Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mining 10: Urban Tailings vs. Mining Tailings

This is a continuation of my earlier article, Rio Tuba Mining in South Palawan last March 17, 2013. Among the most commonly-cited reasons why many people dislike mining in general and large-scale mining in particular, are the mine tailings -- or mining dumps, slimes, tails, residues that look ugly and discolor rivers and seas. Four photos below I got from the facebook wall of JB Baylon, posted March 16, 2013.

Urban tailings, or upland farm tailings or mud, coming from Pasig River and its upland tributaries like portions of Laguna Lake and Marikina River.

Manila Bay, mouth of Pasig River
Compare it with Rio Tuba River below, where mineral ore extraction is also happening 24/7 so long as it's not raining. No mine tailings.

Rio Tuba River, Bataraza, Palawan
The bay area where the mining ores are stockpiled before they will be loaded to waiting ships. Those in orange hills are tarp cover to reduce or control any dust pollution when the wind blows from the sea. Those not covered yet are still under solar drying to reduce moisture content, or dry enough and are slowly being transported to the ships.

Mining ores ready for transport to waiting ships
Another ore stockpile area below. It is sandwiched between an agri farm and a thick layer of mango forest by the bay. Again, no trace of mine tailings.

Another ore stockpile area in Rio Tuba

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mining 9: Supreme Court Hearing on RA 7942

This morning, I saw this poster in the facebook wall of one or two friends, about the Mining Act of 1995 (RA 7942). I think this was made by the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Inc. (LRNRCI).

Three things caught my attention. One, oral debates at the Supreme Court. Some groups could be contesting the constitutionality of that law until now. But it’s an 18 years old law now, why would its Constitutionality be questioned and not earlier?

This law is a product of Congress, not the SC. So people can initiate and support new legislation that will scrap or significantly amend that law. Why can't they go through this legislative process? 

Two, Tax Regimes. The focus of the oral arguments is on taxation? But a new bill on mining taxation will be introduced when the new Congress resumes in late July this year, so why would the Supreme Court hear arguments on things that are Constitutionally a function of the Legislature?  I also read that the BIR made recent Revenue Regulations that seem to reverse the Mining Act on taxation. The Act says taxation should start "after a cost recovery period" or similar term, while the BIR wants taxation to start "during cost recovery period." The BIR is the mini-legislator and implementer at the same time, weird. 

Three, the photo. Am curious which mining project it came from, and if it is the actual mining site or a mine tailings pond? If it is the latter, then that company is doing responsible mining, preventing mine tailings from going into the sea. Mine tailings ultimately dry up, wild grasses can grow on them later. A company may also cover a dried up tailings pond with ordinary soil, then plant trees on them. After a few years, there is zero trace that it was once a mine tailing pond.

Then there were two news reports yesterday about this event in Baguio next month, below. Portion of the news report from PhilStar says that the SC will hear “alleged adverse effects of mining to the environment, health of the community and human dignity.” 

I didn't know that the SC is also into oversight function, I thought it is the job of the Executive branch (DENR, MGB) and Legislative branch that creates or amends existing laws.

The Consti provision, “All lands of public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other mineral oils,... are owned by the State.” (Art XII, Sec. 2, PH Constitution)  I think is misunderstood. When a mining company removes top or mid-soil and rocks, say 10 meters below the original level, the land is still there. One can dig 20 kilometers of the planet's crust, deep into the mantle (but they will burn due to intense heat from the planet's core) and the "land area" is still there, owned by the state.

Many anti-mining groups and individuals argue that mineral deposits and products are non-renewable and must be protected by the government from commercial interests. This position is questionable actually.

In a mining forum at DLSU that I attended, a mining engineer from UP, Rodalee Ofiaza, said that geologic processes -- movement of magma (molten rock, still underground), various hot gases from the planet's core to the mantle, onto the crust (the soil where we stand) can turn ordinary soil and rocks into mineral deposits via igneous process or sedimentary process. With the help of volcanoes and earthquakes, which allow the trapped magma and gases at the outer core to move upwards.

The implication here is that since those geologic processes are going on endlessly, and rain water seepage deep into the ground, the heated water turn into gases (some become "hot spring") that contributes to the formation of mineral ores. In short, mineral products are renewable through geologic processes and cycles. Like rain is renewable through hydrologic cycle.

No mining, no modern life. No cell phone, no tv, no computer, no internet, no electricity, no cars, no bicycles, no buildings, no nails and hammer. And yet mining is the most over-taxed sector in the country as if it is a useless activity, as useless as over-politicking.

