Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Covid 16, Philippines having the strictest lockdown policies in the world

The Philippines has the strictest lockdown policies perhaps in the whole world. And this is the main reason for the terribly limping economy.

I got data from Google Covid-19 Community Mobility Reports as of July 21, 2020. The report covers six areas measuring the degree of restrictions from the baseline day, the median value from the 5week period Jan 3 Feb 6, 2020. These areas are Retail and Recretation (R&R), Grocery and pharmacy, Parks, Transit stations, Workplaces, and Residential. For brevity purposes, I use the figures in only three – R&R that covers restaurants, malls, libraries, museums, movie theaters; Transit that covers public transportation like buses, trains, taxi, jeepneys; and Workplaces for obvious reason.

GDP growth and contraction (negative change) data are added to show economic trend of countries. I arranged the countries on four blocks of major economies by region: ASEAN-6, rest of Asia-Pacific, North and South America, and Europe. Comparing the Philippines with these countries, the result is interesting, or depressing (see the table).

Sources: (1) Restrictions, https://www.google.com/covid19/mobility/; (2) GDP growth, IMF WEO 2019;  Trading Economics.

Google likely does not trust China figures so it did not show restrictions data for that country.

For GDP growth decline from either full year or fourth quarter 2019 to first quarter 2020, the Philippines is second to China in having the steepest decline.

Many countries and governments imposed less restrictions, gave more freedom for their people while they manage the spread of the virus. In the process they have not unnecessarily choked their economies.

The results so far in Europe show that heavy lockdown countries and no-lockdown Sweden have similar flattening of death curves through time. If we keep that in mind, we should realize that we need to relax these strict and hysteric lockdowns. 

Meanwhile, a good article,

Open up the economy, wide and clear.

See also:
Covid 13, Hard lockdown and hysteria caused the 17.7% unemployment rate, June 09, 2020 
Covid 14, Selected articles by Mahar Mangahas on the pandemic, July 05, 2020 
Covid 15, False positives and Sweden success in "flattening the curve", July 18, 2020.

Agenda One News, Part 5

Another bravado-filled State of the Nation Address (SONA) by President Duterte yesterday. Some good news but many bad news, anti-business pronouncements.

This morning I was the second of three guests of Cito Beltran in his program, "Agenda", One News, Cignal TV. Here's the recorded fb stream, my interview at around 40 minutes mark, 

PRRD talked about expropriating the two telecoms, attacked also the M.Mla water companies, electricity, etc. I said the implications on business will be negative. Yesterday even before the SONA, PH has the worst stockmarket performance in AsPac.

For 2022 elections, PRRD team can no longer campaign on anti drugs, anti corruption platform. Palpak  failure, he implicitly admitted it, in his words,

"...illegal drugs, hiding in the shadow of COVID-19, have stepped up their activities. The amount of shabu valued at millions of pesos seized…
drug syndicates continue to operate just like the countries of Colombia, Mexico, and it is being played inside the national penitentiaries....
The corrupt, the grafters and the influence peddlers also take advantage of the fear and confusion that the coronavirus generates...."

To win, they will use populist anti oligarchy, anti multinationals platform, like Chavez-Maduro in Venezuela. Explicitly attacked the Lopezes, Ayalas, MVP. Who's next? Plus drug price control of multinational pharma. New owners of ABS frequencies and assets will be on their side.

On anti-Covid vaccine and EO 104 or drug price control that he discussed in the SONA, I will post a separate blog article about it.

Meanwhile, I was also interviewed by Cito last July 3, mainly on the economic impact of continuing, indefinite lockdown (hard or mild) in the country. I don't have any screenshot of the interview, also the link, sorry.

See also:
Agenda, One News, Part 2, July 04, 2019 
Agenda, One News, Part 3, August 30, 2019 
Agenda, One News, Part 4, February 11, 2020.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

BWorld 444, Economic hardships worse than virus risks

* My column in BusinessWorld last July 16, 2020.

The Philippines needs to open up the economy fast and not prolong the lockdown, hard or mild. It has some of the worst economic indicators compared to its Asian neighbors.

First, in industrial/manufacturing production. The country has the worst, steepest decline in May 2020.

Second, in the stock market. The country has the worst performance both in the year to date (Ytd, Jan. 1 to July 14) and the past 52 weeks.

