Monday, March 29, 2021

BWorld 480, 10 trends in mortality and spending economics

* My column in BusinessWorld, March 24, 2021.

The latest death and mortality data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) last week had many interesting aspects. Below we list 10 trends happening in the Philippines.

1 There were fewer deaths, not more, in 2020.

Since COVID-19 has killed thousands last year, the expectation is that there should be more deaths, high “excess mortality” over 2019 but this did not happen. The 1,700 deaths/day in 2019 became 1,578 deaths/day in 2020. Including some 95 COVID-19 deaths per day from March 11 (first COVID-19 death in the Philippines) to December.

2 There were 30,000 fewer pneumonia deaths, 7,000 fewer respiratory infection deaths, 5,000 fewer TB deaths. 

Most surprising is that there were over 42,000 fewer deaths from infectious diseases last year than in 2019.

There are two possible reasons: One, people became more health conscious, transmission of infectious diseases significantly declined. Two, ordinary pneumonia was labelled as COVID-19 pneumonia; ordinary infections became COVID-19 infections, ordinary tuberculosis (TB) became COVID-19 TB. Sort of COVID-19 has murdered many other infectious diseases.

One explanation for the possible mislabeling of causes as COVID-19 deaths is the high PhilHealth reimbursement. If a patient is hospitalized, recovers or dies, from what is declared as non-COVID-19 positive pneumonia, PhilHealth will pay a small amount. If it is due to COVID-19, case payment to the hospital is high: mild pneumonia about P100,000, severe pneumonia P333,000, critical pneumonia P786,000.

3 There were fewer transport accidents and fatal assaults, but more suicides.

Lockdowns, checkpoints, curfew, closure of all bars and occasional alcohol bans, led to fewer road accidents, less fights. But there was more self-inflicted harm or suicides (see Table 1).

4 Cases are rising.

Why? It coincided with the vaccination rollout this March. Two of the many possibilities: One, “escape mutations” of the virus, and/or vaccination-triggered cases in which the vaccine triggered symptoms or more inflammation in people who are positive but asymptomatic. Two, people’s immune systems have been weakened due to prolonged lockdown or mobility restrictions and lack of income, and there are no prevention prophylaxis, early treatment drugs for symptomatic persons to avoid hospitalization.

5 “Superspreader” scaremongering and OCTA.

Octa Research is “a polling, research and consulting firm” but it is now into making alarmist predictions. There have been at least six reports from different news sources: 1.) “Virus ‘Super Spreader’ cited as debates over reduced commuter distancing continue among Cabinet members, health experts” (One News, Sept. 16, 2020); 2.) “Seminars, minors in malls can be ‘dangerous superspreaders’” (Manila Bulletin, Dec. 9, 2020); 3.) “CTA Research warns gov’t vs. ‘superspreader events’ due to new COVID-19 policies” (Inquirer.net, Dec. 9, 2020); 4.) “Black Nazarene feast a ‘superspreader’ event, OCTA Research says” (GMA, Jan. 9, 2021); 5.) “Cinemas can be superspreader” (Daily Tribune, Feb. 13, 2021); 6.) “People below 18 may become COVID ‘supercarriers’ if age restrictions ease, OCTA warns” (Inquirer.net, Feb. 16, 2021).

We now turn to public spending during lockdown.

6 Revenues are falling to the floor…

With many businesses and companies closed, fully or partially, temporarily or permanently, government tax revenues declined significantly, from an average increase of P315 billion/year from 2016 to 2019, it declined by P281 billion in 2020, or a net decline of nearly P600 billion.

7 While spending is rising to the roof.

All the salaries, allowances and bonuses of government personnel from national to local and barangay levels were given. New subsidies were also created, bigger borrowings made and higher interest payment were paid.

8 GDP crashing to 2018 level.

The Philippines’ GDP contracted 9.5% in 2020 from 6.2% and 6% growth in 2018 and 2019 (see Table 2). This contraction put the GDP size at P17.5 trillion in 2020, similar to the size of the GDP in 2018 of P17.4 trillion. It is not the virus per se that caused this economic crash but the government’s strict and draconian lockdown policies.

9 Continued demonization of early treatment.

The Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDC Ph) has been advocating for focused protection of the vulnerable people (the elderly, those with comorbidities) via prophylaxis and early treatment using Ivermectin for humans (not Ivermectin veterinary products) plus supplements Vitamins C and D, zinc, and melatonin. Then all forms of lockdown and mobility and business restrictions can be lifted. But the Health department, the Food and Drug Administration, and World Health Organization, and various medical societies disapprove of, if not demonize, early treatment.

10 Lockdown déjà vu.

The current mobility restrictions for two weeks until April 4 are similar to last year’s. Government said in mid-March 2020 that it would take “only two weeks” to flatten the curve. The two weeks became two months, became 12 months — 12 months of failure to control virus transmission. Lockdowns do not work. The mantra “new normal” is actually “new dictatorship.”
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See also:
BWorld 477, Global economic impact of lockdowns, March 09, 2021 
BWorld 478, Power demand contraction and natural gas cronyism, March 14, 2021 
BWorld 479, Lockdown déjà vu or back to normal, March 22, 2021.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Climate 98, Australia's worst flooding for decades

On "man-made" climate change and global warming, see one impact of heavy flooding recently in NSW Australia,

‘Horrific’ Swarms of Spiders, Snakes Invade Australian Homes Amid Devastating Floods
Elias Marat    Mar 24, 2021
https://themindunleashed.com/2021/03/horrific-swarms-of-spiders-snakes-invade-australian-homes-amid-devastating-floods.html

And people insist that man-made CC causes less flood and more flood, less rain and more rain. Less snakes and more snakes?