Below are two news reports yesterday from Business Mirror and Philippine Star. Generally similar content and titles,

(1) from Business Mirror

Published on Sunday, 24 March 2013 21:01
Written by Rene Acosta / Reporter
THE constitutionality of Republic Act (RA) 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, will be scrutinized by the Supreme Court (SC), which is set to hear oral arguments for and against the law.
The High Court has ordered both the government and petitioners to argue their case on April 16, when it will tackle a temporary restraining order sought by two lawmakers against implementation of the controversial law.
The lawmakers have been joined in their petitions by several residents of Davao Oriental province in southern Mindanao supposedly affected by mining activities of Hallmark Mining Corp. and Austral-Asia Link Mining Corp. They and the residents also named as respondent the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
In January this year, the petitioners asked the SC to stop the DENR from acting on any application for Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA) that cover 17,215.4474 hectares of land in the municipalities of Mati, San Isidro and Governor Generoso in Davao Oriental….

(2) from Philippine Star 

SC tackles constitutionality of Mining Act

By Edu Punay | 

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) will take a second look into constitutional issues regarding Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 as it tackles petitions of lawmakers against the widely criticized law during oral arguments in court’s summer session on April 16 in Baguio City.

In the guidelines released last Friday, the high court listed four common issues in the petitions filed by Quezon 4th district Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño and former Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros.

The debate will tackle the legal standing of the petitioners and whether or not the legal questions they raised can be subject to judicial review.

The SC also directed parties to argue on whether or not it could still rule on the case given that it had already decided on a similar case of La Bugal-B’laan Tribal Association vs. Ramos administration in December 2004…

Lastly, the high court wanted the petitioners and respondents to discuss the “alleged adverse effects of mining to the environment, health of the community and human dignity.”

See also:
Mining 5: Benefits of Mining Even Without Taxes, December 09, 2012
Mining 6: Large Investments vs. Large Bureaucracies, February 19, 2013 
Mining 7: Mining Taxation and Government, March 08, 2013
Mining 8: Rio Tuba Mining in South Palawan, March 17, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Blood Donation 4: At the Philippine General Hospital

Below are my facebook notes today when I went to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) to donate blood to a patient who has been at the intensive care unit (ICU) for a month now…

Arrived at the hospital around 7:30am. Guard at the entrance won't allow me because I don't have written authorization letter from the patient or his/her guardian that I am donating blood. I said I don't have one because the notice to ask for blood donors was done only via facebook.

Anyway, I went to the 6th floor, patient's room. I was told to go to 2/F, ICU, the patient is there. I saw Rosalie at the ICU, my heart sank. The staff there gave me a form to give to the blood bank as my authorization letter.

At the blood bank, there were many donors in a small room, air con. I arrived there around 7:50am. Guard gave me the form to fill up, medical questionnaire to prove that donor is indeed in good health (no HIV, no malaria, no tatoo, no body piercing, no maintenance drugs, etc.). Then guard said, "Balik na lang po kayo 10am, next batch na po kayo"

Aray ko, paano trabaho ko, sabi ko sarili ko. Pero andito na ako, hintayin ko na, as I remember the sorry condition of the patient. I went out for breakfast, then to an internet shop.

I have donated blood 3x to 3 different patients before. At Makati Med, Asian Hospital in Alabang, and Medical City Ortigas. Donors are treated well in all of them -- clean, air-con, big rooms with cable TV, but few donors. Clean CR is just nearby. The staff there are very friendly and courteous, they told me they really lack blood donors, the hospital has to buy blood somewhere sometimes.

Went back to blood bank section at 10am as instructed, guard said it's only for further interview of our response to the questionnaire, the doctor that will take our BP, heart rate, check any suspicious physical problem, will come at 11am, ouch, then blood sample extraction. All these were finished by 11:30am. We were told to come back after 1 1/2 hours (ie, 1pm) as they will analyze our blood for any impurities (ie, free of HIV, malaria, dengue, whatever viruses/bacteria).

I just got out of PGH compound and crossed Taft to eat and walk around, when the incoming President of the PGH Medical Foundation, JB Baylon, called me. He was in his car and he's going to the PGH, what a coincidence. He asked me to hop in, I did. He brought me to the Foundation office, we talked about many things about public health, PGH, private giving, the Foundation, etc. Thanks for the lunch treat and the chat, JB.

Went back to blood bank around 1:30pm, only to see that those who came ahead of me have never been called yet for the final blood letting. Waited till 2pm, still nothing...

When situation gives you lemon, make a lemonade, so they say. So I walked around and toured the various wards of PGH -- pedia, orthopedic, neurosciences, trauma, etc. My first tour of the hospital actually, by myself. The air around the hospital rooms and corridors seems suspiciously unhealthy. I remember the issue of anti-microbial resistance (AMR) and hospital rooms as nests of new and evolving diseases themselves.

