Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lecture on Liberalism, German Politics and the FNF

This coming Tuesday, May 06, our club and the RC of Makati Pio del Pilar will have a joint meeting with a distinguished speaker, the Country Director of the FNF, and a former Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Jules Maaten.

There is good feedback about this "interesting topic" and hence, we hope many people, rotarians and non-rotarians, will come and listen to Jules.

A short background. All political foundations (Friedrich Naumann Foundation/FNF, Friedrich Ebert Foundation/FEF, Konrad Adenauer Foundation/KAF, Hans Seidel Foundation/HSF,...) are affiliated with German political parties. FNF is affiliated with the Free Democratic Party (FDP, liberals and democrats); FEF is affiliated with the social democrats and socialists; KAF is affiliated with the Christian Democrats, the party in power by Angela Merkel, and so on.

These political foundations get their funding from their political party affiliation in Germany. Thus, the bigger the votes achieved by the political party, the bigger is the funding of their political foundation. That makes KAF having lots of money.

The goal of those pol. foundations is to conduct political education worldwide related to their respective political philosophy. Thus, FNF is promoting liberalism and free market, FEF is promoting welfarism and implicit socialism.

German politics is important because Germany is the biggest economy in Europe. Thus, policies by the ruling party or coalition largely determine the direction of the German economy and foreign policy. Like how to deal with the public debt crisis of Portugal-Ireland-Greece-Spain (PIGS), the future of the Euro currency, the Ukraine-Russia conflict, and so on.

As usual, no registration fee, people will just pay for their own meals and drinks. Hope to see you there, Manila-based readers. Thanks.

See also:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Obama in Manila and Air Force One

US President Barack Obama has already left Manila. He stayed for 24 hours here, arrived yesterday 1:30pm, departed today around 1:30pm too. 

Some of my friends in fb posted funny comments, others were angry at the heavy traffic caused by road closures where Mr. Obama and his tight security will pass by. 

The photos, I got from fb too, which are generally funny. Like this one below, Pres. Obama telling Pres. Aquino that the former does not want to see the latter's showbiz sister.

Below are from JB Baylon. He gave me permission to post these fb status, from yesterday until today. Thanks JB.

PICTURE THIS: President Obama and party drive up to NAIA Terminal 1 tomorrow afternoon for their flight home. A security guard asks to see his passport and ticket. Obama says he has no passport on him nor a ticket. So the guard asks, "What airline?" And Obama smiles and answers - "Not an airline, I am president of the United States and I am going to Air Force One". And finally the guard smiles and says, "Oh sir you have to go down that street (pointing in the direction of a popular uhm watering hole) will see Air Force One. Many government officials are there already drinking and waiting for you!"

NO WIVES! Did you notice? Michelle Obama was not with her husband when he emerged from Air Force One? So wives should not question why their husbands never bring them along to Air Force One!

THEORIES ON THE SHORT VISIT: Why did the POTUS spend only one night in Manila when he spent two in Malaysia and more in Japan? There are many theories. 1) Because we are "America's closest ally", we didn't need much "convincing" to be supportive of America's plans in this part of the world. 2) Obama didn't want to stay long enough to be presented a laundry list of PX goods that we need, from military equipment to the iPhone 6; 3) What's there to see in Manila really, other than a few Spanish-era churches and structures? 4) Michelle heard about the "other" Air Force One and knowing the track record of the Secret Service was worried that they'd be in cahoots with POTUS in going to the wrong one; but really 5) Michelle was worried that if Obama stayed longer, he might do what other foreigners have done: ditch her and marry a Filipina! Amen?

From Dennis A:
There was a rally at the US Embassy before President Obama arrived. One placard said, "Yankee go home! And take me with you!"

From Francis B:
Fuck you Obama! Your damn motorcade has me stuck in traffic for two hours! Fuck you too, Commie protesters! My manager's birthday party was at 3pm. It's 5:30pm now. I have 71 Kg of frozen chicken in my car starting to melt!

in 1986, Americans had the technology to exfiltrate a President from Malacañang by helicopter. They couldn't do the same in 2014? You would expect that a place called the "Ninoy Aquino International Airport" would have a few of these whirlygigs just lying around...