Is NSW flooding a year after bushfires yet more evidence of climate change?
Graham Readfearn   Mon 22 Mar 2021 09.05 GMT Last modified on Wed 24 Mar 2021 22.36 GMT 
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/22/is-nsw-flooding-a-year-after-bushfires-yet-more-evidence-of-climate-change

Yes, Australia is a land of flooding rains. But climate change could be making it worse 
March 24, 2021 5.52am AEDT
https://theconversation.com/yes-australia-is-a-land-of-flooding-rains-but-climate-change-could-be-making-it-worse-157586 

Worst flooding in decades continues for eastern Australia
By Adam Douty, Maura Kelly, AccuWeather meteorologist
Updated Mar. 24, 2021 11:37 PM PHT
https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/worst-flooding-in-decades-continues-for-eastern-australia/919279

14 years ago, famous Australian mammalogist and environmental Tim Flannery predicted "even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems, and that’s a real worry for the people in the bush."

Interview with Professor Tim Flannery 
Reporter: Sally Sara   First Published: 11/02/2007 
https://www.abc.net.au/local/archives/landline/content/2006/s1844398.htm

More here:

Carbon dioxide radically lower but floods destroy houses, cover beaches in debris across NSW in 1857 
https://joannenova.com.au/2021/03/carbon-dioxide-radically-lower-but-floods-destroy-houses-cover-beaches-in-debris-across-nsw-in-1857/

End of Rain? Guardian Blames NSW Flooding on Climate Change
Eric Worrall  March 23, 2021 
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/03/22/end-of-rain-guardian-blames-nsw-flooding-on-climate-change/

Meanwhile,

Climate change investing: jolly green giant or next bubble? 
Tony Featherstone    Mar 20, 2021 – 12.00am
https://www.afr.com/wealth/investing/climate-change-investing-jolly-green-giant-or-next-bubble-20210316-p57ba3 

Australian Financial Review Advises Readers to Embrace Climate Investments
Eric Worrall   March 21, 2021
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/03/19/australian-financial-review-advises-investors-to-embrace-climate-investments/
---------------

See also: 
Climate 95, Anthropocene, Extended La Nina, carbon tax February 9, 2021 
Climate 96, Anthropocene line of Sir Noel de Dios, February 14, 2021 
Climate 97, Econ and infra implications of a cooling planet, February 24, 2021.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Covid 27, Dr. Rafael Castillo on vaccine, Ivermectin, and lifting the lockdown

I'm reposting here three posts from Dr. Rafael Castillo, a famous and highly respected Filipino physician and weekly columnist in Inquirer Lifestyle’s Wellness page, https://lifestyle.inquirer.net/byline/rafael-r-castillo-md/. First paper was published in PDI, next two papers were shared in various Viber groups until today. Enjoy.
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Doctor suggests six urgent steps that may help turn health crisis around
By: Rafael Castillo MD / 05:06 AM March 22, 2021
https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1409677/6-urgent-steps-to-turn-health-crisis-around 

I just read the report on rapidly developing “escape mutations” of the novel coronavirus, and tried to trace the development of the currently identified variants.

And it occurred to me that they all started in countries with massive vaccination clinical trials (the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil).

Now, additional escape mutations have been identified in countries like the United States after mass vaccination.

Just a coincidence? Or could the mass vaccination be paradoxically triggering the propagation of the virus? Hopefully not.

With a 400-percent surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, we definitely have to pause and rethink our situation.

I propose the following steps that may help us turn this medical crisis around, particularly in hotbed areas.

Moving target

At the rate escape mutations are developing, the current vaccines may no longer be effective in a few months, and it would require an urgent round of booster doses plus additional shots perhaps every three to six months to cover for the variants that could number in the hundreds within months.

The virus seems capable of mutating every 24-48 hours. It’s like shooting at a moving target, and as we hit one, it divides and creates new variants.

It’s time we recalibrated our anti-Covid strategy.

1. We should urgently shift from a vaccine-centric strategy to a more holistic multipronged approach. Vaccines are the least we need in Metro Manila and other hotbed areas.

2. Suspend vaccination for now and go full-blast with measures to control community transmission. Continuing the vaccination will only fuel the transmission and promote more mutations and resistance to vaccination.

3. Proceed with mass vaccination only in areas with controlled and stable community transmission.

20-40 age group

4. Withhold vaccination of the 20 to 40 year olds to reduce the rate of developing vaccine resistance. Vaccinating them will only create more breeding grounds for virus mutation and resistance development.

Besides, the risk of dying from COVID in the 20-40 age group is extremely low and just slightly higher than the risk of dying from vaccination-related adverse reactions.

It’s better to allow their system to develop natural, rather than vaccine-generated, immunity that can potentially weaken their innate immunity.

Let’s reserve the vaccination for the elderly, and other high-risk persons whose immune systems are no longer as healthy and reactive as the young adults’.

Ivermectin, etc.

5. Stop buying more vaccines for the next six months and reallocate the money to buy other immune-system- boosting agents like ivermectin, vitamins D and C, zinc, virgin coconut oil, and melatonin which should be provided for free in hotbed areas.

Face masks and shields should also be distributed for free in indigent barangays.

