Monday, June 30, 2008

Speculation 101

(Herman Tiu Laurel / Infowars / Tribune column for 6-30-2008 MON)

“Oil speculators” and “speculation” have become household wonderments these days, yet few really understand what they mean and how they wreck the lives of people and nations, even the most powerful of countries like the USA. Here’s an attempt at a short course on the subject, where we immediately begin with the problem understanding the term “speculation.” One website gave out over 20 ways of understanding it, but we sum it up to 3. Market speculation is:

1) Taking large risks, especially with respect to trying to predict the future; gambling, in the hopes of making quick, large gains; 2) Speculation should not be considered purely a form of gambling, as speculators do make informed decisions before choosing to acquire the additional risks; 3) As speculation is deregulated, market speculation transforms to market manipulation when traders, financial agents and corrupt high level politicians connive.

In the third sense, risk is practically eliminated and windfall profits are guaranteed. Reading and explaining the plethora of discussion on oil manipulation has been difficult enough, but a useful summary of the article Oil Market Manipulation by Chris Cook guides us through the complex history and present reality of oil speculation:

“By way of a history, the ‘Brent 15 Day’ contract was a set of contract terms developed by Shell in the late 70's/early 80's which—unusually--allowed the resale of ‘Cargo –size’ parcels of crude oil produced by their North Sea Brent crude oil field… The purchase and sale of Dated Brent cargoes is as close as one gets to buying ‘Spot’ Brent crude oil on a market… Enter IPE (International Petroleum Exchange)… In the late 1980's, the IPE tried twice to introduce standardised, physically deliverable Brent Crude Oil futures contracts, and failed because of incompatibilities between the 1000 barrel contract size and the delivery size of 500,000 barrels… So the IPE introduced in the end a futures contract which was ‘cash settled’ on the expiry date some six weeks before the relevant contract month…against an ‘Index’ of the prices reported by market observers like Platts…

“Through the late 1990’s, the decline in Brent Crude Oil production was already causing problems, because market players would often try and ‘squeeze’ the market by buying up as many forward cargoes as they could, and then ‘squeezing’ financial players/traders, who had speculatively sold 15 Day contracts in respect of oil they did not have. Also during this period…new trading tools developed to enable market players to ‘hedge’ the price risk they had between the expiry of the IPE contract and the actual ‘Dated’ delivery…related to manipulation of the IPE contract daily settlement price. This was ‘micro’ (short term) manipulation, as distinct from major market medium term plays involving big trading positions, which I characterise as ‘macro’ manipulation. This ‘micro’ manipulation created losses for the traders ‘on-exchange’ which were more than offset by profits ‘off-exchange’…”

The article goes on: “Developments Post 2001…(on) Brent CFD’s (Contract for Differences)… Important developments in recent years to give rise to a BFO (Bunker Fuel Oil) complex, and a plethora of trading in the ICEFutures (Intercontinental Exchange) cash settled ‘BFO contract’ as it technically now is, and the re-jigged ‘BFO’ market itself. Brent/WTI (West Texas Intermediate), the physically deliverable WTI itself has become increasing irrelevant and during the last few years has essentially become an adjunct to Brent through a massive trading mechanism known as the Brent/WTI Arbitrage… Brent/WTI Arbitrage (in) 2001 and things have moved massively against Nymex since then, as a large part of WTI trading migrated to ICEFutures in London, following the ‘London exemption’ to CFTC (Commodity Futures Trading Commission, US) speculative position limits.”

After reading this dizzying gist, 2 things emerge--the migration of trading to the ICEFutures which had obtained exemption from CFTC regulation.