Third, in GDP growth. While it had the second highest growth next to Vietnam in the fourth quarter last year (Q4 2019), it experienced the second deepest decline by Q1 2020 next to China. Bad economic performances despite having one of the lowest death rates from COVID-19 in the world (see the table).

Two ASEAN countries reported GDP growth or contraction in Q2 2020: Vietnam with 0.4% and Singapore with -12.6%. This is deep for Singapore.

The Philippines’ GDP data for Q2 2020 will be reported on Aug. 6 and my own projection is -10% or deeper. I based this number on the deep decline in electricity demand in the Luzon-Visayas grids from April to June vs. the same months last year, of -14.7%. The data on monthly megawatt (MW) consumption I got from the Independent Electricity Market Operator Philippines (IEMOP). They conducted the first Market Participants Update (MPU) for 2020 on July 3.

If we open up the economy much wider and clearer, will we not court more COVID-19 deaths?

No. For two reasons. One, as shown in the above table, the feared explosion of death as expected by many people did not happen after five months of scare and alarm. Our 15 deaths per million population is just 1/7 of Germany, 1/28 of the US, 1/44 of the UK, or just 1/5 of the global average of 75.

Two, with or without this pandemic, we expect deaths as part of nature. From the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), average deaths per day: 1,591 in 2016; 1,587 in 2017; 1,618 in 2018; 1,658 in 2019 (January-September).

The 2020 projection is 1,684 per day. COVID deaths from March 11 (the first Filipino death) to July 14 is 1,603 over 125 days or 13 people per day. It is possible that with comorbidity, many of the COVID fatalities are largely due to cancer, pneumonia, heart or cardiovascular diseases and the patient got severe virus infection later because of their weak immune system but were registered as COVID-19 deaths.

The economic hardships have been severe so far and we expect the hardships to continue because of the indefinite, no timetable lockdown. People count the COVID-19 cases and deaths but they do not count the poverty- and hunger-related diseases and deaths.

It is true that the virus can evolve and mutate but it is also true that humans also adapt and mutate. On average there are 38 trillion bacteria and 380 trillion viruses in each human body (See “Meet the trillions of viruses that make up your virome” by David Pride, Associate Director of Microbiology, UCSD, and Chandrabali Ghose, Visiting Scientist, The Rockefeller University, https://earthsky.org/human-world/trillions-of-viruses-human-virome). Adding a few mutated viruses will not cause severe imbalances in our biological make up.

Open up the economy. Wide and clear. Those scared can wear double masks, double the recommended six feet of social distance to 12 feet, stay home, take the “better Praning than Libing” attitude (“better paranoid that buried”). These are individual actions and are 100% fine. But the healthy and not scared should be allowed to go out anytime anywhere, observing basic hygiene, mask-wearing, and minimum distance of three feet.

See also:
BWorld 441, Decline in pneumonia incidence, June 30, 2020 
BWorld 442, GDP, CO2 emissions, and coal-gas consumption, July 06, 2020 
BWorld 443, Vaccine to avert more IPD, pneumonia deaths, July 19, 2020.

Interview with ABS-CBN on huge public debt

Last July 7, I got an invite from Ms. Kristine Sabillo of ABS-CBN for an interview re the Philippines' high public borrowings, reference to their story last July 3, https://news.abs-cbn.com/business/07/03/20/philippines-total-loans-grants-for-coronavirus-disease-covid19-response-data.

I accepted the interview, done last July 8 via Zoom. I thought it won't be shown anymore because of the final decision of Philippine Congress not to renew ABS' franchise for another 25 years. But they showed it via their facebook page the other day, July 23,

Other interviewees there were Sonny Africa of Ibon Foundation, Rene Ofreneo of Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), and DOF ASec Tony Lambino.

These were my 3-slides notes when she was interviewing me. 

(1) PH government outstanding debt was P6.6 trillion in 2016, still under an Aquino budget and borrowings regime, the Duterte admin came in the second half of the year. Then it quickly jumped to P8.2 trillion by end 2019, a P1.6 trillion increase in just three years, no economic crisis or pandemic.
By May 2020, pandemic-lockdown period, the debt further rose to P8.9 trillion.

(2) The budget deficit was -P353 billion in 2016, expanded fast to -P660 billion by 2019, again no economic crisis nor pandemic. By May 2020, the deficit was already at -P562 billion.

