Thursday, March 30, 2017

BWorld 118, Regulate this, prohibit that: bureaucracies in transportation

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last March 14, 2017.

Traffic congestion is an engineering problem with engineering solutions, not bureaucratic solutions involving increased prohibitions.

The recent plan of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to extend the car ban on EDSA to certain hours five days a week is very idiotic and arbitrary. Its plan is (a) the existing one day a week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., based on the last digit of the car plate, AND (b) on certain hours of the other four days involving an odd-even ban every two hours.

If there are problems, the first impulse of bureaucrats with dictatorial tendencies is to create ban-this-prohibit-that regulations and restrictions. If previous prohibitions failed, then create another layer of prohibitions.

Based on this new ban proposal, it doesn’t matter if the person has three or more cars because the prohibition is by the hour, not by the day.

Although some people adjust to traffic congestion by buying or renting a condo or dormitory room near their offices, others cannot simply afford that option.

The latter includes parents and guardians who bring their kids to school first then go to their offices and then pick up the kids later and head back to their house.

One day a week car prohibition on EDSA and many streets and cities in Metro Manila is already bad because it forces many households to buy a second car or motorcycle, which further raises the number of vehicles in the metropolis.

If one is caught in a long traffic due to accidents or road construction, one can lose the two-hour window and therefore be subject to fines, penalties, and extortion. And to think that the MMDA already gets huge allotments from taxpayers via their annual appropriation while they get more money from the public via endless schemes of fines and penalties.

More engineering solutions, not more bureaucratic “solutions of more prohibitions” should be pursued by the government. Consider the investments by other governments in big Asian cities.

In the table above, Manila is not included in the study but data from other cities should give us ideas how to provide more engineering solutions. Rail network here includes MRT (Mass Rapid Transit)/Subway/Metro and LRT (Light Rail Transit). The MRT systems in Singapore and Taipei are equivalent to Subway or Metro in other cities. Commuter rail is excluded (see Table 1).

Commuters in Tokyo rely more on rail-based system, those in Beijing rely more on buses. Commuters in Shanghai, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taipei use a good mixture of both. Although the data was collected in 2013, they still reflect current trends.

In Metro Manila, the three MRT and LRT networks are obviously insufficient to serve its 12 million residents plus an estimated four million people from nearby provinces of Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite who go to Metro Manila almost daily for work, meetings and schooling.

If Manila is included in urban transportation comparison with big Asian cities, Manila will likely excel if the main metrics is the number of traffic enforcers and officers on government payroll, not the length of rails and multi-level roads (interchange, tunnel, skyway) constructed and properly maintained.

There are various options for urban mass transportation that the MMDA, LTO, LGUs and other agencies should consider, spend money there instead of hiring more traffic officers who will harass and penalize more motorists with various prohibitions that they have enacted (see Table 2).

The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is the cheapest system and has been proposed in both Metro Manila and Metro Cebu but only the latter seems to have prepared for it. MRT/LRT are more expensive but they are faster and can transport more people per hour than BRT.

In the short run, as in doable within a month, the government can consider the following:

1. Allow the current Point to Point (P2P) buses and vans to go to more destinations. Not just SM North to Makati City and Ortigas or BGC. Rather, allow them to pick up passengers from Pasig City, Marikina City, Taguig City, Malabon City, Navotas City, etc. and crisscross to more destinations.

2. Allow the air-con vans to pick up passengers from many subdivisions and villages to various destinations. Commuters will avoid riding tricycles and jeepneys, the most inconvenient urban transportation system and among the major reasons why many people drive their cars just to avoid riding these small vehicles.

3. Allow fare deregulation in buses and vans so that more transport operators will field more modern and convenient vans and buses. They can charge higher fares but lower than driving a car, riding a taxi or uber/grab car. Less modern buses and vans will be forced to charge lower to attract more passengers.

Government should allow, not prohibit, more market initiatives in providing both short- and long-term solutions to the traffic congestion problem. Make people’s commute convenient and safe, “one ride” as much as possible. And many people will leave their cars or motorcycles at home and jeepneys and tricycles will slowly die a natural death.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the head of Minimal Government Thinkers and a Fellow of SEANET. Both institutes are members of EFN-Asia.

See also:

Climate Tricks 61, Obama's $1B transfer to the UN climate fund

This is a delayed post. I gathered these news reports in mid-January 2017, about 1-2 weeks before Donald Trump would be officially inaugurated as the next US President.

There was a debate in the US then, whether the US' commitment to the Paris Agreement in 2015 was a treaty (would necessitate Senate ratification) or an Executive agreement. The White House under the previous administration argued that it was the latter and hence, did not require Senate vote to ratify or not. Thus, the White House just freely dispensed and released $1B to the UN Green Climate Fund. $500M in late 2016, around November, and another $500 M in January 2017.