We fast forward to Cook’s narration of an actual case of manipulation: “The BP (British Petroleum)/Goldman (finance) complex…joined at the hip, both in governance terms--which is a matter of record (i.e. same Chairman, common Directors etc)--and in economic terms, both have made massive profits from energy trading… Structurally, BP (has) always…‘hedged’ (its) Forties (from an oil field of the same name) and…production using the IPE/ICEFutures contracts… Goldman, on the other hand, has long…invested in funds which are ‘invested’ in Brent and WTI contracts and ‘rolled over’ every month. Goldman’s trading arm J Aron has routinely ‘Date Raped’ these positions as they roll over…

“Date rape…Evolution of Manipulation - From Micro to Macro?… BP and Goldman’s ‘matched’ long/short Brent/BFO position has allowed them to act jointly as something of a fulcrum for manipulation. So that when one of them ‘bids up’ the market--the other will make matching profits…(and they) ‘wash trades’ (i.e. laundering trades) ‘off exchange.’ Both parties would then benefit from the fact that this artificially induced volatility made them profits on their ‘off-exchange’ dealings, e.g., they could sell options at overpriced premiums because the volatility was artificially high… In the early 2000’s we saw the entry of hedge funds--speculative money--into the market… What happened is that they (BP/Goldman) now make vast profits as counterparties for these hedge funds, utilizing sharing of superior market knowledge, and the positions held by speculators…”

How do we stop these oil market speculators? An article by Charles Biderman suggests the following: 1) regulate, the way the US Congress is now looking into tightening its oversight on oil trading; 2) raise margin requirements for oil futures traders to 25 percent from the current 7.5 percent, where they can put $10,000 to control $150,000 of oil; 3) require traders to disclose their total positions on all kinds of crude to know who is going long (expecting to profit in the long run through “shorting” the market in a big way); 4) for oil consuming nations like Japan, China, India and the US to make a concerted effort to burn the speculators by buying at the exchanges to deny them. The U.S. can temporarily cease its 70,000 barrels-daily increase (two million barrels monthly) to its strategic oil reserves, but that’s what I mean by “corrupt high level politicians” conniving with speculators--Bush is on their side!

...Our next column: How the Philippines can fight back

(Tune in to: Talk News TV on GNN, Destiny Cable Channel 3, Tuesday at 8:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with guest, Dr. Roger Posadas on science and technology reforms; Kape’t Kamulatan, Kabansa on 1098AM, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; and Suló ng Pilipino every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the same station. Also, check out:

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Drowned by the ‘Second-hand’ Economy

Herman Tiu Laurel


Late news from Princess of the Stars casualty reports that over 800 may have died in the tragedy. There’s a lot of finger-pointing in the wake of the sea catastrophe, and countless politicians joining the chorus for an investigation of the incident and the government agencies such as the Bureau of Marine Protection, the Marina and particularly the DoTC, which is supposed to be on top of all the related agencies involved in sea transportation in the country. As expected, Gloria Arroyo is pinning all the blame on the few scapegoats in the Coast Guard hierarchy that she can fire and on the shipping company. We’ve heard and seen all this huffing and puffing many times before, but nothing will come out of it for certain.

The Philippines has had eight sea tragedies in the past 22 years, almost one tragedy every two and a half years. While no country is exempt from such tragedies, such as the unforgettable sinking of the Estonia in 1994 that made news worldwide for that small country, that’s only one in 50 or 100 years for all the other countries. Of course, the Philippines is a maritime country and can expect a larger share of such sea tragedies, but the staggering frequency of such sinking in the Philippines, from Doña Paz on December, 1987 to the present Princess of the Stars tragedy, is simply unacceptable. These are clearly not isolated cases but a systemic problem, and that means that not only the shipping company but the whole structure of the sector involving policies and its economics.

The frustration of our maritime sector professionals is reflected in a headline from the Internet’s Maritime Watchkeeper: “‘Sea tragedies bring the clowns to town’… After each sea tragedy, what follows is a predictable and routine series of events purported to symphatize with relatives of victims and the survivors, the start of the finger-pointing season, issuances of headline grabbing one-liners, trial by publicity, imposition of sanctions sans due process, a flurry to hold public hearings and the eventual formation of a presidential maritime task force that would result in a formal statement that henceforth such tragedies would never happen again. Once the media have lost interest on the matter, everything dies down… until the next tragedy.”

