Wednesday, January 31, 2024

My interviews in BusinessWorld this January

(1) DoE eyes implementation of higher biodiesel blend in July
Sheldeen Joy Talavera  January 2, 2024 | 12:31 am

"Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr., president of Minimal Government Thinkers, said higher biodiesel blend could drive food prices up.

“Corn and other crops should feed people and animals, not cars. It will have an adverse impact on food prices and could worsen instead of mitigate high food inflation,” he said in a Viber message.

Both analysts said the higher biodiesel blend might not necessarily lead to lower local oil prices because these still depend on the global market.

“World oil prices fluctuate up and down, but biodiesel mandates are permanent, with permanent price distortions,” Mr. Oplas said."

(2) Market for AS power enters pilot operations
Sheldeen Joy Talavera January 3, 2024 | 8:25 pm

"...Asked to comment, Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr., president of Minimal Government Thinkers said that the reserve market will expand power supply by encouraging generation companies (gencos) to build more power plants.

“Most of new generation capacity will be contracted by DUs (distribution utilities), RES (retail electricity suppliers) and ECs (electric cooperatives). But some generation capacity will be for reserves by the system operator or embedded with DUs themselves,” Mr. Oplas said in a Viber message.

“The market for new capacity has expanded so more gencos will be encouraged to put up more new power plants,” he added."

(3) Analysts laud Maharlika plan to invest in NGCP
Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson and Jomel R. Paguian
January 8, 2024 | 8:42 pm

"...It has been 15 years since NGCP got its franchise “and power deficiency problems still occur partly or largely due to transmission problems,” Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr., president of think tank Minimal Government Thinkers, said in a Viber message.

“The MIC has political muscle and government signature that can match the political clout and muscle of NGCP being the only remaining private monopoly nationwide and has China government clout,” he said.

He added that removing the influence of China’s state-owned power company from NGCP is needed now more than ever amid souring Philippine relations with its neighbor over their South China Sea dispute."

(4) DoE plan must elevate energy security to top priority item, think tank says
John Victor D. Ordoñez January 7, 2024 | 7:40 pm

"THE Department of Energy (DoE) should designate energy security as its main focus when it submits the Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) to Congress, according to a think tank.

“From power generation to transmission to distribution and supply, they all should harmonize into one goal — energy security,” Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr., president of the free market think tank Minimal Government Thinkers, said in a Viber message....

Mr. Oplas said the DoE must ensure enough power is available to consumers to dispel worries of blackouts, especially after recent power outages in Panay.

“The DoE must consider power price fluctuations, surges and dips,” he said. “Which means the DoE should remain agnostic about where the energy comes from.”

(5) Meralco sees slight increase in generation charge for January
Sheldeen Joy Talavera January 9, 2024 | 12:05 am

"... Meanwhile, Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr., president of Minimal Government Thinkers, expects a slight decrease due to lower coal prices in December-January and a lower Dubai crude price, to which the Malampaya gas price is pegged.

“But Meralco noted higher plant outage in WESM, so this may cancel out any potential price decrease,” he said in a Viber message.

Mr. Oplas said that he expects power rates to drop in the first quarter despite the onset of El Niño and upcoming dry months.

“This will affect and reduce hydro output, raise power demand, but since this is a mild El Niño, at least in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces, power demand will not rise as projected by alarmist models and scenarios,” he said."

(6) PHL-Indonesia deal may cushion coal, gas shocks
Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza January 10, 2024 | 8:42 pm

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr., president of think tank Minimal Government Thinkers, noted that sharing of knowledge and technology in gas exploration and development between the two countries could be leveraged into a long-term partnership.

“Indonesia is not so much a gas exporter, Brunei is. But it’s good to mention that in the MoU because Indonesia’s gas potential reserves may not have been tapped yet; neither have those of the Philippines’,” he said in a Viber message.

Mr. Oplas said the deal also signals the continuation of the Philippines’ reliance on coal, which he said will remain a significant source of energy for many countries “because it’s abundant, cheap and easy to transport and store, and can provide dependable, reliable, 24/7 electricity except during maintenance shutdowns.”

“The so-called transition away from coal did not happen in Germany, did not happen in many other ‘decarbonizing’ countries,” he said, noting that coal accounted for 62% of Indonesia’s electricity generation in 2022.

Indonesia is a major coal exporter and the Philippines generated about 60% of total electricity from coal-fired plants in 2022 and 2023, he said.

(7) Regulator lifts suspension of the FIT-All collection
By Sheldeen Joy Talavera, January 19, 2024 | 12:32 am

"Sought for comment, Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr., president of Minimal Government Thinkers, said that the resumption of FIT-All collection may lead to a slight increase in the cost of electricity, which may result in higher monthly power bills.

“This will raise the cost of electricity by 3.64 centavos/kWh, round off to four centavos/kWh starting February billing,” he said in a Viber message...

Households consuming 200 kWh may pay about P7.28 more, Mr. Oplas said, including value-added tax."

(8) ‘No-new-taxes’ pledge highlights balancing act between taxpayer relief, hitting revenue goals
January 28, 2024 | 8:41 pm
By Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson

“No new or additional tax this year is a brilliant move,”  Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr., president of a research consultancy and of the Minimal Government Thinkers think tank, said in a Viber message, noting that tax hikes have short- to long-term inflationary impact.

Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto has said he does not plan to introduce any new taxes, citing the need to minimize inflation and improve tax administration.

“The focus on improving tax administration is also good. High incidence of smuggling and illicit trade is a clear example of poor tax administration…so this is a good fiscal consolidation measure,” Mr. Oplas said.

(9) Renewables unlikely to top coal in PHL energy by 2025 — analysts
January 29, 2024 | 12:08 am
By Sheldeen Joy Talavera

“Intermittent wind-solar cannot and will not be able to replace or substitute coal generation unless we embrace and endure large-scale daily blackout,” Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr., president of Minimal Government Thinkers, said in a Viber message last week....

Citing data from the Department of Energy (DoE), Mr. Oplas said that the combined power generation of wind and solar was 2,582 gigawatt-hours (GWh) or 2.6% of the total generation of 111,516 GWh in 2022, while coal accounted for 66,430 GWh or 57.7% of the total.

Mr. Oplas also noted the need for a significant addition to renewable capacity to meet economic growth and avoid frequent blackouts.

“Challenges to renewables especially intermittent wind-solar is that the Philippines is growing fast economically… We need at least 7-8 TWh (terawatt-hours)/year addition in 2024-2026… otherwise we cannot grow (GDP) 6% or more yearly as we will have frequent rotational blackout as demand keeps rising and supply is not catching up,” Mr. Oplas said.

(10) Storage, transportation named focus areas for hydrogen dev’t
January 30, 2024 | 10:02 pm
By Sheldeen Joy Talavera

"Asked to comment, Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr., president of Minimal Government Thinkers, said that hydrogen as an energy source is “still very immature” and can be “costly and risky.”

“So we should not hurry going there, let the industrialized, technology-advanced countries start it first on a large scale before the Philippines and other developing countries adopt it,” he said in a Viber message.

Compared to hydrogen, Mr. Oplas said there are “very mature sources” such as nuclear, coal, natural gas, oil plants, and hydro power.

“Humanity has been using these for many years, their risks have been mapped and prepared for/anticipated.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

BWorld 674, Nuclear energy and the UPSE RPA-PDEAA lecture

Nuclear energy and the UPSE RPA-PDEAA lecture
January 18, 2024 | 12:02 am

My Cup Of Liberty
By Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr.

Among the important developments in global energy recently was not the “surging” prices of oil, natural gas, or coal, as there was none.

From end-December 2022 to Jan. 16, 2024, these were the prices of oil, gas, and coal: WTI crude oil, $77/barrel to $72/barrel; US natural gas, $3.54/metric million British thermal unit (MMBtu) to $2.82/MMBtu; Coal (Newcastle) $390/ton to $129/ton. Meanwhile, the solar energy index was $331 to $233, the wind energy index was $299 to $276, and the EU carbon permits were $90/ton to $68/ton.