The government can invoke its police power and take over the manufacture of these products during this critical period. USP-grade ivermectin is not even available. The government should make emergency importation of this product, which can be easily procured from neighboring countries.

6. Agility in adapting and adjusting to prevailing circumstances is paramount.

Our previous plans on mass vaccination may not be suitable for now. It’s an excellent tool for prevention of future transmission, but is potentially disastrous in the current situation when community transmission is uncontrolled. 

This virus is making us think within the box as it slyly operates outside the box. It’s time we stopped being outsmarted by it.

With God’s mercy and grace, we can lick this virus for good. We just need to humble ourselves and stop believing we can solve this pandemic crisis on our own.

We need to unite, put our best ideas together, and swallow our pride if we want to win this crucial war against this unseen enemy.

Our window for survival is still very good, but quickly narrowing. It’s time to fight the war wisely, and with the right weapons.

God bless us all.
-------------- 

March 23

IMPORTANT REJOINDER TO MY URGENT MESSAGE COMMENTARY 
Dr. Rafael R. Castillo 

The commentary seemed to have stirred the hornet’s nest, with a few things taken out of context. Some clarifications are in order.

ON IVERMECTIN

My recommendation to use natural immune system boosters plus ivermectin also seemed to have hit a sensitive nerve. I’m well aware of the advisory of the FDA and several other professional organizations stating that the evidence is still not sufficient.

My apologies, but assessment of sufficiency and insufficiency of data or evidence is somewhat relative and arbitrary depending on quite a number of factors. I have my highest respect for all those who drafted the ivermectin advisory. But in times of pandemic, with so many lives hanging on the balance each hour of the day, we don’t have to demand the same rigid criteria for acceptability as we do with a non-emergency indication like mild hypertension with many therapeutic agents already available.

For me, what we should primarily ensure is that there’s no potential for significant harm on the patient.

Ivermectin has a world of difference compared to Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), which I rarely used even at the peak of its scientific and media hype. I was scared of HCQ’s potentially deadly complications in patients with or without heart problems.

But for Ivermectin, it’s reported to be one of the safest drugs with around 3.5 billion doses already given worldwide. Of the more than 40 studies published on it, none showed a signal for significant harm. In the low to moderate-quality studies, there remains a strong suggestion of benefit to the tune of around 70-83% reduction in deaths, and a vaccine-like efficacy of around 90% in preventing disease transmission.

Even if you discount its mortality benefits by 50% to account for the bias and study design flaws, the benefit with ivermectin is still immense, and much better than commonly used drugs and interventions like remdesivir, tocilizumab, monoclonal antibodies, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), etc. Costs of these expensive treatments are around 300 to 800 times more than a 3-dose regimen of ivermectin costing around P100 for the 3 capsules or tablets.

I think Ivermectin is the great equalizer for the poor and rich patients with covid-19. During the last 2 weeks or so, when symptomatic Covid-19 patients could no longer be accommodated in the hospitals, I’ve personally treated and am still treating 14 patients with mainly a combination of high-dose melatonin and ivermectin. Some were also given oral antibiotics.

With God’s mercy and grace, 9 have already recovered and 5 are still on treatment and doing well.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Macroecon 1, Household debt to GDP ratio

I just checked these numbers the past three years and they look interesting. (1) Rising trend for Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong.


Same trend for East Asia's economic giants, (2) Japan, S. Korea and China.

But mixed trend for others, (3) Singapore down then up, Indonesia fluctuating, India just big jump in Q3 2020.



No data for Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, others.

The biggest economies of Europe and N. America, (4) UK and Germany rising, US decline then up.

https://tradingeconomics.com/country-list/households-debt-to-gdp.

These are all related to the big economic contraction and slump of 2020.

Monday, March 22, 2021

BWorld 479, Lockdown déjà vu or back to normal

* My article in BusinessWorld, March 16, 2021. 

The Philippines will mark its first anniversary of strict lockdown today (March 16). Going for another year, do we expect to experience lockdown déjà vu, the same familiar mobility restrictions, or should we demand we go back to a normal open economy?

THE PHILIPPINES HAD THE WORST LOCKDOWN POLICIES IN THE WORLD IN 2020.

Going through the long excel sheets of per country daily mobility changes of people in the Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports (GCCMR), changes from the baseline period Jan. 3 — Feb. 6, 2020, the Philippines indeed has the most strict, most draconian, most dictatorial lockdown policies in the world, at least among the top 40 largest economies in the world.

Two of six areas in the GCCMR are chosen: Retail and Recreation (R&R — restaurants, cafes, malls, museums, cinemas) and Transit stations (TS — subway/MRT stations, seaport, taxi stand, highway rest stops, car rentals). The period covered is from April 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, computing the average for daily data of the last nine months of the year.

THE PHILIPPINES HAD THE 3RD WORST PERFORMING ECONOMY IN 2020 AMONG THE TOP 40, THE WORST IN ASIA.

Largely because of the forced closure of many businesses for many months — they were later allowed to open but with many restrictions like those below 15 and above 65 years old are prohibited from entering malls and restaurants — the Philippines was third to Spain and the UK when it came to economic contraction among the world’s top 40 largest economies. And in terms of growth dive from 2019 to 2020, the Philippines had the worst in the world: -15.5 percentage points.

 THE PHILIPPINES EXPORTS SHRANK FURTHER.