Went back to blood bank around 2:30pm, no one was called for half hour for the actual bloodletting. Many fellow blood donors waiting outside getting more bored, like me.

I went inside and asked what's going on. I saw 6 empty chairs, the staff inside were chatting among themselves, I saw a lady trying to selli bags to the staff.

I controlled my anger as I was told by Andy of the PGH Medical Foundation that the hospital has only one "centrifuge", a machine that tests blood samples for any impurities, which then will be the basis whether to accept or reject a prospective blood donor. That's one major reason why things are soooo slow at the blood bank.

The staff inside, instead of chatting among themselves, at least one of them should have gone out and explain to the waiting blood donors outside, why things are slow, why an ordinary blood donation would ruin practically their whole day's work, but none of that. One male staff, the one who got my blood sample, looked irritated why I asked them when will they call again blood donors so we can go home or go to work.

Later, a lady explained to me that they have to perform 8 different tests to each blood sample. Even if a sample passes 7 of those but fails in one test, a potential donor will be rejected. Sometimes they repeat the tests if they doubt the results. I think it is a valid explanation, but if I didn't ask, she will not explain it to me or to anyone among the donors.

Sensing my impatience, she asked me to sit on the reclined chair for the actual blood letting. Which took me only about 5-7 minutes to fill one bag. Then 15 minutes mandatory rest period.

Went inside the Blood Bank around 7:50am, finished everything by 3:20pm, 7 1/2 hours!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Rule of Law 19: How to Strengthen RoL?

* This is my 4th guest post in

This is a puzzle that all administrations in the Philippines have answered or attempted to answer. And it seems that almost all of them have provided the wrong answer, or partially correct answer.

I had a long discourse last week with a friend who teaches Political Science at UP Diliman, Prof. Amado “Bong” Mendoza, and some friends in his facebook wall.

Bong wrote,

I agree with you Nonoy Oplas that we do not have a rule of law culture and situation in our country. The question to be asked and answered: why is it the case? Some economists (like Noel de Dios) point to the mismatch between what is provided by law and what is socially acceptable–corruption is okay as long as the loot is shared. Randy David opines, following Niklas Luhman, that the rule of men is a key feature of pre-modern as well as societies in transition to modernity. Foreign scholars (Douglass North, Daron Acemoglu, etc.) argue that the Philippines either has a limited access (rather than an open) or an extractive rather than an inclusive society. The malaise is not limited to the Philippines. Indeed, very few political scientists are in mainstream political studies. We should take off from Temy Rivera’s explanation of the incoherence of the Philippine state’s policy. If policy is incoherent, it will be perceived as irrational, impermanent, and changeable. The situation offers numberless opportunities for negotiations, importuning, bargaining, and horse trading. This is the environment where the administrator, the lawyer will flourish and prosper.

Politicians and lawyers love more laws because laws by nature, are prohibitions. For instance, there are laws against expired foods but there are no laws on eating  outdoors. Meaning there are prohibitions against selling or manufacturing adulterated, unsafe foods, but there are no prohibitions on eating outdoors, except when a private place would say so. So more laws means more prohibitions, and thus, more arbitrary powers to administrators and legislators to whom they can grant exemptions of those prohibitions.

If people are serious in seeing a society with strong rule of law culture, then one solution is to stop supporting the expansion of laws. Scrapping or abolishing existing laws is too hard, but stopping the creation of new laws is easier. Some flexibility, support just a few laws amending existing ones. Unfortunately, for many political and social scientists, economists, civil society leaders, they support if not write, more new laws so long as those legislative proposals or administrative orders conform with their “grand ideas”.

Rule of law means no exception. The law applies to all, no one is exempted, and no one can grant an exemption. The law applies equally to unequal people. Thus, the law against stealing should apply to the richest and poorest man on earth. Exempting the very poor from penalties against stealing will encourage people to become lazy, they will have no jobs, they become poor, and thus, their stealing can be considered as “understandable”. No Sir. The law against stealing applies to you. It applies equally to unequal people.

Rule of men is the reverse of the above.

Equating “rule of law = good governance” is lousy. For instance, the law on subsidies, like tertiary education subsidy. Classic rule of law says that if the state should provide subsidy to one group of students, it should extend that subsidy to all students, no exemption. But the state violates this, grants subsidy to students of UP and other SUCs but not to students of UE, UST, etc. The state is a violator of the rule of law. Good governance means making this violation well executed.

About the big number of lawyers or their prominent role in PH society, that’s a result of the “rule of men” and not “rule of law” culture in the country. In the latter, you need only very few laws — law against murder and shooting, law against stealing and carnapping, law against rape and abduction, etc. The law applies to all.