In contrast, over the same period the price of uranium went from $48.84/pound (lb) to $92.5/lb, and the nuclear energy index rose from $1,462 to $2,148. Almost double in price in less than 13 months.

So, fossil fuel prices are down — good. Financial returns on wind, solar, and the penalization of carbon emissions are down — good too. Meanwhile the prices of nuclear energy are rising. This implies that as countries and companies “transition” away from fossil fuels and “decarbonize,” they do not go towards more wind and solar. Rather, they go towards nuclear energy.


I checked the nuclear energy use of countries from 1985 to 2022 and their economic growth during the same period. I grouped them into three: in Group A are the G7 countries (except Italy which has no nuclear energy), in Group B are other European countries, and in Group C are Asian countries.

The G7 countries have either plateaued or decreased their electricity generation from nuclear (which is very high energy density, cheap, stable, and reliable) and they experienced low or declining growth. Most notable are Japan, Germany, and United Kingdom. France remains the most nuclear-intensive country in the world.

Group B countries show a mixed trend, with Russia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary exhibiting a rising trend in their nuclear/total generation ratio. Russia and Hungary have recovered from deep economic contractions in the early 1990s. The other Europeans have either plateaued their nuclear/total generation ratios or have seen it decline like Sweden and Belgium — which are still at high levels of 30% and 46% respectively in 2022.

Group C also exhibited a mixed trend. China, India, and Pakistan are newbies in nuclear energy, and they are just ramping up, which should have helped them keep their high average growth of 4% to 6.6% from 2011-2022. South Korea and Taiwan started using nuclear energy early, but Taiwan “denuclearized” fast as they shifted to more natural gas. South Korea and Taiwan have had slow growth in the past decade (see the table).

I added in the table the hypothetical contribution of the Philippines’ Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) with 620 MW in installed capacity. If the average capacity factor was 85%, then its dependable capacity would have been 527 MW. So, in one day, or 24 hours, it could generate 12,648 megawatt-hours (MWH) of electricity; in one year, 4.62 million MWH or 4.62 TWH. If the BNPP had been allowed to operate in 1985, it could have contributed or added 20% to the total power generation in 1985, and 4% in 2022.


The UP School of Economics (UPSE) Program in Development Economics Alumni Association (PDEAA) in partnership with the Philippine Center for Economic Development (PCED) will hold the second Ruperto P. Alonzo (RPA) annual lecture on the theme, “The Nuclear Option and Economic Growth” on Feb. 8, 3 p.m. at the UPSE in Diliman, Quezon City.

The main speaker will be Department of Energy (DoE) Undersecretary Sharon S. Garin and the discussants will be Irma Exconde (PDE Batch 37 and DoE Director), yours truly (PDE Batch 33), an anti-nuke group Asian Peoples’ Movement for debt and development, and, possibly, Dr. Caloy Arcilla of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI).

Prof. Ruperto “Ruping” Alonzo was a well-loved faculty member of UPSE for 45 years (1968-2013) and was named Professor Emeritus in 2016. He was the Director for PDE for many years, was UP Vice-President for Development (2005-2009), Director of the Institute for Small Scale Industries (2004-2009) and was Deputy Director-General of National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA, 1998-2001). He passed away in 2017.

The first RPA lecture was held on Feb. 8, 2023 at UPSE on the subject of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and the speaker was Cynthia Hernandez, Executive Director of the PPP Center and also from PDE Batch 33.

The PDEAA is happy to get the corporate sponsorships of Aboitiz Power (AP), Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), and Robinsons Retail Holdings.

So far only two energy companies have expressed explicit plans to develop nuclear power in the country, AP and Meralco/MGen — great guys. The two companies have both power generation and distribution businesses. For now, they are expanding their renewable energy (RE) generation because the RE law of 2008 (RA 9513) mandates the renewable portfolio standards (RPS). But RE, especially wind-solar, have very low energy density and low-capacity factors and hence have low actual power generation despite high installed capacity.

As the insane “decarbonization” policies continue worldwide, energy companies must develop nuclear power to prevent the country from going down the road of deindustrialization and degrowth brought about by more RE.

Robinsons Retail Holdings is a big energy consumer because of their wide-ranging business units — department stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, DIY and hardware stores, appliance and electronics, toys, etc. Cheap, stable and reliable, no-blackout energy sources, regardless of the weather, will help them provide more convenience and affordable prices for their customers.

Proceeds of the corporate sponsorships will go to the planned PDEAA room at the expanded UPSE building. The 2nd RPA lecture is open to the public and media, with no registration fee, both onsite and online.

See also:
BWorld 671, Top 10 proposals to have blackout-free Philippines, January 13, 2024
BWorld 672, Stabilizing growth with low unemployment and high manufacturing PMI, January 14, 2024
BWorld 673, Revenue challenges faced by new Finance chief, January 18, 2024.

PhilStar 4, What to expect from Sec. Ralph Recto leadership at DOF

What to expect from Sec. Ralph Recto leadership at DOF

Bienvenido Oplas Jr. - The Philippine Star
January 16, 2024 | 12:00am

Former senator, former NEDA Secretary, congressman, and deputy speaker until this week, and now Secretary of the Department of Finance (DOF), Ralph Recto has a colorful and multiple experience in both the Legislative and Executive branches of the government.

That wealth of wisdom, political, and business network will help him push for more hard, but necessary economic and fiscal reforms to achieve two important goals: reduce the huge public debt and sustain fast economic growth so that our public debt/GDP ratio will decline and more resources will be devoted to public infrastructure and social development.

His predecessor, former DBM Secretary twice, former BSP Governor, and immediate past DOF Secretary, Benjamin Diokno has led the economic team in steering the country to have the third fastest GDP growth at 5.6 percent in the first to third quarter of 2023 among the world’s top 40 largest economies. Great job, Mr. Diokno.

After reviewing some macroeconomic and fiscal conditions of the country and the congressional bills he filed, here is my list of what the public can expect from Secretary Recto at the DOF.

One, vigorous campaign to raise overall revenues from many sources, reduce annual financing or borrowing from P2+ trillion/year average for the past four years 2022-2023, back to below P1 trillion/year by 2028. Big challenge for the Secretary there.

Two, sustain GDP growth at 6.5 percent to eigth percent yearly from 2024 to 2028, significantly raise the denominator, GDP size, so that the debt/GDP ratio can decline to possibly 40 percent or lower.

The reason for these twin challenge is shown in the numbers below. The Philippines’ public debt has significantly increased from $139 billion in 2019 to $187 billion in 2020, up to $224.6 billion in 2021 and $232.5 B in 2022. Our public debt/GDP ratio has jumped big time from 37 percent in 2019 to 52 percent in 2020, and 57 percent in 2022.

People may argue that a debt/GDP ratio of 60 percent is no big deal because Japan and Singapore have a ratio of 260 percent and 168 percent and they are not in any “fiscal crisis” whatsoever. True, but the bulk of their debt is domestic, to their own citizens and lenders, and growth deceleration if not contraction is on their doorstep already. Our 57 percent ratio covers only actual debt and do not include contingent liabilities. Yet we have a high external debt and subject to foreign exchange risks. We have high interest rates like government bond 10-years at seven percent versus one percent in Japan and three percent in Singapore, among other factors.

Three, implement efficiently four new revenue and public finance laws that Diokno had helped shepherd in Congress, and then as congressman Recto had helped as deputy speaker.

The PPP Code and MIF Act will help reduce public spending in big infrastructure because private funding both domestic and foreign will fill the gap. The EOPT Act and AICLGU Act will help expand the revenue base and raise overall collections.

