Saturday, 19 November 2011

RH bill duplicates Health program

by Rey Salita
Manila Standard

Senator Vicente Sotto III says there is no need for the reproductive health bill since it merely duplicates the programs and goals of the Health department.

The Senate’s majority floor leader Sotto said for instance that the Health department’s 2012 proposed budget has a P7.7 billion allocation for contraceptives and community-based population control programs. These are the same features found in the reproductive health bill, Sotto said on Thursday during a budget deliberation.

“I honestly find no reason why the RH bill has to be enacted into law when all its components are existing programs already implemented by the health department.” Sotto said.

Sotto took note of a substantial increase in the budget for family health and responsible parenting—the centerpiece of the proposed RH bill. The budget was increased to P2.5 billion from P4.2 billion.

He said there was also a P197 million allocation for local government units covering purchase of condoms, intrauterine device, pills and injectibles.

Finance committee chairman Franklin Drilon, who was sponsoring the administration’s P42.69 total budget public health budget, said the budget was allocated for contraceptives. LGUs have the discretion to decide which brand or kind of contraceptives to purchase and distribute to their constituents, Drilon said.

Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, a staunch oppositor of the RH bill, stressed that there were many expenditure items in the DoH budget that were misleading but were basically family planning contraceptives.

“In the RH bill, these supplies were defined. I cannot remember the adjectives they have used. There is a broad definition of what they call these family planning supplies. But in the RH bill, they call it essential medicines.” Enrile said.

Senator Edgardo Angara also pointed out a P5 billion allocation in the DoH budget for basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric and new born care which calls for enhanced post-natal health facilities.

“This is really shady and I suspect that these are abortion facilities,” Angara said.

But Drilon clarified the government program was targeted at 5.2 million households earning less that P6,000 per month where most unplanned pregnancies occur.

“No, these are not abortion clinics. These are for additional facilities for district and rural hospitals for to effect improvement for maternal health. Birthing homes in far-flung areas will be added,” Drilon said.

BoP Surplus Reaches $9.93 Billion

Cumulative For First 10 Months
Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ balance of payments (BoP) surplus was $9.929 billion in the first 10 months of the year due to inflows from portfolio investments, exports and remittances, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported.

Data released by the central bank yesterday showed that the country’s BoP from January to October this year was $750 million higher compared with $9.179-billion surplus incurred in the same period last year.

The BoP is a summary of the economic transactions of a country with the rest of the world for a specific time period.

In October alone, the BoP surplus reached $208 million, lower compared with P2.736-billion surplus The central bank is currently reviewing its 2011 BoP surplus forecast of $6.7 billion and may revise it upwards after the figure was exceeded starting August.

Last year, the BoP posted a record surplus of $14.4 billion on the back of strong remittances of overseas Filipinos, high earnings of the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, sustained export growth as well as surging foreign capital flows.

Net portfolio inflows in the 10 months to October reached $3.445 billion compared with last year's $2.509 billion.

The central bank has said it may keep its 7 percent remittance growth forecast for the year, despite the slowing US economy and euro zone's debt problems.

The BSP earlier reported that remittances from overseas Filipinos remained robust in September this year at $1.7 billion, registering an 8.4 percent year-on-year increment.

“The steady growth in remittance flows through September this year resulted in a cumulative year-on-year expansion of 7.1 percent to reach $14.8 billion,” BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said.

For the nine-month period, the top ten country sources of remittances included the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Italy, Germany and Norway.

The remittance flows from these countries amounted to $12.5 billion, which represented 84.9 percent of total remittances reported by banks.

PNR steps up service upgrade

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — Thirty more donated train coaches from Japan are set to arrive before the end of the month to be used to expand the capacity and improve the operation of the Philippine National Railways (PNR).

PNR General Manager Jun Ragrario Friday said 30 electric motor units (EMUs) previously used by Japan Rail East (JRE) will be shipped to Manila toward November.

He said the EMUs are similar to those used in the Light and Metro Rail Transits (LRT and MRT), so they have to be refurbished and reconfigured to operate in the PNR Metro Manila line.

Ragrario said the delivery of additional coaches from Japan will improve the capacity of PNR’s current six train sets, composed of 18 coaches, which are plying daily the PNR tracks from Tutuban in Manila to Alabang in Muntinlupa City.