The article enumerates the clownish actions: Sen. Biazon seeking a Senate probe, the call for the resignation of the Coast Guard and Marina chiefs, DoTC pinning blame on Sulpicio, the grounding of all Sulpicio vessels, the press release on the subject from Sen. Zubiri’s office and capped off by Gloria Arroyo’s latest headline slamming Sulpicio lines, and then Senate President Villar hurries to add that the tragedy tarnished Filipino seamen’s reputation. The article goes on, “21 years since the sinking of the M/V Doña Paz between Mindoro and Marinduque after colliding with an oil tanker… For the nth time, Congress is set to investigate another maritime disaster in an effort to determine what happened, pinpoint those accountable and propose laws to prevent such accidents from recurring...”

The Maritime Watchkeeper focuses on the Philippine safety classification system for passenger and cargo ships, in an obscured language that I suspect is to cloak the bitterness of its indictment:

“A few years back, Marina ‘opened the market’ for classification societies run by local practitioners. Affordability was the biggest consideration… Our rules allow us to buy second hand vessels from Japan, but would not accept the JG certificate… What is acceptable are certificates from societies local and foreign that are ‘recognized’ by the government. What kind of arrogance is that?”

Deciphering the language I read this: The Philippines allows second-hand ships from Japan that the JG (Japan Government) standard would not approve for safety certification but which Philippine government recognized “classification societies” would approve and local shipping companies operate at the risk of passengers’ life and limb. The bottom line is that our country’s floating assets are second-hand coming off the industrial ass of Japan, 50 years or older, and reclassified as “made” at a later date, such as the Princess of the Stars, which its specifications state was “made” in 1984. The Maritime Watchkeeper is made up of maritime professionals and see this perennial problem of their sector from the maritime professionals eye, but from our political-economic perspective, the real problem is the “second-hand” character of our national economy.

To the Maritime Watchkeeper and all the Filipino people, we say that the problem is beyond the safety classification — it is the problem of our national economy that cannot produce the consumer and industrial goods to serve our people in the safe and first class conditions that we deserve. We are an archipelagic and maritime nation that deserves a respectable ship-building industry to service the seafaring needs of this country. Filipinos are legendary for their ship building skills, from the time of the balangay to the time of the ship-building industry in Sangley, and later the ship repair and building in Navotas.

Decades of deconstruction of the Philippine industrial sector, which once boasted of the first integrated steel mill in Iligan, has relegated the Philippines into a “second-hand economy” in everything — from ships to marine and diesel engines, providing second-hand quality service and safety to its people. The latest word about the Princess of the Stars tragedy is that its steering mechanism malfunctioned forcing it into shallow waters where its hull sprung a massive leak — and hundreds drowned again in the “second hand economy”.

(Tune to 1098AM, 8:30 to 9 a.m., Mon. to Fri.; Destiny Cable, Channel 3, Tuesdays 8:45 to 9:30 p.m. with next guest Dr. Roger Posadas on Science and Technology Reforms; our blog

Monday, June 23, 2008

Stop Beating Around the ‘Bush’

What exactly is Bush going to tell Gloria that they won’t be able to discuss over the phone or through their subalterns? Whatever it is, such publicized visits are intended to communicate something to the audience — in this case, the Filipino and American publics. Walter Lohman, senior research fellow of the neo-conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, declared, “Bush is meeting with her not to endorse her politics or anything she is doing but to express his confidence in the Philippine Constitution and the need for her to stay until the completion of her term.” Given that Lohman and his Heritage ilk merely echo what the backers of Dubya really think, we can only conclude that coup efforts in the Philippines are alive and well in the minds of many patriotic Filipinos.

I wouldn’t have written about it if the neo-cons’ analysis were not made public because I’d like to help keep the powers-that-be in the dark about any such moves among patriotic Filipinos. Yet it is foolish to think that we have better intelligence than the US Embassy here, where a surplus of Quislings exist and where the buying of traitors comes very cheap — a US immigrant visa, for example, is enough to buy the collaboration of any Filipino of poor patriotic fiber. All coup plotters must assume the US Embassy gets to know about any plans earlier than some of the other collaborators. In the 2001 coup against President Estrada, I remember how the embassy circuits knew about it in advance, in the last quarter of 2000. It was even my Russian Embassy friends who relayed to me what the British and Americans told them.