In a rule of men society, administrators and governors make rules that apply to some but not to others. Administrators have arbitrary powers to whom the laws will apply and to whom they don’t. One would need a battery of lawyers in that environment, to know the various loopholes of the thousands of new laws, from LGU regulations to Department Orders and/or Circulars to Executive Orders, Republic Acts, Presidential Decrees.

Anarchist Kropotkin said, “The law has no claim to human respect. It has no civilizing mission; its only purpose is to protect exploitation.” 

I disagree, even partially, on that statement. The purpose of the law is to impose coercion and prohibitions. Like the law against killing and murder. It says that murder is prohibited, and violators will meet the full force of coercion of the state. I like that kind of coercion and prohibition.

It’s another thing though, when the law and the state says, “No one moves, no one can start putting up a barber shop or bakery shop or a taxi company, unless he will get these permits and pay these taxes and fees: barangay permit, electrical permit, fire department permit, health and sanitation permit, Mayor’s permit, BIR permit, DTI or SEC permit,…” This expansion of laws and prohibitions results in limitation, not expansion, of individual freedom.

It’s weird how left anarchy (communist) and right anarchy (libertarian anarchy) can have similarity. And that is one difference between the libertarian anarchist vs minarchist. I belong to the latter. I don’t believe in anarchy. Some state coercion and prohibition are useful in protecting and expanding individual freedom. Like the law against murder.

The libertarian minarchist position recognizes there is a role for government, and that is to protect the citizens’ right to life (against murder and physical aggression), right to private property (against stealing, land grabbing, etc.) and the right to liberty (freedom of expression). But all other extended functions of the state are either secondary or unnecessary, and tend to restrict and limit, not respect, individual freedom.

“To the powerless, the rule of law is abstract and cannot be eaten.” This statement is wrong. The poor also have private property – some pigs, goats, carabao or cow, motorcycle, tractor, tricycle, house, tv, cellphone, etc. When these simple private properties are stolen, it means a lot for them. The law against stealing, if properly and strictly implemented, zero exception, is something that the poor really look up to.

Having rule of law, more than various subsidies, would mean a lot to the poor. Of what use it is to receive free education, free medicines, subsidized MRT fare, subsidized housing, etc., if one’s kids can be abducted and raped or killed anytime? Or his cows or tricycle or piece of land can be stolen/grabbed by bullies or people with strong political and police connection? Income redistribution, welfarism and subsidies are meaningless if one’s right to life, right to private property, are being violated and disrespected.

On “stop supporting the expansion of laws”, if one will check the list of old and new laws, about 90 percent are local laws (creating or renaming a new municipality or city, creating a new RTC or drug rehab center, declaring ____ (date) as provincial holiday for ___ province, etc. For the national laws, among the things that legislators do is expand the Executive bureaucracy like creating a new commission or a new regulation authority. Or expanding the legislative bureaucracy like creating a new Oversight Committee, usually with a budget of P10 M a year, and that committee will meet just once or twice a year and spend little, the balance will go to the discretionary fund of the legislators.

If we have to support new laws, they should be amending existing laws, like amending the NIRC and cutting income tax from 32 percent top rate to say, 15 percent flat rate.

Someone commented that  “rule of law has an embedded liberal ideology, biased towards individualistic notion of life and society… progressive notion of negative liberties or social rights are more appropriate for the Philippines and other Third World countries.”

Well, if some criminals enter his house and steal many things and even sexually abuse his wife or daughter or sister, perhaps that’s the time that he will appreciate rule of law and its strict implementation, that the laws against stealing and sexual abuse should be applied in full force, and that the implementer of the law, the government, is doing this job religiously and not side tracked with concerns like running casinos, universities, banks, and so on.

Rights should be coupled with responsibilities, always. Entitlements should be coupled with obligations, always. People who over-eat, over-sit, over-drink, over-smoke, and when their body becomes bloated and sickly they run to the state to demand that “health is a right” are lousy, if not idiots. No one put a gun on their heads so they will over-eat and over-drink, now they want the state to put a gun on the heads of responsible people to finance their healthcare via more taxes and fees.

What many people call as “rights” are actually privileges. That is how students in UP and other SUCs get subsidies while students in FEU, Mapua, CEU, other private universities don’t. Some are given privileges which they call rights, while others are simply denied of such privilege.

Someone commented, "In our society, the source of order is not the law but human relations. Social order does not come from the state but from the community."

I disagree with the first sentence, somehow agree with the second. Strictly speaking, laws do not only come from government, national and local. Private enterprises, CSOs, also have their own laws. A mall is a private place, it has its own rules, like everyone who enters is subject to physical check of bags; thieves who will be caught will be photographed first before they will be turned over to the police, and so on. These rules, at the micro level (villages, companies, households, etc.) help create order in society, beyond human relations. The state has its own laws too, like the laws against killing and stealing.