And these damn protesters... ancient Filipinos invented something called "sidewalks" where you can stand and walk all day, unlike roads where cars drive. Protest all you damn want, just have the damn courtesy to not bother people minding their own businesses!

Yes, the leftist Bayaan Mo Na had a grand time rallying in the streets – and further contributed to traffic gridlocks in parts of Manila. The mainstream media loved sensationalism, so they were interviewing the Bayaan Mo Na leaders daily.

Some of the jokes are pointed on these leftist leaders.

Personally I did not pay much attention to the Obama visit. Being a non-fan of any militarist solution to the on-going territorial and diplomatic tension with China, I think the new defense agreement between the US and PH will fan this militarist approach. China did not become economically dynamic by sending battle ships to any of its major trading partners. It grew fast by sending thousands of cargo ships yearly, via international trade and investments, into its trading partners including the PH.

See also:
China Watch 15: FTA, ASEAN and UNCLOS, August 01, 2011
China Watch 16: Scarborough Shoal, Spratlys and Citizens Action, May 01, 2012
China Watch 17: Using Drones Over Scarborough, SCS, May 14, 2012 

China Watch 18: Martin Jacques' Manila Lecture, November 20, 2012

Friday, April 25, 2014

EFN Asia 36: Pett J and Secretariat Work

I have written a number of papers about the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia, especially its annual conferences in different cities in Asia. Such big regional event for many independent think tanks and academics is made possible not only by the financial support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) but also by the hard work put by the EFN Secretariat staff.

The head of the Secretariat is the Regional Program Officer for EFN, Pett Jarupaiboon. Photo, Pett talking to Fred McMahon of Fraser Institute (Canada) during the EFN 2013 Conference in Bangkok last year.

Pett joined the FNF in 2009 I think, taking the place of Gorawut Numnak. I met Pett first time in 2010 during the EFN Confernce in Jakarta.

The guy is your typical silent, always smiling but very hard working person. Aside from being the regional officer for EFN, he is also the regional officer for Human Rights campaign of the FNF.

Last year, EFN participated for the first time in the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity, a big annual international conference held in Jeju island, S. Korea  Photo in one of the three dinners in the conference, the EFN video was shown on the stage. Barun Mitra, Pett, me.

EFN sponsored one panel in the 2 1/2 days conference about the dangers of economic nationalism and protectionism. Pett worked hard for that event, in coordination with FNF Seoul office, especially with Ms. Sung eun Lim, another hard working staff of the foundation.

At Jeju conference, from left: Sung eun Lim, me, Ms. Kim, Wan Saiful Wan Jan (Malaysia), Lars Richter (Country Director for S. Korea), Pham Chi Lan (Vietnam), Feng Xingyuan (China), Tricia Yeoh (Malaysia), Pett, Barun Mitra (India), Miklos Romandy (Austria), Liu Junning (China). Not in the photo with our group was Sam Raimsey (Cambodia).

EFN 2013 Conference in Bangkok, farewell dinner. From left: Mao Shoulong (China), Barun, Rainer Adam (outgoing FNF Regional Director for Southeast and East Asia), Xingyuan, Wan Saiful, Pett, Tricia, Sung eun, me.

Bangkok conference end of Day 2 group picture. Some participants who attended only Day 1, or stayed only until half day of Day 2, were not in this photo. Really good work Pett, along with your officemates in Bangkok regional office like Julianne, Poraporn, Wimonpug, others.

It was Pett's birthday yesterday. Happy birthday again Pett. See you around.

See also: 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Energy Econ 19: Wind Power, Feed in Tariff and Electricity Subsidy

The problem with militant environmentalism, case of Oriental Mindoro (including Puerto Galera, Calapan). With occasional brown outs and high electricity cost, a wind power company will supply power at P8,20/kwh.

But the distribution utility (DU), Oriental Mindoro Electric Cooperative (ORMECO) will pay the genco only P6.50/kwh. The difference of P1.70/kwh will be collected as universal charge for missionary electrification (UC-ME). It is not clear who are the energy consumers who will pay this, those in Oriental Mindoro or the rest of Luzon or those under Meralco franchise area.

Wind farms are entitled to a feed in tariff (FIT) of P8.53/kwh. If Oriental Mindoro will insist on having wind and solar or other renewables only, then they should be ready to pay for higher electricity while having occasional brown outs at the same time. 