Four, pursue and push in Congress the seven priority revenue measures initiated by  Diokno: Comprehensive Tax Reform Package (CTRP) Package 3: Real Property Valuation Reform Act (RPVAR), CTRP Package 4: Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act (PIFITA), VAT on Digital Service Providers (DSP), Motor Vehicle Road User’s Tax (MVRUT), Excise tax on Single-use Plastics, Junk Food and Sweetened Beverages Tax, and the Mining Fiscal Regime. Plus the Taxpayers Bill of Rights and Obligation (TBORO).

Five, work with the DBM and Congress to push reforms to control huge rise in spending. At least three bills: the Military and Uniformed Personnel (MUP) pension reform, the National Government Rightsizing Program (NGRP), and government procurement reforms.

DBM Secretary Amenah Pangandaman will definitely be able to work harmoniously with Sec. Recto because of her multiple experience in Legislative and Executive branches, as former chief of staff of former Senate President Edgardo Angara, then Sen. Loren Legarda, and as DBM undersecretary and BSP assistant governor. The NGRP, MUP pension reform, public procurement reforms, open government partnership, digitalization of government transactions are among her important advocacies.

Six, Sec. Recto is expected to help broaden the tax base. Among the tax amnesty and exemption bills he filed as a congressman were: Tax amnesty for taxable year 2021 and prior years, Extending the coverage and availment period of estate tax amnesty, tax exemption on the sale of real property in the exercise of state’s power of eminent domain from payment of capital gains and documentary stamp tax, estate tax exemption on agricultural lands awarded under CARP law, tax exemptions for local film and music industries, and a VAT refund mechanism for non-resident tourists.

Seven, Sec. Recto will push for lowering the cost of electricity by exempting the system loss charge from VAT, lowering the cost of electricity in special economic zones (SEZs) and freeport zones.

Eight, he will go for some privatization measures to raise government revenues. Among the bills he filed were: creating mechanisms for the disposition of government assets to help fund MUP pension, creating the Philippines amusement and gaming commission (PAGCOM) when PAGCOR privatization has materialized.

Nine, mandate the annual public disclosure of all contingent liabilities incurred by all national government agencies, LGUs, government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), government financial institutions (GFIs), other government instrumentalities, contingent liabilities from PPP projects. This will institutionalize fiscal discipline and enforce transparency and accountability on utilization of public funds.

And 10, a combination of economic liberalization and public subsidies, social safety net programs that will help both hard and soft infrastructure, and improve the investment attractiveness of the country.

Congratulations for a new, bigger challenge to help the President and the country move towards a wealthier, more prosperous future, Secretary Recto.

See also: 
PhilStar 3, On endless wars, endless welfare and public debt, Nov. 02, 2023

Thursday, January 18, 2024

BWorld 673, Revenue challenges faced by new Finance chief

Revenue challenges faced by new Finance chief
January 16, 2024 | 12:02 am

My Cup Of Liberty
By Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr.

HONG KONG — As my family’s belated vacation here is ending, I see that Hong Kong as a tourist and investment hub is back to where it was in 2019, or even better. The big crowds at Central, Tsim Shia Tsui, Mong Kok and other areas in Kowloon, the huge volume of passengers inside long trains, the huge construction projects at the airport, these are among the reasons why I say this.

Hong Kong’s extensive infrastructure — its smooth wide roads, its huge suspension bridges, tunnels, and flyovers, its subway train-walkway-shop complexes, its large modern airport, its huge, long seaports, its brightly lit roads and streets, etc. — they were all built with little public borrowing. Until 2019, its public debt to GDP ratio was only 0.3%. This went up to 4.2% in 2022 and is projected to reach 7% this year. In contrast, the Philippines had a debt/GDP ratio of 37% in 2019, and this increased to 57.7% between 2022 to 2024.

If the Philippines, or at least the Metro Manila-Cavite-Bulacan area, would strive to be at par with Hong Kong at the current pace of infrastructure development in the country, I think it would take us at least 40 years get to where Hong Kong’s infrastructure is now.

But if we get huge infrastructure financing (both public and private), and the various political hurdles and bureaucracies (both national and local) are removed, perhaps we will do it in 25-30 years. And this is the big challenge facing the new Secretary of the Department of Finance, Ralph G. Recto.

The previous Finance Secretary, Benjamin Diokno, as leader of the economic team, laid down a good foundation. The Philippines’ GDP growth was high at 7.6% in 2022, and 5.6% in Q1-Q3 2023 — the third highest among the world’s top 40 largest economies last year. Revenues overall have recovered even without any major tax hikes. Hats off to Sir Ben.

Here is the situation and the challenges the new secretary will face at the Department of Finance (DoF) in 10 points:

1. Expanding the tax base. Considering revenues were at P3.45 trillion in 2022 and are projected to be around P3.90 trillion in 2023, the target of at least P4.5 trillion this year should be attainable even without tax hikes because the recently enacted law Ease Of Paying Taxes (EOPT) Act (RA 11976, signed Jan. 5) should be able to expand the tax base. Other proposed revenue bills can help if they are enacted soon.

2. A busy BIR. The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in particular can target at least P3.3 trillion (about 67% of total revenues) this year as the EOPT law applies more to it than to the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and broadening of the tax base applies more to domestic than international business.

3. The need to control smuggling. The BoC may target collecting P1.8 trillion by significantly controlling smuggling and illicit trade. From the estimates Representative Joey Salceda gave last October, tobacco smuggling alone results in about P60 billion/year in revenue losses. The BoC plus other lead enforcement agencies like the Philippine National Police and the Coast Guard should work harder in controlling illicit trade because their annual budgets are huge and come from taxes, so they should strive to control tax leakage.

4. Keeping the budget deficit under control. In partnership with the Department of Budget and Management, the Finance department must control some spending so the budget deficit this year does not exceed P1.4 trillion and the deficit/GDP ratio is limited to 6.5% or lower.

5. Keeping a lid on borrowing. Financing or borrowings, which averaged P2.2 trillion/year from 2020-2022, should be controlled so as not to exceed P1.8 trillion this year. If revenues increase significantly and the deficit is controlled, the need for borrowing is reduced and interest payments will be reduced in the succeeding years.

Accompanying this column is a table featuring the actual numbers in cash operations from 2019 (pre-lockdown) to 2023 (post lockdown) and on which my proposals for fiscal targets in 2024 are based (see Table 1).

6. Lowering the debt/GDP ratio. The outstanding debt stock (excluding contingent liabilities) should peak this year at around P16.5 trillion, then plateau for a year or two, and begin to decline by 2027. We should strive to bring back 2019’s debt/GDP ratio of 40% by 2028, down from 61% in 2022.

7. Avoiding long-term loans. We should reduce long-term loans even if the interest rates are lower because they create a big moral hazards problem. Agencies contracting the long-term debt can afford to be wasteful because the ones that will pay these off will be two to four administrations (six to 20 years) away. In November 2023, long-term debt constituted 79% of the total outstanding debt, up from 76% in 2019. Leave long-term financing to PPP projects and Maharlika funding. The vetting process and financial discipline in private financing is more strict and less political than government and foreign aid/ODA funding.

8. Avoiding forex risks. There is also a need to reduce borrowings from commercial or debt securities, not only because of higher interest rates, but also due to rising forex risks as the US$ is under constant and rising threat of large-scale instability because of huge increases in US federal debt.

Accompanying this column is a table of the actual numbers in public debt and their distribution (see Table 2).

9. Controlling spending. The major spending control challenges must be addressed by the economic team as a whole. These include reforming the huge and ever-rising military and uniformed personnel (MUP) pension which may reach P200+ billion this year alone. Then there are the subsidies which seem to stretch forever, with no timetable — freebies should have a limit. And war-mongering lobbies that say that we should buy very costly jet fighters, battleships, submarines, and missiles should be kept at bay. Our priority should be more domestic infrastructure and more job creation here, not more war mongering on faraway shores.