The trick, then, to launching a successful coup is not to deny the plot but to create as many plots and continuously “leak” them. More importantly, though, we should continue to explain why these plots persist — that oppression and exploitation of the people by foreign powers that coddle corrupt political agents such as Gloria continue. The education of all those involved in coup plans, as well as making the public understand the reasons behind these, along with the methods for and promises of change from such, are a must, if we are to build the indispensable mass base of support for a patriotic coup. Truly, no coup in the Philippine context will ever succeed without a real patriotic cause because in the face of the US’ power to corrupt, mere power mongering and lust for material benefits will never stand a chance.

Of course, one full proof guarantee for success is to have the US embassy on your side, just as it was in Edsa I and II, but the foreign powers charge an enormously high price. The nation’s plunder, as what was seen after two “people power revolts,” with Cory Aquino selling off our “crown jewels” through privatization, accelerated by clone FVR and Gloria, to the point of the Philippines, used to being just the “sick man of Asia,” now placed in the ICU, drained of blood, is but a staggering example. The only time when a halt to this could have been attained was when they staged the coup against Estrada. The burning embers of Gringo’s 1989 attempt, as well as, the military-civilian protests by Senator Trillanes in 2003 and with Gen. Danilo Lim on Nov. 29, 2007 at the Manila Pen, were all doused by the US Embassy.

Back in 1989, a panic-stricken Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos beseeched Colin Powell to get US Phantom jets to conduct persuasion flights against the rebel military forces. Then, in 2007, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney “leaked” her embassy’s position on the Manila Pen standoff as early as noon, discouraging support, and made formal by late afternoon. Those instances only prove that the US and the Brits, along with their predatory Joint Foreign Chambers, know that they will not be able to stop nationalistic aspirations once patriots are in power. That’s why the US wants a controlled transition from the strongly hated Gloria Arroyo to its next puppet; and why it will not countenance an unpredictable exercise such as a coup with patriotic backing. Elections, therefore, are much more desired since these are more predictable and easier to control.

After eight years of Edsa II, the US feels it now has all the institutional mechanisms installed to derive its desired results. It has survey organizations in its pocket, like the SWS, to create “trending” effects; it has Namfrel and the Church doing so-called election monitoring but whose role has actually been to sanitize any news of electoral fraud; it has unprecedented Big Business control of the economy and thus, election money, ad nausea. By extension, the US powers would then love to enthrone somebody like Noli de Castro — and Bush will probably assure Gloria of safe passage for this to happen. So for those of us who are fighting to make this nation truly prosperous and safe for our next generation, we must cultivate in the minds of everyone the dream of gaining freedom and sovereignty from the exploiting foreign powers and their Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce. That’s the only way to reclaim the vast wealth of this nation for our people.

The victories of patriots in South America are changing the world’s geopolitical configuration. It’s time Filipinos stopped beating around the bush and go straight to the point: We need our revolution now, peaceful or otherwise, and patriotic soldiers and civilians must rally around this call.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Public Disinformation 101

There’s supposed to be a “truth in advertising” law, but are we on guard and protecting the public against violations of this law? We live in a media atmosphere that is like a thick soup of lies and half-truths (which are whole lies too). Take this cold medicine ad that says, “Hindi sapat ang
tubig at pahinga … Kailangan, i-‘Nose-zep.’” I obviously changed the name of the drug a bit so as not to be obvious; but the company propagating this clear disinformation isn’t at all shy to issue an outright lie to push its product.

It is now a truism, a widely accepted truth, that sufficient fluids and rest is all that is needed for viral cases such as colds and flu. So to insist that one needs phenylpropanolamine and paracetamol to recover from colds or flu is an outright falsehood. And to see tarpaulin signs of this drug all over Metro Manila’s streets, dishing out its lie against the body’s natural healing with fluids and rest while propagating the drug, enraged me even more.