 FIT for renewables, Philippines, Pesos per kilowatt hour

NREB Proposed
ERC Approved
Hydro, run of river

Source: Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), rates approved July 27, 2012

There is another solution aside from slapping the rest of energy consumers with higher universal charge and FIT -- build conventional power plants like coal and natural gas. Mindoro island is just next to Palawan island where the Malampaya gas field is located. Cheap and stable power source. A 100 MW coal or nat-gas plant will deliver 100 MW. In contrast, a 100 MW wind farm will deliver only 20 MW on average, and yet charge higher to electricity consumers. 

But... but... but... some environmental militants would rather have brown outs and expensive electricity than have a coal power plant in Or. Mindoro. Report from Manila Standard.

So people who applaud the WWF, them campaigners of "glorify darkness for 1 hour", actually glorify darkness for many hours, IF the power plant does not come from their crony energy sources that require expensive FIT.

The WWF, Greenpeace, Oxfam, other militant environmentalists' goal, along with the UN, Al Gore and various environmental agencies of many governments worldwide, is global ecological central planning. To have more expensive electricity, and indirectly, less modernization to "save the planet." 

The WWF explicitly applauded the approval of FIT rates in 2012.

These guys are possibly high on too many fiction movies and novels. As of 2012, they projected that wind power in the Philippines can reach 7,400 MW by 2022. Data from the DOE show that total wind capacity in the whole country as of 2012-2013 was only 17-33 MW, all in Luzon. Another 67 MW supposedly to be online by September this year. And another 439 MW up to 2017, total of about 540 MW by 2017, too far from their fictional target of 7,400 MW.

Again, wind power on average produce only about 20 percent of their rated capacity. When there is no wind or it is too weak, power production is zero. When the wind is too strong, the turbine has to be disengaged and power production is zero. For communities and cities, shops and industrial zones that rely on wind or solar, they do not want even an hour of brown out, so they need back up power along with the renewables. Such back up power should come from peak load plants like diesel, not base load plants like coal that must run 24 hours day as much as possible. And this makes the cost of electricity become higher.

A friend, Todd Foster, commented,

All those people telling you to not build power plants to handle the upcoming disaster (yes, disaster, kiss your 7% growth rate goodbye) are themselves living luxuriously in societies that are swimming in power (relatively). Western leftists do not have your best interests at heart. Besides, cheap power will help in cleaning up real pollution, such as the incredibly dirty water.

Yes, and the big irony here in the anti-coal, anti-nuke, anti-nat gas, anti-"non-renewables" groups like WWF, is that they are clearly in direct conflict of interest. Take former DOE Sec. Vince Perez. His company owns the wind plants in Ilocos, that will benefit the FIT, sure revenue. Then he also chairs the WWF and WWF is an explicit campaigner for the implementation of RE law and FIT, see the link I gave above. The RE law was also enacted when he was the DOE Secretary.

Another friend, Ed Caryl, commented on that report on rare birds,

A coal plant will endanger birds and a windfarm won't? Trading a coal plant for a wind farm just increases the pollution in China, it doesn't reduce it. And what will be the backup power when the wind stops?

Ed also wrote this article in NTZ, among others.

by Ed Caryl, 26 March 2914

... This article will compare an ocean cycle, the Atlantic Multi-decadel Oscillation (AMO), and CO2 as temperature drivers over the last 133 years, since 1880. The annual temperature data is from GISS. The plots are scatter diagrams with temperature on the vertical axis and AMO index or CO2 atmospheric concentration on the horizontal axis.... 


See also:

Climate Tricks 28: Earth Day Cartoons

A good collection of "save the planet" cartoons from Dr. Roy Spencer here on "Earth Day" yesterday. From his posting, Some Earth Day Cartoons.


As in other religions, most Earth worshipers are more or less hypocritical. Spend a day being “good”, spend the rest of the year failing. Or maybe just fail every day…

Unless you live your life in as Spartan a manner as Ted Kaczynski, you are probably as big a drain on Earth’s resources as anyone else. I wonder how many people will drive to a tree-planting ceremony today, putting many more times as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as that single tree will ever remove? (Of course, when the tree dies, it’s mostly all released again anyway).