10. Sustaining the high GDP growth target. We ought to keep a high GDP growth target of 6.5% to 8% yearly until 2028 and beyond. Our deficit/GDP ratio and public debt/GDP ratio can easily decline if the denominator, our GDP size, expands fast at sustained level.

Ralph Recto has the maturity and wisdom of a seasoned legislator and statesman (he has been a senator, a congressman, and secretary of the National Economic and Development Authority or NEDA). His overview of economics and politics has been sharpened by long years of government experience and he has an extensive network with the public, especially tax-paying entrepreneurs and investors.

I extend my congratulations to Mr. Recto for taking up the challenge. The best is yet to come, here’s to a wealthy and prosperous Philippines.

See also:
BWorld 670, Top 10 trends in global public debt in 2023, January 12, 2024 
BWorld 671, Top 10 proposals to have blackout-free Philippines, January 13, 2024
BWorld 672, Stabilizing growth with low unemployment and high manufacturing PMI, January 14, 2024.

Dr. Romy Quijano on vaccines, Part 7

Critique of Dr. Edsel Salvana’s presentation entitled ‘Excess deaths in 2021: A scientific explanation’ at the Committee of Public Order and Safety November 21, 2023

by Romeo F. Quijano, M.D.
December 1, 2023

IN this presentation, Dr. Salvana presented himself as the “Leader of the Technical Advisory Group of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management Emerging Infectious Diseases [IATF]; Director and Professor, Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, NIH, UP Manila; Professor of Medicine, UP Manila and Adjunct Professor for  Global Health, University of Pittsburg.”

At the end of his presentation, Dr. Salvana concluded that:

“1. Majority of the excess deaths in 2021 aside from Covid-19 is due to increased deaths due to chronic illnesses as a result of health system disruption (no clinic follow-up, outpatient services); trend started BEFORE the vaccination  program.

2. Lockdown prevented a much worse situation that could have resulted in many times more deaths from Covid-19.

3. Vaccination prevented millions of deaths and allowed us to open up safely.

4. No evidence that widespread deaths were due to vaccines—only 9 deaths out of 78 million vaccinated were due to anaphylaxis.

5. Vaccination had NOTHING to do with excess deaths in 2021, no parallel increase in deaths in other countries that started vaccination program at the same time and had low Covid-19 cases; parallel increase locally is coincidental and started PRIOR to the vaccination program.

6. Deaths FELL after the vaccination program reached most of the population as seen during Omicron, with DECOUPLING due to vaccination.

7. Philippines did well compared to many rich countries due to decisive and early lockdown, vaccination campaign and boosting, and judicious use of masks and public health standards.”

Given his presented credentials, and from the title of his presentation, Dr. Salvana was expected to give credible scientific rationale for his conclusions. There was none, whatsoever. All he could give are wild speculations, invalid inferences from erroneous modeling and biased, self-serving statements even surpassing the propaganda of his patrons in the pharmaceutical and vaccine industry.

It must be noted that Dr. Salvana is laden with conflicts of interests, having served Big Pharma on several occasions in various capacities. He did not cite any credible data nor any verifiable scientific evidence supporting his main conclusion that “Vaccination had NOTHING to do with excess deaths in 2021.” On the other hand, several honest to goodness causality assessments, devoid of conflict of interest, reveal beyond reasonable doubt that the excess deaths in 2021 is largely due to the Covid-19 mass vaccination. 

There were 265,493 excess deaths in 2021 compared to 2020 (879,429 total deaths 2021 – 613,936 total deaths 2020 = 265,493).

Excess deaths rose substantially from March 2021 and peaked in September 2021, practically in tandem with the Covid-19 mass vaccination. This excess deaths phenomenon is considered a “Black Swan” event, which comes rarely and only following a major disaster (ex. war, severe pandemic, severe earthquake, severe famine, financial collapse, nuclear disaster, etc). This could not be explained, however, by Covid-19 deaths during that period of the pandemic since there was only a total of 46,410 registered Covid-19 deaths during that time. Many deaths attributed to Covid-19, in fact, can also be attributed to Covid vaccines as the underlying cause since vaccination itself is known to disrupt the immune system and increase susceptibility to severe infections and other diseases. Besides, Covid infection typically took the ill and fragile who were expected to be part of the usual deaths (as observed in 2020, when there were 8,209 identified Covid deaths and 19,758 unidentified Covid deaths, yet, there was no excess deaths during that period (compared to historical average).

Excess deaths could not be explained also by “increased deaths due to chronic illnesses as a result of health system disruption” as claimed by Dr. Salvana since “health system disruption” was already present in most of the year 2020 when strict lockdown and other unscientific restrictions were already imposed.

The top 10 causes of deaths in 2020, including total Covid deaths (identified and unidentified) amounted to a total of 416,745 deaths, presumably contributing 67.9 percent to the total deaths in 2020 (416,745/613,936 x 100 = 67.9 percent), yet, there were no excess deaths (compared to historical average) during  this time. On the other hand, the top 10 causes of deaths in 2021, including total Covid deaths (identified and  unidentified) amount to a total of 509,495 deaths, contributing 57.9 percent of total deaths in 2021 (509,495/879,428 x 100 =  57.9 percent), much less proportionately compared to the year 2020, yet, during this time, a staggering +43.2 percent excess deaths was recorded. Clearly, these chronic illnesses cannot explain the excess deaths in 2021.

Additionally, increased deaths due to these chronic illnesses can also be attributed to the mass vaccinations because it is also known (with adequate scientific evidence) that the Covid vaccines can cause or worsen chronic illnesses or co-morbidities leading to premature death. Besides, Dr. Salvana’s mendacious explanation cannot possibly explain why there were increases in excess deaths in younger age groups with no co-morbidities or chronic illnesses, including sudden deaths in athletes and ostensibly healthy adults. On the contrary, these deaths can very well be explained by the known mechanisms of toxicity and overwhelming scientific evidence (including autopsy evidence) of serious adverse effects and deaths due to the Covid-19 vaccines.

Dr. Romeo F. Quijano is a retired Professor at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, College of Medicine, UP Manila.

1. PhilsExcess Deaths in 2021-Overall 43.2 percent Excess Deaths_721 Excess Deaths per day

2. Scientific Investigation in Post Pandemic Diseases

3. Causes of Deaths-PhilsJan- Dec 2020_PSA

4. Leading cause of death Phils_2021_CNN_PSA  · 

On Dr Salvana's post regarding Covid-19 "ultracrpidarians"                

by Dr. Romeo Quijano
Jan. 2, 2024

"Wow, the incredible amount of noise from ultracrepidarians (new favorite word...) who have no idea what they are talking about is confusing the heck out of people and is denting vaccine confidence. Incredibly irresponsible to open your mouth and spew inaccurate information without doing your homework...So to insist on COMPLETION of Phase 3 trials before we negotiate for a supply is incredibly NAIVE. Notice how hard it is to get Pfizer or Moderna now because now that everyone knows it works, everyone wants it. It's like preordering a hot Christmas toy - there is risk in putting down your money, but if you do not, good luck finding it on the open market...So please try to ignore the noise from people who WILDLY speculate on matters they cannot or refuse to understand.”

The above quote from a well known and frequently quoted government expert on Covid-19 is symptomatic of authoritarian hubris commonly afflicting those in power, privilege and fame; medical experts are no exception. While it is true that there is a lot of “noise” flying out there about Covid-19, they are much less of a concern than the rushing and official drumbeating of Covid-19 vaccines that are scientifically questionable at the very least and potentially disastrous at worst. In fact, much of that “noise” reflects valid concerns from citizens who only have their “informed consent” remaining as a last defense from authoritarian acceptance of a dubious and hazardous vaccine. 