Mr. Obama promised that the US would give $3B to the UN climate fund. If Mr. Trump would honor the same promise, he must give the $2B balance somewhere in his 4-years term. But this will not happen because the new President has already promised during the campaign period that he would defund US' multi-billion $ planned funding to various UN "save the planet" projects. His succeeding pronouncements as President are less explicit to fulfill this promise, but neither did he utter that he will make a U-turn from such campaign pronouncement.

The UN will be in a sad state because they will have less money to hold huge and expensive annual climate meetings and parties to "fight climate change" and they are not used to it. Phoney goal actually because how can humans or governments fight something that naturally occur? Climate change has happened since planet Earth was born some 4.6 B years ago and will continue to happen in the next billions of years into the future.

When governments politicize something, including climate research, the purported anthropogenic or "man-made" CC has become 95% political science and 5% climate science.

See also:

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

BWorld 117, Energy bureaucracy, electric cooperatives and NEA

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last March 08, 2017.

The Philippines experienced a seemingly energy revival in 2016 and 2017 with plenty of new power plants commissioned and running. Mindanao experienced an energy surplus after many years of frequent involuntary “Earth hours” or almost daily blackouts lasting for many hours.

So it is ironic that while new power capacity were added into the grid, Luzon including Metro Manila, still incurred occasional “yellow alerts” in power supply. This indicated near-brownout situations that took place a few weeks ago since several power plants went offline all of a sudden, coinciding with maintenance and repair shutdowns that were scheduled ahead of time.

Some groups blame “collusion” of some generating companies (Gencos) to stage an artificial power deficiency and thus, command higher prices for several hours on those “yellow alert” situations. However, they offer little proof and numbers to back up this claim.

For me, the more plausible and visible cause is the undeclared “collusion” of various groups including many government agencies and environmentalist groups to delay if not stop the installation of more power capacities to have huge reserves that can (a) cover even huge unscheduled power shutdowns and (b) bring down electricity prices further as a result of intense competition. See table below as proof.

With only 700+ kWh/person/year in 2014, that puts the Philippines slightly higher than the electricity use of poor neighbors Cambodia and Myanmar, and only half the electricity consumption of Vietnam, 1/4 that of Thailand, 1/7 that of Malaysia and 1/13 that of Singapore.

Last Friday, March 3, I attended the forum on “Institutionalizing Energy Projects as Projects of National Significance” by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committees on Energy and Economic Affairs, sponsored by the Energy Policy Development Program (EPDP) held at the UP School of Economics (UPSE) Auditorium.

The three reactors were Dr. Ronald Mendoza, Dean of the Ateneo School of Government, Dr. Alan Ortiz, President and COO of SMC Global Power Holdings Corp., and DoE (Department of Energy) Undersecretary Jesus Posadas.

The senator recognized the problem of low power capacity of the Philippines in general, and some big islands in particular. There are many big committed and indicative power plants lining up but they often encounter bureaucratic delays.

A paper, “An analysis of time to regulatory permit approval in Philippine electricity generation” (2016) by Laarni Escresa of EPDP showed that on the average, power plant operators need to secure 162 clearances (MBC, 2014) and 102 permits.

So the Senator’s bill will prioritize these big power plants (P3.5B or higher in capitalization) for faster approval process. For instance, agencies are given 30 days to check the documents submitted; if they fail to act on time, it is deemed that the papers are approved and permits be automatically granted.

Alan Ortiz mentioned something that’s somehow a shocking figure: Boracay’s electricity needs rose from 8 MW just 10 years ago to 100 MW today. From 8 to 100 MW in just 10 years -- that’s a lot.

Undersecretary Posadas gave a good assurance that the DoE is “agnostic” on the source of energy (renewable or not) and want to see more power plants coming in. He also said that the DoE will no longer issue a 3rd round of feed-in-tariff (FiT) for wind-solar. Good announcement.

Another factor that contributes to uncertainties in power generation are those inefficient and losing electric cooperatives (ECs). They just get power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) and distribute to their customers and do not pay the many Gencos that happened to supply their electricity needs.

From the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC), here are the top three market participants or players which have unpaid energy settlement Amounts at WESM as of Feb. 27, 2017:

(1) Albay Electric Cooperative, Inc. (ALECO) P98.59M, (2) Abra Electric Cooperative (ABRECO) P63.97M, and (3) AP Renewables, Inc. P14.38M (source:

The numbers above exclude the unpaid amount of ALECO in their Special Payment Agreement with PEMC amounting to nearly P1B.

The National Electrification Administration (NEA) does not seem to properly discipline certain ECs under its belt. To have an old debt of nearly P1B and new debt of nearly P100M from one EC alone (Aleco) should be a red flag indicator that this type of prolonged and sustained inefficiency and losses have been tolerated.

The NEA should step back from this and other problematic ECs and force them to corporatize and be subjected to bankruptcy laws under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The Philippines and its electricity consumers need stable and cheap electricity. They do not need the burden of being dependent on ECs that lose money and are unable to pay generation companies that further add uncertainties to bureaucratic delays.

