Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pilipinas Forum 4: GMOs are good

Here is the collated and slightly edited exchanges in in February-May 2001. This is posted in last March 20, 2001.

Exchanges on Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Jeck, I read in the Manila Times that Bobby is anti-GMO. I suggest that he study the issue more carefully. I have done a 2 year study on the subject and I found that a good R & D program should be able to produce GMOs beneficial to our farmers much as they are to farmers in the countries where they are now grown. Farmers in General Santos City who monitored the Bt corn trial demonstrating 100% freedom from corn borer without pesticides feel strongly that they are being deprived of a very helpful technology by NGOs, priests and bishops who know nothing of their woes in corn farming.

Consider also: the planting of Bt cotton alone in 1998 in the
USA reduced the use of pesticides by 450,000 kgs, GM foods have been sold in the US since 1996 and last year about 70% of their processed foods contain ingredients from GMOs. Food safety is not an issue because all commercially released GMOs are undergo stringent tests on allergenecity and toxicity in addition ot numerous feeding trials involving rats, chicken, cattle, fish, birds, etc. A recent report of a 10-yr study shows that GMOs cannot become weeds.

Despite the vociferous campaign of European NGOs,
Europe remains an importer of certain GM crops and France, Germany, Spain have planted GM crops. Last year a large German company BASF, joined the group of multinational companies developing GM crops. The planting of GM crops further increased in Year 2000 to more than 44 Million hectares. Why? Several studies have already shown that economic benefits from the GM technology is spread to all stakeholders (farmers, seed producers, patent holders, consumers, importers) but that farmers gain the most from 35% to 75%.

So, what is the real issue here?
Europe wants to catch up with the technology, hence the moratorium campaign which by the way has now been lifted (Tayo'ng gaya-gaya, nahuhuli kasi, hindi natin naiintindihan yung mga tunay na rason nila). Europe wants to have a strong bargaining position in farm trade with the USA. Other groups have their own reasons but I tell you never the interest of the Filipino at heart.

Bobby could be losing a lot of votes from the progressive farmers (Why deprive
them of a choice?) and the scientific community.

-- Nina Halos

Dear Nina & all, Your posting on GMO's is an eye-opener. To the uninitiated however, GMO comes
across akin to an alien life form (sounds familiar) that might mutate over time into something as dreadful as that extra-terrestrial in the senate.

You have mentioned astounding economic benefits as well as "positive" environmental implications. Could you please enlighten us some more (especially the possible mutation scenario) on GMO's.

-- Sam Aherrera

The most prominent GMOs I could think of are the various rice varieties developed by IRRI (intl.), PhilRice (Phil. govt's), and other rice research institutes of many countries in the world. Just last week, the "golden rice" was reported to be near-commercialization. Golden because it contains essential vitamins to supplement our bodies' other needs; this way, "may bigas ka na, may vitamins ka pa", cute!

I could think of some benefits of GMOs (applied in rice, livestock, cutflower, fishery, etc.):

1. It beats the Malthusian (Thomas Malthus, 1800s economist) bleak formulation that mankind is destined for hunger because while food production increases arithmetically, population increases geometrically. Bio-technology, micro-biology, genetics science, and GMOs are mankind's current, perhaps ultimate, answer to problem in food production. Biotech allows a land-poor country or community to grow its food needs through hydro-ponics and its cousin technology. It also allows an upland farming community produce rice, corn, etc. through less irrigation-dependent varieties, etc.

2. It could be cheap, as cited by Nina, where certain GMOs require less fertilizers, less pesticides, than other varieties.

3. GMOs have higher yield, and tissue culture is a lot more productive in plant propagation than the traditional method of propagation through seeds and the like.

-- Nonoy Oplas

Climate stupidity 17: Cooling is caused by warming

(Note: this is my article yesterday in with original title, Extended Cooling and the Brown Economy)

By “extended cooling”, I refer to the return of La Nina which started in May 2010 and ended around May 2011, and has returned this month. Two graphs are shown below, the upper graph is from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) for Nino Region 3.4 of equatorial Pacific Ocean. The lower graph is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the US Department of Commerce.  Both and many other graphs are easily available at WUWT’s ENSO page,

This is a “double dip” La Nina that would be similar to, or worse than, the 2007-2008 global cooling.
By “brown economy”, I refer to the frequent flooding and the brownish water from mud that we have been experiencing this year and in recent years. Remember typhoon “Frank” in 2008 (sinking of the boat ‘Princess of the Stars’, heavy flooding for 1 week in the several Western Visayas provinces), typhoons “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” in 2009.
As of this writing, typhoon “Mina” has been hovering the eastern side of the country for several days now. The Sun has been invisible almost everyday for two weeks now due to the thick clouds in the sky.
The return of La Nina has been confirmed by several “sophisticated, modern” climate models and if they turn out right, we will have a period up to 2 C colder than normal temperature sometime in March 2012. La Nina might also extend beyond July 2012, making the current La Nina among the longest in recent decades.
The implication is quite obvious: people should prepare for more rains and more flood, not more drought as the warming racket have been saying. People should prepare for rising rivers and lakes, not rising ocean.
Over at the northern and southern hemisphere of the planet, specifically the Arctic and Antarctica, there is no such thing as “alarming” melting of ice in either places. The two graphs below show that the ice there simply melt and grow each year, zero exception. Statements like “ice-free Arctic/Antarctica” are simply wrong and outright lies.
What the warming fanatics usually do is to take a pictures of some big iceberg that have  separated and drifted away from the main ice mass, write a scary article about it as proof of a warming planet towards an “ice free Arctic summer in just 5-10 years”.
But why take pictures of those icebergs when satellite pictures of the entire Arctic and Antarctica areas are publicly and freely available, updated daily? See these two satellite pictures below.