(3) More borrowings mean more taxes and regulatory fees, next year and the succeeding years. Taxpayers should be prepared for that. Under the TRAIN law of 2017, the big tax hikes came from higher excise tax rates in oil/petroleum, coal, tobacco, alcohol/beverages, automobiles, sugary drinks. Then expanded VAT coverage to more sectors, doc stamp tax. There was some revenue loss from personal income tax due to higher tax exemption, a good move by TRAIN law but was negated by higher taxes elsewhere.

Thank you Kristine, for the opportunity to briefly argue some points in your report.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Drug Price Control 49, The FEF statement

The Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) issued a well-written position paper the other day, July 22, about drug price control. They wrote,

"...  We would like to caution that the recently signed Executive Order No. 104 may do more harm than good in ensuring access to quality and affordable medicine for all Filipinos. 

We understand that more than half of the out-of-pocket health expenditures of Filipinos are spent on medicines. However, price capping is not the answer to making medicines affordable and accessible to the poor. It may work in the short run, but it could lead to medicine shortages in the long term. 

Business common sense will dictate a pharmaceutical company to pull out its product from the market – if not leave the domestic market completely – rather than sell at a price where it cannot recover its costs. When this happens, patients are made worse off – there are fewer available drugs in the market and consumer choice is reduced. 

Price capping creates a trade barrier in encouraging investments in pharmaceutical research and development. In this time of pandemic when the pharmaceutical industry is on a race to find a vaccine for COVID-19, innovation must be encouraged and not penalized...."

FEF is headed by distinguished Fellows like former Prime Minister Cesar Virata, former NEDA Secretaries Gerry Sicat and Felipe Medalla, former DOF Secretaries Roberto de Ocampo and Gary Teves (my former boss in Congress in the 90s then in his private consultancy firm Think Tank, Inc. 1999-2001), other known academic economists and business leaders, 

Meanwhile, the US government made an early purchase order of 100 million doses of an anti-Covid vaccine being developed fast by Pfizer (US) and BioNTech (Germany), when their candidate vaccines hurdle all regulatory clinical trials, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/22/us-government-taps-pfizer-to-produce-millions-of-doses-of-coronavirus-vaccine.html.

The promising candidate vaccines are expected to be commercially available in late 2020 or early 2021.

Big question -- when these new vaccines become available in rich countries and emerging economies, will they be also available in the Philippines?

I think Yes, but perhaps after a year of delay when these have been launched in more mature markets which have no drug price dictatorship policies. This scenario is not imaginary and fictional but based on actual experiences where  many newly-invented and more disease-killing medicines were available in the developed world but are either not available in the Philippines, or made available only after more than two years (see Table 2), 

If this happens, desperate patients in the PH will have to buy the vaccines from the US, Europe, Japan, Singapore, S Korea, etc. And the people who clapped Sec. Duque's drug price control policies part 1 (2009) and part 2 (2020) will also clap at this scenario? That we will see soon.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

BWorld 443, Vaccine to avert more IPD, pneumonia deaths

* My article in BusinessWorld last July 9, 2020.

From 2016-2018, pneumonia killed on average about 57,000 people per year in the Philippines. It is the fourth most deadly disease in the country next to heart diseases, malignant neoplasms/cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.

A virulent bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae is a major cause of disabling and sometimes fatal infections like acute otitis media (AOM), pneumonia, sepsis, meningitis and invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD).

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) is a successful invention to control this bacteria and its various serotypes. PCV10 can control 10 types of the bacteria and was used by the Department of Health (DoH) until 2013. By 2014, the agency shifted to PCV13 to cover three more types of the bacteria at a higher cost.

There has been some controversy on the procurement of PCV13 vs PCV10 so the DoH’s Health

Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) conducted a study and a report was released last week, on July 1, entitled “Reassessment of 10- versus 13-valent Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccines (PCV) in the Philippines: Evidence Summary.”

The paper’s Figure 3 chart is useful because it shows projected avoided or averted cases/sicknesses and deaths of the two vaccine types compared with no immunization.

Then Table 4 shows the yearly and total costs of both vaccines under multiple dose and single dose methods (MDV) and (SDV). I computed the difference in benefits (averted cases and deaths) and the yearly average cost, the result is interesting (see the table).

This means that for an extra P1.6 billion per year of MDV (the HTAC’s preference) PCV13 can avert or avoid 41,364 cases more of IPD, Pneumonia, and AOM than PCV10. Plus save 4,051 lives from IPD and pneumonia than PCV10.