On laws by the state and why they are not the source of social order, I can partially agree with this. My earlier comments above centered on it actually — when laws have become too numerous (Republic Acts, Executive Orders, Department Orders, plus City and Provincial Ordinances) and complicated, that’s where the rule of men and not rule of law prevail. Legislators and administrators/implementers of those laws have leeway and arbitrary powers who can be explicitly exempted from regulations via loopholes in the law, or be implicitly exempted via official and personal prerogatives.

So back to the original question on how to strengthen the rule of law, in the Philippines or elsewhere. I think the simple answer is that government laws should be as few as possible, and as generally applicable to all people as possible. This way, people will easily remember those restrictions and the penalties for their violations.

Where there are few laws and prohibitions, society will be more free and more peaceful.

See also:
Rule of Law 15: RoL and Government Failure, August 16, 2012
Rule of Law 16: On the New SC Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, August 25, 2012
Rule of Law 17: Justice Without Discrimination, October 18, 2012
Rule of Law 18: Damaso and Carlos Celdran Conviction, February 04, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Math, Number Theory and Philippine Media

I have a good friend, a true blue academic scientist currently teaching at UP Diliman. He got his BS Math also from UP Diliman in the 80s, he did not graduate on time though because he was an activist. One time, he was shot by the police in one of the anti-Marcos rallies. If he was not athletic – he was a marathoner too, finished several 42K runs then – he should have died that day as the bullet pierced a number of his vital internal organs. His name is Dr. Fidel R. Nemenzo.

Fidel toned down his involvement in student activism and pursued his real love – Math. He got his PhD Math from Sophia University I think, in Japan, specializing in number theory. When he came back to the Philippines, he was the only person here who has that specialization. I do not know now. Fidel teaches at the UP Math Department, Diliman campus.

Last week, he got a very prestigious and coveted award for most science researchers, the Achievement Award (for Mathematics) given by the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP), DOST. The event was held at the Manila Hotel. Most awardees in the past were from the applied sciences/math, doing research that is immediately applicable to problems of the nation. So Fidel felt good that his work as a pure theorist, sometimes referred to as “useless, far out” work is being recognized.

Portion of the plaque says,

For his significant researches in mathematics published in high impact journals, numerous citations of his scholarly work, mentorship, and contribution to mathematics education and development; 
for pioneering the research on algebraic number theory, theory of elliptical curves, and applications to algebraic coding theory in the country, and
for elevating the status of Philippine mathematics through his engagements as visiting professor and researcher in prestigious institutions, speaker in various conferences, and election as President of the Mathematics Society and the South East Asian Mathematical Society – positions that he has served with distinction…

Congrats Fidel.

There should be a few  other Filipino researchers and academics in the basic science and math field, whose work are more appreciated abroad than here.  Big brains who get published in prestigious journals but never land in the front page of the Inquirer and other mainstream media.

In contrast, bar exam topnotchers and PMA top 10 graduates, even PNPA top 10 graduates – their names and faces -- always land in the front page of these big local media every year, no exception. do. Which speaks of the shallowness of PH media. Much, much brighter Filipino minds who come back with a PhD in molecular biology or PhD in particle physics, computer algebra, etc. never make it to the front page. Maybe in small inside pages, if ever.

Which speaks of the shallowness of the mainstream media, and even among civil society organizations (CSOs). Too much focus on lawyers and those who wield guns and bombs. 

See also previous blog posts here that featured Fidel:

An ever-expanding universe, June 25, 2010 
Pilipinas Forum 14: Math, Infinity and Limit, October 04, 2011 
Pilipinas Forum 20: Turbulence, Chaos Theory and the Stockmarket, November 13, 2011

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Health Spending 6: Health/GDP Ratio 2010

In my blog post the other day, On Inequality and Inclusive Business in HC, I wrote:

On government health spending, I think the ADB, WHO, UN, etc. data on PH public health spending is understated and wrong. They usually count only DOH + PhilHealth spending. They do not include some or all of other govt spending such as:
1. LGUs, with provincial and city health centers and hospitals. Manila City alone has six city-owned hospitals.
2. Philippine General Hospital (PGH), budget about P2 billion a year, part of the UP annual budget; hence, it is not counted as health spending but education spending…. 

This table is from the World Health Organization (WHO)  which I copied today. It says that the Philippines’ health spending / GDP ratio as of 2010 was only 3.6 percent.

Table 1. Philippines Basic Health Stats, from WHO 

I posted the above observation (in italics) in the email loop among members of the Medicines Transparency Alliance (MeTA) Philippines, where an official of the WHO West Pacific Regional Office (WHO-WPRO), Ms. Klara Tisocki, is among the members.