The country’s already small exports of $70 billion in 2019 shrank further in 2020 due to the closure of many companies and the many roadblocks and checkpoints between provinces, even between cities and municipalities in the same province.

The COVID-19 deaths per million population (CDPMP) of the Philippines is not high compared to many countries with numbers that are 10 times to 15 times larger. Three of the top 40 economies that do not have full 2020 GDP data — Argentina, Iran, the United Arab Emirates — are not included in Table 1.

China has not allowed Google to publish data on mobility changes. The numbers are likely to belie its claim of having GDP growth instead of a contraction, and it’s very low CDPMP of three.

FEWER DEATHS IN A ‘PANDEMIC’ YEAR.

A seemingly puzzling issue is that the number of Philippine deaths in 2020 is lower than those in 2019 which had no pandemic. One reason would be the reduced fatal road accidents as many vehicles are prohibited from traveling long distances.

Another potential issue would be the significant decline in deaths from pneumonia and other diseases in 2020 as many flu and pneumonia cases and deaths were labeled as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This will be confirmed or belied when the Causes of Death for 2020 are reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority in the coming months.

WAY FORWARD: BACK TO NORMAL, PILIPINAS

Reopening the economy 100%, with no more lockdowns even with new virus variants emerging, is possible. The Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDC PH) has two simple proposals for this to happen.

One, focused protection on the vulnerable, the elderly, and those with many comorbidities, via prophylaxis and early treatment, with home-based medical protocols via low-dose Ivermectin (approved since around 1980, see https://c19ivermectin.com/), or low-dose hydroxychloroquine (HCQ, approve since 1955, see https://c19study.com/) plus zinc, Vit. C, Vit. D, others. Avoid hospitalization.

Two, open up the economy, all restaurants and schools, gyms and churches, allow the young and healthy to go out, get more sunlight which gives free Vit. D. Give back the people’s inherent and Constitutional freedom of mobility, freedom to be productive.

The vaccine rollout should continue for those who believe in their efficacy and safety. The use of focused protection and vaccine can co-exist while those with various allergies and comorbidities who are wary of the vaccine will have another option.

Going back to our normal lives with zero or minimal mobility restrictions is the key measure to revive the economy and create more jobs, not more expansionary fiscal and monetary policies.
--------------

See also:
BWorld 476, Energy Trilemma and high mandatory RE, March 01, 2021 
BWorld 477, Global economic impact of lockdowns, March 09, 2021 
BWorld 478, Power demand contraction and natural gas cronyism, March 14, 2021.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Covid 26, CDC PH Statement on Ivermectin

Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDCPh) 

Statement on Ivermectin
March 18, 2021

We at the Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines would like to share the good news with all Filipinos. Today 22% of the world is already using Ivermectin to successfully fight COVID-19. Multiple studies and meta-analyses confirm the effectiveness of Ivermectin, a safe oral drug used for over 40 years for other illnesses in humans. Below is a summary of some of the  scientific evidences including citations to the four meta analysis supporting the use of Ivermectin vs. COVID-19.

1) 100% of the 46 studies to date report positive effects (22 statistically significant in isolation). Random effects meta-analysis for early treatment and pooled effects shows a 79% reduction, Prophylactic use shows 89% improvement, Mortality results show 75% lower mortality, for all treatment delays, and 84% lower, for early treatment.

2) 100% of the 24 Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) report positive effects with an estimated 70% improvement, RR 0.30

3) There at least four meta-analyses in pre print headed by the authors Lawrie ( Bryant), Hill, Nardelli and Kory confirming the efficacy of Ivermectin against COVID-19 are in preprint and available on-line. 

Bryant et al., OSF Preprints, Ivermectin for prevention and treatment of COVID-19 infection: a systematic review and meta-analysis, https://osf.io/k37ft/.
Nardelli et al., Signa Vitae, doi:10.22514/sv.2021.043 (Peer Reviewed)

Crying wolf in time of Corona: the strange case of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. Is the fear of failure withholding potential life-saving treatment from clinical use? https://oss.signavitae.com/mre-signavitae/article/20210312-306/pdf/SV2021022602.pdf

Hill et al., Research Square, doi:10.21203/rs.3.rs-148845/v1, Meta-analysis of randomized trials of ivermectin to treat SARS-CoV-2 infection, https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-148845/v1

Kory et al., FLCCC Alliance, Review of the Emerging Evidence Demonstrating the Efficacy of Ivermectin in the Prophylaxis and Treatment of COVID-19, https://covid19criticalcare.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/FLCCC-Ivermectin-in-the-prophylaxis-and-treatment-of-COVID-19.pdf.

Source: https://ivmmeta.com

The BIRD meta-analysis by Dr. Tess Lawrie has already been sent for urgent action to the World Health Organization. 

Ivermectin is a cheap, safe and efficacious drug against COVID-19. It is our obligation as ethical and responsible doctors and citizens to urgently and highly recommend its use considering the on-going pandemic. The Philippines with its scarce supply of vaccines cannot just sit around waiting while our countrymen continue to suffer the various consequences of this crisis.
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The statement was principally written by Dr. Benigno "Iggy" Agbayani, President of CDC Ph. You may find forwards/shares of that statement but with altered and distorted sentences, ignore them. Additional discussions from the above links:

(1) Dr Andrew Hill + 29 authors from UK, France, India, Egypt,...,
"Preliminary meta-analysis of randomized trials of ivermectin to treat SARSCoV-2 infection" (37 pages) https://assets.researchsquare.com/files/rs-148845/v1_stamped.pdf

"Results: ... In six RCTs of moderate or severe infection, there was a 75% reduction in mortality (Relative Risk=0.25 [95%CI 0.12-0.52]; p=0.0002); 14/650 (2.1%) deaths on ivermectin; 57/597 (9.5%) deaths in controls) with favorable clinical recovery and reduced hospitalization."