On the Internet, one can find consumer advocacy groups against phenylpropanolamine (PPA), a substance banned in the U.S. for the many cases of death. One website called “Consumers versus pharmaceuticals,” for instance, says, “…here in the US, not a single cold tablet or syrup uses
Phenylpropanolamine. All use Pseudoephedrine.” I wonder: If the US FDA does not allow the use of phenylpropanolamine even in small amounts, why is it still being allowed by our BFAD?

As a matter of fact, the warning against phenylpropanolamine had already caught on for a while in the Philippines but the people’s short memory has allowed one of the giant pharmaceuticals to push its potentially deadly drug on consumers again.

How do you treat colds? Family Doctor on the Internet says: “Get plenty of rest, especially while you have a fever. Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke, which can make cold symptoms worse. Drink lots of fluids like water and clear soups. Fluids help loosen mucus. Fluids are also important because they help prevent dehydration. Gargle with warm salt water a few times a day to relieve a sore throat… Avoid alcohol. Use saline (salt water) nose drops to help loosen mucus and moisten the tender skin in your nose.”

Not to be outdone in this big disinformation campaign is the Meralco blitz--not just about the other PPA (Purchased Power Agreements with take-or-pay terms) but also with Juday. I have nothing against Juday earning a good living from her public image, but she should be careful in
preserving her credibility.

Several celebrities who have found themselves endorsing bad products or ideas have paid dearly with their careers, such as Jolina Magdangal who was paid by Gloria Arroyo’s handlers to boost her administration’s sagging public image. Jolina has since seen the number of her fans following in her decline. Manny Pacquiao, too, has paid a high price for endorsing Gloria’s regime and her candidates. Yes, he still keeps winning boxing bouts, but his standing has suffered considerably when it comes to his politics. Even ‘Star for all seasons’ Vilma Santos has failed to shore up her rVAT of a husband; so let’s see how she gets clobbered once she runs for the VP slot and the rVAT issue is raised again.

Disinformation comes in many forms, but the end purpose is always to affect mainstream media and gear it to waylay the public from truth.

I consider the court decision on the Villaraza versus Ninez Cacho-Olivares and the Tribune as a case in disinformation--using the controlled judicial system. Reading the decision of the lower court on the matter, I noticed it repeatedly described the complainant as “private” parties, yet only the most innocent of innocents would think “The Firm,” a law corporation, is a private party. The Firm is as intertwined with public figures and public interest as a Balete tree is to its host until it kills and takes it over. The Firm has handled cases directly affecting, and in many cases disadvantaging, the public. The effect of the decision versus Ninez and the Tribune then is the emboldening of the power manipulators in government and the judicial mafia.

Consider the glee of consummate liars like Bunye of the “Hello Garci” infamy upon hearing the decision. He said of the adverse ruling, “It should serve as a wake up call for the media.” So, in effect, Bunye calls the decision as a warning to media not to expose, oppose or excoriate government anomalies and lies, nor the legal manipulations of the powers-that-be in cases of public interest.

The Firm has gained enormous power to “fix” the judicial system with the appointment of justices and judges taken out of the public realm into the private auspices of the Judicial Bar Council, where appointments are traded for loyalty for Edsa I and Edsa II civil society, the Firm and GMA’s interests. The courts were merely used in a disinformation campaign in this case. The truth will just have to wait for the higher courts to affirm.

The fight against the powerful interests and their disinformation is everywhere. In Thailand, a recent case is highlighted from the libel cases filed by British retail transnational Tesco against several journalists. Kamol Kamoltrakul, a Thai business writer, is now facing a libel action by
the giant Tesco for criticizing the retail behemoth’s policies of edging out small retail stores.

A report on his case narrates: “’The shocking truth is that 37% of [Tesco's] income comes from Thailand.’ And he goes on to make the case that Tesco’s Thai profits are mostly returned to the UK ‘because of the complexity of accounting which can deduct a lot of expenses and show low profit.’” For this, he is being sued for millions of Baht, threatening to throw him out of his house and home.

This is in no way different from my fight against NLEX’s exploitation where a P100-million case has been lodged against me.