Bienvenido Oplas, Jr. is the president of Minimal Government Thinkers and a Fellow of SEANET and Stratbase-ADRi.

See also:

BWorld 116, Urban transport myths and the jeepney strike, March 28, 2017

Drugs War 4, The NYT documentary

There is a new NYT docu
I watched it but was not able to finish it, I stopped. More than the sights of so many dead bodies on the streets (zero trial, zero investigation, zero hearing of the other side, just shoot-kill-obosen), it's the pain and crying of the family members that struck me. Even if I'm not exactly a fan of the NYT.

When my Mama died 1 1/2 years ago and my Papa died 3 weeks ago, I could still feel the pain and sadness... until now. And they died of old age, not murdered on the streets or in the house. My sympathy to the families of thousands of murdered suspects. And this Du30... you...

Some people who stood up against Martial Law and succeeding corrupt administrations are now praising this man. They seem to be clapping and applauding the violent "war on drugs". They hate the past administration, which is understandable because no government or admin anywhere in the planet has 100% support from their citizens. But these are two different things. There are no existing laws that say shoot-kill-obosen is the policy. Rather, there should be (a) police investigation, gathering of tight evidence, (b) if evidence is weak, let go of the suspect; if evidence is tight, go for prosecution, (c) wait for imprisonment judgment.

These are hardly practiced by the police, little rule of law, only the rule of men, rule of dictatorship. Just shoot-kill-obosen because they are poor suspected drug pushers and users. Different treatment for rich suspected drug criminals.

I met a Congressman's staff last November during the EFN Asia conference at Dusit Hotel, Makati City. He said that he used to support the Du30 drugs war, the murder of suspect drug pushers. Plus the fact that his Congressman-boss is a member of the majority party.

Then one early morning, while walking near the Ombudsman at Batasan road, he saw an actual murder, the victim fell about 2 meters in front of him, died on the spot, then the gunman pointed the gun at him, waiting if he will make any unnecessary move. The staff froze, nervously, after a few seconds the gunman considered him a non-threat, so he put his gun in his waist, walked casually to a waiting motorcycle as if nothing happened.

The staff took a leave from work for 2 weeks, went to a psychiatrist for counselling, and made a U-turn in his position on the violent drugs war.

He asked himself, was it a police rubout case? He has 2 reasons for believing it. One, the murder occurred not far from a police station near the Ombudsman and tricycle terminal, but there was no immediate police action. It seemed that suddenly they were sleeping inside or were all out on patrol at that moment.

Second, he asked his contact at the PNP HQ, a mid-level officer, if it was a police operation, his contact did not answer. Yes or NO, no answer. Silence is implicit for Yes, otherwise the officer should categorically say No.

I asked who his boss is, the Congressman, he did not tell me, only saying that his boss is from Negros island.

If this government has to be serious in the "drugs war", it should go through the process. The long process, the legal, judicial process, no shortcuts of summary executions while leaving the influential and rich drug peddlers moving casually.

Otherwise, government should legalize and decriminalize drugs use, just regulate these products like what they do in The Netherlands.

A friend, Ghar Pagaspas, posted the same NYT docu in his fb wall, then one of his friends, seemingly a Du30 fanatic, provided the usual Du30 alibi:

He insisted that “the ALLEGED marching order DOES NOT translate to STATE SPONSORSHIP of those killings.”

Ahh, the docu shows the pronouncements from PDu30 mouth -- kill, shoot, murder. Or perhaps I was hearing it differently... PDu30 was exhorting the people to have patience with suspected drug users and pushers, he was exhorting the police to take the long process of investigation-prosecution-imprisonment taking months or years for drug offensers. So, there are no EJKs... palusot nga.

Then he challenged to “define EJK. it must be an acceptable definition.”

A fanatic would only accept a definition that would suit his/her political belief, so instead of reiterating the literal definition of Extra Judicial Killing or outside the legal process of state killing via lethal injection or related forms, I provided two just-for-fun definitions:

(1) "EJK means people are killing each other for drugs even if Du30 exhorts kindness and forgiveness." And 

(2) "EJK means people killing each other by the thousands over drugs so that PRRD won't be pressured over his campaign promise to resign if after 3-6 months in his term the drugs problem still persist."

These denialists of large-scale state-sponsored or state-inspired murders by the thousands, they are like their idol.

I posted this blog post link to Ghar's wall,

The faceless fanatic has employed low life language. Not good to continue the discourse. 

See also:
The Kill list and drugs war, July 09, 2016
The PH drugs war, part 2, July 27, 2016
President Duterte and hyperbole, December 19, 2016 

BWorld 116, Urban transport myths and the jeepney strike

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last March 01, 2017.

Traffic congestion in urban areas is an engineering problem with engineering solutions. It is a result of some market failures with market solutions and in many cases, government solutions only lead to failures in reducing the congestion.