“With the additional coaches, interval between PNR trips will be reduced from 30 to 20 minutes. Less overcrowding of passengers will be a likely result of shorter headway,” he added.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Singapore High Court backs Philippines in airport dispute

by Jeremiah F. de Guzman
Manila Standard

SINGAPORE’S High Court on Wednesday rejected a German firm’s bid to take over Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, giving the Philippine government full control of the facility.

The court denied Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc.’s plea to set aside a July 2010 decision of the International Chamber of Commerce declaring the airport builder may not operate Terminal 3 as that would violate the Philippines’ Anti-Dummy Law.

The court also ordered Piatco, and its foreign investor Fraport AG of Germany, to pay the Philippine government over $6 million in court proceedings.

The court’s dismissal of Piatco’s claim is the fourth time that domestic and international tribunals have ruled against it and Fraport.

Sources said that dismissal would allow the government to continue with its rehabilitation and operation of Terminal 3 as a world-class international airport. The government expropriated the facility in 2005.

Sought for comment, Piatco president Jennifer Bote said by telephone that the company no longer was keen to operate Terminal 3.

“We are only after the just compensation. We are no longer interested to operate the airport,” Bote said.

She said the Singapore court’s ruling should have no bearing on a pending case before the Court of Appeals against an earlier decision for a $175-million compensation for Piatco.

Piatco had earlier demanded to be paid $1.1 billion for building the terminal, but Bote said the total had reached $1.7 billion as of Dec. 30, 2010.

In 2003 the Supreme Court voided Piatco’s concession contract and all its three supplemental agreements on the construction and operation of Terminal 3 on grounds it was not qualified to bid for the project.

The high court granted the government’s petition to have the Piatco contract nullified on grounds it was a disqualified bidder, and that the supplemental contracts contained material deviations from the original contract that was forged in 1997.

Piatco’s foreign partner, Fraport AG, sued the Philippine government for a reimbursement claim worth $425 million with the Washington-based International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, a World Bank institution, but that body rejected its claim in 2007.

The Moses Principle

Business Mirror

ALLOW me to quote from the keynote address at the Sydney Gold Symposium a few days ago. The speaker is one of the most successful and astute financial advisers and technical analysts in the last 50 years. His name is Alf Fields.
Mr. Fields said this: “The Moses Principle is an irreverent theory based on the question of why Moses spent 40 years traversing the barren desert before leading the Israelites to the ‘promised land.’ Here is the irreverent theory. Every Israelite over middle age when they left Egypt probably died during the ensuing 40 years. The younger people were born in the desert or spent their adult lives in the desert. After 40 years the life experience of the survivors consisted of living in the desert.

A total generational change had taken place so that the survivors had no knowledge of anything other than the desert. There was nobody who could remember what Egypt was like. The Moses Principle recognizes the fact that over any 40-year period, a generational change takes place.

Recently we passed the 40th anniversary of August 15, 1971, the date when the last link between currencies and gold was ended by President Nixon. This launched an era of floating ‘I owe you nothing’ currencies. Money was what any government deemed it to be, generally something that the government could create in unlimited quantities.”

You may read the entire speech at this link: I strongly encourage you to do so.

The importance of August 15, 1971, cannot be over-emphasized. The numbers prove the disastrous effects of fiat or government-created money.

In the US during the 20-year period between 1951 and 1971, the total inflation rate was 56 percent. From 1971 to 1991 that rate jumped to 235 percent. The inflation from 1991 to 2010 was 66 percent.

You might point out that inflation has slowed in the last 20 years. However, the inflation of the 1971-1991 period helped destroy the economic growth of 1991-2010.

The real annual GDP growth-rate from 1951 to 1971 was 3.63 percent. From 1971 to 1991 that rate dropped to 3.03 percent. And from 1991 to 2010 the growth rate fell to 2.61 percent.

Despite technological advances that increased productivity, thousands of inventions and new products, and overall increases in the quality of life and population, the US economy grew at one third the speed in the 1990s as in the ’50s and ’60s.

After 40 years in the desert, the Israelites were stronger and wiser, better able to take and make the promise land more productive.

After 40 years of credit and intrinsically valueless currency, the West is weak and nearly helpless.