As of this week, there were about 5 million sq.kms. of ice in the Arctic, and about 17 million sq.kms. of ice in Antarctica. How big are those areas? Well, the Philippines’ total land area is 0.3 million sq. kms.
Finally, the warming racket keeps blaming human CO2 emission like more coal power plants, more emission from our cars, buses, airplanes, boats, tractors, as the cause of global warming. This claim has been disproven several times. Take this graph for instance: global coal consumption has been rising fast over the past decade, while global temperature has been flat or declining.  Graph source: P. Gosselin,

Nature keeps telling the warmers, “Shut up, warming-cooling cycles are the reality of my existence.”

See also Part 16, Rising CO2 and cooling world, August 09, 2011, and
Part 14, AGW fiction and cooling reality, July 03, 2011 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pilipinas Forum 3: Is Marxism Still Relevant?

These are the exchanges in pilipinasforum@yahoogroups that I edited, posted in in March 12, 2001, 11 pages long. These discussions were made in February 2001.

Is Marxism Still Relevant?

Popoy represented the largest organization with a definite ideology in calling for a socialist
Philippines. When he and his group splintered from Joma Sison's CPP-NPA-NDF sometime in 1993, Popoy had at least 4 reasons for doing so:

(1) They reject the "semi-feudal, semi-colonial" mode of production analysis of Joma and the CPP. (2) Hence, they also reject the "national democracy" goal. (3) They reject the Maoist formulation that "the peasants (not workers) are the main army to change society" and that of "encircling the city from the countrysides", and (4) Corollarily, reject that "armed struggle is the primary form of struggle".

Instead, when Popoy and his team of underground people from the Metro
Manila-Rizal Regional CPP Command, the explicit formulations are as follows:

1. The Philippines' mode of production is "predominantly capitalist".

2. Hence, the goal should be socialism, not "national democracy" ("national" meaning anti-colonial, "democracy" meaning anti-feudal).

3. The workers (don't own means of production, whether capital, factories, land, technology) are the main army to change things, and urban insurrection is the way to capture state power.

4. Other forms of struggle should be tapped to complement the armed urban struggle (Hence, Popoy and his group then advocated to participate in the 1986 snap elections, whereas Joma and the CPP called for its boycott).

Between the two, Popoy is more sophisticated ideologically than Joma Sison. I would even add that Popoy read and understand classic Marxism and Leninism literature better than Joma and his followers. The ideological debate and organizational rivalry between the 2 largest factions of the Philippine left has somehow worked for their mutual advantage and the workers in general. Just like big corporations benefiting from having fellow big competitors because they all strive to be more dynamic and innovative. How?

Organized workers have more options where they will be organizationally and ideologically affiliated. Before, it was only between the moderate TUCP and the radical KMU, plus other smaller independent labor federations. Popoy's BMP (bukluran ng manggagawang pilipino) represented a 3rd or 4th option for the workers. Just like businessmen and capitalists have options whether they'll be more active with PCCI or MBC or FPI or Rotary, etc.

Second, workers should be given the opportunity to be educated of the socialist alternative, and not just the nat-dem goal. The capitalists and politicians of this country for many years have veered away from the Adam Smith and David Ricardo type of capitalism, so they (the capitalists) gave workers a really bad kind and experience of capitalism. Perhaps approximating the capitalism of the Industrial Revolution in
Europe. At the time when Marx called religion "the heart of the heartless world, the soul of the soulless conditions, it is the opium of the people." (though rabid anti-Marxists only quote the last line and omitted the first 2 lines).

Where to, Philippine left? Despite my sympathy and admiration for their hard dedication to politicize and mobilize people, especially the really poorer sectors of our society, I still cannot subscribe to their sentiment that we should immune or delink our economy from globalization and the world economy, that we should keep the protectionist veil and continue regulating many of our industries and the economy, that we should not privatize subsidy-dependent state corporations, etc.

Thus, since I believe that economic liberalization and not protectionism and regulation is the way, and the Philippine left (& the left elsewhere in the world) believe otherwise, I think the Philippine left will remain as a significant political voice in our society, but there's no way that it can seize state power to implement its protectionist advocacies.

--Nonoy Oplas

Nonoy, could you expound more on the leftist agenda? What exactly do they want? Go down the road of North Korea or Cuba? Do not the events in Russia and China discredit the case for Marxism, Leninism or Maoism as the case may be? I am guessing that their ideology was formulated in the 70's - do they account for sweeping changes in technology such as the internet? There are more Filipinos working abroad (5 million I think) versus those in Philippine Manufacturing (about 2 million I think) so what is their role in this workers rebellion.

How does that one go, "The path to hell is paved with good intentions" - socialism and communism do have their appeal but outside the Israeli Kibbutz I cannot see real sustainable successful models.

-- Victor A. Limlingan Jr.

Pilipinas Forum 2: Exchanges on MRT

This was posted in last February 5, 2001 that I submitted to then EIC Joel Pinaroc. As usual, get your favorite food and drinks while enjoying the debate and exchanges below.

Exchanges on the MRT

Integration is something they forgot in building the MRT. (Or if they did remember it, they sure have a bad way of implementing it). The Ortigas station is located in the wrong place, away from Ortigas Avenue (where there is a lot of people). There isn't even any station easily serving the gate 5 area. Anyone who has traveled through the area coming from Sta. Mesa and Cainta will tell you that these two areas are where many commuters pass. So this part of the MRT does not integrate well into the flow of people. I've walked all the way from Ortigas-EDSA to the MRT station and it is not a pleasant thing (smoke, heat, lack of walkway).

And then there's the Ayala and Buendia stations, which do not provide any efficient, time-based access to the rest of the Makati area.

For people to use the MRT, especially those with cars, the system must allow them to plan the trip to their destination with a reliable time limit. In the case of the MRT, you can plan up to the Buendia or Ayala station, but when you get there, how long it will take you to get to your ultimate destination within the Ayala-Buendia area is still unsure. There is no "feeder route" which is reliable in the context of the amount of time. It may be difficult to take a taxi (ayaw nila kasi traffic), it may be raining (saan ka sisilong?), the FX may take time to fill up and you don't even know its route, etc. In other words, the transport system does not provide the regularity that a commuter needs.