(2) Dr. Pierre Kory + 9 authors from US, UK, Norway,...,
"Review of the Emerging Evidence Demonstrating the Efficacy of Ivermectin in the Prophylaxis and Treatment of COVID-19" (30 pages),
https://covid19criticalcare.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/FLCCC-Ivermectin-in-the-prophylaxis-and-treatment-of-COVID-19.pdf


"In summary, based on the existing and cumulative body of evidence, we recommend the use of ivermectin in both prophylaxis and treatment for COVID-19. In the presence of a global COVID-19 surge, the widespread use of this safe, inexpensive, and effective intervention would lead to a drastic reduction in transmission rates and the morbidity and mortality in mild, moderate, and even severe disease phases."

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Mining 60, High metal prices -- cobalt, lithium, copper, tin,...

I just checked these commodities and they have experienced significant price uptick this year.

Cobalt, Lithium, Copper:


Iron ore, Steel bar, Tin:


Aluminum, Rhodium, Neodymium:

https://tradingeconomics.com/commodities

I have not yet checked the reasons why.
Could be the huge amount of cash and money printing by governments around the world, people anticipate hyperinflation soon, they put their savings in these commodities?
---------------

See also:

Sunday, March 14, 2021

BWorld 478, Power demand contraction and natural gas cronyism

* My column in BusinessWorld, March 9, 2021.

Based on average power demand in the Luzon-Visayas grids for January and February, the Philippines’ first quarter 2021 GDP seems to point to a -5% contraction with a -6.7% power demand contraction in January and a -4.8% contraction in February.

Data from the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP) further shows that electricity prices at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, the customer effective spot settlement price (ESSP) and load-weighted average price (LWAP) remain low in January and February, reflecting low demand relative to supply (see Table 1).

The indefinite lockdown policy of the government, turning exactly one year this coming March 15, remains the single biggest source of business uncertainties and economic contraction.

Last week, a Congress bill was discussed and reported in BusinessWorld, “House committee approves downstream natural gas bill” (March 3). It says that “the committee approved the draft substitute bill replacing House Bill No. 3031 or the proposed Downstream Natural Gas Industry Development Act.”

I checked the substitute bill and these three sections are highly suspicious:

“Sec. 38. Natural gas Share in the Philippine Energy Plan… required share of natural gas, in the form of a fuel mix, portfolio standard, and/or some other policy… be fully implemented.”

“Sec. 39. Off-take Support and Security… required to underpin investments in PDNGI shall be adopted.”

“Sec. 40. Capacity and Reserve Markets…. leverage reserve capacities of natural gas-fueled power generating plants… shall be established.”

Sec. 38 is about mandatory minimum share of natgas, Sec. 39 is about mandatory take or pay of natgas, and Sec. 40 is about mandatory reserve capacities of natgas. These are favoritism and cronyism for gas companies — horrible.

Three and a half years ago, this column (“Cronyism in Renewable energy, gas sectors?,” Sept. 7, 2017, https://www.bworldonline.com/cronyism-renewable-energy-gas-sectors/) wrote about the lecture in UPSE of FirstGen President and COO Giles Puno, where he lobbied for LNG — “1.) Holistic and defined energy mix, 2.) fiscal and non-fiscal policies, 3.) Secure LNG Off-take, similar to how Malampaya was underpinned.”

These three points are about the same as Sections 38, 39, and 40 of the Substitute bill — wow.

In a Viber interview with Lawrence Fernandez, Meralco Vice-President and Head of Utility Economics, he made an interesting observation that “Electricity consumers have been saddled for years by various subsidies and mandates to support (a.) renewable energy (RE) via Feed-in Tariff Allowance (FIT-All) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), b.) remote area electrification via Universal Charge Missionary Electrification (UCME), c.) off-grid RE development via RE Cash Incentive, and, d.) Malampaya gas via take-or-pay provision.”

These endless attacks to ease out or kill coal power in the Philippines and replace it with more intermittent RE and natgas which is also fossil fuel, are inconsistent with global energy realities.

Many countries are able to sustain their development needs and fast growth by relying on cheap, stable coal energy. Examples are China, India, South Africa, South Korea, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Turkey, Taiwan, Vietnam, Poland, and the Philippines. The rich countries that developed fast many decades ago did so by relying on cheap, stable coal energy. Examples of these as of 1985 are the US, Germany, the UK and Spain (see Table 2).

China, India and Indonesia, which constitute 48% or nearly half of the total world population, were 63%-73% coal-dependent in 2019. Among rich countries in 2019, Taiwan, South Korea and Australia were 41%-56% coal dependent. And the much richer US, Japan, and Germany were 24%-32% coal dependent.

If gas power is given priority or mandatory dispatch to the grid, there is little or zero incentive for the gas companies to bring down their prices and thus, ignore two important rules: the “least cost” mandate of distribution utilities (DUs) provision of the EPIRA law of 2001 (RA 9136), and Competitive Selection Process (CSP). The end result is more expensive electricity for consumers.

