that has been making the drivers licenses was awarded the contract in the mid 1980s. I presume, but admit that I am unclear, that the contract was awarded under Pres. Marcos. It expired at the end of 5 years, but no previous administration did anything about getting a new contract. So LTO just kept paying the uncontracted vendor. It is only now, under this administration that a real contract is being achieved. Not surprisingly that is not an easy process.

Casey: If they cannot even contract licenses and plates, can they do anything useful?

Stephen:  I am as frustrated as anyone and agree with your view. According to media reporting, LTO wants to bring the production "in-house." This is causing problems - they say - to get the printing/production machines in each of their offices. And... I am told... to overcome 25 years of comfort with the way things have been done by every administration since the mid 1980's. I don’t condone the state of affairs but merely write what I hear and read.

Nonoy: One possibility, DOTC keeps paying the vendor then sues it for inability to deliver the goods, a clear breach of contract. DOTC gets even with money then get another contractor/s to supply all the backlog. DOTC shd be ashamed of these things happening.

Ricardo: LTO hasn't been paying the plate supplier for at least year

12. Edwin: Jun Abaya is just a mere shadow of Mar Roxas - walang sariling dsisyon yung mama. Kailangan dumaan lahat kay Mar. The DOTC Action Center was converted into a Kayo ang Boss ko Action Center run by Mar Roxas people.

13. Leo:  The number one rule of this administration: if Noynoy likes you, you can do no wrong. If he doesn't like you, you can do no right.  How many YEARS does it take to renew, rebid or otherwise change a contract? Does it take 5 years?????!!!

Stephen: If media reports are accurate, its more like 25 years. Thats about when the last contract expired and nobody did anything about getting a new one til now. They just kept paying the old vendor. Same story, by the way,with some other services and other agencies and 1980's era contracts.

14. Carlos: It's actually a simple task for them, I am quite puzzled why they screwed this up. Or maybe they should get those experts in Recto to produce the licenses

Nonoy:  If DOTC's hand is tied in an existing contract, it can sue the contractor for failure to deliver the (a) car stickers, (b) car plates, (c) driver's licenses. The inconvenience to the public -- asking ALL of them to call LTO or come back after x number of months, and come back again after the specified period, the image of incompetence of the PNoy administration, etc. are huge damages.

But I think Jun Abaya is part of all these incompetence or scam. The LP should remove him from DOTC quick -- if the party is serious in stamping out corruption and inefficiency within its ranks.

15. Edison: noong huli ako nag-renew ng akin Driver's License mabilis kuha mo agad ang yon card type license matagal na yon 2 hours balita ko nga ngayon di mo makukuha yan ganyan muna issue nila babalik balikan mo pa yan bakit pauron nag paurong ang systema natin akala ko doon na mismo sa Branches ng LTO Print na nila ang Driuver's Lincense mo para kuah mo agad alam ko panahon ni marcos yan bakit bumabalik pa sa ganyan that PNoy called Tuwid na Daan bakit bumabaluktot pa dati tumagal din kasi daw panget ang INk sa pagprint ng License cards nagpalit na ng supplier ng ink ok na tapos ngyon yan ano naman ang dadahilan nila.

Papaano mapatutupad ang NO Plate No travel Policy ng LTO kung ang tagal naman mag-release ng Plate Number dami tuloy naguguluhan.

16. Francis: Abolish the LTO and DOTC. Let car registration and driving lisences be issued by vehicle vendors and insurance companies on the agreement that if someone they guarantee gets into an accident, the dealer or insurance company pays through the nose.

How many bad drivers have been certified by the LTO, DOTC? How many injuries and fatalities are they responsible for? Why are they not liable? Because they are government and government is magic.

17. Kika: Ang Nakakainis diyan is that I had to go to the U.S. and I only had the receipt. I couldn't drive! Hassle!
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Bus Thieves and the PNP, Part 2

Here is a continuation of my tweet exchanges with some PNP offices after I lost my wallet to bus theft/thieves four days ago. I noted in Part 1 that "I think the PNP national and regional offices are trying to be responsive to citizens' online reports and complaints." 


I am happy that the three PNP offices were responding to my concern.


I did not go back to Makati Central Police Station anymore. I think there is no need for a blotter report as these tweet exchanges are sufficient, they involve three PNP offices -- PNP national hotline, NCRPO and Makati Police. And as I stated and tweeted above, I was not asking for an investigation because the facts are hazy: I don't even know how many (1, 2 or more?) bus theft/thieves that night, I don't even know their faces, height or built, I don't know where they got off after, I don't even remember the Manila busline that I took, etc.