If we split the P1.6 billion/year into half, P800 million for averting cases and P800 million for averting deaths, this is equivalent to spending P19,340 in extra tax money to avert one case of IPD, pneumonia, or AOM. Plus spending P197,482 of extra tax money to avert one death from IPD or pneumonia.

Is this a good trade-off between public spending and public health? How do we know?

In 2019, the Philippines had a GDP of P18.613 trillion, collectively contributed by 43.15 million employed workers, professionals, and entrepreneurs. This means that on average, each employed person contributed P431,356 to the economy last year.

Assuming a person pays a total of 35% of their income in tax to the government (personal income tax, VAT, excise tax, withholding tax, vehicle registration tax, etc.), the person has paid nearly P151,000 in taxes to the government. Plus P280,000 of spending or savings for himself/herself and the family, friends. In just one year.

So with more than one year of work, the person whose life has been saved by a vaccine like PCV13 can already pay for the extra public spending.

Ergo, spending extra tax money to save extra lives is worth it. Procurement of more expensive but more life-saving PCV13 will be more beneficial to both public health and the macroeconomy.

The HTAC Report observed that: “Modeling suggests that PCV 13 may result in larger savings with a potentially greater number of averted cases and/or deaths due to IPD, clinical pneumonia, and AOM compared to PCV10 as a result of greater serotype coverage (Figure 3). This is also with the assumption that the government would pay for the vaccines. With this, the Council recognizes that PCV13 use will incur lesser household financial impact as compared to PCV 10.” (Page 13 HTAC Report)

But it did not specifically recommend either vaccine, only the 11 serotypes that must be addressed. This is an implicit proposal to downgrade use of PCV10.

When the DoH shifted to use PCV13 in 2014, it was backed up by a study by Dr. Issa Alejandria, an infectious disease specialist and clinical epidemiologist at the UP College of Medicine who made a comparative study of the two vaccines. Among her findings are: 1.) PCV13 has helped avert 379 more cases of IPD, 8,044 more cases of pneumonia, and 54,675 more cases of AOM, for a total of 63,098 cases more than PCV10. And, 2.) the former vaccine helped prevent 495 more deaths.

So, considering the high number of averted cases and deaths, the above observation by HTAC Report, and the previous study by Dr. Alejandria, better protection of public health can be done by using PCV13. Controlling infectious and virulent diseases should be a priority now as shown by the current public scare of this infectious COVID-19 virus.

Erratum: Meanwhile, apologies dear Readers for my mistake in my previous article of June 25 (https://www.bworldonline.com/decline-in-pneumonia-incidence/). The Philippines’ total deaths in 2013 was 532,176, not 433,375 as stated in the table. So the pneumonia death over total death then was not 12.3% but 10.0% (PCV10 in use). Still, there was a decline to 9.9% in 2016 (PCV13 in use) and further to 9.6% by 2018.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Covid 15, False positives and Sweden success in "flattening the curve"

A good FB post here by Dr Roy Spencer, an academic climatologist from U. of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) yesterday July 17. It's about false positives, patients found to be positive and symptomatic of the virus but upon double checking, are actually suffering from bacterial infections.

Roy W. Spencer
A COVID-19 story & the dangers of politicizing a virus:

I just asked a friend in a major U.S. city who owns a successful medical testing business his opinion about masks. He is on the advisory board to one of the top hospitals in the country (you'd recognize the name), and is an expert in immunology, epidemiology, and a couple other medical-ologies. His wife is an ER nurse. They both believe that the public wearing masks is probably doing more harm than good, because cloth masks are being reused, laid down on unsanitary surfaces, and recycling bacteria from the wearer.

But that wasn't the main point he wanted to make.

He told the story of a friend whose wife recently got very sick with COVID-like symptoms and was admitted to a very good hospital in the city. She was told she had COVID by three top medical professionals.

The husband called my friend to say her health was failing and was not expected to live. My friend told him to INSIST she be tested for other illnesses. They did, and discovered she had Legionnaires disease, which is bacterial, not viral. She was treated and released a day or so later.

(He also related that he has personally known more people to commit suicide in recent months than have had COVID.)