True science (as opposed to corporate and authoritarian science) requires profound intellectual humility in the face of the complexity of the object of our study. We should be humbled by this mysterious phenomenon that stimulates our thinking in a quest to understand and bring it into sharper focus. We should always ask questions and always willing to be questioned by all, especially the “naive” common folk who do not seem to understand the subject of our expertise much less have the competence we have acquired from years of specialist education and training. To dismiss them outright as “fake news” or “noise” is unacceptable and unscientific. To call those who ask uncomfortable questions names, such as “ultracrepidarians” or “anti-vaxxers” smacks of bigotry and arrogance. The scientific quest continues and progresses as we push back frontiers of knowledge (centuries of vaccine dogma seem to have escaped this progress) only to realize that the more things we discover, the more we realize there are many more things we don’t know. To prevent questions to fluorish (including seemingly stupid ones) is to prevent the progress of science. In fact, history tells us that suppression of critical questions on the issue of vaccines has created and perpetrated unscientific authoritarian policies pertaining to vaccinations over many decades that has worsened in the face of the present Covid-19 “pandemic”. Apparent urgency and necessity do not justify unscientific and authoritarian measures to confront a pandemic. Judgement of urgency and necessity by an elite few, prodded perhaps by status quo “experts”, even in the name of national security, do not justify irrational lockdowns and suspension of basic human rights and individual liberties. Power, privilege, fame and expertise do not confer the right to suppress contrary facts and opinions.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

BWorld 672, Stabilizing growth with low unemployment and high manufacturing PMI

Stabilizing growth with low unemployment and high manufacturing PMI
January 11, 2024 | 12:02 am

My Cup Of Liberty
By Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr.

(Part 5 of a series)

HONG KONG — Last time I was here was in 2017 when I attended two international free market events. Yesterday, when our plane from Manila landed at the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), I was surprised at the huge number of cranes, heavy construction machines, and piles of soil both left and right of the runway.

After a quick search of the web, I learned that HKIA is constructing a third runway, 3.8 kilometers long, with the reclamation of 650 hectares of land. It will build 57 new gates, and expand capacity by another 30 million passengers by 2030. The project is huge, and such construction activities must have contributed to Hong Kong’s further lowering of its unemployment rate.

Also yesterday, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) released the Philippines’ employment data for November 2023. It showed that our unemployment rate was down to only 3.6%, the lowest since 2005. And last Friday, the PSA also announced our inflation rate further declined to 3.9% in November. See these reports in BusinessWorld, “Inflation further eases to 3.9% in December” (Jan. 5), “Inflation likely to remain within BSP’s 2-4 target range for most of 2024” (Jan. 8), “BOI eyes up to P1.5 trillion investments in 2024” (Jan. 8), and, “Nov. jobless rate falls to 18-year low” (Jan. 10).

Here is an update of this column’s monthly monitoring of global and regional inflation and unemployment data. In Group A are the G7 industrial countries, in group B are the big South Asian economies, and in group C are the big East Asian economies. The Philippines had the highest inflation rate in 2023 among its neighbors in East Asia, and comparable to inflation in Italy and Germany, and lower than the UK, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

 it comes to unemployment rates for November 2023, the Philippines is third highest in East Asia next to Indonesia and China — but the Philippines also had the biggest improvement among the countries covered, with the biggest percent point decline compared to the November 2021 unemployment rates (see Table 1).

The Philippines’ working age population is increasing but the number of unemployed is decreasing, from 2.18 million in November 2022 to only 1.83 million in November 2023.

Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, a member of the Inter-Agency Committee on Inflation and Market Outlook (IAC-IMO), was correct to point out that “Focused public spending on productivity-enhancing programs is bearing fruit. The high GDP growth of 5.6% average for Q1-Q3 of 2023, third highest among the top 40 largest economies in the world this year, is creating more jobs and businesses. Our inflation is on a declining trend and we see it below 4% this year as government projects on rural infrastructure and agriculture modernization keeps the growth momentum.”

Aside from high growth, declining inflation, and declining unemployment, there is another good thing going for the Philippines — a score in the high manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI). The PMI is an index of economic trends in the manufacturing and service sectors and indicates whether business conditions are expanding, staying the same, or contracting as viewed by purchasing managers.

The Philippines’ PMI had been above 50 in 2023, the second highest after Indonesia in East Asia. Surprisingly, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand’s PMIs were below 50 last year along with rich Asian countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan (see Table 2).

One good piece of legislation that was recently enacted was the Ease of Paying Taxes (EOPT) Act, RA 11976 signed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Jan. 5. It aims to modernize the Philippines’ tax administration, minimize the burden on taxpayers and strengthen their rights, reduce documentary requirements, digitalize payment, reduce the number of pages in income tax returns from four to two. And the government is expected to increase revenue mobilization.

I wish to see the Philippines continue its fast growth, aim for 6%-8% yearly growth sustained for a decade or more, and create more businesses, jobs, and other economic opportunities for Filipinos and foreigners doing business here.

See also the previous articles of this series: “Stabilizing growth with low inflation, low unemployment rates, and more PPP investments” (Dec. 12, 2023), “Stabilizing growth via peace and order and free trade” (Dec. 5, 2023), and “Stabilizing growth of the fastest growing major economy in the world” (Nov. 14, 2023).

See also:
BWorld 669, Top 10 energy and climate stories of 2023, January 11, 2024
BWorld 670, Top 10 trends in global public debt in 2023, January 12, 2024 
BWorld 671, Top 10 proposals to have blackout-free Philippines, January 13, 2024.

Deindustrialization 23, Germany economic decline

Continuation of my compilation, ecological wobble and deindustrialization in Germany. Enjoy.

Experts Warn German Economic Decline Certain… “We’ll Soon Be Living In Trees Again”
By P Gosselin on 5. November 2023

High Energy Bills Force German Industry to Eye Production Abroad
Almost a third of manufacturers considering or executing shift
By Petra Sorge 29 August 2023

Green Economic Collapse: 1/3 Of Germany’s Automotive Suppliers Considering Moving Abroad
By P Gosselin on 8. November 2023 

Exclusive: Siemens Energy secures provisional deal for guarantees - sources
By Andreas Rinke and Christoph Steitz
November 10, 2023

Germany To Bail Out Siemens’ Struggling Wind Turbine Division
By ZeroHedge - Nov 10, 2023

Green Bloodbath: Major Industries Closing Down As German Energy Prices Soar
By P Gosselin on 14. November 2023

Scholz’s €60bn net zero budget boost ruled ‘unconstitutional’
Chancellor and government in crisis after court ruling, with three-party coalition now under threat of collapse
James Crisp, 15 November 2023

Major Setback For German Green Transformation As Top Court Rules Funding Unconstitutional!
By P Gosselin on 21. November 2023

Germany Faces the Green Fiscal Truth
The constitutional court rules Berlin will have to fund net zero honestly.
By The Editorial Board Nov. 23, 2023

Germany’s Lindner signals government to suspend debt brake for 2023
As Germany grapples with a budget crisis, the finance minister said the government will declare an ‘extraordinary emergency.’