I mostly find Earth Day just plain annoying for the rank hypocrisy on display. A state-sponsored religious day of worship, along with all of the 1st Amendment-violating regulations to codify it.

Maybe a nice bonfire to celebrate for those so inclined.
But for me,…

Meanwhile, I posted these in December 2010, Weekend fun 3: Al Gore cartoons (A)

The theologian of "Humans, repent! You are destroying the planet created by God!" The cartoonists and photoshop geeks are indeed very creative in inventing this kind of humor. I'm sure the Vatican nor the Archbishop of the Philippines will not be jealous with this picture of the man. Many of the religious leaders, Catholic or otherwise, are among the believers of AGW and  hence, are advocates of more environmental regulations.

How to "fight man-made warming"? What else but through man-made financial inventions like "carbon offsets". Polluting firms will be required to significantly reduce their emission, or they can buy "excess carbon" from other firms like solar farms, wind farms, carbon sequestration farms, etc. And guess who owns the banks and carbon trading companies that will do the offsetting job?

Another card to "fight man-made warming" via global carbon credits. The scammers make lots of money through various forms of financial instruments and/or billions of dollars of climate loans to "fight man-made climate change." Meanwhile, look at the expiration date here: "Valid thru DOOMSDAY", hahaha.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Agri Econ 11: Protecting Land Properties by the Poor in India

Another good article from my friend Barun Mitra (2nd from right in photo) of Liberty Institute in India, co-authored with his wife Madhumita Mitra, posted before the on-going India general elections started early this month.

I particularly like their point on 
"Abolish land ceiling laws, particularly in agriculture to facilitate consolidation such fragmented land into viable farm units."

That is similar to the campaign to end the no-time table agrarian reform (AR) program and forced redistribution of agri land here in the Philippines. AR was started in 1972 by the Marcos government, then a new law on AR in 1988 during Pres. Cory Aquino’s time with 10-years time table. The 1998 deadline came, and AR was extended to 2008. And further extended to June 2014. Now there are moves to further extend it for many years more.

India’s land management regime has for decades been mired in obsolete laws and misguided policies that distort markets, enable corruption, and deny fundamental property rights. Current land policies are a mix of outdated laws and even more obsolete ways of thinking, many of which are rooted in colonial India.

The paradox is best illustrated by the fact that many landowners, including farmers, would like to move out of agriculture, but cannot find remunerative price for their land assets, while industrialists and investors who would like to buy land cannot find access to land at a reasonable price. Tens of billions of dollars of investment, in public and private projects have been stalled due to land related conflicts. This land alienation is also contributing to a section of society sympathising with leftwing insurgency in some parts of India.

Land is the only asset that most Indians, even the poorest, possess to at least some degree, but technicalities often prevent them from claiming legal ownership over what they possess. A functioning land market founded on strong property rights would expand the opportunities for economic advancement for those who possess land, empowering them as citizens in a democratic India. Such a market would also allow those with wealth to access and invest in property and engage with land owners in mutually-beneficial transactions, rather than trying to use their waning political influence to access land.

The 16th General Elections to the Indian Parliament, the House of the People, (Lok Sabha), is being held thro’ April-May 2014. A new government will take office by the end of May. Reforming land management will be a key factor shaping the political and economic trajectory of the country. In that context, we suggest the following agenda items, which may be considered by the incoming government, and the country at large, in the coming months and years.

§  Clearly articulate the need to create a functioning land market which will significantly reduce the need to invoke eminent domain.
§  Partner with private, community and public-sector stakeholders to build a modern land recordkeeping infrastructure based on GIS and other imaging technologies.
§  Abolish land ceiling laws, particularly in agriculture to facilitate consolidation such fragmented land into viable farm units.
§  Eliminate capital gains tax. In a poor country, taxing capital is self-defeating.
§  Drastically reduce or eliminate fees and taxes that impede land transactions and increase the potential for corruption, replacing them with a nominal fee to cover only the administrative costs of keeping up-to-date land records.
§  Transfer authority over land-related regulation such as zoning, land use and environmental concerns, to local governments and councils.
§  The scope of eminent domain needs to be severely restricted to truly public purposes, and with the consent of those affected, not to facilitate private investment and business projects.
§  Recognise the land owners rights over forest and other environmental resources, including minerals, whether above or below the ground.
§  A new mines and mineral law, which recognises the rights of land owners and communities, and allow them to directly negotiate access and royalty with investors, is much awaited.
§  A land titling law to grant conclusive title guarantee to land owners is imperative. Property transfers must legally validate transfer of titles rather than merely enabling registration of the deed.
§  Restoration of Right to Property as a fundamental right in the Constitution.