Since 1971, the West, particularly the US, has built economies on credit and not with hard work. Why work and save for a car, house, and life’s wonderful luxuries when you can just borrow the money.

This is where The Moses Principle of generational change comes in.

People born in 1971 and soon after understand how to take on debt but do not understand the consequences and it has shaped the last 40 years. A 20-year-old American in 1991 would never think of getting a job in a factory and make something. It was much easy to take college degrees in sociology and literature rather than in engineering and accounting.

America paid the Chinese to make their clothes and the Japanese to build better cars and borrowed the money to do that. Americans concentrated on things like “social” issues and the environment and did not concentrate on building their economy. Working in a factory even as an industrial engineer was beneath them.

Even now, computer programmers in India write the software that Americans invent. The Chinese manufacture the products that Steve Jobs created and it takes Filipino call-center employees to explain to the Americans how to use them. There are hundreds of thousands of jobs in the US for which workers cannot be found. These include electrical engineers, nurses, in mathematics and computer science, pharmaceutical sciences and administration, accounting and financial analysis.

From 1971 to 2009, the number of college graduates in engineering increased 150 percent. The number of students given degrees in psychology increased 250 percent. Those studying public administration and social services went up by 430 percent. Graduates in “parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies” increased 1950 percent. Mathematics and statistics graduates increased 62 percent.

The Israelites who walked out of the desert after 40 years were different from their relatives who walked in. They were a better generation because of their generational experiences.

The generation that has matured in the last 40 years is not better in part by what was started by governments in 1971.

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Eminent constitutionalists score Aquino gov't for 'continued defiance' of SC's TRO

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s eminent constitutionalists Wednesday scored the Aquino government for its continued defiance of the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court against moves of the executive department to prevent former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from seeking medical treatment abroad.

Through its president Manuel M. Lazaro, the Philippine Constitution Association issued a strong rebuke of the actions of the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Immigration in preventing Arroyo and her husband, former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, from boarding the aircraft that would have taken them to Singapore on Tuesday night.

Philconsa is composed of legal luminaries and expert constitutionalists.  Also members of the organization are framers of the 1987 and 1971 Constitution.

The organization issued a statement on the on-going legal battle between the DOJ and the Arroyos even as solons warned of a constitutional crisis as a result of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima’s refusal to honor the TRO.

Philconsa cautioned government that willful defiance of a judicial order is “not only contumacious but also dangerous to, destructive of the rule of law”.

The group also warned that the DOJ and the Bureau of Immigration can be held liable for violating the “fundamental principle of separation of powers of the three departments of our government.”

“The reported resistance or disobedience of the officials of the  Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI)  in refusing motu proprio to honor, obey and implement  the Supreme Court TRO  allowing  former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband to exercise their constitutional right to travel, embraced by the broader natural right of freedom of movement, an important aspect of liberty and the essence of our free society, may usher the beginning of the end of the elaborate system of checks–and-balances  to secure coordination in the workings of the various departments of the government,” Lazaro stated.

Lazaro served government as government corporate counsel and presidential legal adviser under the Marcos administration.

He said: “The basic right to travel interfaces with other equally precious rights, such as the right to life, the right to seek medical assistance abroad, the right to choose his doctors and the right to exercise other rights related to his privacy and personhood.”

“Hence, the constitutional right to travel cannot or may not be curtailed until and unless there is a law passed by Congress impairing the right on grounds of  national security, public safety and public health,” Lazaro stated.


'There is now a constitutional crisis' — Sen. Arroyo
Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Joker Arroyo accused Wednesday President Benigno S. Aquino III of defying the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order (TRO) by barring Tuesday night the departure to Singapore of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband, former First Gentleman Jose Miguel ‘’Mike’’ Arroyo.


Escudero fears that the gov't is bringing the country to a constitutional crisis
Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines -- Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero Wednesday expressed concern that former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo could find an opportunity to seek political asylum with other countries with the way the Department of Justice and Malacanang is defying the temporary restraining order (TRO) recently issued by the Supreme Court.

Escudero said he is alarmed over the probability that the government is bringing the whole country to a constitutional crisis as they insist on prohibiting the lawmaker and her husband former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo from leaving the country to seek medical treatment abroad despite the High Court’s order.

“I thought that with the way the government is doing right now, they are giving the former President reason to ask for an asylum,” Escudero said in an interview.