Budget crisis shakes industry's confidence in Germany
By Christoph Steitz and Tom Käckenhoff November 25, 2023

Colby Cosh: Germany's green debt emergency
The Greens bypassed the country's 'debt brake' by re-purposing COVID funds for the environment, which has thrown German finances into disarray
Colby Cosh Nov 25, 2023

Support for Germany's Greens falls amid budget crisis, poll shows
Reuters November 26, 2023

Volkswagen to reduce headcount at 'no longer competitive' VW brand
Reuters November 28, 2023

Job losses likely at VW as the people’s car brand becomes uncompetitive
Management says high costs and low productivity are a big problem.
JONATHAN M. GITLIN - 11/28/2023, 10:48 PM

Tyre maker Michelin announces closure of German sites
Reuters November 28, 2023

EV chargers, heat pumps may be curtailed in Germany as of 2024
By Nikolaus J. Kurmayer |  Nov 29, 2023

German Solar Bike Path Produced Green Power – For $1100 A Kilowatt-Hour!
By P Gosselin on 3. December 2023

German electric car sales plummet after subsidies run out
AFP Dec 6, 2023

Former Federal German Minister Under Merkel Warns: Germany Heading To A Climate Tyranny
By P Gosselin on 12. December 2023 

Scholz’s government cuts climate fund by 45 bln euros by 2027 in response to debt brake ruling
Carolina KyllmannBenjamin Wehrmann 13 Dec 2023

Germany to keep some coal units in service longer than expected
Bloomberg News | December 22, 2023

Germany’s Nationwide Discontent Will Be Fueled Further By Higher CO2 Tax – Planned For 2024!
By P Gosselin on 23. December 2023

German government backtracks on tax hikes for farmers following protests
The country’s ruling coalition continues to struggle to finalize a budget for 2024.

As Alternative für Deutschland approach 40% support in East Germany, a right-leaning CDU faction announce plans to break away from the Union and found a new party that will cooperate with AfD

Germany’s farmers are fighting back against green tyranny
The Net Zero agenda poses an existential threat to European agriculture.

Protesting farmers use tractors – and piles of dung – to paralyse Germany
Motorways and city centres across the country gridlocked as week of demonstrations begins against government proposals to cut fuel subsidies
James Rothwell, 8 January 2024

German Industry Shrinks for Sixth Month as Recession Looms
Industrial production declined 0.7%, economist est. 0.3% gain
Economy probably contracted in final quarter of 2023
By Sonja Wind 9 January 2024

Why German Farmers Are Protesting: They Refuse To Be The Government’s Cash Cow
By P Gosselin on 9. January 2024

Angry German Farmers Win a Street Fight Over Climate
Radical environmentalists pioneered aggressive protest techniques, but they didn’t have tractors.
Joseph C. Sternberg Jan. 11, 2024

Europe dismisses German protesters at its peril
Governments must win consent for net-zero levies or they risk far-reaching popular revolt
Joanna Williams January 11 2024

Germany To Rely On Coal To Avoid Blackouts
Paul Homewood, January 12, 2024

See also:
Deindustrialization 20, Germany's departing companies, EV slowdown, September 29, 2023 
Deindustrialization 21, UK update, Net zero religion, November 13, 2023
Deindustrialization 22, EVs impracticality, Energizing growth series, December 19, 2023.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

BWorld 671, Top 10 proposals to have blackout-free Philippines

Top 10 proposals to have blackout-free Philippines
January 9, 2024 | 12:02 am

My Cup Of Liberty
By Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr.

The new year started badly in Panay Island — which is subdivided into four provinces (Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, and Antique) with an estimated population in 2023 of 5.5 million people — when on Jan. 2 there was a huge power blackout which lasted many hours. Then it affected the island-province of Guimaras and the rest of the Visayas grid.

See these reports about it last week in BusinessWorld: “Panay power plant outages raise yellow alert in Visayas” (Jan. 2), “‘Improved planning’ needed after Panay outages — NGCP” (Jan. 3), “ERC: Committee looking into Panay Island power outage” (Jan. 4), and, “DoE plan must elevate energy security to top priority item, think tank says” (Jan. 7).

This piece will briefly discuss 10 proposals to avoid a similar event and the annual yellow-red alerts in the country. Three are related to power generation, three to transmission, two to distribution, and two to pricing and taxation. Here we go.

1. Overall power generation must expand. Generation must expand by 7-8 terawatt-hours (TWH) per year until 2026, then 8-9 TWH/year until 2030, from an average of 5-6 TWH/year in 2021-2022. Medium-term GDP growth targets and projections for the Philippines are 6-7.5% yearly until 2028, and this will require a huge increase in available power.

We should have an agnostic policy on power sources, with no favoritism for intermittent and variable renewables, and a focus on higher gigawatt hour (GWh) generation and not GW installed capacity. This is because intermittent sources have high GW capacity but low GWh output due to their low energy density and low capacity.

2. Aim for the generation of 2,000 kilowatt hour/person (kWh/person) by 2030 from only 1,025 kWh/person in 2022. Our ASEAN neighbors already had higher kWh/person generation than the Philippines in 2022: Indonesia had 1,213, Thailand had 2,574, Vietnam had 2,614, and Malaysia had 5,600. In the accompanying table I list the countries with the biggest populations (50 million people or more) plus their electricity generation (TWH), their electricity generation in kWh per capita, and their GDP per capita. I did not include Tanzania (61.5 million) and Kenya (50.6 million) because I cannot find available data on their electricity generation as of deadline.

3. Hasten the entry of nuclear energy that will greatly expand our power generation capacity.

Related to the generation issue, see the following BusinessWorld reports this month: “Market for AS power enters pilot operations” (Jan. 3), “Where’s the Philippine Energy Plan?” (Jan. 3), “Philippine energy companies bullish, eye 2024 demand surge” (Jan. 5), and, “3 gencos to supply Meralco’s 1,800-MW power requirement” (Jan. 8).

4. The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) must finish many long-delayed interconnection and transmission expansion projects (Mindanao-Visayas, Cebu-Negros, Iloilo-Negros, etc.). Islands with power-deficits cannot get additional supply easily from islands with power surpluses because of the unfinished or unexpanded transmission lines.

5. The NGCP must strictly comply with the Grid Code, especially when it comes to redundancy reserve requirements and getting reliable contingency reserves (CR). In the Panay Island blackout of Jan. 2, when PEDC Unit 1 (55.8 MW) tripped or conked out, the needed ancillary services (AS) and strong CR by NGCP were absent. Neither did it implement auto/manual load dropping (ALD/MLD) to reduce demand. Power demand continued at nearly 400 MW even though the supply declined from 356 MW to only 301 MW by 12:06 p.m. Two hours later, the other generating plants in the island also tripped, leading to the automatic tripping of distribution utility (DU) feeders, and entire island’s four provinces suffered from involuntary “Earth Hours.” I remember former Energy Secretary Al Cusi repeatedly pounding on the need for NGCP to finish long-delayed transmission projects, and to get reliable AS to avoid frequent yellow-red alerts.

6. The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) should disallow the use of battery energy storage systems (BESS) as CR. From what I read, the NGCP got BESS as its CR — this is bonkers because BESS are unreliable, small, and cannot store much energy when it is frequently cloudy and/or not windy. Only fossil fuel plants can provide reliable CR.

7. There should be more mergers and consolidations, not fragmentation, of energy providers. There are many small electric cooperatives (ECs) which do not have economies of scale and are viable only due to politics and protection by the National Electrification Administration (NEA). In my province — Negros Occidental — there are five ECs; in neighboring Negros Oriental, there are three ECs. That makes eight ECs in one island, with ERC having to monitor eight separate entities. No economies of scale mean a lack of capacity to strengthen the infrastructure against strong storms and earthquakes — even against falling trees! — leading to the occasional blackout. Existing strong distribution utilities (DUs) must remain consolidated and not divided.

8. Expand the Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA) at a lower consumption threshold, with more retail electricity suppliers (RES) to provide more customized services to more clients, especially in areas covered by inefficient ECs. More generation plants will come in to serve more RES and more contestable customers.

9. End price controls via a primary-secondary price cap at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM). The most expensive electricity is no electricity — in other words, blackouts. Quantify the damage done to manufacturing production, to offices and home appliances; the damage resulting from using candles (more fires) or gensets (more noise and air pollution); the damage caused by dark streets (more crimes and road accidents). A jump in the WESM price from P5/kWh to, say, P30 for a few hours is still better than “cheap but not available” power — blackouts. More peaking plants must come in and provide additional supply when needed and they should be undeterred by price controls.