Lastly, a political disinformation I would like to put in perspective is what CNN and BBC are projecting about Zimbabwe. They claim Mugabe is using state resources against his opponent, the British and EU gofer ‘Tsongo’rai, but more significantly, we should see just how the Western conspiracy’s transnational forces are being brought to bear on him, from the West’s economic embargo to CNN-BBC-Al Jazeera’s media demonization. Thus, at its root, Mugabe’s struggle is an anti-colonial one that goes beyond electoral politics.

Daily Tribune
June 16, 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008

Our Only Hope

(Herman Tiu Laurel / Infowars / Tribune column for 6-9-2008 MON)

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," as Henry Thoreau once described. But with murderous price increases in global food and energy, human existence has become one of extreme despair and noisy despondency. The situation is worse in the Philippines. Despite being the only Asean country blessed with abundant natural and agricultural potential, it has become almost totally dependent on rice imports to fulfill its people's needs. And while it has offshore and inshore energy resources, it is ironically energy deficient up to now. Due to the long-dominant Western political and economic influence over the country, our leaders have been stripped of any political will to seize our national wealth for the nation's progress. As a result, Filipinos today live in worse fear and trembling over what the future holds.

Despite Filipino rice productivity being superior to other countries in the region, as certified by the International Rice Research Institute in its report that: "Productivity is quite high.with Filipino farmers producing 3.4 tonnes of rice per hectare as against Thai farmers, who produce only 2.4 tonnes per hectare," the Arroyo regime still insists on allocating 10 percent of our rice need to imports while another 10 percent, quietly, to smuggled rice. Meanwhile, in the energy sector, two examples highlight the Philippines' dilemma--the Philippine geothermal potential and the Malampaya oil reserves beneath the natural gas being tapped today.

The geothermal potential of the country is 5,000 MWe but only 1930 MWe are currently being realized. This potential is being set aside for the current IPPs using natural gas and other Western oil company-controlled resources and the expansion they contemplate. On Malampaya oil, "SPEX and Chevron Texaco put it at 18-32 million barrels while the DOE claims that the Malampaya crude oil reserves range from 28-40 million barrels. On the other hand, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the US Department of Energy, in its online country analysis brief on the Philippines, wrote that Malampaya crude oil could reach as high as 85 million barrels." That represents almost one full year of imports and savings of $11 billion, yet Shell demands a $12-billion payment for anyone else to tap it?!

Truly, control of the geothermal and gas-oil infrastructure--the heavy and large-scale hardware--is control of whatever potential the wealth within Philippine territory may bring. These resources are called strategic because they have long-term impacts on the country's situation--for the better, if they are for the country's benefit, or for the worse, if they are for others' profit. Marcos experienced the same from 1971 to 1979's astronomical oil price hikes and rice supply crises. So he proceeded to implement strategic infrastructure development and energy self-sufficiency with geothermal and dendrothermal, large and mini-hydros, small gasifiers (using rice and coconut husks), and the giant Bataan Nuclear Power Plant projects. He also established the national oil company and our oil transport facilities.

Unfortunately, Marcos' programs were cut short by "people power," and the successors made sure the programs for energy, fuel and food self-sufficiency were cut short as well. The old, traditional elites like the Lopezes, Aboitizes, Alacantaras et al, and the Makati business elite, controlled by the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce (JFC), started appropriating sectors of state assets for themselves. Energy self-sufficency then went kaput as irrigation projects such as Chico, Casecanan, San Roque and Laiban dams for rice got cancelled. Following years of Marcos demonization, what we're left with are infrastructure projects long forgotten, a mothballed Bataan nuclear power plant, and incessant power blackouts that will put any self-proclaimed democracy to shame.

When FVR resurrected some hydro-electric dams, these were quickly privatized, with control given to foreign companies gifted with the "take or pay" terms. Alas, we have not had energy, fuel and food security or stability since then. Strategic infrastructure and their national control is a fundamental concept the Filipino nation and intelligentsia must learn as the country's Holy Grail of hope and progress. This is how powerful countries of the world started--the U.S., with the great infrastructure in railways, oil and hydro-electric dams up to the 1930's; China, with its on-going projects including the Three Gorges Dam; and Vietnam, with its infrastructure campaign and four nuclear power plants on line.