The Department of Energy, Energy Regulatory Commission, Philippine Competition Commission, and business organizations should warn Congress of the dangers to energy consumers and businesses when natgas cronyism becomes a law.
-----------------

See also:
BWorld 475, Mobility control, growth control, price control, February 22, 2021 
BWorld 476, Energy Trilemma and high mandatory RE, March 01, 2021 
BWorld 477, Global economic impact of lockdowns, March 09, 2021.

Tax Cut 33, WTA meeting and Asia tax competition

Last month, the World Taxpayers Association (WTA) held its first regional forum for the two continents this year. I was one of the brief speakers for country updates, I made this presentation.  



I was not able to show this data in my presentation, I didn't see the updated numbers for 2020 earlier. But it's a warning sign how the deficit and borrowings/financing for 2020 alone would require high taxes, fees, penalties, that will be invented by the PH government soon.


I add these figures, personal income tax rates, ASEAN 5. I did not include Singapore, it has a flat 17% for many years now. 
 

I thank John O'Connell, Chair and President, WTA, and Chief Executive, TaxPayers' Alliance (UK), and Ms Cristina Berechet, Secretary General of WTA, for the regular invite. John was elected WTA President during the WTA meeting in Sydney, Australia in July 2019. He succeeded Troy Lanigan as WTA President. Troy is also the President of Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

BWorld 477, Global economic impact of lockdowns

* My article in BusinessWorld, March 2, 2021.

To make an assessment of the global economic impact of lockdowns, I surveyed the gross domestic product (GDP) performance in 2020 of the top 40 largest economies in the world — in 2019, No. 1 was the US with $21.43 trillion; No. 2 China, $14.73 trillion; No. 3 Japan, $5.08 trillion… No. 34 Philippines, $377 billion; and, No. 40 Vietnam, $330 billion. As of this writing, 31 countries have reported their Q4 GDP and hence, have full 2020 data, the other nine have data until Q3 only and I did not include them in this review.

PHILIPPINES ECONOMIC MELTDOWN 2020

Two important results emerged: one, when it comes to 2020 GDP performance, the Philippines was the third worst performing country in the world, and was the worst performing among major Asian economies. And, two, in terms of the growth dive from 2019 to 2020, the Philippines had the worst dive, -15.5 percentage points.

The Department of Health-led Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the Office of the President (OP) should be ashamed, very ashamed, of their strict and indefinite lockdown policies.

Why the lockdown policies and not the virus effect itself?

The Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports (GCCMR) measures the mobility changes of people and goods from the baseline, the median value from the five week period from Jan. 3 to Feb. 6, 2020.

I chose the areas on Retail and Recreation (R&R — restaurants, cafes, malls, museums, cinemas) and Transit stations (TS — subway/MRT stations, seaport, taxi stand, highway rest stops, car rentals) because they capture major commercial activities and mobility (or lack of it) of goods and people.

For dates and periods, I chose April 1 to June 30, 2020, a time where about half of the 40 economies had double-digit contractions in Q2. Then I compare this with the period from Dec. 1, 2020 to Feb. 23, 2021 (the latest data covered by GCCMR as of this writing).

STRICT LOCKDOWN POLICIES

It is very clear: the Philippines had such a deep economic contraction because the Philippine government had among the worst, most draconian lockdown policies, especially in R&R and Transit Stations, shown in Q2 2020.

In contrast, Vietnam and Taiwan, which managed to have growth in 2020, have mobility declines that are about 1/8 to 1/4 of the Philippines’ in Q2 of 2020. South Korea, which contracted only -1% in 2020, had mobility declines of only about 1⁄10 of the Philippines.

By December 2020 to February 2021, the Philippines had mobility declines that are two to four times those of its neighbors Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan (see Table).

China has no data, meaning it disallowed Google from collecting data on mobility changes, likely because their narrative of “low COVID deaths, high growth recovery” will be debunked and belied and will show them as dishonest again.

In a lecture, “Philippines and Vietnam: Through the eyes of foreign investor,” at the UP School of Economics Alumni Association (UPSEAA) on Feb. 24, fellow BusinessWorld columnist Andrew Masigan highlighted the fact, among many other things, that Vietnam has overtaken the Philippines in per capita GDP in 2020 — $3,500 vs. our $3,373 — largely because they grew while we contracted last year.

SEC KARL, GOV GWEN, SP TITO, CDC PH

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Karl Chua gets my respect and admiration for his bravery and persistence in saying that the government should further open up the economy, at least move from general community quarantine (GCQ) to the less strict modified GCQ (MGCQ) by Q4 2020. He persisted in trying to convince his fellow Cabinet officials at the IATF to open up the economy by January, by February, by March. But the DoH-led IATF or OP are adamant in resisting the opening of the economy until mass vaccination is done.

Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia is another government leader that I respect and admire. Gov. Garcia has repeatedly argued that she will never impose a strict lockdown in the province again and she recently issued an order removing the mandatory swab test for Cebu-bound plane passengers.

Senate President Tito Sotto delivered a powerful speech two weeks ago, Feb. 22, at the Senate floor, proposing the use of preventive prophylaxis and early-treatment medicines to avoid hospitalization and deaths of symptomatic COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) patients.

That afternoon, the Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDC PH) led by Dr. Iggy Agbayani and Dr. Allan Landrito held a face-to-face meeting with Gov. Garcia at the Cebu Provincial Capitol. Another set of CDC PH people led by Dr. Homer Lim and Dr. Randy Nicolas had a Zoom meeting with Senator Sotto. A few hours after the meeting, Senator Sotto delivered his speech at the Senate plenary and narrated the information he got from CDC PH doctors.