10. End taxation discrimination in favor of more intermittent wind-solar. Wind and solar power generators have many tax-free privileges, and this leads to more unstable grids that will require more AS, resulting in higher overall prices.

There should be major changes in the country’s environment and energy policies, the end of climate alarmism, and the end of ecological central planning and power rationing in favor of intermittent, unreliable, and non-dispatchable on demand energy.

See also:
BWorld 668, Top 10 economic news stories of 2023, January 05, 2024
BWorld 669, Top 10 energy and climate stories of 2023, January 11, 2024
BWorld 670, Top 10 trends in global public debt in 2023, January 12, 2024.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Recto in, Diokno out, at the DOF

Today, former Senator, former NEDA Secretary, Congressman and Deputy Speaker until this week, is new Secretary of the Dept. of Finance (DOF) Ralph G. Recto. He took his oath before the President today.

Immediate Past Secretary of DOF Benjamin E. Diokno will go back to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) as Monetary Board member.

Sir Ben Diokno was my teacher twice at UP School of Economics, in undergrad Econ 151 (Public Finance Econ.) in 1984 and in Prog. in Devt. Economics (PDE) DE 251 in 1998-99. He's cool, friendly and intelligent. He was DBM Secretary twice, under Pres. Erap Estrada and Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, then Duterte moved him to become BSP Governor in 2019.

Meanwhile, below are two of my previous columns in BusinessWorld where I mentioned and discussed the market-oriented moves of then Senator Ralph Recto. Enjoy.

(1) Senator Recto’s tax cut plan shadows Reagan, Thatcher, and Trump tax cuts (November 23, 2020),

... Now Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto has proposed more liberal fiscal incentives and deeper tax cuts as he sees the degree of tax competition in the ASEAN. To save space, here is a summary of contentions on reforming the fiscal incentives (see Table 2)....

The Senator also proposes two-tiers of CIT. Tier 1, companies with total assets not over P100 million, their first P5 million taxable income will pay only 20% while profits above P5 million will be taxed 25%. And Tier 2, companies with total assets over P100 million will also pay 25% CIT. That 20% CIT proposal is very good.

Furthermore, the Senator proposes other liberal provisions: 1.) raise the threshold VAT exemption on housing for residential lots from P1.5 million to P2.5 million, and for house and lot from P2.5 million to P4.2 million; 2.) suspend the minimum CIT (MCIT) from 2020 to 2022 and cut rate from 2% to 1% from 2023 onwards; and, 3.) just 1% income tax for private, non-profit educational institutions and hospitals for three years.

Good proposals by the good Senator. So is he the “Donald Trump of the Philippines” as sensationalized by AER?...

Donald Trump is the first US President to continue Reagan’s tax cut. Trump inherited the high CIT 35% in 2017 and introduced tax cuts to 21% by 2018. From 2017-2019, the average yearly GDP growth of the US was 2.5%, higher than fellow rich countries with no tax cuts: Canada 2.3%, France 1.9%, the UK 1.6%, Germany 1.5%, Japan 1%, Italy 0.9%.

(2) Market-oriented reforms in the Senate (November 20, 2018)

... Sen. Ralph Recto... approved SB 1896, he inserted this provision: “PhilHealth shall provide additional NHIP benefits for direct contributors, where applicable.… the two-tiered benefit scheme will also exacerbate health inequity in the country.”

This market-oriented reform initiated by the Senator is correct. There should be a two- or multiple-tiered system in health care, inequality in contribution should lead to inequality in getting benefits. Socialism wants inequality in contribution but equality in social results.

If people can afford to buy alcohol, tobacco, fatty food, nice cellphones, etc., it is assumed that they should also have some resources to buy health insurance that will augment state-sponsored health care....

SB 2073 by Sen. Ralph Recto intends to lift this obligatory and coercive training that costs professionals huge money. R.A. 10912 or the CPD Act of 2016 requires professionals to earn 45 CPD units of seminars and trainings that cost between P10,000 to P30,000 per person every three years, otherwise they cannot renew their PRC license.

That CPD Act and its mandatory order is lousy for at least two reasons: (a) Professionals normally attend various seminars, conferences and trainings in the course of their work, and (b) the market, the customers are the best judges and natural regulators. Lousy professionals are punished by customer dissatisfaction that is easily spread through social media, they lose clients.

BWorld 670, Top 10 trends in global public debt in 2023

January 4, 2024

Continuing this column’s “Top 10” series for 2023, we look at government debt indicators. Below are the 20 countries with the largest public debt (Russia is the 20th) plus six other major indebted Asian countries. Here are the emerging trends.

1. The US remains the most indebted country in the world with $31 trillion in 2022. By end-2023, this has gone up to $34 trillion, according to the latest data from fiscaldata/ China, with $14 trillion in 2022, is second and Japan, with $11.1 trillion, is third but this is a decline from $13.1 trillion in 2022.

2. A big jump in public debt occurred in 2020 during the dictatorial global lockdown and the mandatory shutdown of many tax-paying businesses. This happened while expenditures kept rising as governments continued paying their personnel and bureaucracies plus creating new welfare programs. All countries in the table accompanying this story showed this trend except Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Pakistan. I think the decline was due to their currency appreciation that affected the conversion to US dollar value. Then these four countries’ public debt jumped in 2022.

3. The Philippines breached the $200-billion mark with $224.6-billion public debt in 2021. It then rose to $232.5 billion in 2022. Vietnam was correct not to have breached the $200 billion in debt level.

4. The government debt/GDP ratio jumped in 2020 for all countries in the table. From 2019-2020, these countries had big increases in percentage points: the US went from 109% to 134%, the UK from 85% to 105%, Italy from 134% to 155%, Canada from 90% to 119%. In Asia, it seems that the Philippines has had the biggest increase, from 37% to 52%. The countries that saw the smallest increases were Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Pakistan.

5.  The debt/GDP ratio in 2022 has declined from 2020 levels except seven Asian countries. These were China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Bangladesh. It seems many of these Asian countries contracted long-term debt that remained high even after dictatorial lockdowns were lifted in most countries.

6. The peak rates of 10-year government Treasury bonds doubled or tripled from 2019 to 2022 for Europeans. This was also the case for Japan, South Korea, and Australia. US rates touched 5% in some intra-day trading sometime last October (see table).

7. All G7 industrialized countries except Germany have debt/GDP ratios above 100%. This means fiscal discipline and responsibility is not in their vocabulary as they keep inventing new ways of spending (welfare, war, etc.) on top of existing ones. Asian countries, except Japan and Singapore, have ratios below 100% and somehow practice fiscal restraint.

8. Some rich countries suffered credit rating downgrades. The US went from Moody’s Aaa stable to Aaa negative last November. France went down from S&P’s AA stable to AA negative in December 2022. Italy went from S&P’s BBB positive to BBB stable in July 2022. In a way these are indicators of waning trust in their financial and fiscal capacity to service their long-term debt obligations.

9. The rise in price and value of alternatives to fiat money are additional indicators that many investors are slowly shying away from the US dollar and other currencies, anticipating small to big crashes in value. Gold is at an all-time high at $2,000+ per troy ounce, Bitcoin is recovering to $45,000+ and Ethereum is recovering to $2,300+, among others. Countries holding tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in US public debt will be scratching their heads if the dollar value would significantly depreciate and crash.

10. Most countries and governments are trending towards more profligate public spending and expanded borrowing instead of practicing more fiscal discipline and restraints. The Philippines and other Asian countries should actively and consciously aspire to reduce their debt/GDP ratio and retire much of their public debt — not via higher taxation but the privatization of certain government assets and corporations.