I only complained why the PNP Makati would refuse taking a report from a Makati resident simply because I discovered or noticed the crime done unto me when I was already in Cubao area. For me, katamaran  lang yon eh. After the PNP National and regional offices have intervened, PNP Makati softened and asked me to come back and make the blotter report. Thanks for the invite Sirs, I appreciate it nonetheless.

And thanks once again to  PNP hotline, PNP NCRPO, PNP Makati, for responding to such citizen complaint.

On another note, I  think the PNP, national and regional offices, should improve their intelligence gathering of bus robbery and even bus hold ups. I am sure there are many other victims who did not bother to report to the PNP via police stations/precincts, or via social media like twitter.

They should be more pro-active, get more info about those criminals. Like I heard from some friends who were also victims of bus robbery in the past, that for north-bound buses, the criminals usually do the hold ups between Ayala Ave, or Magallanes to Estrella in Makati, get off at Estrella. Why there? Because there are no policemen or MMDA officers in Estrella bus unloading areas.

To get public respect and support, the PNP should make our streets, buildings, buses, jeepneys, etc. more safe from criminals. The frequent complaint that I hear or read, and which I also agree with, is that the PNP is busy apprehending non-criminals like motorcycle drivers on slippers or not wearing helmets. And the real criminals are more free doing their public harassment and robbery. I sincerely hope that the PNP can turn their attention and guns on the real criminals. That is what they are hired and paid for from our taxes.
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See also: 
Car plates and power trip, Part 2, July 06, 2011

Saturday, May 23, 2015

BWorld 3, UHC via Health Voucher System

* This is my article yesterday in BWorld.


THERE ARE MANY claims and complaints that (a) the health condition of Filipinos is “deteriorating” because of rising inequality, and (b) because government health spending is not big enough. Thus, the goal of universal health care (UHC) for Filipinos will remain an illusion.

Are these statements true and correct? Two charts below will provide some answers to these questions above.

LIFE EXPECTANCY
If people evade or survive various infectious diseases, if they can deal more effectively with non-infectious diseases, then they can live longer, work and enjoy life longer. (see Figure 1)

Figure 1: Life expectancy in Asia, 1970 and 2010 (in years)


On May 14, 2015, I attended the Department of Health (DoH) consultation with civil society organizations, on the proposed DoH 2016 budget. This chart was among those presented by the DoH. Its budget has been increasing rather fast, rising by almost P10 billion a year from 2010 to 2013, then by around P18 billion a year from 2014 to the proposed 2016 budget. (see Figure 2)

Figure 2: DoH Budget, 2010 to Proposed 2016 (in billion pesos)


DOH BUDGET
Only the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has a comparative huge jump in the annual budget as the DoH, because of the expansion of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program. The big annual increase in DoH budget is also tied to the CCT program as the DoH has significantly expanded PhilHealth coverage and subsidy to the poor, particularly those who are CCT beneficiaries. So it is a DSWD-DoH “tag team” that has been given high priority by Aquino administration.

The huge increase in the proposed 2016 DoH budget is mainly to increase the MOOE by P11.75 billion, and it is targeted to finance expansions in (a) Subsidy for health insurance premium payments of indigents and senior citizens, P6.72 billion, and (b) Implementation of the Doctors to the Barrios and Rural Health Practice Program, hiring of UHC implementers, P2.83 billion. (see Figure 3)

Figure 3: Budget increase from 2015 to proposed 2016 (in billion pesos)


Going back to the two questions above, (a) are Filipinos’ health conditions deteriorating, and (b) is government health spending not big enough?

No to both questions. The fact that Filipinos’ life expectancy keeps rising means that less people are dying in each age bracket. They live and work longer on average than their parents and grandparents.

Note also that Figure 2 shows only increases in the DoH budget. Other agencies and departments also have rising health spending, like the following: (a) Philippine General Hospital (PGH) which is under the UP budget; (b) AFP and Veterans Hospitals, which are under the DND budget; (c) PNP Hospital which is under the DILG budget, and so on.

Furthermore, almost all provinces and big cities have their own provincial or city hospitals. The luckiest of them all is the city of Manila: it has six city-owned hospitals, three DoH hospitals and the UP PGH. Ten government hospitals in one city, four national and six local, while some cities do not even have a single hospital. So when people talk about “health inequality,” government itself is a major contributor to it.