See also:
Agri Econ 8: On Rice Price Stabilization, January 16, 2013 
Agri Econ 9: On Agrarian Reform and Agri Credit, April 29, 2013 

Agri Econ 10: On Rice Price Spikes, September 29, 2013

Monday, April 21, 2014

Freedom Flame Awards 3: The Magazine

I just discovered that our profile photos, recipients of the FNF's "Freedom Flame" awards last year, are in scribd, I am Free Report 2013. I saw the hard copy of the magazine earlier.

Yes, that's Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera on the cover. They joined the Freedom Run 2013, the same day where the Freedom Flame awards were given in the evening. The mascot is called "Fredo", championing freedom.

The 14 awardees, arranged alphabetically, 1st row: Abad is Congresswoman from Batanes, Aquino is Senator, Belmonte is House Speaker, Climaco is Mayor of Zamboanga City.

2nd row: Evangelista is a journalist, Garchitorena is formerly of Ayala Foundation, Gascon is UnderSecretary at the Office of the President, Guingona is with an NGO and the Actors Guild.

3rd row: Keh is with Kaya Natin Movement, Medina is with Ateneo Law Human Rights Center, me, and Padaca is Commissioner at the Commission on Elections (Comelec), also former Governor of Isabela province.

4th row: Pangilinan is former Senator, Sarmiento is a Congressman.

I was very lucky to be selected as one of the awardees last year. Well, each of us filled a particular role. Mine is more on propagating the philosophy of classical liberalism, of individual liberty, personal responsibility, rule of law, free trade and limited government. Less government is good government.

Thanks again to the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) for that evening of recognition.

See also:
Freedom Flame Awards 2013, November 13, 2013 
Freedom Flame Awards 2: More Photos, November 25, 2013

Election 9: India's Political Dynasties vs. Democracy

India is the world's biggest democracy. People directly vote their representatives and local executives. And they are doing it now, in India's general elections 2014, happening in various phases from April 07 to May 12, 2014.

I like this article by a good friend, Barun Mitra, founder and Director of Liberty Institute (LI) in Delhi. Originally posted in LI website last April 09, and reposted in EFN Asia website last April 11. For brevity purposes, I removed certain details from the original article so that readers here can focus on Barun's general argument,
dynasties may exist in politics but democracy has the power to equalise the dynasts. The diminishing power of the political families in India bear testimony to (this). Democracies have little to fear from political dynasties. As long as the elections are free and fair, it is the dynasts who need to fear political marginalisation or oblivion once the voters give their verdict.
Check the two links above to read the article in full. The photos I got from the web and not part of Barun's original article. Enjoy reading.

Diminishing electoral dividend for the political dynasties
Barun Mitra

Any discussion on dynastic politics in drawing rooms or in the media, usually degenerates in to a slanging match. One side tries to wrap itself in a democratic halo, and who see political dynasties as anathema in democratic polity. The other side aggressively argues that after all the dynasts do have to get democratically elected too and therefore legitimate.

Hardly any political party is immune from their own dynasties, small or big. The list of candidates related to political families in the 2014 election is a long one indeed.

But how do political dynasties stand out in terms of political performance? Do successive generations measure up to their famous ancestors? Why do some families make their mark on the political landscape, while others fail? Is there legitimate space in a democracy for favoured families? Are political dynasties an aberration in a democracy where at least at the time of the ballot, every citizen is truly seen as equal? Or does the focus on political dynasties diverts our attention from the truly equalising impact of a democracy?

The Nehru-Gandhi family is of course seen as the standard bearer of political dynasties in the democratic world. Since Independence in 1947, three members of the family has been elected as India's prime ministers, another son became notorious for wielding enormous extra constitutional power, without actually holding any elected office. A daughter in law came quite close to the ultimate political position, but political necessity ensured that she renounce office. And a son who seemed reluctant to join the race, and can't figure out either to get off the track, or take the plunge whole-heartedly.

