Thursday, March 23, 2017

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

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

March 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we should add Duterte's own campaign promise:

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

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

March 23, 2017

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

BWorld 115, Centralization and federalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

A more meaningful federalism would require the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also:

BWorld 114, Brownouts, ancillary services and transmission charge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earth Hour 8, Celebrate darkness vs modernization

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Stockholm riots last February 21 and the refugees question

In 2003, I attended a 7-weeks training on sustainable agriculture in Sweden. We stayed in Lund most of the time but we also saw Stockholm, Uppsala, other cities for several days. Very peaceful country, Cabinet Secretaries and legislators would go to malls and shops with zero security aides. 2017, things are different. many stories of riots, arson, looting, sexual assaults. Not in the entire country of course but in some parts of it.

The usual NYT, always blame Trump for his comments or non-comments. If rioters dislike Trump's comment about Sweden and the huge influx of immigrants from Syria, why not rally in front of the US embassy, why burn their neighbors' cars and loot shops and attack a journalist?

I think it is the usual case of high expectation, high disappointment. 200k+ of migrants in 2015-2016 alone, many of these migrants expect the good life, expect high, generous welfare enjoyed by the locals be given to them too like free healthcare, free education to universities, free child support, etc. But government money does not come from the air or ocean, it comes from taxpayers and sale of govt-owned assets like land.

There is a limit to the welfare system. The rioters who burned cars, looted shops and attacked the police, they don't understand that? They only believe that inequality is wrong as peddled by the UN and many central planners, so there should be forced equality for everyone?

My proposal to help the huge volume of political immigrants and refugees is for rich countries to buy some islands in Europe or north Africa and relocate the migrants there. Give them immediate needs like food and housing, initial infra like roads and airports, initial peace keeping forces with time table for withrawal then leave the migrants to sort things on their own. What is important is they can escape massacres and pol persecution from their home countries.

BWorld 113, Peace talks with CPP-NDF for another 30 years?

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last February 17.

After three decades (1987-2017) of peace talks between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF), all held in Europe (Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Italy, etc.), what lessons have we learned?

There are at least two. One is that the “endless peace talks” for the past 30 years might continue for another 30 years or more. Here is a brief time line of those peace talks that I gathered from various sources.

Joma Sison and his team in Europe have earned huge media and political mileage. They can continue getting funds for these high-profile peace talks so they will want the talks to continue for the next 30 years or more, with their kin and buddies as future negotiators.

Similarly, media and political mileage have also benefitted negotiating teams of the Philippine government, regardless of administrations. At least they get frequent, all-expenses paid trips to Europe. So there is also incentive for them and future government negotiators to continue the talks for the next 30 years or more.

Second lesson, since the CPP-NDF negotiators have been residing in Europe for decades, could it be that the Philippine government is negotiating with foreigners but previously Filipino citizens? My source says several negotiators have become either Dutch or Spanish citizens.

I am not a big fan of nationalism so this issue is not that important to me. I am just curious if some groups will insist on the citizenship issue, will there be no legal problems?

The Philippine communist movement has already been a spent force for so many years. The Philippine government should treat them just like other organized criminal groups engaged in extortion and armed attacks.

Likewise, the Europe-based CPP-NDF negotiators are spent leaders who are better ignored than heard, for the next decade/s to come. They will continue making unreasonable demands to cover up their irrelevance.

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

See also:
BWorld 112, Asia Liberty Forum 2017 in Mumbai, March 01, 2017

Friday, March 03, 2017

Energy 91, Thailand's bright nights (part 2)

My Mumbai-Bangkok flight (Jet Airways) was delayed last February 12 due to some mechanical problems, delayed by about 3+ hours, it landed at Suvarnabhumi/Bangkok airport evening already. My co-participant at the Asia Liberty Forum (ALF) in Mumbai, Mai Tansakun from Thailand, was with me in that flight, I asked her to take photos of Thailand as our plane was descending because my cp was low-batt that time.

Mai took good photos of the areas around the airport, her camera phone is also more modern than my old Samsung phone. Thanks for these pics, Mai.

I am always fascinated by bright cities at night which for me is a good indicator of the material wealth and prosperity of a city or country. And Thailand's bright Bangkok and nearby cities is among them.

The main roads are easy to see, dotted with bright yellow lights for many kilometers. The secondary roads are also dotted with bright lights, not as bright as the main roads though.