The voices of “more public health spending” never die out, they even rise every year. But is government direct provision of health care the most appropriate way to achieve UHC?

HEALTH VOUCHER SYSTEM
Here is a counter-offer. The DoH will still get huge money from taxpayers and Congress. It will still be the lead national agency in ensuring UHC. But there will be some difference in these mechanisms.

One, DoH will no longer be the direct provider of health care via its hospitals, free or subsidized medicines package, and indirect subsidy to poor people via PhilHealth enrolment. Instead, all hospitals will be private, all DoH hospitals will be privatized (not abolished).

Two, DoH will be giving health vouchers to all households nationwide, rich and poor alike as all households are taxpayers, whether via direct income taxation or indirect consumption taxation (VAT, excise tax on fuel, etc.). Say a flat rate of P15,000 per person per year, regardless of age. So a household with four members (parents + 2 kids) will get a P60,000 health voucher per year. The household can buy a private health insurance, HMO or hospital, that will take care of them for one year based on certain health packages, including the annual general checkup.

Lousy and insensitive insurance firms will lose customers and go bankrupt. Competition among players and vouchers for the poor that are as good as cash will empower them, and arrogant insurance firms cannot easily disrespect them. Richer households who want bigger insurance coverage will simply buy a higher annual package and they just pay the balance between the higher cost minus the vouchers issued by the DoH.

Three, if none of the family members gets sick for the year, the balance between the value of voucher minus the cost of annual general check-up can be converted into cash by the household.

This is important. Why? The households will have the incentives to take good care of their bodies. Young kids can tell their parents like “Papa/Mama, please do not smoke or drink too much, so you don’t get sick often, so we can have extra cash at the end of the year, then you can buy us more food or more clothes and toys.”

At the moment, people are “rewarded” with government subsidies if they get terribly sick and hospitalized . If they do not get sick for one whole year, they do not get any subsidy despite the huge tax money at the DoH and its various hospitals, national and regional offices yearly.

The voucher system with redeemable cash reverses the incentives system. If people get sick, they can still be covered by the health voucher; but if they take good care of their health and do not get sick, they can have cash at the end of the year.

This is a win-win situation for both the DoH and the public. The DoH will still get its huge annual budget including its share from the huge sin tax, the public will get the money via health insurance and/or redeemable cash.

Bienvenido Oplas, Jr. is the president of Minimal Government Thinkers, Inc., a Manila-based think tank advocating free market economics.
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See also: 
BWorld 1, PH Economy and Politics, Is there a Disconnection? April 24, 2015 

BWorld 2, Benefits of Trade Liberalization for the Philippines, May 16, 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

Free Trade 48, WTO DG Azevedo in Manila

Yesterday, I attended a Roundtable Discussion with the Director General  of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Roberto Azevedo. Main organizer was the Department  of Foreign Affairs (DFA), but the  one that did Secretariat work was the T/A Trade Advisory and Trade Lawyers Group. Venue was the ADB so key ADB officials like  ADB President Nakao and VPs were there.

Below I will repost tweets and RTs made by Trade Lawyers @TradeLawyersPH. I am also posting some photos during the cocktails after the forum. Thanks to Gene Gregorio, Trade Lawyers for the photos. Not one of  them  from my camera phone.
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Opening Remarks by Amb. Conejos: DG is a charmer.

@WTODGAZEVEDO speaks on future prospects of trade and how @wto supports growth and development

Standing still on trade agreements can actually mean losing ground.

The Philippines now ranks with India on technology services.

The Philippines has been a champion of trade.

The panel: World Customs Organization (WCO) Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya, ADB Pres Takehiko Nakao, Chamber of Commerce of the PH President Jose Yulo, and Fed.  of Free Farmers (FFF) Pres. Raul Montemayor.


WCO Kunio Mikuriya: WTO is serious negotiation; WCO is pragmatic implementation.
on ASEAN Integration: We support connectivity. Customs is about connectivity.

Raul Montemayor: Trade is not the sole answer to food security. The strategic approach is to help farmers become more productive.

Jose Yulo: WTO should come to the aid of the losers of free trade.
on free trade: With free information exchange, "every one will get the piece of the pie

Open Forum

Dr. Roehlano Briones comments on disciplined food security.

Prof. Frederico Macaranas asks, what's the best case scenario for environmental sustainability in trade & services?