Here are some myths in urban transportation that persist until today.

1 Big urban population means big urban congestion in traffic and housing.


If people refer to Metro Manila as a “prime example” of this statement, then they do not know or see other megacities in East Asia alone, like Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, and Osaka-Kobe. Huge urban populations are served by modern urban transport systems and expansive high-rise residential condos that cut travel times to and from work or schools.

There is net benefit for people living in congested urban areas than in far away rural areas. People try to squeeze themselves in a limited space where various amenities are available, where the distance from house to work or school is shorter.

2 Prohibitions like “number coding” of private vehicles and banning some buses to enter Metro Manila will reduce traffic congestion.


Prohibiting cars in Metro Manila one day a week led to more households to buy a second or third car (usually a used car) or motorcycles so they have another vehicle car to use on the “coding day” of their first car.

Many passengers of provincial buses are car- or motorcycle-owners in the province, so when government prohibits these provincial buses to enter Metro Manila and force the passengers to alight at far ends of the metropolis and take city buses that move slow because of frequent stops or take taxis that are more expensive, these people instead will drive their cars or motorcycles to the metropolis and this will further worsen traffic congestion.

3 Prohibition of multiple-destination air-con vans and allow only point-to-point (P2P) vans and buses will reduce congestion.


People put high priority for their convenience and safety when they travel. They avoid three to four rides one way to go to their offices, universities, other destinations (tricycle, then jeep/van, then MRT/LRT/P2P bus, then jeep/van/tricycle to final destination). These same rides are more inconvenient during bad weather. That is why many people drive their cars or motorcycles despite the heavy traffic and expensive parking.

Government should allow multiple destination air-con vans, say from Fairview to Marikina or Pasig or Navotas; or from Las PiƱas to Taguig or Marikina or Manila, and so on. This will make commutes convenient and safe. Many people will leave their cars or motorcycles at home and jeepneys and tricycles will slowly die a natural death.

4 Government should regulate bus/jeepney/van fares always and disallow flexible fare setting by transport operators.


Airfares and shipping fares are deregulated and as a result, airlines and shipping lines can adjust their fares depending on the travel season (low/cheap during the rainy season and school days, high during Christmas, school breaks, and fiestas), and they set different fares per class of seats and passengers (ordinary, deluxe air-con, business class, etc) for the same plane or boat.

Fare deregulation will allow transport operators to field modern and convenient vans and buses that charge higher fares (but still lower than riding a taxi or any ride-sharing service) so that less modern buses and vans will be forced to charge lower.

5 Jeepneys and similar small-volume public transportation are common in some Asian countries.


Small-population Asian economies like Hong Kong and Singapore do not have jeepneys. Even economies that are less-developed than the Philippines like Vietnam and Cambodia do not have jeepneys. Motorcycles and buses are the common mode of transportation by the poor in these countries.

6 The jeepney strike will endear jeepneys to the public.


The jeepney strike in Metro Manila and other big cities in the Philippines last Feb. 27 has succeeded only in class cancellations and the public have found more ways to travel without jeepneys. Again, if multiple-destination (not just the inflexible destination P2P) air-con vans, and buses with deregulated and competitive fares are allowed, jeepneys and tricycles will die a natural death without the government creating a new law or Department/Administrative Order or LGU ordinance.

7 Jeepney drivers and operators will go hungry if jeepneys are phased out ultimately.


The same fear was expressed when telegrams were replaced by pagers, and when pagers were replaced by mobile phones and the Internet; or when horse-drawn calesas were replaced by jeepneys and tricycles; or when rice farms were converted to poultry farms or residential subdivisions; or when fishing villages were converted to beach resorts and hotels. People learn new skills, they move to other work or professions. Jeepney drivers can become van or bus drivers, or do other work.

Meanwhile, government should learn to step back and allow players to initiate market solutions to the traffic congestion problem.

Government should instead focus on securing road right of way (ROW) for important infrastructure projects like MRT/LRT, skyways and interchanges. Transporting people and goods to various destinations is not a crime that must require lots of government permits, taxes, and expensive franchises.

See also:

CSOs and State 21, Another round of Books for the Barrios

Inspired by the continuing advocacy of #booksforthebarrios by my Pinoy friend in California, Monchit Arellano, I would occasionally bring some old books to a rice farming village in Brgy. Laguit Padilla, Bugallon, Pangasinan.

Here, my friend from UP, Jun Realica, delivered and donated many books from his house, for the barrio kids. We had few rounds of beer after stocking the books in our house.

A public school teacher friend in Lingayen asked if she could get some books for her elementary students inside the classroom (not at the school library), I said yes. Jun is donating the books for free. But not all of these books to that school.

I plan to have a small community library someday at our farm caretaker's house in that barrio, kids and adults can borrow and read the books for free, provided they don't tear the pages or lose the book.