This is the beaten track, travelled many times in the past. However, what seems to have been almost completely missed by the critics and supporters of political dynasties is that like in all other fields of life, there is a consistent diminishing returns for the dynasties in politics.

Motilal Nehru was the patriarch, and twice president of the Indian National Congress, during the British colonial rule. But it was his son Jawaharlal Nehru, a protégé of the original Gandhi, the Mohandas K Gandhi, who became India's first prime minister.

Nehru won three successive general elections and was in office from 1947 to 1964. Indira Gandhi, Nehru's daughter was selected for the post by a powerful section of the party bosses to be India's Prime Minister, following the untimely death of Lal Bahadur Shastri, in 1966. Indira was in office through the tumultuous days of the emergency rule, till 1977,when she became the first of the many prime ministers since to lose a general election. Although she led her party to another victory in 1980, and had yet another turbulent term in office, she was assassinated in 1984 by her own bodyguards.  Mrs Gandhi held the high office for about 15 years.

Rajiv Gandhi took office within a few days of his mother's tragic death in 1984, swept the elections a couple of months later, and won an unprecedented 3/4ths majority in Parliament. He came in with great hope, but in the later half of his term his government got embroiled in corruption scandals and political crisis, and lost the general election in 1989. Since then the Congress party has never been able to win a majority of seats in any general election. And no one from the Nehru-Gandhi family has been the prime minister in the past 25 years.

No one can say with certainty whether another one from the fabled family will become India's elected prime minister in the foreseeable future. This dynasty has clearly seen better days. Democracy has been a great leveller.

Not surprisingly, the other political families in India have not done any better. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find a political family whose star is on the ascendant.

Charan Singh, once a very powerful chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, went on to hold the prime minister's post for only a few months, and became the first PM who never faced the Lok Sabha….

In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena had been led for decades by the fire brand Balasaheb Thackrey….

In the small but prosperous state of Punjab, one family, the Badals, has survived the past 3 decades. Following the decade long separatist violence in the state in the 1980s, the society started picking up the threads again in the early 1990s….

In the Himalayan state of Jammu & Kashmir, the family of Sheikh Abdullah has been the preeminent political family since the 1950s….

There are many lesser families, which have survived but experienced diminishing political status…There are countless other examples of offsprings trying to wear the mantle of their ancestors, and failing.

So far, the only exception to this diminishing political trajectory traversed by the dynasties, has perhaps been the Patnaik family in Orissa….

Political dynasties may get a head start, but ultimately they have to perform to meet voters' expectations, or perish.

While every political party has its own dynasties, preeminent or localised, equally every party has tried to leverage a split in the dynasties to undermine the family brand. The most famous schism is in the Nehru-Gandhi family, where the widow and son of Sanjay Gandhi, are today prominent members of the BJP…

There are many members of parliament who come from political families. But equally there are many others who try to enter politics on the back of their family connections, but fail to make a mark electorally. The numbers in the latter category would be far larger than the former category. Unfortunately, there is no register of documenting familial ties among those in politics.

But one thing is clear, dynasties may exist in politics, but democracy has the power to equalise the dynasts. The diminishing power of the political families in India bear testimony to the deep roots democracy has struck in the country.

Democracies have little to fear from political dynasties. As long as the elections are free and fair, it is the dynasts who need to fear political marginalisation or oblivion once the voters give their verdict.

Other articles by Barun Mitra in this blog: 
Energy Econ 3: Market Reforms in India's Electricity Sector, July 30, 2012 
Lion Rock 11: Barun Mitra on Democracy, Reading Salon 2013, October 28, 2013 
EFN Asia 34: Rainer Adam and Economic Freedom in Asia, March 11, 2014

See also:

Transport Econ 12: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Tricycles

There is another proposal by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) to introduce a bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Metro Manila, Cebu City and Davao. Photos below of various BRTs in other countries I got from the web.

In the metropolis, the key features of the system, according to this report from rappler, DOTC eyes bus rapid transit, more walkways, car-less cities.