COVID-mania is causing harm. "Following the science" means making rational decisions, but when the government pays hospitals extra $$ for having COVID patients, you can bet that every illness will suddenly look more like COVID than before the financial incentive existed.

Two recent good articles I discovered, 

(1) Why Sweden Succeeded in “Flattening the Curve” and New York Failed 
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
By Jonathan “Jon” Miltimore, Managing Editor of FEE.org

The reason New York failed to "flatten the curve" and Sweden succeeded probably has little to do with lockdowns.

Sweden took such an approach (NO LOCKDOWNS) for two reasons:

First, as Tegnell has publicly stated, there is LITTLE TO NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE that lockdowns work.

Second, as evidence today shows, lockdowns come with WIDESPREAD UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: mass unemployment, recession, social unrest, psychological deterioration, suicides, and drug overdoses.

(2) The Media's Jihad against Sweden's No-Lockdown Policy Ignores Key Facts
07/14/2020   Ryan McMaken 

As soon as it became clear that the Swedish state had no plans to implement harsh lockdowns, global media organizations like the New York Times have implemented what can only be described as an ideological jihad against Sweden.

For many weeks, there has been an incessant drumbeat of articles with titles touting the "the failure of the country's no-lockdown coronavirus strategy," that "Sweden Has Become the World's Cautionary Tale," and "How Sweden Screwed Up."

Indeed, looking at this, one might conclude that thanks to Sweden we know what both lockdown and nonlockdown countries look like: they look remarkably similar in some cases.

My Swedish friend Peter Eriksson also commented, The Swedish government is getting a lot of shit since the are not promoting use of masks as general. It can be useful in some situations such in small isolated areas with bad air flow. But in open spaces the use of masks increase the possibility to get sick.

Back to the Philippines.

Pneumonia, an infectious and contagious disease, has killed on average 57,278/year, 2016-2018 in the country. Or 157 deaths per day, every single day. We never heard a single proposal to have a lockdown to stop the spread of pneumonia.

Tuberculosis, another infectious and contagious disease, has killed 23,409 people in the PH in 2018, average 64 TB deaths per day, every single day. No proposal for any lockdown to control the spread of TB.

Now virus cases and deaths are rising recently, why?

At least two possible reasons. One, these are deaths many weeks ago and reported only recently. And two, just my hypothesis -- hard lockdown the past four months didn't prevent the spread of the virus. But it made many people poorer, hungrier, sicklier, have weaker immune system and become more vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections, diseases.

Open up the economy, remove the government lockdown and encourage more personal responsibility in personal and household hygiene, scared people to have double mask, double the 6ft social distancing if they want. But the economy must open up, wide and clear. Lockdown dictatorship should end.

See also: 
Covid 12, Open up the economy, lockdowns are wrong, June 03, 2020 
Covid 13, Hard lockdown and hysteria caused the 17.7% unemployment rate, June 09, 2020 
Covid 14, Selected articles by Mahar Mangahas on the pandemic, July 05, 2020.

On Congressional franchising

Many people lambast the House of Representatives and Malacanang for the non-renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise which expired last May. The House Bill granting another 25 years franchise was killed at the Committee on Legislative Franchise, something like 70-11 vote not granting the franchise.
(photo here from BWorld)

I have taken a neutral position on the ABS franchise, neither favor or against. My beef here is on Congressional franchising system itself, a Constitutional provision. I remember it was discussed in  Econ 102, undergrad Microeconomics, monopolies and oligopolies are created by the government via franchising. Some franchise given by Executive agencies (inter-island shipping franchise by MARINA, provincial and city buses, jeeps, taxi and TNVS by LTFRB, etc.), some by local governments like tricycle routes.

Thus, all businesses that require government franchise are 100% politicized. Business owners must be yummy chummy to the franchise giving agency otherwise they will not get a franchise. 

One solution to depoliticize business is to abolish the franchise system especially from Congress. People just put up businesses and let the market, the consumers of their goods and services, decide whether they deserve to survive and flourish or go extinct, bankrupt.

What about "guarding the truth" in the case of media? Right, and Congress is not exactly a truthful body or institution to decide and judge what are truthful or not. Often the judges are micro bodies like an individual or company or government office unfairly accused in media and libel cases can be filed. Congress has zero relevance here because it cannot and must not micro manage, defend or prosecute, all business enterprises. Whereas Congress and its officials can only make huge money in opportunity for extortion as many businesses come begging for that single but important business permit -- franchise law.