Thailand has electricity output 2x that of the Philippines and they rely more on natural gas, followed by coal. Their natgas is mostly domestically sourced?

There is also better zoning in TH compared to the PH. The roads are generally more straight.
Meanwhile, I was lucky that I have a long lay over in Bkk airport so I was able to catch my Bkk-Manila flight that night.

This is from ADB's Key Indicators 2016. The most natgas-dependent ASEAN countries are Brunei (it is a big nat gas exporter), Singapore and Thailand. The more coal-dependent countries in the region are Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia.

When I arrived Manila from Bacolod last Sunday night, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Manila is much brighter at night than a few years ago. Thanks to more stable, more reliable and cheaper power sources like coal. Also, energy efficiency is also kicking as more houses, offices and buildings are using brighter but lower electricity consumption lights and bulbs.

See also:
Energy 45, Thailand's bright nights and nat gas power, October 19, 2015

NO to the reimposition of death penalty in the PH

As I grow older, my patience for violence, especially state-sponsored or state-inspired murders, goes down to zero. Many state bureaucrats and officials are lousy at enforcing the rule of law even for minor offenses, so how can they be trusted to enforce death penalty to all, rich and poor convicts? 

The death penalty bill has passed on 2nd reading at the PH House of Representatives the other day. 

From the CNN:
“The entire process moved very fast — taking only 30 seconds from the closure of the period of amendments to the passage on second reading.

After pro-death penalty congressmen won in the voice vote, anti-death solons tried, but failed, to move for nominal voting — because session was immediately adjourned after the bill was approved.”

From Philstar:
“The approval of a controversial measure pushed by President Duterte came after the chamber agreed to drop plunder, among other crimes, from the list of offenses that will warrant capital punishment.”

One possible reason why the Congressmen/women rushed the passing of this evil bill is that the legislators are cooking something more sinister and the death penalty is a good cover to divert the people's attention. The legislators and Pres. Du30 want to institutionalize state-sponsored murders. Masakit pakinggan ang EJK, masarap naman pakinggan (sa tenga nila) ang LJK (legal judicial killing).

The plunderers of today and the future want to "feel good" that drug offenders will easily die while they do large-scale stealing and extortion.

In a society with weak rule of law culture and practice, majority of those convicted are poor and it's also them who will easily go to the death chamber. 

One more reason why BIG government is wrong and evil.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

BWorld 112, Asia Liberty Forum 2017 in Mumbai

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last February 15, 2017.

Mumbai, India -- The title of this piece is from JP Narayan of the Lok Satta Party in India, who made that comment during the Asia Liberty Forum (ALF) that was held from Feb. 10 to 11, 2017 in Mumbai.

That remark seems to apply in many countries where the rule of law is weaker and the rule of men -- especially those in charge of several forms of regulations -- are stronger. These are the types of people who also impose restrictions and prohibitions on their political enemies and ordinary folk but exempt themselves, their friends, supporters, and families.

Below are other insightful quotes and comments from other speakers during the ALF. The conference was jointly sponsored by the Center for Civil Society (India), Atlas Network, John Templeton Foundation, Smith Family Foundation (USA), and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (Germany).

1. “The word ‘Freedom’ has been lost because we mean ‘freedom from’ while an enormous number of people mean ‘freedom to.’” -- Linda Whetstone, Network for a Free Society (UK).

That quote is correct and the confusion may be rooted from the common definition of freedom as “freedom from coercion” (by the State or government, clan, church, gang, etc.) and is similar to Friedrich Hayek’s definition of liberty as “absence of coercion.” Linda also added that “Trade and exchange is not a zero sum game... both sides can be better off.”

2. “Inequality is not the issue; what bothers people is the ‘psychological threat to my perceived status.’” -- Tom Palmer, Atlas Network.

Again, I agree.

Take note that free people are not equal and equal people are not free. Freedom allows people to be super-efficient or be super-mediocre or absolutely irresponsible in their own lives. This personal decision automatically results in material inequality among people. The only equality that matters is equality before the law, or the equal application of the law on unequal people. Thus, the law against robbery should apply to all, from the President to the richest people to middle class, down to the poorest people.

3. “What we have in India is a PPP -- Perpetually Planned Poverty” -- Rajesh Jain, Free a Billion (FAB).

This is a funny but brutal parody and satire of an otherwise famous catchword in the Philippines and other countries of PPP (Public-Private Partnership) for big infrastructure projects. Rajesh was referring to various laws and restrictions by the government of India that he also called as “like air, it is all around you in India.”