My 6 1/2 years old daughter checked the books donated by Jun, she liked some of them so she set them aside as "hers" temporarily, to be given away someday after she's done looking and reading at them. These four books at the top are among her chosen ones.

Early this month, one of our neighbors donated his old encylopedia collection because he wanted the space occupied by the books, I said I can give them to the barrio kids in Pangasinan. So first weekend of March I brought the 20+ volumes, the barrio kids were happy. Here, just some of the kids in the immediate neighborhood.

I turned over the books to the wife of our farm caretaker. She said that if the books are given to the public school, the kids will be shy to borrow. In their house, the kids, the neighbors can borrow anytime. Only one condition -- no pages will be torn or cut, keep the books clean so that more kids can borrow and read.

Initiatives like this, people donating books they do not need anymore, and there will be young and old minds in rural areas who will be more than willing to see and read them. Civil society in action, zero need for extra government offices and taxes to make these things work.

See also:
CSOs and State 6: Stichting Kapatiran and Books for the Barrios, December 07, 2008
CSOs and State 7: Public School Library with Minimal Government, BftB, June 29, 2009

Thursday, March 23, 2017

China Watch 23, Bernard Ong on Du30 defeatism with the China communist govt

I am reposting two good posts from a friend, Bernard Ong, posted yesterday and today. The news titles I just added here. Communists are communists, they are bullies, they hardly respect the rule of law, only the rule of men, the rule of dictatorship.

March 22, 2017

Justice Antonio Carpio listed 5 things Duterte can do "fulfill his constitutional duty" even if "the Philippines is no match to China militarily".

1) File a strong formal protest against the Chinese building activity

2) Send the Philippine Navy to patrol Scarborough Shoal. Should the Chinese attack, invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty, which covers any armed attack on Philippine navy vessels operating in the South China Sea.

3) Ask the United States to declare that Scarborough Shoal is part of Philippine territory for purposes of the Phil-US Mutual Defense Treaty.

4) Accept the standing U.S. offer to hold joint naval patrols in the South China Sea to demonstrate joint Philippine and U.S. determination to prevent China from building on Scarborough Shoal.

5) Avoid any act, statement, or declaration that expressly or impliedly waives Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea.

And we should add Duterte's own campaign promise:

6) Ask the Navy to drop him on the nearest safe point to Spratlys. Ride a jet-ski, plant our flag & challenge the Chinses to suntukan-o-barilan.

Giving up Spratlys, Panatag and soon Benham Rise to China; doing nothing; saying "we can't do anything"; all the while begging for Chinese loans & trains for Mindanao is not only dereliction of duty. It is treason.

March 23, 2017

China's reported plan to set up a permanent structure at Panatag Shoal met loud opposition from Philippine netizens. This was in stark contrast to Duterte's "can't-do-anything-about-it" defeatism.

Apparently feeling the heat (ok all ye noisy patriots give yourself a pat in the back now), China has since backtracked & said it is not building a monitoring station on Panatag. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said "That does not exist at all".

So will China do what it says? Let us look at the evidence.


In 2012, there was a standoff on Panatag involving the Philippine Navy's BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (whose crew tried to arrest Chinese fishermen who had illegally caught giant clams, corals & live sharks) and 2 Chinese Marine Surveillance ships (who blocked the Navy ship).

Ex-Philippine Ambassador to US Jose Cuisia Jr told a news conference that US State Dept brokered a deal for both sides to withdraw simultaneously from Panatag to avoid conflict. The Philippines complied. China reneged on the deal & did not withdraw its ships. "We were short-changed" Cuisia said.


Kagitingan - Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys - has been occupied by China since 1988.
It started with a marine station. Then the Chinese started reclaiming in 2014 - building one of seven artificial islands in South China Sea. Official excuse was to provide shelter for fishermen. They added a runway for an air base in 2015. Then anti-aircraft guns & weapons systems in 2016.

This pattern of reclaiming reefs, building artificial islands & militarizing fits the Chinese template in South China Sea.


Asean and China agreed on a 2002 Code of Conduct Declaration on South China Sea covering the usual motherhood statements – commitment to UNCLOS, freedom of navigation & overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law (including UNCLOS), refrain from action of inhabiting uninhabited reefs & shoals.
What did China do? Ignore UNCLOS & Arbitration Tribunal ruling. Impose 12-mile territorial claim & infringe on freedom of navigation & overflight. Blockaded Panatag. Reclaimed & populated reefs. Built military facilities & installed weapons systems.

Asean and China began discussing a new, tighter Code of Conduct in 2010. China has been delaying negotiations to buy time to expand & consolidate its military position in South China Sea.


In 2015, the global trade in faked goods was valued at $1.77 trillion. 63% came from China. Taobao - the online shopping platform of Alibaba - is in U.S. government's blacklist of "world’s most notorious markets for counterfeit goods."

Domestically, the Chinese have faked practically everything - counterfeit goods, fake milk, fake rice, even a fake lion in a zoo that used a Tibetan mastiff to dupe visitors.