·         Bus-only lanes that make travel time faster because buses are not delayed by other vehicles on the road.
·         Dedicated lanes are in the center of the road to keep buses away from busy curb-sides that can also cause delays.
·         Fare collection is done at the station instead of on board the bus to eliminate delays caused by passengers paying the driver or conductor.
·         Buses will be given priority at intersections.
·         Platform for boarding will be level with the bus floor for quick and easy boarding.

The DOTC is putting up a 28-kilometer BRT worth P4.65 billion. The system will run from Manila City Hall to Fairview in Quezon City, passing through Quezon Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue.

There is one big problem in this proposal. Because of poor peace and order problem (government failure to maintain peace and order, corrupt police, etc.), people live in gated villages with their private security. These villages and subdivisions are normally far out from where the trains and the proposed BRT will be.

Assume for the sake of argument that the BRT is already in place along Quezon Avenue to Commonwealth Avenue, also in Edsa. For people coming from Las Pinas or Paranaque or Fairview/QC, this is what they will go through:

(1) ride tricycle from village to secondary or primary road
(2) ride jeep or bus from there to MRT/LRT/BRT station
 (3) ride train/BRT to Makati or Ortigas or Manila
(4) ride jeepney or fx van to final destination.

Four rides from house to office. Or it can be three rides, assuming that #2 above is eliminated. Going back home, another three or four rides in reverse sequence as above. if you are wearing a formal corporate dress, carrying a laptop and important documents, or some big cash, would you leave your car at home and endure the above 8 rides a day, 5 days a week?

Some would say Yes, but many middle class and rich people would say No. And that is why people bring their cars everyday and endure the traffic congestion, endure the difficulty in getting paid parking, just to maintain their poise, or at least not risk being held up or snatched somewhere along those 6-8 rides everyday.

 A good example is Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City., the country's widest road with 8 lanes both sides. On each side of that road from Philcoa to Fairview, there are dozens and dozens of private villages and informal settlements. If one lives in any of those villages or settlements and go to Ortigas or Manila or Makati, elsewhere, the above 8 rides a day apply. This makes going to work via public transpo -- even with an expanded MRT, even with a proposed BRT in operation -- very inconvenient, costly and time consuming. Try riding a tricycle with your corporate attire and personal/office documents, 5x a week, worse during rainy season, and you will understand why that "carless city" even for many middle class is just fiction, like Batman and Spiderman fiction stories.

The other DOTC proposal is to have more bike lanes. It looks and sounds fine, but then again, not everyone is physically or mentally fit to ride a bicycle. Or not everyone is willing to endure direct sunlight plus buses/trucks pollution, or endure the rains and street flooding during the wet season.

The quick solution to the above 6-8 rides a day, 5x a week, are those air-con vans. They serve like school buses, picking up passengers from their house or at least village gate, to final destination in Makati or Global City, Ortigas, Eastwood, Manila, etc. It is convenient and generally safe too. But it can be costly too, and the queueing at designated terminals at residential areas, then terminals at office areas, can be long and tiring. Why? Because the number of legal, “non-colorum” vans is limited.

The DOTC’s Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has made getting a franchise for each aircon van very costly, up to P150,000 per unit, I heard, exclusive of bribes just to hasten things. It is deliberate on the part of LTFRB to make things very costly, very bureaucratic and time consuming, so that van operators will be forced to kneel before them, or go "underground", ie, "colorum" vehicles. And harassment and extortion of colorum vans is even higher, daily or weekly. Result is that supply of legitimate, "non-colorum" vans is limited. Passengers suffer.

Transport problem is a market problem with market solutions. No different from people getting hungry at lunch time but have no time to cook food on their own, so carinderias, cheap and expensive restos, fast foods, just show up to fill this market demand.

Government comes in usually to bureaucratize things, make things more expensive, more complicated and time consuming.

The DOTC and LTFRB should recognize that they are mainly the source of the transport problem, not the solution. Their bureaucratism and extortion mentality restricts if not kills more realistic market solutions to market problem of public transpo. But since those guys are dishonest, along with many other government agencies, national and local, they will never recognize that they are the problem.

See also:
Transport Econ 8: Removing MRT and LRT Fare Subsidy, March 08, 2013
Transport Econ 9: MMDA Bureaucratism, May 27, 2013 
Transport Econ 10: MMDA and Car Ban, July 18, 2013 

Transport Econ 11: On Fare-Contracting Taxi Drivers, December 13, 2013