4. “Top communist individuals in this country come from the upper class of society... Capitalism and Caste cannot coexist.” -- Chandra Bhan Prasad, a public intellectual and commentator, India.

He is referring to the various privileges and perks that cronies and state-protected corporate interests enjoy but are withheld from the rest of society. This is true because competitive capitalism is driven only by endless innovation and is anathema to state protectionism.

5. “Demonetization is the biggest assault on property rights in India... Nehru nationalized industries, Indira nationalized banks, and Narendra Modi nationalized private cash holdings.” -- Barun Mitra, Liberty Institute, India.

In November 2016, the Modi government pursued demonetization, a policy to remove all 500 and 1,000 (about $15) rupees from circulation to supposedly curtail the huge black market economy and counterfeit currency that funds illegal activities. These are exactly the currencies that hundreds of millions of poor Indians hold because of their low income and government has disallowed use of these. Very autocratic indeed.

6. “Globalization of capital is the most liberating force particularly for the poor.” -- Christopher Lingle, Universidad Francisco Marroquin, Guatemala

Contrary to common belief that globalization only favored big capitalists and businesses, globalization has benefitted the poor more in the form of (a) being employed locally by foreign investors that were otherwise prevented from coming in, (b) being employed abroad as they were assigned by their multinational firms or being hired by competing foreign firms, (c) being stockholders through time of both local or foreign firms as enterprise competition intensifies.

7. “Regulatory focus is to tap down on innovation because nobody understands something new. Lack of rule of law leads to adverse selection. Legitimate firms exit, leaving only bad actors.” -- Susan Thomas, Indira Gandhi Institute for Development Research, India.

This is true. The implicit or explicit purpose of regulation is to limit and restrict innovation that can lead to business disruption and more income inequality. Some regulations simply kill innovation and we do not see or realize it because it was not initiated in the first place. Lack of rule of law means high rule of men; only friends and cronies of rulers will prosper while the non-cronies will remain small or exit the market.

8. “There is a messianic belief among regulators that if there is any money made in India it must be taxed. Also underlying core belief among regulators that India is the fastest growing economy so the world owes us investments.” -- Sudeepto Deb, Minerva Consulting, India.

This attitude by regulators of tax-tax-tax whenever there is perceived new income seems to apply in many other countries too. Former US President Ronald Reagan has a good summary of this when he said: “If it moves, tax it; if it keeps moving, regulate it; if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

9. “There are only two political philosophies: liberty and power.” -- Simon Lee, cofounder of Lion Rock Institute, Hong Kong.

Ultimately, yes. It is a battle between state-worshippers and regulators and the public or regulated parties who want more economic freedom. There are in-betweens of course, like people who move from the regulated to becoming regulators and vice versa.

There were many other useful comments and ideas during the conference but there is not enough space for this column. I am simply thankful to the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia for giving me the travel grant to attend the event.

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

See also:

Mining 47, JB Baylon on the DENR Secretary

I am reposting here two of JB Baylon's facebook postings about the new DENR Secretary Gina Lopez and the mining industry. These 2 papers were posted by JB last February 26. 

For me, there are two issues here in the on-going controversial policies of Sec. Lopez: (1) heavy government regulations and taxation of the mining industry, and (2) rule of law, when government revokes the mining/business permits that itself has granted.


It seems that some members of your ranks are raising the flag of LAUDATO SI to call for the confirmation of the DENR secretary designate.

Please ask these individuals to make sure they have read it and read it well.
Because if they did they should have noticed this:

1. The Holy Father mentions mining directly ONLY ONCE - on Paragraph 51 where he rails against the harm caused by mercury pollution in gold mining and sulphur dioxide pollution in copper mining.
That's in one line in one paragraph out of 246.

2. But the Holy Father mentions "impulsive and wasteful" consumption (par 162), "scandalous level of conusmption" (par 172), the need to modify consumption (par 180) over THIRTY TIMES!!

That's THIRTY TIMES versus ONCE.

(Or maybe because she is one?)

SHE SAYS: : mining is damaging our environment! If you love your country, really really love your country, you should be against mining. The environment is more important than the money the miners make!

THE TRUTH: mining covers less than 3% of our TOTAL LAND AREA - so if as she claims that mining does damage the environment in 3% of the country. who inflicts the damage on the rest, on the 97%???