On the diplomatic front, other countries are wary of China.
An good pulse-check can be found in The Straits Times op-ed "Asean contends with gap between China's words and deeds" which is quoted here:

"On the South China Sea, Premier Li expressed the hope that "specific disputes be resolved through dialogue by the parties directly concerned and all countries in the region work together for peace, stability and development.”

“Almost on cue, Mr Li's reassuring words to Asean were put to the test when the Hainan Daily, a state-owned newspaper, quoted Sansha City mayor Xiao Jie as saying that the local government would build an environment- monitoring station on Scarborough Shoal, rattling the Philippines."

“But the Sansha City mayor's statement should not be brushed away. Sansha City was established by the Chinese government in 2012 as a prefecture-level city to administer China's maritime interests in the South China Sea, making Mr Xiao the most senior Chinese official on the ground privy to Chinese plans for the contested shoal.


The Chinese Foreign Ministry statement “That (monitoring station) does not exist at all” is correct. It does not exist now.
This statement also does not conflict with the Sansha City Mayor’s statement that China plans to build one. It does not exist yet, but will happen in the future.

China can even claim to be truthful if it went ahead & built a military airbase – instead of a civilian monitoring station – on Panatag. They said “No monitoring station.” They never said “No air base.”
Bottom line, should we trust China? Will China be better than Duterte at keeping promises? Or is this another moro-moro by a couple of proven hardened liars.

BWorld 115, Centralization and federalism

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last February 27, 2017.

As the world modernizes and people’s productivity keeps rising with technology, the opportunity to escape poverty increases.

But many developing countries fail to take advantage of this modernization because of politics.

It’s like being under an autocratic rule, a democratic but very bureaucratic and tax-hungry government, or an on-going conflict with armed communist rebels.

The federalism campaign by the Duterte administration and his PDP-Laban Party is humming along far and wide across the country. In their analysis, federalism is the answer to a highly centralized unitary Philippine government centered in Manila.

There are merits to this argument. The degree of bureaucratism and corruption in the country has not significantly improved since the downfall of the Marcos administration more than three decades ago. Hence the desire of many people in the provinces to have more power in charting their own future.

A more meaningful federalism would require the following:

1. Very low national taxes, only around 5% income tax and 5% VAT and to encourage tax competition among states. Some will impose a 35% income tax (or total of 40% income tax) and no more VAT, others will impose 15% income tax and 7% VAT (or total of 20% income tax and 12% VAT), others will have zero income tax and 10% VAT, and so on.

2. Abolish several national regulatory agencies or drastically reduce their powers and allow the states to have regulatory and infrastructure competition. Some will require power plants to secure six-year permits while others will require only 6 months, and so on.

3. Abolish some departments and allow the states to put up their own with their own budget and staff and have governance or social services competition. Candidate departments that can be abolished are NEDA, DAR, DA, DoH, DepEd, DENR, DoE, and so on.

These proposals will be unpalatable to many central planners in the government. They are bright, have MAs and PhDs, have long work experience with global central planning agencies like the UN and World Bank. The national politicians will also dislike these moves because they are bright and experienced in national politics and government, so why deprive them the privilege to direct huge agencies and departments?

In the absence of meaningful federalism, island-provinces and regions over the long term should be allowed to chart their own future by disengaging from the Philippines and turning themselves into new countries.

There are many countries and territories that are much smaller than the Philippines both in land area and population but are doing well and the most visible examples are Hong Kong and Singapore. Below is a list of big islands in the Philippines and their comparable countries and territories in land area around the world (see table).

These new countries will treat each other like we currently treat our neighbors in the ASEAN with free trade in goods and freer mobility of people without any need for visa for visits of 30 days or less, and so on.

It is hardly possible for a country with an expanding population to become less bureaucratic and less tax-hungry because less bureaucracy would mean more innovation and more wealth for the citizens while other regions remain poor and many agencies and planners dislike more inequality.

This is a long shot view and may not get public support for now.

But as the world progresses quickly, more people will become more impatient for faster change and improvement in their lives. Governments and regulators should learn to step back and respect more individual innovations.

(To read a related piece by Mr. Oplas entitled “What if the Philippines splits up into smaller island nation states?” please visit the link <>.

See also:

Climate Tricks 60, Alarmism cannot produce data of "unprecedented warming"

One of the persistent but debunked claims by the climate alarmism movement is that the recent, modern warm period is "unprecedented warming", meaning there were no precedents in global warming. A friend for instance commented in my fb thread about Earth Hour, "The level of CO2 heats up the Earth's atmosphere and we have record high temperatures. 2015 was a record high then until we got data from 2016 and, 2017 maybe even higher."

I asked him these two questions: (1) What time or period of planet Earth's 4.6 B years that there was NO climate change? You have alternative data to this, 700 M years climate data?