Klara was kind enough to reply. She said, 
Regarding your comments  please note that WHO collects health expenditure related data in countries via the  national health accounts (NHA).  NHA constitute a systematic, comprehensive and consistent monitoring of resource flows in a country’s health system for a given period. NHAs use classification schemes, which are designed to be compatible with those practiced internationally; most importantly, the System of national accounts (SNA), to make cross-national comparisons possible.  
The International Classification for Health Accounts (ICHA) is a comprehensive system which classifies NHA into four dimensions: Financing sources (FS)-contributions by different actors; Financing agents (HF)-entities who manage health expenditures; Providers (HP)-entities that provide health care services and goods; and Functions (HC)-types of health care activities. You can read more about NHA at WHO webpage:  
More specifically  regarding the Philippines health expenditures these are collected via the Philippines National Health Account  (PNHA)  (which in turn reports to WHO for inclusion of Philippines data in WHO databases).   
The methodology and current statistics of PNHA are available on the website of  Philippines National Statistical Coordination Board  
I would also like to refer you to the technical notes, on sources of data for the Philippines health financing, with regard to  your assumption that WHO, ADB, UN etc. count only DOH and Philhealth spending.  In these notes you will find the detailed description of Data Sources and Estimation Procedures as approved by NSCB Resolution No. 8 Series of 2011, that shows  what data  from which sources  are included under the different sectors and you can see the wide range of data sources considered.  

I thanked Klara for her reply as it provided useful links. From the NSCB link, here are the numbers:

Table 2. Philippines Health Expenditures by Sources of Funds

Foreign Aid 15: Shrink the IMF

I forwarded my article in interaksyon, Why the IMF is irrelevant in thePhilippines, to Dr. Josef “Jop” Yap, the President of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) because it was the PIDS that sponsored the forum where the IMF regional officer, Dr. Anoop Singh, spoke. Jop replied that he shared my article with the PIDS staff, thanks Jop.

He added that the IMF need not be dismantled, that it only has to refocus and should have been done in the past, but the Fund has no clout over the major country credits including the US.

I replied to Jop saying that when the IMF is into solving inequality and ensuring inclusive growth, it is simply feeling hollow and shallow and tries to step into WB and ADB forte just to make itself feel relevant in countries that do not need it. IMF should make its presence be felt strongly in Europe and North America where current account and BOP problems are annual if not daily realities.

When an economy is bleeding in its current account and overall BOP, its monetary and fiscal authorities panic and engage in heavy currency, interest rates, and capital account manipulations, plus tinkering with their taxpayers' level of patience or anger.

So I think the IMF is abolishable, or at least shrinkable. Say, dismantle their country offices even temporarily, in countries like the Philippines and many Asian economies where they are not needed now and in the short term. 

Europe and even North America are staring them in the face point blank. The bank run in tiny Cyprus and public anger over the bailout conditions, a high tax on bank deposits, is challenging the IMF to address problems on huge BOP imbalances. Uncertainty in that tiny European economy (1 million people and now needing $10 B bailout money from ECB and IMF) even has negative repercussions in the PH stockmarket. 

It is simply lousy for the IMF to announce its migration of function to solving inequality and "non-inclusive" growth, when many European economies are wobbly precisely because of their very expensive welfare system to solve inequality and non-inclusive growth there.

In the said interaksyon article, some comments were posted. I am reposting the more substantial comments and my reply to them.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Socialized Healthcare 13: On Inequality and Inclusive Business in HC

Two weeks ago, I attended this forum at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati, sponsored by the AIM-Zuellig Center for Asian Business Transformation, ACCESS Health, ASSIST and Globe Telecom.  Perhaps a coincidence, another forum that same day, same time, was held in Discovery Suites in Ortigas, about "inclusive democracy" starrring the UN and other groups. And this forum is about "inclusive business" starring the ADB and other groups.

Dr. Moser showed several slides how inequitable the Philippines' healthcare system is.  The Under 5 years old mortality rate (U5MR) is high in the lowest quintile of the population, and skilled birth attendance is highest in Metro Manila and other Luzon regions and provinces, and lowest in Mindanao regions. For the total healthcare expenditure (THE), more than half came from out of pocket or personal and household spending.

Health sector spending here refers to DOH budget only.

Financial protection by income. The two poorest quintiles are protected by the government, national and local, while the middle class and richer groups have private health insurance, on top of their PhilHealth membership contribution as this is mandatory especially for those in the formal sector. Ms. Moser's next slide is interesting. Many if not all ASEAN countries have strong private sector presence in healthcare even though their governments' health spending is substantial. Any discrepancy between actual spending and actual delivery can be attributed to bad governance and/or corruption.