This is why many people (especially those with cars) are still reluctant to use the MRT--because the system to get you to an Ayala destination is not efficient. The MRT may be, but the system is not. This is a disincentive for a middle-class consumer with his or her own car.

It is in the nature of economics that the system will correct itself in time. Efficient, reliable, predictable, and cost-effective feeder systems may develop. But right now, we the taxpayers are subsidizing the MRT by about P2 billion a year--money that could have been better spent for those who really need it (education, healthcare, environment).

-- Bobby Herrera-Lim

For some reasons, I still think that those who constructed the MRT are ingenious. Inspite of all the flaws that you have mentioned it is still there. It is the only rail system that I've seen intermingling with those flyovers. I have yet to see something like that. Anywhere I went here in the US, maybe even in Hong Kong, the routes of the trains are usually different from the buses or from the main flow of traffic.

The park and ride- they should have big, secure parking spaces allotted for this. They usually have it in strategic points. Not only in one area. The routes of the buses and the railways are always complementary.

-- Genes Marquez

Can I offer an alternative view? The MRT III Project is not a transportation project. It is, above all else, a real estate project.

You will note that the current MRT consortium, the so-called private sector group, is composed of property companies (Fil-Estate, Ayala Land, Anglo-Phil, DBH, Allante, etc.) and firms which have interests in property (Ramcar, Greenfield (Unilab), etc.) None are involved, even somewhat involved, in transportation. The concept is simple - the success of the development of property is dependent on attracting the market or the people traffic. Hence, there was no science to the selection of location of the stations -- the trains will stop at areas where any one of the consortium members' (a) mall; (b) property development; or (c) property owned for future development or sale, are located. The engineers may argue to no avail, that there were too many stations or too-close stations for the trains to run efficiently. The mandate given by the owners of the project was for the technical group to engineer around the selected sites.

Finally, the MRT project is tied-up with such sweeteners as: (a) a grant by the government to the MRT consortium of effective ownership (50+25-year lease) of
the North Triangle, one of the few remaining large and contiguous prime properties in Metro Manila; and (b) the ability to "create" real estate along EDSA through the design of the MRT stations. The rail project is the monster that guards the treasure.

There should be no illusion that the private sector undertook the project with a view of fulfilling its "social responsibility". Right now, that seems to be the accidental result of the prime objective of the project sponsors -- to undertake only projects which yield economic returns and unlock synergies necessary to compete and make money. I say, "right now" and "accidental" because in the future, if things deteriorate and the commercial return expectations of the project sponsors are threatened (they're fully guaranteed by the government, come-hell-or-high-water), then you will see that it can get ugly both for the government and for the commuters and yes, for Juan.

-- Gina

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pilipinas Forum 1: Crime and Punishment, the beloved discussion group that I and friend Monching Romano created in 1999, will turn 12 years old later this week. I will post some of the collated exchanges here. The exchanges are long, grab your favorite snacks and enjoy the witty and serious discussion here.

This was posted in, June 3, 2001

On Punishment and Fairness

Re. Erick P's idea to raise the cost of corruption, reinforced by Vikki's posting that "if the penalties of imprisonment under the tax law were really executed--there would be less BIR people inclined to be corrupt or less taxpayers who would dare evade taxes." Since we have the death penalty in place, we only have to turn a few knobs more in our execution parameters, say, instead of lethal injection, corrupt BIR people can be given a special treatment, that is: death by garrote on national TV. A close up shot on face of the erring taxman is highly recommended to capture on screen and successfully etch on the minds of future evil-doers that this is what is in store for them.

If we are lucky, we will only have to do this once. If the cost of corruption is this high, in terms of pain and humiliation down the family line, then the applicability of Erick's economics of corruption shall be forever in the mainstream of fiscal policy and tax collection solutions. The reason why the death penalty is not working is that the execution procedures have been glamorized. But if you do it the gory way and show it from batanes to uruguay, the death penalty is going to work.

–Ozone Azanza

Let us not kid ourselves a moment more. We must move beyond DISCOURSE to RECOURSE and indeed truly make EXAMPLES of these vile villains if we are to retain even a modicum of that creature we call the Dignity of Man. Let us then enable ourselves as is our right of recourse, to disable, decapitate & discombobulate these evil disabling elements and trust me as you would our Grand Inquisitor Ozone Azanza de Torquemada when he says: "Death by garrote on national TV...”

Blood & gore, pain & humiliation and death because of taxes. Yan ang SAMPOL. My dear friends, only through this action alone will we ever see the light where we gladly all shall pay it again and again and again.

–Sam Aherrera

I know and I can sincerely relate with the frustration that we all have with regards to our present system be it tax or whatever, as clearly espoused by the different posts of esteemed people of this forum. However, as we are indeed aspiring albeit sometimes half-hearted citizens as Sampler Sam so perfectly puts it, I found it rather contradictory that we would having these sort of solutions, SAMPOL according to Sampler Sam, to our already impossible problems.

Forgive me if I seem too soft on this issue, but what is justice if its meted out with such cruelty to so appear fearful and as such strike fear in the hearts of the citizens in a society where it is tasked to keep order. Because it does not matter that only the guilty will surely feel that fear, human systems are inherently prone to fault, and thus to abuse. What is then to be our difference with the heartless dictatorial systems of our materially successful East Asian neighbors? Surely, only the material success. Peace!

--Anna Liza Su

What is Fairness that it escapes us?
Fairness be good,
fairness be just,
for vengeance and
revenge do we not lust?

Punishment in the hands of God will always be a mystery. Punishment in the hands of men will always be questioned for fairness. But my thesis today is not about whether the very act of Punishment is fair or not. Rather I ask, FOR WHAT END is Punishment meted out? That for me defines the fairness of Punishment.