(1) @WTODGAZEVEDO on food security & environmental sustainability: No one bullet that will shoot all issues.

(2) The aim is to make gradual, progressive nd marginal steps to the right direction.
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Mr. Azevedo's speech yesterday is posted by the WTO here.

Some cocktails photos.
Below, from  right: Dr. George Manzano of the Univ.  of Asia and the Pacific (UAP), Gene Gregorio, Dr. Roehlano Briones of the PH Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), me.


Another photo with Gene. To my right are Tony Abad of Trade Lawyers and his buddy, sorry, forgot his name.


Another photo with Kristine Alcantara, one of three founding partners of AAA Law office (Abad, Alcantara, Aquino). Not in the photos is Gretchen Aquino.


Thanks again Tony, Kristine, Gretchen, for the invite. My longer article will be published in BusinessWorld, next week. Cheers.
------------

See also:

IPR and Medicines 33, Geneva Network's Forum in Singapore


Our friends and allies, Geneva Network (UK-based) and Southeast Asia Network for Development (SEANET, Malaysia-based) held a forum yesterday morning in Singapore on the TPP, Health and IPR. 


Background of  the forum:

This week, trade negotiators from some of the world’s most powerful economies are meeting in Guam to thrash out the final stages of the Trans Pacific Partnership.  This free trade agreement – which in Asia includes Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam and Brunei – stands to become a significant milestone in the deeper integration of the global economy.

Despite the economic potential of the TPP, one of its cornerstones – stronger intellectual property rights – remains controversial, with health NGOs claiming it will impact public health by raising the price of medicines.

To what extent are such fears justified? Why is intellectual property in this trade agreement important for the future of medical innovation? And what does the TPP mean for health in the Asia region?

The speakers yesterday were:
(1) Prof Elizabeth Siew Kuan Ng, Faculty of Law, National Univ. of Singapore (NUS)
(2) Philip Stevens, Director, Geneva Network, UK
(3) Bill Claxton, Carcinoid & NeuroEndocrine Tumour Society
(4) Andrew Spiegel, Global Colon Cancer Association, and 
(5) Mo Mayrides, Associate VP, PhRMA, USA. 

Moderator was Dr. Debora Elms, Executive Director, Asian Trade Centre, Singapore.


I am reposting below tweets by  @SEANET_asia yesterday. All photos here are also from SEANET. Come, follow SEANET on  twitter and facebook, thanks.

(1) Prof Elizabeth Ng begins by introducing the countries involved in #TPP and how negotiation will impact the countries.

No one should begrudge that patent owners deserve adequate protection of returns from investment of considerable resources.

TPP Provision : Patent term extension, data exclusivity, including biologics and patent linkage.

It's often argued that stronger IP foster econ growth, but counter agreement is flow of FDIs is not solely on property rights.

What are challenges to incorporate in regional system?

1. Restriction on trips flexibilities eg: data exclusivity
2 : Lack of skilled patent examiners and other skilled workforce.
3. Access to medicine for the poor : price increases and lack of access to affordable generics.

#ASEAN #TPP countries - how do you further enhance corporation with AEC happening when only 4 ASEAN countries are involved?

The tension between patent protection and access for public health is unlikely to abate.

it is understandable the pharma industry feels justified to seek stronger patent protection

Protection and access must be appropriately calibrated in order to achieve balance between public interest and private interest.

(2) Philip Stevens from @genevanetwork : It's unlikely that there will be changes to the provisions on data inclusivity for chemical drugs.

If #IP protection increases in Malaysia, companies will set up R&D facilities.

No one has done cost benefit analysis on the impact heightened #IP provisions on the availability of medicines in developing countries.

There is a positive relationship between trade liberalisation and better health outcomes.

How? Economic liberalisation increases incomes - allows people to get better nutrition and sanitation.

(3) Bill Claxton of Carcinoid & NeuroEndocrine Tumour Society discusses how innovative medical care has improved his life.

As a patient advocate, I have become increasingly impressed with how pharmaceutical companies support patient groups.

#TPP we need to protect innovators and incentivise their efforts.

Clinical trial can't work for rare diseases. Many trial fails because of trial designs.

If you look at the debate of 5/7/12 yrs for data protection - it won't make a huge difference in rare disease community.

We are looking for a balance between protection and access between public interest and private interest.

(4) Mo Mayrides, Assoc VP of PhRMA representing industry views on #IP in the #TPP

I don't see how the #TPP would deny governments the right to public health access.