Greater economic freedom, greater mobility of people and goods across the country, lifting the strict lockdown, is the single most important measure to reverse the Philippines’ economic meltdown last year. The use of preventive prophylaxis and early treatment protocols, cheap and generic medicines, will significantly reduce cases and deaths, with or without the vaccines.
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See also:
BWorld 474, No to indefinite electricity subsidies, February 13, 2021 
BWorld 475, Mobility control, growth control, price control, February 22, 2021 
BWorld 476, Energy Trilemma and high mandatory RE, March 01, 2021.

Energy 141, Carbon-methane-nitrogen tax, environmental damage of RE

Biden administration has proposed carbon-related taxes. At 3% discount rate, the tax rates would be:

1. CO2 tax, $51/ton, going to $85/ton by 2050.

2. CH4 (methane) tax, $1,500/ton, going to $3,100/ton by 2050.

3. N2O (nitrous oxide) tax, $18,000/ton, going to $33,000/ton by 2050.

$51 / ton: Biden Restores the Obama “Social Cost of Carbon”
Eric Worrall, January 31, 2021 
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/02/27/51-ton-biden-restores-obama-social-cost-of-carbon/

Biden hikes cost of carbon, easing path for new climate rules
By LORRAINE WOELLERT and ZACK COLMAN
02/26/2021 04:57 PM EST 
https://www.politico.com/news/2021/02/26/biden-carbon-price-climate-change-471787

Technical Support Document: Social Cost of Carbon, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide Interim Estimates under Executive Order 13990
February 2021 (48 pages)
https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/TechnicalSupportDocument_SocialCostofCarbonMethaneNitrousOxide.pdf

My comments:

1. Social benefit of carbon (SBC), more CO2 more plant growth, more trees regenerating and expanding on their own. Biden and team, UN, etc do not consider it. See this, 

NASA Vegetation Index: Globe Continues Rapid Greening Trend, Sahara Alone Shrinks 700,000 Sq Km!
By P Gosselin on 24. February 2021
https://notrickszone.com/2021/02/24/nasa-vegetation-index-globe-continues-rapid-greening-trend-sahara-alone-shrinks-700000-sq-km/

2. Natural gas (that emits CH4) is the main energy source of the US. For electricity, heating, cooking.

3. Nitrate fertilizer (that emits N2O) is used by farmers to expand human food production (corn, wheat, soybeans,...) and animal feeds (for poultry, swine, beef,...) 

Raising fertilizer cost (to save the planet) would mean less fertilizer use by farmers, less food production, courting global hunger. Then they will blame "man-made" CC and Gorebal warming for reduced food production.

See other stories:

China turns the screws on ‘unreliables’
Bloomberg, 3 March 2021 
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-03/china-turns-the-screws-on-renewables-just-when-it-needs-them

A 600% rise in carbon prices needed to meet Paris Agreement
Bloomberg, 4 March 2021 
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-04/a-600-gain-in-carbon-prices-vital-to-keep-global-warming-at-bay 
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At our UPSEAA Viber group, one discussion topic last week was about RE and CC. A fellow school alumnus, young and recent school graduate, Rafael Mirafuente, joined the discussion. Posting this with his permission.

March 6, 2021

RM: renewable energy does have an environmental impact. if you only measure emissions, then sure these sources seem better, but they have other costs that we don't take into consideration. let me share an example. solar panels are made from high-grade silicon, which is mined from quartz (environmental impact from mining). it's not from sand that you can get from the desert. you also need to melt this stuff at extremely high temperatures, consuming coal in the process. and because the lifespan of solar cells are 20-30 years, it's not like this is a 1-time cost but rather a continuous process. we're still consuming fossil fuels just the same, only we've added extra steps. it's hardly a sustainable source of renewable energy. not to mention, solar farms have a local ecological impact because of the land that needs to be cleared to set them up.

True. When solar lobby and propagandists say that "solar is green" energy, they are dishonest. Solar is the most anti-green of all energy sources. Solar hates shade -- from clouds, rains, and tall trees. So in ALL solar farms, ALL trees nearby are murdered and when they naturally regenerate, they are murdered again. See this solar farm by Solar Philippines (owned by Leandro Leviste, son of greenie legislator Loren Legarda) in Batangas.

Solar to "save the planet" -- all about lies and propaganda. And big money.

Another fiction peddled by climate alarmism is that "Wind power is green." See this Nabas wind farm in Aklan by Petrowind. If you are flying to Caticlan, or already in Boracay, you can see these wind towers from a distance. To build these huge wind towers, developer flattened mountain tops and ridges, huge bulldozers and backhoes used. ALL trees along the way are murdered. If they regenerate and regrow, they are murdered again. Roads should be wide so that long 18-wheeler trucks could climb up those mountains to deliver long wind blades, many long steel bars, thousands cement bags, etc.

Wind power to "save the planet" -- also lies and propaganda. And big money.


RM: wind turbines have a life span of only 20 years. we burn a lot of fossil fuels in the process of melting the metals down to manufacture these things. it will be nonstop replacement of these machines. again, hardly renewable. most criticism of renewable energy is on its inconsistent energy production but actually, its environmental impact is a huge con as well.

 In addition, those huge wind towers can collapse, get burned and burn structures below them. That is why in most if not all wind farms, there are zero house, zero hotel, zero manufacturing plant, etc. If you have wide wind farms, you have wide zero econ activity around them.