Punishment will never restore what is lost with the crime committed -- whether that lost was life, property, or trust. Never. Therefore, punishment is not restorative. But it is. Because punishment restores our trust in law and order, in the justice system. That is the only thing that Punishment can restore. If the Punishment does not achieve that purpose, to restore our trust, then even that Punishment has failed us.

Punishment carried out in this respect is Fairness. Only when it is abused does it become unfair.

Again I ask, for what end is punishment meted out? If it will rid our country of corrupt civil servants and politicians; if it will expose those who abuse the trust of the People; if it will stop the rape of our daughters and the murder of our sons -- then it is fair. Then it is just. But, it has to be sweeping. All those found guilty, whether by law or by circumstance. And consistent -- the same chopping board and rusty butcher's knife for a fallen president and for a government cashier.

--Aspiring Citizen Kori Coronel

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Drug price control 15: Price regulations board

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the House of Representatives to attend the public hearing of the Committee on Trade and Industry on two House Bills (HBs). One is HB No. 1228 of Reps. Diosdado Macapagal-Arroyo and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (former President), “An Act to Require Manufacturers or Labelers of Prescription Drugs to Report their Annual Marketing Costs” and HB No. 1386 of Rep. Ferjenel G. Biron, “An Act Establishing the Drug Price Regulatory Board to Regulate the Prices of Drugs and Medicines in the Philippines Amending for the Purpose Republic Act NO. 9502..."

My quick position on both HBs is that they are both wrong and idiotic. But given limited time, I only prepared a position paper on Cong. Biron's bill. Below is my letter to the Committee Chairman which I personally handed to him after the hearing.

23 August 2011

Committee on Trade & Industry
House of Representatives
Batasan Complex, Quezon City

Dear Cong. Garcia,

We would like to submit our position paper on HB 1386 of Cong. Ferjenel Biron, “An Act Establishing the Drug Price Regulatory Board to Regulate the Prices of Drugs and Medicines in the Philippines Amending RA 9502”, below.

After two years (as of August 15, 2011) of drug price regulation or price control policy through E0 821 and the voluntary price reduction scheme, we have basis for saying that the policy is wrong for the following reasons.

1. The policy contradicted, if not defeated, the goals of the Generics Act of 1988. That law was generally successful in promoting cheaper generics, off-patent drugs to the public. The drug price control policy however, encouraged people to shift back to the branded and patented drugs by multinational pharmaceutical companies as the price of the latter have been coerced by the government to become 50 percent cheaper.

2. The policy benefited the rich and upper middle class who would be buying those drugs covered by price control whether their price remained at their high level or were forced to be 50 percent cheaper. Many if not all of the 22 drug molecules that were covered by the policy have cheaper, off-patent competing drugs already available. The poor were patronizing the off-patent drugs which are still cheaper compared to the branded drugs by the multinationals even if their prices have been slashed by half.

3. The policy has adversely affected many local generic manufacturers. If they were selling their drug brand X at P10 per tablet vs. the multinationals’ P18, the locals were making enough profit as many poorer people will be patronizing their products because of the big price differential compared with the branded drugs by the multinationals.

After the price control, the P18 becomes P9 and the local generics manufacturers now have the “more expensive” drugs. If they have enough leeway to further bring down their price to only P5 or lower without sacrificing the quality and safety of their drugs, good, and suffer a substantial profit reduction. But if they do not have enough leeway, then they will be forced to pull out their drugs rather than sell at a loss. T

4. The policy has introduced business uncertainty. Someone with a really innovative, creative and revolutionary product (a more disease-killer drug, a more cutting-edge laptop or cell phone model, etc.) might hesitate bringing that product to the country knowing that the politics of envy can hit them anytime.

5. There is already a healthy competition among generics and innovator companies as there are just very few patented drugs in the market now. Majority are off-patent and hence, are open for manufacturing by more generics companies, local or foreign.

6. Price control simply means price dictatorship. The government is dictating to the affected industry players that regardless of the cost of production and marketing, the cost of taxes and fees they must pay, those companies must sell their products at a level that was set and dictated by the government. Otherwise, these players can be declared as violators of the law and are subject to certain fines and penalties.

The proposed creation of a Drug Prices Regulation Board is also wrong for the following reasons:

1. It will add another layer of bureaucracy in the government, which will require another set of budgetary allocation each year. At P300 billion per year average budget deficit, the government should think of how to reduce if not eradicate the need for more borrowings, not add more debts. The on-going global financial turmoil is caused by heavy public debt by the governments of the US, Spain, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and a few others.

2. The DOH Advisory Council on Price Regulation, the body that deliberated the implementation and monitoring of the price control since August 15, 2009, has been transformed into the Advisory Council for Healthcare because there is general recognition by the Council members that price control did not work. Since the Council is not a permanent body, it is easy to transform itself and focus its discussions and energy in discussing the more important issue of universal healthcare, not just drugs pricing. A permanent drug regulation body will only become a white elephant in the future implementing and monitoring a bad policy.

In conclusion, we are not supporting HB 1386. Congress should instead review and reassess RA 9502 if its provisions are still practical or not, We are attaching a book, Health Choices and Responsibilities written by the undersigned. The book has discussed the experience of drug price control policy in the country more extensively.

We hope you will consider our observations. Thank you very much.

Sincerely yours,

Bienvenido “Nonoy” Oplas, Jr.
Minimal Government Thinkers, Inc.

Cong. Garcia, the Committee Chairman, is young. The author of HB 1386 and Committee Vice-Chairman, Cong. Biron, is a veteran legislator. The meeting started about 1:40pm and after the opening statement of the Chairman, Cong. Biron delivered his long sponsorship speech of his bill. The first resource speakers who called were from the Department of Health (DOH) headed by Assistant Secretary Ubial. After the DOH presentation, Cong. Biron asked more questions and re-emphasized the points he already mentioned in his sponsorship speech. I think that from 1:45 to 2:45pm, it was largely a Cong. Biron monologue. The audience were treated to a "public listening" instead of public hearing.