Because of this defiance and Malacanang’s insistence to control the proposed 2012 budget of the Judiciary, ‘’there is now a constitutional crisis,’’ Arroyo, a known human rights advocate, said

The inevitable consequence of such defiance is causing the current democratic system to crumble as the two co-equal branches of government are not giving in, he stressed   .

‘’The presidency is already at war. When the President defies a TRO that is the crisis. The Constitution says that any order of the Supreme Court is superior to that of any other official, including the President of the Philippines,’’ Arroyo told Senate reporters.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Philippines' bipolar disorder

Business Mirror

BIPOLAR disorder is a condition in which people go back and forth in excessive shifts of mood between periods of very good energy, thinking and behavior or to feel extremely irritable, moody and depressed.

The “mood swings” between mania and depression can be very quick. And unlike ordinary mood swings, the mood changes of bipolar disorder are so intense they interfere with the ability to function. Common signs and symptoms include feeling unusually “high” and optimistic or feeling hopeless, sad, or empty. The cycles of bipolar disorder last for days, weeks, or months.

The conversation and hand-wringing about the outcome of the Pacquiao-Marquez fight ignores one important fact: Pacquiao won. The Pacman pocketed the $20 million and the WBO championship belt is still around his waist. Nothing else matters very much, if at all, even if it was a close fight.

Yet it cannot just be left at that, maybe because of a national bipolar-disorder condition. The “manics” are dancing on the street that Pacquiao proved once and for all that he is better than Marquez; the “depressed” cannot believe that Manny did not knock Marquez out in the first round.

But this bipolar disorder is not limited to fight fans. Investors on the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) are the same.

In September the PSE Index was down 8 percent. In October the PSEi was up 8 percent. That was a huge swing in prices or “mood,” if you will. Tens of billions of pesos came out of the market in 30 days and that same tens of billions of pesos went back into the stock market. Absolute depression turned into absolute optimism literally within days.

Those mood swings have not stopped. “Europe has solved its debt problems—Buy, Buy, Buy!” “Europe has not solved the problems—Sell, Sell, Sell!” It’s crazy and by crazy I mean it is time for psychiatric help and a reality check.

The European debt problem is never going to be “solved.” A solution will evolve as part of a long process over an extended period of time. During that time, there will be periods of increased concern and periods of less concern.

Further, no one has yet spoken or written about the effects on the Philippines. I know. I read and listen a lot.

So, why the wild swings in stock prices? Bipolar disorder fueled by bad analysis and bad information. It is like the US television newscaster, obviously an “Occupy” supporter, who practically screamed, “It’s an incredible global event now, taking place in a thousand countries.” Even including the micro nation of The Kingdom of Talossa headed by King John (no relation unfortunately), there are less than 200 countries on planet Earth.

We have stock-market investors reacting to every word from Europe while not knowing in the slightest what it means to the Philippines.

But this bipolar disorder is not limited to the stock exchange.

It seems that every day we are told the Philippines has high electricity rates. Ok already! I know. I get a Meralco bill every month, too. But absolutely everybody knows if the Philippines had lower electricity prices, we would have to build another airport just to accommodate all the foreign businesses that would move here.

A major cost for the call centers is electricity. I know. I ran one. But the Philippines is the “call-center capital of the world.” If power rates were the factor, Uzbekistan, whose rates are one-third of the Philippines, would be the “call-center capital of the world.” But they aren’t because nobody speaks English in Uzbekistan. Just maybe low power prices are not the answer to increased foreign investment.

And if high power rates kill businesses, how can Filipino companies like San Miguel and Shoemart that spend huge amounts on electricity continue to be very good at turning in profits? Maybe they have a super secret magic-power supply they haven’t told the experts about. Or maybe they run their companies balancing high power costs with low real-estate and rental expenses and more attractive labor costs. Too bad the foreign companies have not figured out how to do that.

Normal people usually are competent enough to balance the negatives with the positives. They try to anticipate changes, both good and bad, and then adapt. They also know that the storm will not last forever, and neither will the sunshine. They go about their daily lives confident they can create positive and favorable outcomes in spite of problems that arise. They plan for the best and prepare for the worst.

There is a high risk of suicide for people and nations with bipolar disorder.


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