But more importantly RESPONSIBLE MINING means PROGRESSIVE REHABILITATION... and over the last five or so years mining firms have planted over 20 MILLION TREES nationwide.
Not to mention coral reef rehab.

Finally she has not acted against illegal mining especiallly the small scale operations that pollute the environment, are not required to rehabilitate their mining areas and do not pay taxes properly!

SHE SAYS: Mining makes communities poor. Look at Caraga it remains the poorest region in the country!

THE TRUTH: Mining communities are far better off with responsible mining that brings electricity, schools, Clinics, scholarships, roads and other businesses. Mining firms spend BILLIONS to fill the void that Government misses in remote areas. Without mining, the residents of these otherwise remote communities will have to fall back on subsistence farming or subsistence fishing. Most mining areas are inhospitable areas or areas whose soil is not loam soil that is perfect for agriculture.
Without mining they won't be poor - they'll be dirt poor!

SHE SAYS: There is no such thing as RESPONSIBLE MINING.

THE TRUTH: On her first day in office (July 1) she was told by Leo Jasareno that all mining firms had to undergo ISO 14001 certification which is the HIGHEST international standard. She hailed ISO 14001 as "another way of saying responsible mining." But maybe the next day she found out that most mining operations obtained their ISO 14001 certifications - so she scrapped that and conducted her own audit. But if ISO 14001 is the HIGHEST standard, then her audit has LOWER STANDARDS, yes?

SHE SAYS: Embrace Laudato Si, the Papal Encyclical on Climate Change! Those against mining use Laudato Si to condemn the industry.

THE TRUTH: Laudato Si is made up of 246 paragraphs. The Holy Father only mentions mining ONCE, in paragraph 51. But he lambasts wasteful and shameful consumption more than 30 times and points out that MEDIA fuels the consumption mindset.

She should be LAUDED for her passion.
But she should be REJECTED for the position she aspires for because her PASSION colors her MINDSET.
Just because she is passionate and a Lopez do not make her a good choice to be Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources.

We need a better one/ someone who knows the Law, is incorruptible, has a fear of God and is no-nonsense. Like lawyer Tony LaViƱa or geologist Caloy Arcilla. You cant run circles around either of them even if you tried.

Reject Gina Lopez.
Let the DENR's loss be the ABS CBN Foundation's gain!

See also:

Mining 44, Presentation at the Mining 2015 Conference, September 17, 2015 

Pol Ideology 69, Math can show that small or minimal government is optimal

As humanity modernizes further, complexity and diversity among people increases. Forcing a big number of people into a centrally-planned design to achieve social coherence will only mean more bureaucratism if not dictatorship. Here's one proof.
Mathematicians Prove Society is Way Too Complex to Have A President
November 18, 2016 at 11:18 am
Written by Alice Salles

“[T]he concept of civilization as a complex organism,” mathematicians concluded, “is qualitatively different than either [democracy or communism].”

According to NECSI’s director, Yaneer Bar-Yam, “[t]here’s a natural process of increasing complexity in the world” that at some point will “run into the complexity of the individual.” Once we reach that point, Bar-Yam added, “hierarchical organizations will fail.”

From The Mind Unleased,

“There’s a natural process of increasing complexity in the world that at some point will run into the complexity of the individual. Once we reach that point, hierarchical organizations will fail.”

From Motherboard,

"It is absurd, then, to believe that the concentration of power in one or a few individuals at the top of a hierarchical representative democracy will be able to make optimal decisions on a vast array of connected and complex issues that will certainly have sweeping and unintended ramifications on other parts of human civilization."

The full paper by Bar-Yaam is 23 pages long,

I like this chart. As society progresses, as humanity modernizes, we need more lateral connections and network, not vertical hierarchical ordering. Only ego-tripping central planners and dictators would love more hierarchy.

A friend Eric T asked, "What if, instead of forming a network with lateral connections, each new state ended up operating in a silo?"

From this chart, Eric is referring to the hybrid set up, somehow vertical and horizontal, pwedi, but I think modern societies with small population like SG, HK, Switzerland, are in a hybrid state now.