Anyway, other speakers were called and gave their position on the bill -- from FDA, IPO, DTI, PhilHealth, PHAP, PHA, Mercury, DSAP, AGAP.

I sometimes think that the DOH is a confused bureaucracy that continues to implement the drug price control policy despite overwhelming evidence that it has not attained its objective after 2 years of implementation. But when I heard Cong. Biron, I begin to appreciate the DOH. The latter has more sense saying that "there is role for market forces and competition in drug pricing", compared to certain legislators so determined to push their agenda accusing the DOH, "Is the DOH Secretary afraid to implement the law that he cannot expand the list of drugs to be put under price control?"

I was wondering why the Philippine Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industry (PCPI, federation of mostly local generic pharma companies) guys were not there yesterday. The common impression is that drug price control hits the multinational pharma and spares the local generic firms. Wrong. The policy hits both, as I discussed above in my letter. I thought that if Atty. Joey Ochave of Unilab was there, he could have silenced Cong. Biron with his more persuasive arguments why price control is wrong.

Congress is often the home of populism and heavy statism. Just create new subsidies and bureaucracies to help the poor and let Batman and Spiderman find the money to finance them.

It is important that a really liberal ideology-based political party and groups should tame such populism and statism in the legislature. Otherwise, we ordinary folks will be spending more of our time and money following idiotic laws and unfunded laws which should have never been enacted in the first place.

Finally, I personally handed Cong. Garcia a copy of my book, he was happy. He thanked me twice I think :-) I also gave the Committee Secretary, Val Palanca, a copy of the book. I hope they will read it and be persuaded that price control is price dictatorship is wrong.

Unrest in MidEast-Africa 9: Gaddafi falldown

Three days ago, I wrote this:

Today's international news headlines say that the rebels have already brought the fighting within Tripoli. Mr. Gaddafi's elite and loyal forces should provide their last stand in the capital.

I hope that this conflict will really end soon, that Mr. Gaddafi and his family should be prosecuted, and the Libyan people can move on with a new life. Wars and conflict are always destructive and counter-productive, with so much lives and properties lost and damaged. People should be working to live a peaceful and productive society for themselves and their families, not shooting and bombing each other.

It is the politics of BIG government that often divides people. Those in power have the strong appetite to unleash various coercion on ordinary citizens.

I also hope that the mistake of BIG government and its various coercion and deception will not be repeated in the next administration. People these days are empowered by various information that they can use to improve their own lives without depending too much on government and politicians. The latter have the habit of stocking up more guns and other armaments, not so much for external war but more for intimidating their own citizens when the people will resist the various coercion imposed upon their lives.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gaddafi must go. So that a bigger challenge, that of rebuilding Libyan economy and lives can proceed after the long, messy and divisive civil war. The big war that people should fight is the war against material poverty and mental indolence and dependence.

Today, the news is that Gaddafi's main compound in Tripoli has been stormed by the rebels already. There are still pockets of resistance, but they are no longer significant to counter the anti-dictatorship rebellion. It may just be a matter of days before rebel victory will be officially announced, and Mr. Gaddafi be found and arrested.

The world will soon have one less dictator. There are still many despots and dictators around but at least their number is declining one by one. There may be upcoming new dictators -- BIG governments are conducive to the rise of dictators and deceivers -- but at least they are warned that the people's patience for dictatorship is getting lower.

We hope that the Assad dictatorship in Syria will soon follow Mr. Gaddafi.

See also earlier discussions about the Libyan conflict:
Unrest in MidEast-Africa 2: Libya rebellion, February 22, 2011
Unrest in MidEast-Africa 4: Libya succession, February 28, 2011
Unrest in MidEast-Africa 5: Gadhafi wealth, March 01, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Drug price control 14: Another book review, Health Choices and Responsibilities

My first book, Health Choices and Responsibilities, 230 pages, published last January this year, simply argued that to attain good health outcome, there are various choices that individuals and societal leaders (private companies, government, NGOs, etc.) can choose. And there are responsibilities -- individual, parental, corporate, government -- attached to those choices.

In short, it is not just "Health is a Right." More importantly, "Health is a Choice, and Health is a Responsibility."

I am happy that some friends have written a review of my book. Like Froilan Bersamina who owns The Vincenton Post.

Froilan is probably the most articulate or the most prolific Filipino follower of Objectivism philosophy of Ayn Rand. In his blog post today Book Review: “Health Choices and Responsibilities” by Nonoy Oplas, Froilan wrote:

...Oplas discussed in detail the following issues: the Department of Health (DOH) Advisory Council on price regulation, discount cards versus discounted competition, the need to protect intellectual property rights, health politics, price controls, the impact of innovation and competition on drug prices and drug quality, the issue of rights and responsibilities, government intervention and regulations, the hypocrisy and intellectual bankruptcy of the left and pro-government control of the pharmaceutical and health care industry, health insurance monopoly, and the role of free market in drug innovation, competition, and drug quality and prices.

Understanding the country’s health care system and politics requires a rational and objective process of thought. If one is to properly appraise the health care situation in the country, one must not merely look into one particular side of the issue and the immediate, short-range effects of a particular government policy on a given sector. That is, one must understand the ideology and political motivations behind the country’s current and previous health care policies.

In the words of Oplas, the government’s anti-business health care policies and drug price controls were motivated by socialism or populism. This means that the country’s mediocre, populist health care system is the ultimate result of our politicians’ intellectual bankruptcy— or their failure to understand the indisputable link between freedom and economic success.

“It is dangerous to mix liberalism with socialism. Liberalism, in its literal meaning, is to liberate, to free, to remove or limit coercion. Socialism, in its literal meaning, is to socialize, to collectivize, by force and coercion,” the book states.