Our national debate suffers from political demagoguery and obeisance to Western disinformation against infrastructure-oriented nation-building, suffused with anti-Marcos and anti-Estrada histrionics. The "rejectionist" Left is stuck in 1980's Luddite rhetoric, like Walden Bello's anti-Marcos and anti-Nuclear line. We debunk these obsolete ideologies and raise the anti-West campaign because it is an indispensable component of the struggle for national, sovereignty collective consciousness. The JFC intervention gave us impetus to call for unity against it and its Epira law. Now, in our focus on strategic infrastructure and leadership, we highlight the next steps to take--we must establish nationally-owned infrastructures for energy, fuel, water, food, telecommunications, as well as, science and technology.

The anti-Gloria rhetoric is fine, but we must seize the broader vision and the marching song toward historic nationalist leadership ; seize the day and launch long-term, strategic national development.
The rewards of victory in infrastructure development can be seen in a number of cases. The Chinese people, though beset by the Sichuan earthquake, do not despair because their State is empowered with hardware and people to take control of crises. Western countries, while facing similar energy price crisis, have alternatives provided by their scientific and technological infrastructure, developing fuel from wind, sun and even algae, or simply expanding their nuclear potential. On food, the U.S., which throws away 96-billion pounds of food a year--enough to feed the Philippine population for one and a half years, has has achieved this by massive farm, irrigation, harvest, and storage infrastructures. China has done the same, turning from a starvation stricken country to a rice exporting one.

The Philippines can find long-term security and hope for its people only when the necessary, massive infrastructures for its growing basic needs are established and placed under its control. For this to happen, we need a leadership that is ready to sweep aside those who would impede the way, like Shell or the JFC, the Big Business local elites, or the muddle-headed civil society (including wayward religious leaders). That leadership must consist of strong, patriotic, civilian and military leaders, and mass people's organizations, all single-mindedly dedicated to achieve national self-sufficiency and sustainability.

(Tune in to my shows: "Talk News TV" on GNN, Destiny Cable Channel 3, every Tuesday, 8:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; "Kape't Kamulatan, Kabansa" on 1098AM, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; and "Suló ng Pilipino" every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the same station. Check out:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Let's Unite Against the JFC and EPIRA

(Herman Tiu Laurel / Infowars / Tribune column for 6-6-2008 FRI)

Exactly on the day our Monday column "It's the Anglo-US con game, stupid" came out, the predominantly US-led Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce (JFC) issued a statement--splashed in most newspapers-- that unmasked its members as large-scale pirates and predators.

In trying to counter Filipino consumers' seeping rebellion against grievously murderous electricity costs, as well as, the massive corruption and exploitation of Meralco and Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron Texaco, such as, in force-selling overpriced natural gas (indexed to high-priced diesel oil) through Lopez IPPs (Sta.Rita and San Lorenzo), the JFC defended the Epira and energy privatization anew. It warned against any review or renegotiation of the onerous IPP contracts with their "take or pay" provisions.

Filipinos should now realize that the chief cause of all the economic misery of this nation is the fact that foreign powers have, time and again, made this country their milking cow.

They install corrupt political leaders through "people power" with the connivance of their agents like the Makati Business Club. They control the political system through corrupt politicians to enact laws like the Epira, the Mining Act, and many others that legalize the rape of our nation's resources.

They depose any political leadership they cannot control, like in the case of President Estrada; and when patriotic soldiers like Gen. Danilo Lim, Sen.Trillanes, the Magdalos and the Tanay group come to the fore, well, they just keep them in detention indefinitely.

In my Monday column, I predicted that the Meralco-Lopez versus GMA-Garcia fight would end with the Lopezes winning the struggle. Hardly had the ink on my column dried when the JFC confirmed our prediction: it came out openly to defend Meralco and its onerous deals, even if these are so oppressive to the people and beneficial only to the IPPs that have Anglo-US corporate backing.