(2) What was it like before this "man-made" CC and "unprecedented warming": less rain, no rain, more rains? less flood, no flood, more flood? Proof and scientific papers?

He replied and answered Q1 that indeed, there was no time or period that climate did not occur in the 4.6 B years of Earth's existence. Then he added, "remember when humans appeared on earth it's activities affected its atmosphere after it invented fire. Before, it was an awesome balance but man adversely affected this balance."

And his indirect answer to Q2, "Before, it was an awesome balance." Wow, from what source? And what is that reference period of "before", 100 years ago? 1,000 years, 1 M year, or 100 M years ago, or farther?

Similar claims would be "we have stronger and stronger typhoons, cyclones and hurricanes" -- ok, compared to when? Compared to 100 years ago? 1,000 years ago? 1 M years? Any scientific baseline? scientific source/s?

Another friend asked, "Did our interventions and activities quicken the pace of climate change?"

When you say "quicken the pace of cc", they mean there is less rain, less flood, than say 1,000 or 1 M years ago? Or more rain, more flood? This is the planet's climate cycle since 1 M years ago.

He insisted to introduce the "human variable" in the discussion, to see how human activities affected the natural climate cycle. Well, the "human variable" is here, at the far end of the chart, past 700 M years data. Current CO2 levels are far far lower compared to that period. What's so scary here? 

Here's a shorter timeframe, past 5,000 years. The "human variable" is at the far right of the chart. How different is it compared to the Medieval warm period? compared to the Roman warm period? 

Data above say that recent or the past century's warming was nothing scary, nothing alarming, nothing frankensteining compared to past warming thousands and millions of years ago as claimed by the climate alarmists and scammers. 

See also:

BWorld 114, Brownouts, ancillary services and transmission charge

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last February 23, 2017.

Rotational and scheduled brownouts for several hours about once a month, then unscheduled short brownouts from time to time, have become a regular experience in the two provinces of Negros island. Despite the installation of many huge solar plants in recent years.
I am currently in Sagay hospital in Negros Occidental to visit my seriously sick father. Last night, there was brownout for about 10 minutes, the hospital’s generator set immediately takes over to supply electricity to their patients and staff.

The Facebook page of the Central Negros Electric Cooperative (CENECO) gives frequent advisory of power interruption that lasts for nine hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) until this month.

Stories and testimonies of frequent brownouts in many cities and municipalities of Negros Oriental in 2016 are also reported in

In June 2016, the Department of Energy (DoE) said that line congestion is building up in Negros Occidental due to many solar power plants operating in the province. The abrupt influx of solar power plants is causing the main line, transmission and interconnection lines to congest (Sun Star Bacolod, June 10, 2016).

This month, Negros Occidental Electric Cooperative (NOCECO) explained that one of the main reasons of higher electricity is the increase in the transmission charge from P1.0538/kWh in January 2017 to P1.1777/kWh in February 2017 or an increase of 0.1239/kWh. The transmission rate hike is due to the increase in the ancillary service charges of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

There are at least two issues here. First is the presence of more brownouts in Negros island despite its having the most number of installed solar power plants per sq. km. of land in the whole country, more than 300 MW.

Solar power is very unstable and intermittent, zero output at night and very low output when it is cloudy, or power fluctuates wildly if clouds come and go in minutes. So there should be more ancillary services or standby power plants, usually natural gas or diesel plants, that should quickly provide power when thick clouds come and when evening comes. Still, this causes power fluctuations that damage machines, engines and appliances running on electricity and the leadership of Negros chamber of commerce and industry have pointed this out to the DoE and NGCP last year.

Second, how is the NGCP regulated and accounted in its transmission charge pricing and assets management?

Power generation is deregulated and hence, the extent of competition among many players is the main regulator of the generation charge. Distribution charge is regulated by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) because distribution utilities (DUs) like Meralco and the roughly 119 electric cooperatives (ECs) nationwide are all monopolies in their respective franchise areas.

So while there are 120+ distribution monopolies composed of private DUs and ECs, the NGCP is a single, national monopoly in power transmission.

There are 12 different charges in our monthly electricity bill. The top six in the table below, and these five charges with lesser rates: (7) universal charge, (8) cross subsidy charge, (9) lifeline rate subsidy, (10) senior citizen subsidy, and (11) feed in tariff allowance (FiT-All). No. (12) are value-added tax (VAT) and other government taxes, these are huge too but not included in the table because they are unrelated to the electricity system.

Of these 12 different charges, subsidies and taxes, the smallest is #10 while the fastest growing is #11, FiT-All: P0.04/kWh in 2015, 0.124/kWh in 2016, and set to rise to P0.23-P0.25/kWh this 2017, the ERC still has to decide on the Transco petition for FiT-All hike (see table).
Notice in the table above the following: (1) In 2013 vs. 2017, all five charges have declined in rates in 2017 except transmission charge which has remained practically the same at P0.91/kWh. And (2) In 2014 vs. 2015, a similar pattern where all five charges have declined in rates in 2015 except transmission charge which has even increased to nearly P1/kWh.