EFN Asia 16: Participation in Jeju Forum for Peace 2013

The Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia will be participating in the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity 2013 Conference this coming May 29-31, 2013, to be held at Haevichi Hotel and Resort Jeju, S. Korea. I think this will be the first time that the network  will join this big international conference held yearly in the southern island of Jeju. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF) Korea Office is working with the EFN Asia Secretariat in Bangkok in the network's participation.

This forum was invented in 2001 meant for a regional dialogue to promote peace and prosperity in Asia, the Korean Peninsula in particular. Then it became successful in attracting more regional and international participants, it later became a big international conference held every two years, then made an annual event since 2011.

I have heard and read about this forum in some news reports in the past, but I did not pay much attention to it. I thought it is just an extension dialogue of the famous World Economic Forum (WEF) held annually in Davos, Switzerland.

Early this month, the Regional Programme Officer of FNF for Economic Freedom and Human Rights, Pett Jurapaiboon, invited me to be the rapporteur of one of the panels in the Jeju Forum, and that panel will feature important and known speakers within EFN Asia.  I immediately said Yes to Pett. Well, my batting average for all FNF invites, whether here in Manila or the regional office, has been 100 percent so far. I will be a rapporteur, not speaker, in a panel on Economic Prosperity in Asia : Dealing with Economic Nationalism, to be held in the afternoon of May 30. Thanks much, Pett. I am very excited to attend this big international conference.

My interest in joining this and other regional events like the EFN Asia annual conferences, is simple: learn more how we can achieve regional and global peace and prosperity. Peace and economic prosperity.

Enough of war, armed conflict and militarization of disputes that can be peacefully resolved through diplomacy and serious, honest dialogues. Enough of spending huge amount of taxpayers money to buy heavy instruments of war and destruction.

Enough of economic restrictions and prohibitions that create poverty. If people, rich and poor alike, want to start a food shop ala "carinderia" in the Philippines or a modest housing or big residential condo, so be it. Governments should not put too many regulations, restrictions and taxes for these useful human endeavor that create jobs and provide useful goods and services to the people.

So EFN Asia's chosen topic, dealing with economic nationalism, is timely and important. Economic nationalism and protectionism means only one thing: reduction of choices and options, reduction of human freedom, to choose products and services that can best serve their personal and enterprise needs and priorities. When national governments say to its people, "You cannot buy these goods from other countries at these prices. Better buy only from locally-made products, or buy the imported ones at high prices and limited quantity", that is limiting choice and freedom.

The same way, when national governments also declare to its citizens, "You cannot study or work abroad unless you comply with these requirements..." and list down a dozen prerequisites, taxes and fees to pay as if one is applying to be a criminal abroad, that too, is limiting choice and freedom. Some poor job applicants to work abroad become poorer as they sell some personal and family properties so they can pay those multiple fees and taxes, both to the government and the favored job placement agencies and corporations that were accredited by the government.

The topics in the 2 1/2 days forum are wide. To accommodate those different topics, four to five simultaneous discussions will be held. Here is the list of topics on the afternoon of Day 2, May 30.

I will be writing more updates about this forum in the coming weeks.

See also:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Mining 8: Rio Tuba Mining in South Palawan

I am here in Puerto Princesa City, the provincial capital of Palawan province. I joined a small group of people brought to Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) by Jose Bayani "JB" Baylon last Friday. JB is a friend and a classmate in one or two subjects in UP Diliman undergrad in the 80s, He is now one of the VPs of Nickel Asia Corporation (NAC), a Filipino-Japanese corporation based in Manila, that owns RTNMC and six other nickel mining and processing firms in the country.

So last Friday whole day, we were in RTNMC, a big bararangay in the southernmost Bataraza municipality, Palawan. This is about six hours by bus, and five hours by car, 260 kilometers, from Puerto Princesa. Yesterday, we went to Puerto Princesa, and this afternoon will fly back to Manila.

I joined JB's team because I have heard, read, and saw powerpoint presentations about "responsible mining" but have not actually seen one. So the opportunity came, I grabbed it.

Total mining claim of RTNMC is 5,265 hectares covering 11 of 22 barangays of Bataraza town. After 38 years in operation (actual nickel operation started in 1975), the company has mined only 658 hectares but only about 25 hectares are actively being mined and quarried every year. The other mined out areas? They have been rehabilitated and covered with trees again. More of that later.

Among my interests is how a mining company contains those ugly and unsightly "mine tailings" that spill into rivers and the sea downstream. We were brought to this abandoned, "mission accomplished" mine tailings area. This is where another NAC subsidiary and sister corporation of RTNMC, the Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC), engaged in the manufacture and export of nickel /cobalt mixed sulfide materials, dumps its mine tailings. 