There are ideas that since the Lopezes were perceived to be closed to the previous Aquino administration, they should have applied for an early franchise in 2014 or six years ago. Assuming that this story is true, it is still not possible to give ABS an early franchise, six years before exppiration because many other companies (media, electric coops, cable TV, water firms,...) would also apply for an early franchise and if the admin would not give it to them, the admin would be lambasted.

Now an old joke on PH media:

1. Boy: GMA 7 ka ba?
Girl: bakit naman?
Boy: kasi Kapuso na Kita.

2. Suitor: ABS CBN ka ba?
Girl: bakit naman?
S: kasi gusto Kita maging Kapamilya.

3. Girl asked back: TV 5 ka ba?
Suitor: Bakit naman?
G: kasi Kapatid lang tingin ko sa yo (hehe, busted).

Monday, July 06, 2020

BWorld 442, GDP, CO2 emissions, and coal-gas consumption

* My article in BusinessWorld, July 1, 2020.

This year marks several important global milestones in macro-economy and the energy sector. These include the coveted $100 billion/year of climate money starting 2020 as promised by the rich countries to poorer countries during the Paris Agreement in 2015, and steep decline in global GDP growth and energy demand because of the various lockdowns by many countries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The world hit an all-time high primary energy demand of 584 Exajoules (EJ, 1 EJ = 23.88 trillion tons oil equivalent, or 277.78 tera-watt hours, TWH) in 2019, up from 576 Exajoules in 2018.

Despite the economic hardships worldwide with many rich countries expected to have GDP contraction anywhere from -2% to -10% this year, many leaders in poor countries, big environmental NGOs, and renewable firms demand that the $100 billion/year should be given to them. The money will largely finance energy transition from fossil fuels especially coal, to intermittent renewables especially wind-solar, to reduce global CO2 emissions.

This is a simplistic and parochial goal and does not look at global economic realities that countries and economies have developed and modernized as they used more fossil fuel energy. I compared two decades of GDP (2019 are estimates by the IMF World Economic Outlook, WEO) and CO2 emissions. The positive correlation is very clear: countries with at least 2x expansion in CO2 emissions have at least 4x expansion in GDP size (see the table).

Now there is endless pressure for the Philippine government to hasten the transition away from coal and move towards wind-solar plus more use of natural gas, imported LNG once the Malampaya gas is exhausted in a few years.

Go back to the table : the Philippines’ coal consumption in 2019 of only 0.73 EJ is similar to those in Thailand and Malaysia, less than half of Taiwan, only 1/3 of Vietnam, 1/5 of South Korea, and 1/7 of Japan. Ours is not big, not scary or Frankensteinish so that exit from coal should be hastened or even desirable.

The natgas lobby is correct in saying that our gas consumption is small. As shown in the table above, our gas consumption was only 0.15 EJ in 2019, that is because we only rely on domestic supply from Malampaya gas field. Lobbying for imported LNG, even having nuke power, more big hydro, can be done without calling for killing coal power.

It is also notable that anti-coal Greenpeace has also turned anti-natural gas too on the ground that gas has high methane emission.

The Philippines with 109 million people remains to have a small GDP size of only $357 billion in 2019, comparable to Singapore with only 5.7 million or Malaysia with 33 million people. We need to expand our economic size fast, and a big supply of energy at cheaper or competitive prices will be badly needed.

How about the environment or the planet?

CO2 is not an evil pollutant gas as what we often hear or read. CO2 is the gas that humans and animals exhale, the gas that plants and crops use to produce their own food via photosynthesis. It is a useful gas so that more CO2 leads to more trees regenerating naturally, and more food production.

Meanwhile, there is a new paper published by Ateneo de Manila University on June 23, “COVID-19, Coal, and the Energy Transition in the Philippines” by Dr. Majah-Leah V. Ravago and Dr.James A. Roumasset. They concluded that “FIT subsidies are actually retarding investment relative to free market levels. Using COVID-19 to justify further subsidies is likely to be counterproductive, in spite of recent proposals to extend the feed-in-tariffs. A better approach is for government to facilitate faster approval of unsubsidized projects.”

Right. More subsidies for solar-wind, higher excise tax for coal to make it artificially more expensive, and exempting gas from excise tax to make it look cheaper, are three sides of wrong, anti-consumer policies. Consumers, not government or environmental NGOs or RE lobbies should decide the appropriate energy mix.