The possible explanations why the transmission charge by NGCP seems to be the odd man out among the top six charges are (1) rising cost of more ancillary services as more intermittent solar-wind power are added into the grid, (2) it passes its own system loss to the transmission charge, (3) it simply behaves like a typical monopoly, revenue-maximizing as consumers and other players have zero option of other service supplier/s.

Brownouts and expensive electricity, these are ironic events in our modern world. We should have stable and cheap electricity, no brownouts even for one minute except after heavy storms and typhoons that knock down electrical posts and power lines.

Government should step back in some heavy regulations like forcing intermittent solar-wind into the grid which can discourage some developers who can build stable and cheaper power like coal and natgas plants. And giving high price guaranty for 20 years to renewables like wind-solar is wrong and punishing the consumers. Technology changes very fast, the costs of solar and wind equipment are falling fast, so why lock the high price for 20 years? This is wrong.

See also:
BWorld 112, Asia Liberty Forum 2017 in Mumbai, March 01, 2017 
BWorld 113, Peace talks with CPP-NDF for another 30 years? March 04, 2017

Earth Hour 8, Celebrate darkness vs modernization

Earth Hour 2017 by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is two days away and yet last night, while I was having dinner with my daughter at a resto at SM Mall of Asia (MOA), the waiter informed us that they will shut off the lights from 7.30 - 8.30pm, for "Earth Hour", we can transfer to a table outside where the mall's exterior and street lights are on and bright. I said they should have informed me earlier so I could cancel my order because I don't believe in that stupid "celebrate darkness" campaign. Waiter went out, talked to management, came back and said they wont shut off the lights inside, only the shop sign outside. Good.

For me, this is the best EH photo. Celebrate darkness even for 1 hour is idiotic. But since campaigners do not really shut off lights 100%, only about 50% so they can have their speeches and singing to protect the planet from the "evils of fossil fuels" as they went to various venues on cars, buses, motorcycles that run on fossil fuel, it's only a half-idiotic campaign.

If "celebrate darkness" to "save the planet" is a good thing, then campaigners like WWF and Henry Sy family should do it every night, 365 nights a year, not just 1 hour a year. Darkness is the bliss of cave men and women, and double talk people among us who criticize if not hate modernity but cannot shake off their love affair with facebook, youtube, emails, cars, plane rides, etc.

Electricity and modernity allowed us to have a wealthier, more comfortable world. If people think riding cars or buses or jeeps that run on fossil fuel is bad, they should stop riding those vehicles and use only bicycles, skateboards and running shoes.

EH is not an ordinary "awareness campaign", rather it is one of the major anti-fossil fuel, kill coal, over-tax oil campaigns. Which have implicit and explicit ramifications in our energy, transportation and industrialization policies. Expensive electricity from unstable, intermittent sources should be embraced by the public. Even if those intermittent sources can ensure blackouts 100% if back up fossil fuel plants are not around.

Climate change (CC) is about global warming, global cooling, warming, cooling,... endless cycles for the past 4.6 billion years. With or without humans and their cars, malls, boats, planes and coal or nuke power plants. CC is natural or nature-made, not man-made.

One friend complained why I cannot respect the other view. Well for private citizens or civil society actions without national and global coercion, I don't mind. But those campaigns and advocacies have plenty of coercive components, like us taxpayers paying for the endless global climate meetings and junkets by government climate and environment officials and their staff, their offices and perks. Or government forcing us to pay higher electricity bills monthly to give endless subsidies to renewables.

Another friend argued that we humans are "hastening changes that in turn threaten our very existence." Uhmmm, exactly 101 years before Haiyan/Yolanda, Nov. 1912, also in Leyte, when total PH population that time was perhaps only 10M or less, when CO2 concentration was much lower, these things happened.

The WWF, Greenpeace, other groups make huge money by deceiving and convincing the public that if there are less rain, no rain or no flood, there is scary "man-made" CC so people should send them money. If there are more rains, more flood, there is also scary "man-made" CC so people should send them money. They campaign to fight less rain and more rain, fight less flood and more flood, fight less cold and more cold, fight less snow and more snow. Whatever the weather and climate, we should be scared and worried and alarmed, and they are the big planet saviours.

So the EH is part of a global fund raising campaign. WWF positions itself as a big planet saviour so it needs big money. CC alarmism, ditching the natural and cyclical nature of CC is about 95% political science and 5% climate science. The ultimate goal is more government, more UN, more global ecological central planning. That is why it is common to see WWF officials migrating to high government officials and vice versa.

See also:
Earth Hour 5: Celebrating Darkness is not Wise, March 30, 2012 

Earth Hour 6: The WWF can Change Climate Change?, March 29, 2015 
Earth Hour 7, Lesson in basic electrical engineering, March 21, 2016