Five months ago, another friend and free market blogger, Paul H. who owns Colorful Rag wrote this review, REVIEW: ‘HEALTH CHOICES AND RESPONSIBILITIES’ last March 28, 2011. Paul wrote,

... Oplas tells some depressing stuff about the present health care situation, such as of retailers getting hammered by the new rules, to the point of having to lay off workers. From one of his stories, it is shown that the government doesn’t really want free health care or free education ― what it wants is the control over these sectors, the people be damned. State monopolies and regulation are big money, and the only beneficiaries in such a system are the politicians and their cronies.

Oplas himself says that his book can be summed up in the idea that “health care is a personal and parental responsibility.” The state has to step aside for people to be empowered.

The drawback to compiling blog entries and presentations for a book, is that while there is a continuity to ideas expressed, part of the informal style of the blog or presentation is retained, which may be disorienting, especially when there are references made on events of the time, of which the present reader would not remember specifically. But this concerns merely the style of Oplas’ book, and not its substance, the latter being founded on good economics.

I feel however that Oplas does not go far enough with his thesis statement. Just as the great economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek did, Oplas concedes to the government the responsibility to handle health epidemics and other emergencies. I am of the opinion that people have the ability to organize and coordinate just as well, or even better, than any coercive institution, hence my disagreement on this matter.

Meanwhile, another friend, Eddie Vega, a friend way back in UP Diliman and now a Consul General at the Department of Foreign Affairs (most recently in Barcelona, Spain, now back in the US, NYC). Ed does not have a blog but he made a brief discussion about my book in his facebook wall. Thanks Ed.

I hope I can finish my 2nd book on the subject sometime this year.

Drug price control 12: Blog posts on page 1 of Google, Yahoo and Bing, August 14, 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Weekend fun 21: Humor in global financial turmoil

(This is my article yesterday in with original title, Economic and humor contagion)

The economic and financial uncertainties primarily caused by public debt burden (ie, high fiscal irresponsibility) in the US and Europe is continuing. Heavy turmoil last week, extended up to this week, and most likely until the next few weeks and months.

Here is another refresher how the current global financial turmoil started – on the big debate what to do with the federal debt limit.

Source: Mercatus Center, 30 Years of Bipartisan Debt Ceiling Raises, August 16, 2011

The rise in debt ceiling has become more frequent and each rise is becoming more steep. The recent rise in debt limit for instance was $2.3 trillion, from $14.3 to $16.6 trillion. And such high debt limit is expected to be reached in less than two years. That is how fiscal irresponsibility can trigger government failure with bitter global consequences.

Some sectors have analyzed the recent and on-going financial turmoil not via graphs, jargons and equations. Instead, they turn to exaggeration with humor to depict the current and future condition of the US and global economy. Below are some of those witty comments, gathered from different sources. I have also contributed or invented 3 of them here 

How bad is the situation in the United States? It's sooo bad, that…

- My neighbor got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.
- CEOs are now playing miniature golf.
- Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 congressmen.
- I saw a Mormon with only one wife.
- If the bank returns your check marked "Insufficient Funds," you call them and ask if they meant you or them.
- McDonald's is selling the 1/4 ouncer.
- Angelina Jolie adopted a child from America.
- Parents in Beverly Hills fired their nannies and learned their children's names.
- A man had an exorcism but couldn't afford to pay for it, and they re-possessed him.
- A truckload of Americans was caught sneaking into Mexico.
- A picture is now only worth 200 words.
- The Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas is now managed by Somali pirates.
- GM and Ford are now manufacturing jeepneys and tricycles.
- Starbucks is now selling 3-in-1 coffee in sachets.
- Delta airlines now flying cheap standing only tickets.
- S&P forecast chapter for the US economy: Chapter 11.
- President Obama's economic policies will create millions of new jobs, but they are all for Iraqi and Afghani soldiers.
- The Debt Ceiling debate is a mess because Al Qaeda is trying to take credit for it.
- It’s good that gas prices have fallen because people can now afford to drive the cars they're living in.

My favorite is a quip from a friend who said that the US may need technical assistance from the Philippines on how to handle their public debt problem. I added that USAID and WB will jointly fund that project of Philippine technical assistance to the US how to (a) move from AA to BB rating, and (b) handle the debt problem while getting more new loans to save the planet, save the poor, save the economy, save the bureaucracy.

Market failure often opens up opportunities for market solutions. But government failure opens up opportunities for more government intervention, taxation and regulation. And that explains why the economic turmoil can easily jump from one big economy to another down to the smaller economies. Huge public debt and fiscal irresponsibility by the governments of those economies are the main facilitators of such contagion.

See also Fiscal irresponsibility 12: More on US debt default, July 28, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Weekend fun 20: Taga-UP Diliman ka Kung...

There is a new facebook group called "Taga UP Diliman ka kung..." (You are from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, if you...") that is so hot. It was created only about 10 days ago by an alumni Cleve JD Mallari and it attracted 32,100+ members. The posting are so frequent and witty.

I am reposting this here so that other friends and readers who are not from UPD and hence, are not members of the group and cannot read the postings, can see them. I created one thread in the group, below, copy-pasted the significant comments and additions. Smileys and hahaha are removed here as all of these comments are for fun or wittily true. Pictures here are all taken from the group by other group members. Here we go!

A girl was caught by UPD police making love to the Oblation.
Q1: Was a crime committed? Yes, statutory rape.
Q2: Can she be convicted? Yes, there is concrete evidence.

Victoria: And you know a Nonoy Oplas joke when you see one.

Jopay: noy... very hard evidence yan ah!

Lorenzo: so... will oble be imprisoned? or the girl? :)

Jopay: Depende... mukhang may consent naman

Nonoy: Some Diliman dorm jokes:
Narra -- dorm ng surot na tinatao
Kamia -- female version ng Narra (mga female na surot?)
Sanggumay - dorm ng mga manang
Ipil - dorm ng mga manong
Ilang-Ilang - dorm ng mga nai-ilang sa academic oval
Kalayaan (boys wing) -- silipan ng mga boys sa girls wing ng Yakal dorm

Some AS/CSSP male CR graffiti:
- The population of the world depends on what you are holding now.
- Pag inabot (ng ihi) mo ito (marker about 1 1/2 foot from your pototoy), astig ka.