See also:

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Covid 14, Selected articles by Mahar Mangahas on the pandemic

I like these three papers by SWS President Mahar Mangahas. Reposting portions of them below. All  photos here I got from the web.

(1) Allow people the freedom to earn a living 

By: Mahar Mangahas - @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer / 05:05 AM April 18, 2020 

The responsibility for surviving the COVID-19 pandemic ultimately lies with the Filipino people, not the Philippine government. The government, having been set up by the people, is tasked with helping to protect the people, by means of scientific, intelligent, and credible guidance and assistance….

Unnecessary restrictions on personal movement. As long as persons wear face masks and keep adequate distance from each other, it does not make sense to inhibit them from moving across barangays, cities, or provinces within Luzon. The mere act of moving across a boundary does not imply the act of crowding. Checkpoints do not make sense; in fact, they promote crowding by creating queues where there were none.

Curfews do not make sense; in fact, being able to go somewhere at night lessens the need for it during the day. Use barangay tanods or even Boy Scouts, not armed policemen, to discourage partying. A one-entrance-one-exit policy does not make sense; in fact, having multiple entrances and exits for a public place makes it easier to keep one’s distance. Limiting the hours of groceries or banks does not make sense; in fact, the longer the hours, the shorter the queues (like at outdoor automated teller machines).

Public transportation does not have to be crowded. Trains, buses, taxis, jeepneys, and even tricycles can all be modified/configured to carry only as many face-masked passengers as will allow physical distancing (see “Restore jeepneys and tricycles,” Opinion, 3/21/20). Let associations of transport operators develop their own protocols for disinfecting their vehicles, and screening passengers for symptoms…

Let occupational groups find ways to operate and also observe physical distancing. With the use of face masks and shields, client screening, disinfecting, configuration of premises, and adjustment of business hours, there are ways for dental clinics, barbershops, salons, repair shops, exercise gyms, etc. to operate without compromising public health. Let them do their own protocols, without requiring approval from any agency. As it is now, their clientele will be limited.

A time of pandemic does not require any official determination of “essential” versus “non-essential” products, services, or occupations. What is truly essential is for the people to be able to freely earn a living.

(2) Hunger, fear, caution, dependency 
By: Mahar Mangahas  08:24 AM May 30, 2020 

…from Social Weather Stations’ media releases in the past week, based on its May 4-10, 2020 mobile phone survey about the COVID-19 crisis.

1. The hunger rate exploded. The proportion of families that experienced hunger due to lack of food, in the three months before being interviewed, was 16.7 percent, almost double the rate of December 2019, when previously surveyed.

2. COVID-19 brought fear of illness to a record high. The survey found 73 percent of Filipinos worried a great deal that they or someone in their family might get infected by COVID-19. This compares to an extremely worried 49 percent about contracting the Ebola virus in 2014, 56 percent about getting Swine Flu in 2009, 48 percent about Bird Flu in 2006, 62 percent about Bird Flu in 2004, and 54 percent about severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, based on SWS national surveys in those times.

3. In line with their fear of COVID-19, the great majority of Filipinos take proper precautions. With respect to using a face mask when going out, the SWS survey found 77 percent saying they do this always.

4. The lockdown has caused a state of dependency among the people. Given its continued reluctance for the people to resume their customary livelihoods—in particular, its sluggishness in permitting ordinary public transport to operate—the government must keep devising schemes to keep millions of people on “amelioration,” and new ways to finance the doles. Otherwise it may bring on a second wave of hunger.

(3) Try the invisible hand
By: Mahar Mangahas -  05:05 AM July 04, 2020

At this stage of the pandemic, the main problem afflicting the economy is the heavy hand of government.

After over three months of lockdown, only some—I think less than half—of the nation’s jeepneys are returning to service now. It is not because jeepney operators (the supply side, in tens of thousands) are unwilling to provide the customary service, or because commuters (the demand side, in the millions) are unwilling to use the customary service.

It is because the government is unwilling to allow the supply and demand sides to freely transact with each other. Why have a few sectors—agriculture, banking, the stock exchange, business process outsourcing, offshore gaming—always been allowed freedom to operate, but not the extremely vital transportation sector, which links very many sectors together?