RM: also, these large wind turbines spend a lot of energy "chasing" the wind - that is reorienting itself to face the direction of the wind. and because the wind changes direction frequently, they're constantly chasing them. Helical-shaped turbines solve this problem by operating regardless of wind direction. I think wind turbines are better suited as a local power source, and not as a grid-wide supply. think things like water pumps, or path lights, or to power public toilets in parks

CO2 is a useful gas -- the gas that we humans and animals exhale, the gas that plants and trees use to produce their own food via photosynthesis. We should have more fossil fuel energy. Coal, gas, oil for peaking plants. Nuke power is also good.

Big hydro also good. we need many huge dams to store lots of flood water yearly. In the tropics, our main problem yearly is not lack of water but too much water, too much flood, yearly. Water storage via many dams, then use the water to generate electricity, is nice.

"RE to save the planet" is fiction, a lie. More wide solar-wind farms would mean killing more trees, displacing crops in land use. More CO2 actually leads to more greening of the planet, NASA data 30 years.

NASA Vegetation Index: Globe Continues Rapid Greening Trend, Sahara Alone Shrinks 700,000 Sq Km!
By P Gosselin on 24. February 2021 
https://notrickszone.com/2021/02/24/nasa-vegetation-index-globe-continues-rapid-greening-trend-sahara-alone-shrinks-700000-sq-km/

Fortunate Global Greening
Posted by Zoe Phin   February 16, 2021 
https://phzoe.com/2021/02/16/fortunate-global-greening/ 
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See also:
Energy 138, China coal and Europe near blackout, February 01, 2021 
Energy 139, Immediate impact of Biden policies vs fracking, killing Keystone pipeline, February 09, 2021 
Energy 140, Texas blackouts, wind turbines frozen, February 21, 2021.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Agri Econ 33, High poultry, beef, corn prices

Global food price inflation esp poultry/chicken and beef. Why? Because many chickens and cows also got Covid, they also need vax to protect their high global supply?

https://tradingeconomics.com/commodities

One proximate reason is because corn -- main ingredient for poultry, beef, swine feed -- prices are back at high prices. No corn price spike last 2 years of Obama and full 4 years of Trump. Price hikes started when Biden was coming to the WH. Maybe because of his promise to cut US oil gas production to "save the planet", in the process shift to more biofuels, corn being used to feed cars, not people or farm animals.


China demand is only one of many factors. Like (a) high oil prices since Biden was elected, his campaign promise of cancel fracking in federal lands has cut US oil output; so (b) demand for biofuel rises, demand for corn in US alone rises. (c) not only cars, soon even planes will use biofuels, starting with US airlines.

Airline Execs Discuss Biofuel with Biden
Eric Worrall  March 1, 2021 
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/02/28/airline-execs-discuss-biofuel-with-biden/

Airline CEOs, Biden officials consider green-fuel breaks
By DAVID KOENIG  February 27, 2021

An FT article made good points and has good data, high China demand for corn.

China’s record corn purchases have traders wondering if bump can last 
Prices surge to near eight-year high as demand from Beijing fuels grain market rally
Emiko Terazono in London and Sun Yu in Beijing FEBRUARY 12 2021 
https://www.ft.com/content/94b04a3e-6169-4b07-8218-413138c641a1

Oil prices started rising when Biden-Dems and their "cancel fracking" policy would be in place. Biofuels are substitute for refined oil.

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Monday, March 01, 2021

Covid 25, WEF celebrated global lockdowns

The WEF clearly showed its authoritarian dreams when it tweeted and announced its celebration of global lockdowns.

World Economic Forum Says ‘Lockdowns Are Quietly Improving Cities Around The World’ 
MICHAEL GINSBERG   February 26, 2021 
https://dailycaller.com/2021/02/26/world-economic-forum-lockdowns-are-quietly-improving-cities-world/

The World Economic Forum: ‘lockdowns are improving cities around the world’
James Macpherson   28 February 2021 
https://www.spectator.com.au/2021/02/the-world-economic-forum-lockdowns-are-improving-cities-around-the-world/

The YT clip where WEF declared "Lockdowns are quietly improving cities around the world",
Feb 28, 2021 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WURkmUR7Bfg

When WEF was slammed by many people in TW, they changed tune and posted,
"Lockdowns aren’t “quietly improving cities” around the world. But they are an important part of the public health response to COVID-19." 

Propaganda Crash: World Economic Forum Tweets "Lockdowns Improving Cities", Then Deletes Admitting It Was Wrong 
Tyler Durden   SATURDAY, FEB 27, 2021 - 18:16 
https://www.zerohedge.com/economics/propaganda-crash-world-economic-forum-tweets-lockdowns-improving-cities-then-deletes.

Yesterday, I tweeted this:

The "Lockdowns are quietly improving cities around the world," later "Lockdowns are an important part of the public health response to COVID-19" still around? hahaha. Hundreds millions impoverished by lockdowns, WEF praises the measure. Tone deaf insensitive authoritarians

WEF. World economic fascism.

Meanwhile, I was the lone reactor in a forum last January with these speakers. I show only one slide reaction per speaker here.




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See also:
Covid 22, Deaths from vax, Studies on lockdowns don't work, January 17, 2021 
Covid 23, Lockdown and travel restriction story, Manila to Mindoro, February 04, 202
Covid 24, Lockdown damages in the Philippines, February 09, 2021.