Sa Narra dati, may issue re cats with 1 eye removed, 1 or 2 sq. inch of skin peeled, under observations pala ng mga Vet-Med students, the cats were roaming around. Narra dorm council created a graffiti wall, "What to do with the cats?" Some comments in the wall:
* itapon sa Kamia residence hall
* What to do with the vet meds?
* pusang-ina oh!
* nga pusakal kayo.

Jopay: Teka, noy, paano kung na-injured si oble? Ano ang crime?

Nonoy: Pag na-injure si Oble, the crime is statutory injury.

Some dorm male CR graffiti:
Sa Molave: "Here I sit all broken hearted,
tried to shit but only farted."
Sa Narra: "Here I sit on my puwet,
my asshole opens up a bit
out comes something like velvet
No, its my brownish shit."

Meanings of TBA in UP:
Ordinary enrollment -- (teacher) To Be Announced
Martial Law days -- (Teacher & student leaders) To Be Arrested
Applicants sa mga frats -- To Be Arbored (at idaan sa hazing).

Some graffiti at the back of main library dati:
-- Aanhin pa ang damo, kung tulog na ang addict.
-- Ako ay may naaamoy, parang mabangong kahoy,
O damo, damo, pagkain ng kabayo.
-- Ako ay may syota, malaki ang dyoga
dyoga, dyoga, nakapanlalata.

Jopay: Noy, malicious mischief ang crime pag na-injure si oble! baka maitanong yan sa bar!

Nonoy: 2 bus lines plying UPD in early 80s. JD bus line and MMTC, air-con or double decker. Ang JD, lawanit lang dingding, so in case of emergency, pwede na tadyakan ang dingding. Sa MMTC double decker, madami takot sumakay sa itaas kasi walang drayber :-)

Pag tingin mo mababa score mo or babagsak ka sa exam, ganito ang palusot: "Don't let your academics get in the way of your education." Halata ano ha.

UP noon vs ngayon:
-- dati pag nagrar-rally, sa plackard lang. ngayon nasa ipad na
-- dati UP IKOT lang, ngayon may TOKI na
-- dati pasok lang walang ID, ngayon may signs na NO ID, NO ENTRY or WEAR ID AT ALL TIMES
-- dati unli rice lang sa Area 2 at walang Via Mare, ngayon coño na...
‎-- dati kasabay mo nag-aantay ng jeep sa Edsa/Q.Ave mga kapwa estudyante, ngayon hatid-sundo ng mga drivers nila.
-- dati mga freshmen na uhugin, ngayon mga de-kotse na, loaded pa
-- dati, madaming mga dugyutin, amoy pawis na klasmeyts na mababangis sumagot sa recitation, ngayon mapoporma at mayayamang klasmeyts na walang muang sa mundo
-- dati mura tuition, ngayon mahal na...

The administrator of this group, Cleve JD Mallari posted that they will disable posting from Sat 7am to Sun 11pm but people can still read the various threads. Riot ang mga response, like these:
- yes! makakapag pahinga mga mata ko!
- Makakasubo ng konti at makakajingle.
- An tagal !! ... May gamot ba kayo pang detox bago mag 11 pm ng Sunday?
- ayos, para di na umusok yung computer ko
- ayan pwede nako maligo!
- Para may family time naman! :)
- i see symptoms of withdrawal....
- we will come to realize na "there's life beyond UPD group/site pala"..
- Withdrawal yan. Patay ang mga addict.
- So if I start getting the shakes and shivers this weekend, I'll know the reason why.
- puede na ako mag groceries, mag car wash at matulog!
- That's enough time to check in na into a rehab center.
- Ok, kaunting break. Galit na asawa ko dahil mukha ko nasa computer na lang at naka ngiting mag-isa
- Pucha, yung pinatanggal ko na eyebags at inalagaan ng tatlong taon, nawala in three days...

Weena: may ID na, may Via Mare pa??!! homaygulay~!!!

Nonoy: Some dorm stories, from other threads in this group:
- Nasubukan mong ma-harana sa sampaguita...
- naririnig mo yung malakas na tilaok ng mga manok ni mrs cantuba sa sampa
- nakaramdam ka ng multo sa Sampa
- Sampa, Napagkamalan akong multo sa CR kc maputla ako, naka-nightgown, bagong kulot biuhok
- pag weekend, nagtitis ka ulamin ang lucky me pansit canton kasi sawa ka na sa aristocart at nagtitipid ka
- 730am ang class mo at going late ka na kaya suot mo ang pantulog mo pagpasok ng klase!
- tanghali na gumising. maaga ka pa sa class...

Rache: Noon walang kalaman-laman ang mga parking area especially sa AS park lot pero ngayon kulang na kulang na sa parking palaging puno kaya minsan nasa side streets na and it will cause traffic. Inside UP, traffic!!!

Nonoy: More dorm stories, about the (10pm curfew), from other threads in this group. Thanks for these stories, naalala ko dorm life ko in the 80s (Molave, Yakal, Narra):
- bibili kayo ng "bribe" na pagkain para kay manang guardya para di ma-record na curfew ka
- dahil sa curfew, mas pinipili mo na lang na matulog sa labas kaysa madagdagan violations mo sa dorm..
- Yakal, yung bomb threat doon e gawa gawa lang yata ng isang dormer na inabutan ng curfew at gusto pa ding makapasok ng dorm. Me media coverage pa ha!
- Narra, isang minuto lang tinatagal ng curfew. 10PM ang start pag 10:01 open na uli ang gate....

Kwento or alaskahan sa College of Engineering:
EE - eng na eng
CE - conting eng
ME - medyo eng
IE - indi eng

Florence; e yung GE? ;)

Nonoy: grabeng eng? hehe. Mga taga-EE nagpa-uso ng jokes na yon.

Florence: malamang sinabi nila "gagong eng'g"

Nonoy: Yon MetE (Metallurgical Eng'g), ano itatawag nila don, "metopak eng"?