The Philippines’ economic team, headed by Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, has been very explicit about their stated goal of reducing the country’s debt/GDP ratio to below 60% by 2025, reducing the deficit/GDP ratio to 3% by 2028. I support their fiscal goal and I would add that we should aspire to have a debt/GDP ratio of 37% or lower by 2028. The numerator (public debt) should significantly decline via privatization of government assets. The denominator (GDP size) should keep expanding, with growth of 6-8% yearly. With more market-oriented reforms to encourage more private business dynamism and competition, the ratio will decline.

See also:
BWorld 667, Top 10 trends in fiscal program and illicit trade in 2023, December 28, 2023
BWorld 668, Top 10 economic news stories of 2023, January 05, 2024
BWorld 669, Top 10 energy and climate stories of 2023, January 11, 2024

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Doc Iggy Agbayani legal case, Part 3

More news and opinion update about the legal case of the late Doc Benigno "Iggy" Agbayani Jr.

SC says it will look into Iggy Agbayani's case
By JOAHNA LEI CASILAO, December 13, 2023 2:38pm

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it will look into the the case of Benigno “Iggy” Agbayani Jr., the orthopedic surgeon who died while in detention in October, Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said Wednesday.

“Iche-check namin kung anong nangyari talaga roon. Hindi kami basta puwede magsabi na ganito ang gagawin. Rerepasuhin namin… at base sa kung anong naging resulta, maaari kaming gumawa ng mga bagong instruction o rules para ‘wag na maulit ‘yung ganitong sitwasyon,” Gesmundo said at a press briefing.

Chief Justice has word for doctors in wake of Iggy Agbayani case
By GMA Integrated News, December 13, 2023 9:16pm

"Baka sabihin delikado tayo dito. Hindi naman dapat ganun... Kung ang mga abugado may sinumpaang tungkulin, ang mga doctor may sinumpaan ding tungkulin," Gesmundo said.

"I hope they will also keep faith to their oath of profession," he added.

SC looking into conviction of surgeon over medical malpractice case
Adrian Ayalin, Dec 13 2023 07:07 PM

Gesmundo also reminded doctors of their Hippocratic oath.

“Nabasa namin sa social media na parang natakot na yung mga doktor 
na maggamot ng mga abugado at mga huwes, lalo na ako sakitin na ako ay baka wala nang doktor na maggamot sa akin pag pumunta ako sa ER (emergency room), pag nalamang Chief Justice, hindi naman dapat ganon,” he said.

SC to look into case of doctor who died while in detention
Tetch Torres-Tupas - 06:20 PM December 13, 2023

“Kung ano ang resulta, maaari kaming gumawa ng mga instruction o rules para wag na maulit ang ganitong sitwasyon,” Gesmundo said.

Dispenser of justice, not just of rules
By: Artemio V. Panganiban  / 04:35 AM December 18, 2023

The sad saga of Dr. Iggy Agbayani, taken up in this space on Nov. 13, was followed on Nov. 27 and Dec. 4 by a discussion of the new Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability (CPRA) with the aim of giving readers a glimpse of the lapses of Agbayani’s lawyer for the seemingly unjust conviction, unfair incarceration, and sudden death (due to heart attack) of the respected orthopedic surgeon.

THE SUPREME COURT HAS TAKEN COGNIZANCE OF HIS PLIGHT. In a press briefing a few days ago, on Dec. 13, Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo said, “We (referring to the justices) will check what really happened … we will review it and based on the results, we may establish new instructions or new rules so that we can avoid a repeat of the same situation … apparently there were some lapses committed by the lawyer …”

Obviously, the esteemed Chief Justice was referring to the disciplinary responsibility of the unnamed lawyer under the strict provisions of the CPRA and the penalty that can and should be meted out to him/her, after due process. Obviously also, this is something that, under the CPRA, the Court could motu proprio undertake on its own initiative without need of any complaint by anyone.

In my said column on Nov. 13, I wrote that the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila convicted Agbayani of “reckless imprudence resulting in serious physical injuries” and that his appeal was denied by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, the Court of Appeals (CA) and the Supreme Court (SC-Third Division) based on the same ground: The lawyer’s failure to “file an appeal memorandum” (in the RTC) and to append the documents required by the Rules of Court to enable the CA and the Supreme Court to understand his appeal....

LAUDABLE AS THE COURT’S MOTU PROPRIO ACTION MAY BE, yet it falls short of what the Agbayani family yearns for: a reversal of his conviction and a judicial pronouncement of his innocence. To be fair, however, this desideratum cannot be taken motu proprio by the Court because there is an adverse party that equally deserves objective justice, lawyer Saul Q. Hofileña Jr., the offended party.

Thus, IMHO, the family of Agbayani needs to initiate a petition, with due notice to the offended party and to the Office of the Solicitor General (the counsel of the plaintiff “People of the Philippines”) to reopen the case. The overarching question is: May a decision that had become final and had been executed via the actual incarceration of the accused be reopened? The normal answer of jurisprudence is “No, decisions that have become final are irrevocable, despite occasional errors.”...

To conclude, I believe the Supreme Court is both a court of law and a court of equity. Rules of procedure should never be used as stumbling blocks to common sense, fairness, and equity. The Court cannot be constrained by technicalities and procedural niceties. It is a dispenser of liberating justice, not of suffocating rules. It is neither a machine nor a robot. It is human and humane. Being compassionate and just, it cannot be replaced by the computing power of technology and artificial intelligence.

Judicial double standard in doctor’s death?

By: Joel Ruiz Butuyan / 05:18 AM December 28, 2023

...Agbayani was therefore convicted, not because of proof beyond reasonable doubt of his guilt, but because of the negligence of his lawyer. True, there was the decision of conviction by the MTC, but it was the triple decisions of three appellate courts—RTC, CA, and SC—which all applied technical rules that led to his final conviction and which caused his imprisonment.

Wearing my lawyer’s hat, the SC must reexamine the policy of making clients suffer for their lawyers’ negligence. A distinction should be made between noncompliance with substantive laws and noncompliance with technical rules. Clients should correctly suffer the consequences of their cases’ noncompliance with substantive laws because this means the lack of merit of their complaint or defense. But clients should not suffer their lawyers’ noncompliance with technical rules because clients know nothing about these rules. It should be lawyers who should suffer the consequences for procedural lapses because they are the ones responsible for these violations. The correct solution should be for our courts to impose the payment of hefty fines for lawyers who violate procedural rules. Making clients lose life, liberty, or property for reasons not attributable to them smacks of unconstitutionality and even amounts to an uncivilized judicial tradition.

Wearing my journalist’s hat, our judges and justices should engage in serious self-reflection. Our jurists heartlessly apply technical rules on citizen-litigants, but aren’t they themselves guilty of often violating technical rules? One case in point—our Constitution gives the maximum periods for our courts to decide: 24 months for the SC; 12 months for the CA and; three months for the RTC and MTC. Ask lawyers and litigants and they will sing in protest that many courts—the SC included—violate these constitutional rules. Can our courts blame litigants and trial lawyers if they view this double standard as judicial hypocrisy?

Wearing my ordinary citizen’s hat, I find the utter lack of common sense in the rule of making clients suffer the negligence of their lawyers because of this: if Agbayani was correctly made to suffer the negligence of his lawyer, applying the same principle, shouldn’t Hofileña likewise be made to correctly suffer the negligence of his doctor? So much for the principle of equal protection of the law.

AGENDA, One News PH, Cignal TV  
Hosted by Cito Beltran. November 27, 2023
Case of Doc Iggy, Guests include Dr. Jonas del Rosario
Starting minutes 13:32


See also:
Doc Iggy Agbayani letter to his fellow doctors, October 15, 2023
BWorld 646, Revisiting the lockdown, the role of CDC PH and Doc Iggy Agbayani, October 27, 2023
Doc Iggy Agbayani legal case, Part 1, November 03, 2023
Doc Iggy Agbayani legal case, Part 2, November 19, 2023.