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)