(5) Andrew Spiegel from Global Cancer Association who traveled from Philadelphia to attend the panel this morning

Patients that are diagnosed with colon cancer are living longer and more comfortably as a result of innovative biological drugs

Biologics have had tremendous impact on medicine, but there is still a long way to go

Investments will not occur in medical technology if there is no #IP protection

The scary part is if innovation stops, we would rather medicine get delayed into market than not being made all.

Open Forum, questions:

(a) Biggest barrier to #TPP is American public opinion. Do all patient advocacy groups align w your perspectives?

Andrew : Declaration of support among patient advocacy groups on #IP protection, 100 groups signed and delivered to President Obama

Bill Claxton:Patient groups are not well informed on this issue. It is possible to get a consensus view.Patient advocacy is an emerging area.

Dr Elms : Hypothetically, there is some time for patient groups to get mobilised by end of the year.

(b) Question ; How long does it take for medicine to be made and the cost?

Mo : Study from Tufts University - Cost is 2.6 USD Billion and takes 2-6 years to develop. Takes 7- 8 years before any return on investment.

Critics will say the cost is overblown. But costs have gone up in recent years.



I was supposed to attend that forum yesterday. Geneva Network's Director Philip Stevens invited me. But before I purchased my plane ticket last Saturday, an invite came from T/A Trade Advisory and the DFA, WTO chief in Manila, a "by invitation only" roundtable discussion, updates about the multilateral trading system, same day. I chose the later, no cost to me and the SG organizers.
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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bus Thieves and the PNP

Yesterday morning, I left the office in Makati around 2:20-2:30am. I was going to our farm in Bugallon, Pangasinan. I took an an aircon bus going to QC around 2:30 am, I briefly slept. When I woke up somewhere in Cubao Farmers Plaza, I was shocked to see that my wallet is gone, my pant's right front pocket was slashed. First time in my life that I was victimized by bus thieves.


I posted this in facebook, courtesy of bus wifi. I was supposed to cancel my trip as I have no more money to pay for the bus fare to Pangasinan. But I called up the farm caretaker and asked if he has money, he said yes, so I I talked to d bus conductor, 5 Star bus, that my payment will be upon arrival. He saw my slashed pant, he agreed. 

My cp was in my left front pocket, it was not slashed. I think I slept for only 10 mins. The theft/thieves was/were quick I didn't feel it. I was tired n sleepy coming from  the office. Just small cash in my wallet but I must get a new drivers license, bank ATM, HMO and SSS cards. Asar lng.

I went back home in Makati around 10:45pm. Then I went to Makati Central Police Station around 11:30pm. Purpose is to have a police blotter of the loss of my wallet and driver's license. I was told by the attending officer, SPO3 Gutierrez at the Investigation Division I think, that I should report for blotter at QC Police because I discovered the loss when the bus was already in Cubao area, QC. I explained that I was not asking for an investigation, just to have a blotter report that my driver's license was stolen and might be used for other bad activities by the criminals. The officer insisted that they should not record it.

Sabi ko, I'd rather tweet this to the PNP. "Ano'ng tweet?" he asked, I explained that the PNP has a twitter account. I'd rather report there than travel again to QC especially that it's midnight now. PNP bureaucratism minsan, tamad lang sila mag record, tapos sabihin "we serve and protect."

A friend, Norman, made this observation.

Happy you were not harmed, my friend. Di ko ma-gets yung refusal nung police sa Makati na i-blotter yung kaso mo. Pwede rin naman ilagay niya na rin sa blotter nila even as he suggested na i-report mo din sa QC. Wala naman mawawala. Simple lang naman ang pag-blotter. He would at least have "served" you. Sa totoo lang, hindi ko nga alam ano ang kinahihinatnan ng mga blotter-blotter na yan. To me, it's just a pakitang-tao na serbisyo actually. Ganun pa man, di pa rin magampanan ng maayos ng iba sa kanila. There's really something wrong with the mindset of our police force. 

Here's my tweet to  the PNP last night.



This morning I am happy to see that the PNP replied to my tweet-report, better and more transparent than blotter report in a city police station.



I think the PNP national and regional offices are trying to be responsive to citizens online reports and complaints. 




I will make a follow up blog post later. 

To my friends who liked, commented in fb, thank you all. Yes, am happy that I was not harmed. If I woke up while he/they were slashing my pant and if I reacted adversely, he/they might have stabbed me, and that's a bigger problem.