Among the many foreign companies that have exploited the Philippines' power sector to the hilt is Mirant,which had raked in at least an estimated $10 billion before it pulled out last year--not bad for a company that went bankrupt in the US to the tune of $5 billion in 2001-2002. Mirant's ilk employed the same scheme across the globe, from Bolivia and Brazil to India and Indonesia. It's time we stopped these predators once and for all!

The current intervention of the JFC is reminiscent of the visit in August 2002 of then U.S. State Secretary Colin Powell. It was the second year of the Epira when power prices were let loose following 12 months of price increase moratorium secretly imposed by GMA on Napocor. Power prices doubled and millions of irate electricity consumers raised hell, calling for a review and renegotiation of the IPP contracts, as well as, the removal of the "take or pay" provisions.

Hence, it prompted the US to send its State Secretary to warn Gloria against touching any IPP contracts.

Today, the JFC predictably attempts to scare Filipinos with veiled threats of investment embargos, saying in reverse psychology language, "Threats of yet another round of contract reviews and renegotiations with independent power producers will cast doubt on the stability of policies and regulatory rules and on the integrity of investment promotion programs.

"We, the Filipino people, should instead realize that these foreign "investors," who bring nothing but saliva and political intrigues, have cost us too much already--with onerous loans where foreign consultants take up most of the project expenses, where huge profits are assured through "sovereign guarantees" and backed up by people's taxes and payments, and where margins are already made upfront through bid-fixing and under-pricing, such as the Transco bid of $4 billion for assets worth $6 billion.

It should be very clear to all by now that the rush to privatize and deregulate the power industry, as well as, other utilities like water, telecoms and roads, only enables foreign companies to suck up their plunder.

With what the foreign IPPs have plundered from us, we could have paid all the debts of Napocor with more to spare for expansion of renewal resources such as geothermal energy, a source the foreign funding agencies and consultants have suppressed in favor of Malampaya, to give the Royal Dutch and Chevron Texaco all the market they want. Just the same, the Prince Philip-funded campaign against coal--one of the cheapest sources of energy--ensures a market for the high priced natural gas of Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron Texaco.

Intiendes? Capiche? Understand?

If we do understand all these manipulations and swindles, then it's time this enlightenment be reflected in our actions: Let's unite against foreign interventionists and fraudulent "investors." Let's regain our freedom and benefit from our own resources and labors. Let's end the foreign exploitation!

Even as the JFC takes us for fools, Meralco thinks of its six million consumers this way too, conscripting Juday to fool the public. Imagine comparing electricity and systems losses to ice melting away after it is bought from the sari-sari store!

First of all, there is no "take or pay" for ice; if you don't buy ice, you don't pay. Secondly, ice is a luxury we can do without while electricity, in modern society, is a basic need (contrary to what dzBB's Joel Zobel said). Thirdly, the sari-sari store owner doesn't charge his electric fan, TV, microwave, and other electricity consumption to the ice the way Meralco charges its power consumption on us all.

Indeed, electricity is like water and air to modern man. Demand for it is inelastic, unless one drops out of modern society and returns to the Middle Ages, or drops dead altogether. Meralco should therefore not "kuryente" the public with that Juday ad.

Sadly, not one of the senators or congressmen, even from the opposition, is calling for the junking of the Epira. Enrile and Santiago's posturing against the JFC are meaningless as they do not want to junk the Epira.

Merely amending a fundamentally flawed law does not change anything; it only opens the sector to more manipulation because the root problems of Epira's privatization and maximization of profit are not addressed.

Only a patriotic and nationalist leadership can change the situation--to restore the power of the public over the energy sector, re-impose the primacy of public interest over private profit, and re-nationalize all other basic utilities.

Let all Filipinos unite to junk the JFC and the Epira!

(Tune in to my shows: "Talk News TV" on GNN, Destiny Cable Channel 3, every Tuesday, 8:45 p.m. to 9:30p.m.; "Kape't Kamulatan, Kabansa" on 1098 AM, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; and "Suló ng Pilipino" every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the same station)