Without need for prodding, public transport operators have reconfigured their vehicles to cope better with the pandemic. Without need for special warning, public transport users have limited their demands to travel. Both sides do this out of their own self-interest, for the sake of their livelihood and health.

This is how a free market works, for the benefit of both sellers and buyers. Of course, prices of commodities and services shall have to adjust accordingly, in order to equalize demand and supply; so be it. (That’s the time for parties that feel socially mistreated to seek assistance from government.)…

Adam Smith, one of the founders of economics, observed centuries ago (“The Theory of Moral Sentiment,” 1759; “The Wealth of Nations,” 1776) that there is “an invisible hand” that keeps an economy in order, and benefits society as a whole, even as individual people freely pursue their personal self-interest.

It was my good fortune to study at the University of Chicago, and learn first-hand from the great economic freedom fighter Milton Friedman (“Capitalism and Freedom,” 1962: “Free to Choose,” 1980). For Friedman, freedom is the end, and capitalism is a means.

I am a founding member of the Foundation for Economic Freedom (fef.org.ph), where the prevailing general sentiment, I believe, is that the people’s economic well-being has already suffered too long from the government’s overly restrictive policies.

The authorities, both national and local, have issued too many questionable rules. Preventing senior citizens and youngsters from going out is discriminatory. Many families have children cared for solely by the grandparents; when outdoors, they would not want to walk six feet apart, for the children’s security.

Curfews are not justified by the pandemic. The COVID-19 virus does not travel any more swiftly by night than by day. Using the nighttime for work (as well as play) allows more physical distancing in the daytime.

Family members who live indoors unmasked do not need to avoid close contact with each other when outdoors. It is cruel to disallow masked riding on a motorcycle behind a spouse, parent, or sibling (and to question their family relationship is an invasion of privacy).

The invisible hand promotes cooperation without coercion, at no financial expense. 

After 5 months, February until today, all the scary Frankenstein scenarios of massive deaths (tens or hundreds of thousands in PH alone) from Wuhan virus, it should be clear by now that the scenarios are not true. Fictional and not real. Many medical professionals also observed that this virus is not as dangerous as previously thought.

We should focus on the economy and jobs. Millions have been displaced. PSA labor stats April 2020, unemployed 7.3 M plus 3.0 M didn't join the labor force, didn’t bother to look for a job, total 10.3 M working age people were idle. The economic damages are real and factual, not fictional. The continuing hysteria continues to wreak havoc on soooo many lives. If we can, we should go out and spend money somewhere and help those that govt has forced to be jobless or impoverished.

Cases are not deaths. Infection are not deaths. Covid cases may rise 200%, even 1,000% but deaths may be flat or decline. If we are tested today of Ebola virus, H1N1 virus, MERS virus, etc, some of us may even be positive. But asymptomatic, not sick, not needing hospitalization. Group or herd immunity. We already have immunity to the estimated 380 trillion viruses in our body, adding a few mutated ones won't cause another round of massive deaths. Only massive hysteria by people who want to "feel good" that they are "doing something." Like prolonged lockdown and killing jobs and businesses.

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Saturday, July 04, 2020

Weekend Fun 72, Airline mergers

Lots of corporate bankruptcies going on because of the various lockdowns, so lots of mergers happening too. Among the dangerous mergers:

1. PAL + Thai air = PaThai.

2. Korean air + PAL = KoPal.

3. PAL + Cebu Pac = PalPac.

4. Garuda air + Cebu pac + Qantas Air = GCQ.

5. Etihad air + Cebu pac + Qantas Air = ECQ.

For possible mergers 4 and 5, frequent riders will be NTF and IATF bureaucrats and their supporters.

Disallowed by SEC:

1. Previous merger of Metrobank and Combank = MetroCom.

2. Start up from rebel stockholders of Goldilocks forming Goldilocks Downtown = Lockdown.

Philippines Psidential Mottos:

Marcos -- Mabuhay ang Pilipino

Cory -- Tayo ay Pilipino

Ramos -- Taas noo, Pilipino

Erap -- Mabuhay Casino Filipino

Gloria -- Hello Garcillano

Noynoy -- Demanda mga Tsino

Duterte -- Mabuhay POGO GCQ

1. Life is like a bikini, it is brief.

2. Statistics are like bikini. What they reveal is interesting but what they conceal is vital.

3. I'll do algebra, I'll do trigonometry, even statistics. But graphing is where I draw the line.

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