Someone posted, "UPD ka kung magaling kang gumamit ng pythagorean theorem. 'The sum of 2 sides is alway greater than the hypotenuse.' Then showed a picture of a curve but paved walkway near Vinzons Hall, and an unpaved but straight pathway. Heto ilang comments:
- the shortest distance between two points is a straight line
- Noon yun! Ngayon "The shortest distance between two points depends on where you're going!"
- There is no such thing as a straight line. What you conceive as straight is just a line segment of a curve.
- depende yan sa weather..pag umuulan at maputik ang hypotenuse, dun ka sa longer distance dadaan(paved e)

See also
Weekend fun 19: Sic O Clock News, June 19, 2011
Weekend fun 18. Gloria Arroyo cartoons, June 11, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Abolish Income Tax 7: Rene Azurin, Peter Wallace, John Mangun

A friend who writes a weekly column in BusinessWorld, Prof. Rene Azurin, wrote yesterday a straightforward article, Just scrap income taxes. He argued,

...For many years now, I have been proposing that our present system for taxing income (basically patterned after the US tax system) should be replaced with a system for taxing consumption. Over time, I have argued in several public forums (as well as in this space) that consumption taxes are intrinsically fairer than income taxes. After all, what is fair about penalizing (via taxes) someone whose only "crime" is to be successful at running a business efficiently enough to be profitable? Isn’t it inherently fairer to penalize (via taxes) someone because he consumes resources and therefore adds to the total burden of both the society and the environment?

An economic rationale for this notion is that taxes on income reduce the incentives for businessmen and entrepreneurs to make money through the production of goods and services. In this way, they act as a drag on the impetus for business expansion and output growth. Income taxes are thus inconsistent with the compelling goal of creating jobs for the many millions of our unemployed and underemployed citizens. In contrast, taxes on consumption logically make those who consume more of society’s resources assume a greater share in the cost of managing the society. The more one consumes, the more taxes one pays.

It should not, moreover, be overlooked that taxes on income -- because they prescribe permissible deductions -- are more complicated, more subject to the revenue collector’s discretion, and therefore more susceptible to corruption. In that respect, the current proposal for a gross taxation scheme -- because it limits the deductions to "direct costs" (though I am not clear yet on what this term includes) -- is an improvement. The tax simplification bill -- now being finalized in the House of Representatives’s Committee on Ways and Means -- proposes to tax corporations at a rate of 18% of their gross income (net of said "direct costs") and is being pushed mainly by committee chairman Hermilando Mandanas. Given the avowed objectives, Representative Mandanas should consider simply eliminating income taxes altogether and replacing these entirely with consumption taxes. Taxes on consumption -- in the form of sales or excise or value-added taxes -- are more straightforward, less subject to discretion, and less susceptible to corruption....

Again, I say AMEN to Rene's arguments.

Last August 25, 2009, I also wrote this:

3 Columnists pushing for zero income tax

I know of at least 3 newspaper columnists who are advocating the abolition of income taxes. One is John Mangun of Business Mirror where he writes in that paper every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. John is an American businessman who has been living here in the Philippines for nearly 3 decades now. He also married a Filipina.

The other two newspaper columnists who have argued and written at least once in their opinion-columns, for the abolition of income taxes, both personal and corporate income, are Peter Wallace of Manila Standard (he writes there every Friday I think), and Rene Azurin of BusinessWorld (he writes there every Wednesday). Peter is an Australian businessman who has been living in the Philippines for more than 3 decades now. He also has a Filipina wife. Rene is also a businessman and an academic at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Business Administration.

With at least 3 columnists in 3 national newspapers advocating zero income tax, there is a fair chance for this issue to be pushed in the national agenda of the various political parties in the coming May 2010 Presidential and local elections.

Below is a portion of John Mangun’s article today.

New ideas, not just new faces

Written by John Mangun / Outside the Box
MONDAY, 24 AUGUST 2009 21:16

… Traditionally, all candidates have called for stronger enforcement and harsher penalties for corruption. Perhaps then, the ultimate solution is to torture and then burn at the stake anyone involved with income-tax fraud, both in the private sector and with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). That might get people to respect the rules. Or maybe people are never going to fully obey income-tax rules and maybe there will always be corrupt government tax officials.

Perhaps a more creative and effective solution would be to abolish income taxes completely.

Income taxes are not pro-poor, anti-rich or any of that nonsense. Income taxes are anti-hard working people of all income brackets. The company president and the company messenger both pay income taxes. The drug dealer does not. The working person is penalized for following the rules. The drug dealer is not. Some 2,500 years ago Plato said, “When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income.”

The same applies to corporations and corporate taxes. If your company employs 100 people and you make a profit, your tax rate is 30 percent or more. But if you run a nice and tidy gambling operation with a 100 people employed, your profit is taxed at zero percent. Now tell me the progressive income tax is fair. To whom?

The creative approach would be to abolish all income taxes. No more tax cheats that do not follow the rules. No more government corruption at the BIR. Everyone, rich and poor, are then treated equally.

The government can easily make up the revenue shortfall with an increase in the sales or VAT tax. Sales tax is the fairest of all taxes. As long as food, medicine, clothing and other essentials are exempted, there is no penalty on the lower-income earners and lower economic groups. The “rich” man and the “poor” man both pay the same amount of tax on their newly purchased washing machine.

Do not say that an increase in the VAT will reduce consumer spending. With the abolition of income taxes, the consumer will have more money to spend. The difference is that the consumer will choose how to spend the money, not the government.

The point of my rant is simply that we need creative solutions to the problems and it does not seem that the politicians have the boldness, the courage to propose something out of the ordinary.

When will come a candidate who offers new ideas and not just the offer of a new face to battle the economic and social problems of the Philippines?


See also Part 6, Income tax and VAT trade-off, February 08, 2010
Part 5: Consumption taxes, other government fees, November 25, 2009