When those tailings were still fresh, they looked like thick reddish blood of a monster or other giant animals, contained in an area by thick walls of soil and rocks up there, right beside the active mined areas, so they did not spill into creeks and then to Rio Tuba River, and ultimately into the Sulu Sea.

These dried tailings now look like this. Huge blocks of hardened red soil, not as soft as ordinary soil, but neither as hard as rocks. Even if they have dried up and solidified already, the thick walls of enclosure around them were retained and not removed, until now. I went down about 1.5 meters from where we were standing, where our service vehicles were parked, to this area.

Those unsightly cogons and other grass varieties now grow on these dried tailings. In some areas, various tree species just grew naturally, not planted by man. But for faster transformation from an ugly mine tailings area into productive agri land, the company put thick layers of ordinary soil on them. Several hundred trips of huge trucks carrying ordinary soil to be devoted here.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Fat-Free Econ 40: IMF Irrelevance

* This is my article today in

In a forum last Wednesday at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) director for Asia and Pacific Department, Dr. Anoop Singh, revealed a little known shift in the multilateral lender's "new" role.

According to him, their main concerns now are (a)  the rising inequality in the Philippines and other Asian economies that have been growing rather fast recently, (b) unstable macroeconomic fundamentals that can restrict potential growth, and (c) raising public finance to develop human capital and public infrastructures.

Here is one of the charts Singh showed in his talk. While inequality has stabilized in sub-Saharan Africa, or declined in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in Latin America, inequality in the Philippines and other Asian economies has increased.

Another slide he showed pertains to the difficulty of doing business in the country -- with the Philippines ranking in the 140s globally -- and the low level of public investment in infrastructure as seen from the country's low infrastructure score.

During the open forum, I asked Singh two questions. The first is: Has the IMF become irrelevant to many Asian economies? Its focus on solving inequality and inadequate public spending on education and healthcare betrays a shift away from the lender's original mandate of helping countries suffering from balance of payments (BOP) difficulties.

The IMF was organized in 1945 to “promote international monetary cooperation… facilitate the expansion and balanced growth of international trade… promote exchange stability and avoid competitive exchange depreciation… assist in the establishment of a multilateral system of payments… and in the elimination of foreign exchange restrictions which hamper the growth of world trade… give confidence to members by making the general resources of the Fund temporarily available to them under adequate safeguards… (and) shorten the duration and lessen the degree of disequilibrium in the international balances of payments of members.” This is contained in the Articles of Agreement of the IMF, Article I.

There is hardly any BOP difficulty in Asia these days , making the region the envy of the US and the EU. In fact, in the wake of the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998, the Asean and its three biggest neighbors -- China, Japan and Korea -- organized the Chiang Mai Initiative,  which pooled money that any signatory to the agreement can draw from in case of BOP problems.

In the case of the Philippines, it no longer owes the IMF, having graduated from the lender's fiscal and macroeconomic tutelage a few years back. On the contrary, the Philippines lent $1 billion last year to the IMF to help the EU address its fiscal difficulties.

So if the problem is back in the US and the EU -- the so-called developed regions that organized the IMF and two other institutions at Bretton Woods after the Great Depression -- the million-dollar question is why the IMF persists in sending "experts" to countries like the Philippines to pontificate about issues we already know about and the solutions to which have been discussed ad naseum?

In the same vein, is it wise for the Philippines to lend money to the IMF so it could maintain a representative in the country? Why pay so much for a bureacrat, especially when talking can be done more efficiently, if not effectively, over the Internet?

In his reply to my query, Singh said addressing social inequality can help economies sustain their growth through a more productive labor force. Sounds like someone from the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank (ADB), right?

This betrays more than just irrelevance on the part of the IMF in so far as countries like the Philippines are concerned. If you check the IMF website, then you'd discover that the lender has adopted the same line as that of the World Bank and ADB: "To foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.”

Now this raises the issue of redundancy, which was the second question I raised during last Wednesday's forum. The IMF's fellow Bretton Woods institution, theWorld Bank was organized precisely for that: “Our work is challenging, but our mission is simple: Help reduce poverty.”

As for the ADB: “The ADB aims for an Asia and Pacific free from poverty… alleviate poverty and help create a world in which everyone can share in the benefits of sustained and inclusive growth.”

Perhaps it's time to dismantle the IMF? Enough said.

See also:
Foreign Aid 2: Circuitous and Leaky Process, November 03, 2005
Foreign Aid 6: IMF is Engineerable and Abolishable, September 05, 2006
Foreign Aid 8: Abolish the IMF, August 08, 2007
IMF socialism, January 04, 2009
IMF dinosaur, let it fade away, June 16, 2009

Fiscal Irresponsibility 26: On the $1 B Philippine Loan to the IMF, June 27, 2012
Fat-Free Econ 15: IMF and Freedom From Debt, July 01, 2012