Another friend, Winthrop added, 

The danger of 'silos' has made the lateral linkages even more important. Even in civil society - old-style 'united fronts' are increasingly being superseded by 'dynamic coalitions', hindi na uso yun one-size-fits-all.... In the end -- individual effort by key persons within the various companies, organizations and institutions.But the organization culture will have to be flexible and open to these dynamic linkages and engagements - it cannot be - "you're either with us or against us"

Good points there by Wyn, the hybrid is the optimal set up for societies in the present. My article last Monday in BusinessWorld was about federalism and disintegration of the Philippines.  To have one President or PM over 103 M people is lousy. Whereas it is more manageable to have 1 PM over 5.7M people (SG) or 1 Chief Exec over 7.5M people (HK) or 1 King/PM over 0.4M people (Brunei), they would somehow fall under the hybrid set up.

See also:

BWorld 111, Electric cooperatives and unstable power supply

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

Almost everything we do now requires energy and if we stay in non-mobile structures like buildings and houses, everything requires electricity. Energy precedes development so unstable and expensive energy means unstable and poor economy.

Given the technological revolution the world has experienced in recent decades, it remains a tragedy that many countries still have low electrification rates and very low electricity consumption per capita.

Unfortunately, the Philippines is among those countries with still not-so-high electrification rates until today and its electricity use is among the lowest in the ASEAN (see table).

Electricity consumption in kWh per capita is high for the following developed and emerging Asian economies: Taiwan, 10,460; South Korea, 10,430; Brunei, 9,550; Singapore, 8,840; Hong Kong, 5,930; Malaysia, 4,470 (6.5x of PHL); China, 3,770; Thailand, 2,490 (3.6x of PHL). These countries and economies also have 100% electrification rate except perhaps China.

There are two reasons why the Philippines has a relatively low electrification rate and low per capita electricity use.

First is due to its archipelagic geography.

Many municipalities and villages are located in islands that are off-grid and, as a result, their residents rely on biomass like firewood for cooking and gensets running on diesel for lighting although some do use solar.

Second is due to politics.

There are not enough base-load power plants that can provide electricity 24/7 even in major islands like Luzon and Mindanao. This is because of political opposition by certain groups to cheap and stable fossil fuel sources like coal. Also, there are many bureaucracies (national and local) that discourage the quick construction and commissioning of new power plants. There are also weak, inefficient, and even corrupt electric cooperatives (ECs) that are given monopoly privileges to serve certain provinces and municipalities.

There are 119 ECs in the country from Luzon to Mindanao plus private distribution utilities like Meralco and those in PEZA/ecozones. All ECs are supervised and regulated by the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

Of the 119 ECs, some remain financially weak and problematic until today, like the Abra EC (ABRECO) and Albay EC (ALECO). These two ECs are so deep in debt they are unable to provide stable electricity to their customer-members and have arrears with power generating companies (gencos) that supply them electricity at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).

According to National Electrification Administration (NEA), from 2004 to 2014, it has released subsidies to ABRECO worth P56.6 million for the implementation of the Sitio Electrification Program (SEP), Barangay Line Enhancement Program, and its procurement of a modular generator set.

For ALECO, it was badly managed and was on the brink of bankruptcy that local business and political leaders proposed and supported its corporatization and take over by more established energy players.

In January 2014, ALECO was acquired by San Miguel Energy Corp.’s subsidiary Global Power Holdings Corp. (SMC Global) and renamed it as Albay Power and Energy Corporation (APEC). ALECO then was the first EC in the country that was corporatized.

Upon takeover, SMC Global and APEC inherited a P4-billion debt by ALECO including overdue payments at WESM of nearly P1 billion.

More than two years after the takeover, the debt ballooned to P5.6 billion, mainly due to low collection efficiency. APEC said its database of customers has been sabotaged since about 80% of its customers are not on the database.

APEC resorted to disconnecting some big customers that do not pay but disgruntled ALECO employees and officers have resorted to reconnecting them.

The ball and accountability is in the hands of NEA. Why are these things allowed to continue for years, to the detriment of paying customers and generation companies that are not paid on time.

In 2015, NEA reported that it lent a total of P2-billion loans to 51 ECs to finance their capital expenditure projects, rehabilitate their power distribution systems, among others.

NEA should perhaps consider slowly stepping out of the sector and push all the ECs to move towards full corporatization with full exposure to expansion or bankruptcy. The sector that needs protection should be the electricity consumers, not the ECs.

Consumers should be protected from expensive and unstable electricity as well as disconnection because the DU or EC has been disconnected by gencos and WESM for huge unpaid accounts.

The NEA, along with other government agencies in the energy sector, should look at the above table again, and try to find out why our electrification rate and electricity use are at the level of Pakistan and Mongolia instead of at the level of Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

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

See also: