Category Archives: government

Why Margaux (Mocha) Uson has my support

11 May 2017 – Among the many appointees of PRRD, Margaux ‘Mocha’ Uson is one of those controversial people in the Duterte team I would like to see kicked out. For the longest time, I have questioned (and even scorned) her presence in Malacanang.

Now that she is officially part of the team, instead of annoyance, I have become immensely curious as to her background and I am glad I followed that curiosity. There is so much more to this woman than meets the eye.

Uson may not be as eloquent, politically-correct and diplomatic as the rest of us, but similar to PRRD, she is plain spoken and straightforward. Despite the rough edges, I believe there is genuine character within that appalling faux-leather jacket she always wears. (Come on Mocha, it’s the middle of the Philippine summer!)

She maybe a feminist’s worst nightmare (with her connection to the entertainment industry as a sexy dancer while branding herself as a sex therapist to her many (male) online followers), but what is intriguing about her is the unresolved murder of her father, Judge Oscar Uson of Pangasinan.

Like any grieving daughter, Uson wants justice. Justice that has fallen on deaf ears since President Arroyo’s term, right until Rodrigo Duterte came along. In her unsophisticated mind, she believes that a man like Duterte can end criminality in this country. Her faith on such a man is endearing, and her only redeeming quality, despite the sexy image. To a certain degree, she has come to represent the common Filipino who thirsts for justice. It is through her fervor to support Duterte that she may actually give voice to the typical Juan, and eventually, reach a government that has long ignored the plight of the poor.

However, may I caution the lovely lady who holds such a critical role in our government: man is capricious and changeable. No man is perfect and that includes Mr. Duterte (and his cabinet). Supporting a particular person’s cause is completely different from blind worship. Margaux, I hope you find that balance between effective public service and painting a true picture of our current government. Your communications role is pivotal in helping shape a free press this country is staunchly known for.

As far as her salary goes, and I want this made perfectly clear, money shouldn’t even be an issue! In this day and age, why is the woman’s salary even being questioned in the first place? Why is her salary being made public when salaries like Martin Andanar’s isn’t? It’s appalling how the media and netizens would stir so much controversy about her salary yet don’t extend the same treatment to her male colleagues.

Being a taxpayer, I have no qualms of giving Mocha a part of that tax money – on the caveat that she does her job honestly and well. And given that argument, I expect the same kind of work ethic from Andanar, et al., An honest public servant who works hard should fit the salary they receive, regardless of gender.

For the time being, I am reserving my judgements and let Margaux prove herself. The sexy starlet Mocha Uson is gone. I look forward to what Margaux Uson, the woman, has to contribute to our country’s public affairs.

-end-

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An Economy Built on Mining – Learning from South Africa

On 11 March 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte says he is willing to let go of the P70-billion earnings the government collects from mining operations. “We can live without it. I would rather follow Gina. Maghanap-buhay na lang tayo ng iba, get the P70 billion somewhere else and preserve the environment. ‘Wag na tayong magbolahan,” he said on Saturday.

P70-billion is no small amount. This is a substantial amount of money which can be used to develop areas and communities that are beyond the reach of the government. A substantial amount of money that can be utilized by the Filipino people whose battle-cry has long been ‘inclusive growth’.

Based on the World Bank for the current 2017 fiscal year, and calculated using the World Bank Atlas method:

Low-income economies are defined as those with a GNI per capita of $1,025 or less.

Lower middle-income economies are those with a GNI per capita between $1,026 and $4,035. Fifty-two (52) countries including the Philippines are in this bracket.

Upper middle-income economies are those with a GNI per capita between $4,036 and $12,475. Fifty-six (56) countries including South Africa are in this bracket.

While High-income economies are those with a GNI per capita of $12,476 or more. Seventy-nine (79) countries such as Australia, Canada, and the United States are included in this list.

How can a country such as the Philippines move from a low-income economy to a high-income one? The best way is to take a long hard look at its neighbors.

Though jumping from a low-income economy to a high-income one may be a tall order, and the Philippines using the mining models of Australia, Canada and the US are too idealistic, it would be to the country’s best interest to redirect its gaze to a country with similar trades, businesses and the challenges that go with it. When it comes to minerals development, South Africa is the country closest to the Philippines.

The billion dollar question (no pun intended) which begs to be answered: Can an economy be built on mining?

South African Ambassador to the Philippines, His Excellency Martin Slabber shares with us his insights on what Africa was, to what it is now because of mining. A privileged discussion, this story was crafted in the hopes of giving the Philippine government a glimpse of “what our economy could be” if ethical and responsible mining practices were done in the Philippines.  

For the full story, refer to page 38 of the Philippine Resources Journal with the subject – An economy that was built on mining: How the Philippines can learn from South Africa by Maria Paula Tolentino

For more information about this story, contact its author:
MissTolentino  
Twitter – @misstolentino22  
Facebook – www.facebook.com/misstolentino22/

PH Senator pushes for Energy R&D

senate-bill-1290-win-gatchalian

In a bid to bring the Philippine energy sector up to speed with innovative international technologies and make the industry more responsive to the demands of consumers and sector players, Senator Win Gatchalian has filed Senate Bill No. 1290, which proposes the establishment of a Philippine Energy Research and Policy Development Institute (PERPDI) in the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

“The energy sector is naturally characterized by rapidly changing technologies. Unfortunately, most of the country’s policy instruments cannot keep up due to limitations in local research and technical capacity. This bill seeks to address these limitations by establishing an institution which will bridge research and policy gaps in pursuit of Philippine energy security, affordability, and sustainability,” said Gatchalian, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy.

In executing its mandate, the PERPDI will also be charged with ensuring that the results of energy research and policy development activities are utilized to improve the energy sector, the economy, and the lives of the people.”

Through the PERPDI, Gatchalian said the government will be armed with the capacity to formulate multidisciplinary research-based policies and strategies for the cost-effective use of energy resources towards environmentally-sound energy development.

“Formulating and executing a concrete blueprint for the future of the energy sector is critical to fostering inclusive long-term growth and development for our country. The creation of PERPDI will be an important milestone in our quest to achieve these ambitious socio-economic goals,” said Gatchalian.

For the complete press release, refer to this link: PH Senator pushes for Energy R&D

Davao Bombing: The First of Many

We have forgotten: there are no winners in war.

The recent bombing in Davao city is a direct attack on the Duterte Administration with the Filipino people as its biggest casualties.

The campaign to cleanse the Philippine system of drugs, oligarchy, and terrorism may be what this country needs but such an approach comes with a price. More often than not, it comes in the form of disunity and the loss of human life.

This attack is a hard slap on the face of Duterte who, prior to winning the 2016 Presidential elections, superbly championed Davao as his showcase city for good governance. What once was an inviolable and safe city is now marred with death and fear. It is no longer the Davao it once was (and it may never be again). This a direct assault on the President’s reliability and credibility as the tough-talking mayor who once made Davao the envy of the whole archipelago.

With the President’s hard lining fight against drugs and name-shame campaign, the violent groups responsible for this bombing are only getting started. They will not stop unless the President gives in (which out of pride, ego or plain narcissism, may never happen). But we forget that in the middle of this war, the biggest losers and the biggest casualties are the Filipinos.

This country is now living in very dangerous times. And we still choose not to see and hear the repercussions of his bull-headed decisions. The 16M Filipinos has chosen a leader, who himself, espouses violence so why should anyone be spared from the barrel of the gun?

The country will continue to live in fear, trepidation and insecurity as long as we have a President who refuses to acknowledge the error of his judgments.

It has now come to a point wherein Rodrigo Duterte is not only a danger to himself but also to his fellow Filipinos.

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Being the first Mindanawon President to sit in Malacañang, it is not surprising if the lenses of our nation are now refocused on the most culturally diverse island of the Philippines. A ‘land of promise’, this potential cannot be realized until the peace and security issues are addressed.

Security researcher specializing in the Middle East, Gregory Wyatt says that if the peace process is stalled, there will be continued radicalization with a huge potential for sectarian violence targeting innocent civilians either as a tactic borrowed from ISIS or violence against Muslims justified with the specter of ISIS.

For the full story, turn to page 28-30 Issue 3 of the Philippine Resources Journal.

 

Better broadband service means more business for PH

February 24 2016, AIM Conference Center, Makati City Philippines – As a prelude to #‎ArangkadaPH2016‬, the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines composed of American Chamber (AMCHAM), Australian-New Zealand Chamber (ANZCHAM), Canadian Chamber (CANCHAM), European Chamber (ECCP), Japanese Chamber, Korean Chamber and other distinguished Philippine Business Groups discussed the necessity of developing telecommunications and broadband internet services with the intent of improving the ease of doing business in the country.

JFC
Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines composed of American Chamber (AMCHAM), Australian-New Zealand Chamber (ANZCHAM), Canadian Chamber (CANCHAM), European Chamber (ECCP), Japanese Chamber, Korean Chamber and other distinguished Philippine Business Groups discuss the necessity of developing telecommunications and broadband internet services with the intent of improving the ease of doing business in the country.

Broadband internet access has been widely considered as a tool that can help achieve development and accelerate economic growth. World Bank estimates that a 10% increase in broadband penetration can lead to a 1.38% increase in the country’s GDP. An entry level connection of 0.5 Megabits per second (Mbps) has been found to increase the household income by $800 per year.

Trade Secretary Greg Domingo highlighted the need for the government to promote micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and to help make them “go global”. Reliable broadband connectivity is an essential tool for making businesses, especially MSMEs, competitive in the global arena. It helps improve their processes and allows them to expand their marketing clientele. As MSMEs comprise a majority of businesses in the country, the broadband initiative becomes a part of building an inclusive economy. Expanding and improving broadband connection also helps address the problem of increasingly congested cities, as it enables telecommuting or working remotely.

Telecommunications is a capital-intensive and technology-driven sector. The problem? The law bars foreign players from fully participating even in wholesale segments (e.g., cable landing station and back haul), which effectively limits the presence of companies that can inject fresh new capital, bring in state-of-the-art technology, and compete in the market.

Challenges:
Philippine broadband penetration is limited, quality is poor, and access is expensive. It has one of the slowest average connection speeds in the Asia Pacific and is the costliest in the world. Major problems identified include the presence of barriers to entry, anti-competitive practices, inadequate infrastructure, weak and ineffective regulation, prohibitive bureaucratic requirements in infrastructure build-out and the lack of interconnection.

Recommendations:
Key recommendations include (1) adopting an open access model, where segments of the internet infrastructure will be opened up to more and different players both local and foreign; (2) updating an upgrading laws and policies, which includes amendments to the Public Telecommunications Policy Act and the enactment of the bill creating a Department of ICT; (3) leveling the playing field by promoting open and neutral internet exchange points (IXPs) and encouraging infrastructure sharing; (5) improving spectrum management; and (6) ensuring and protecting the competitiveness of the telecommunications industry.

The Top Players in the Country:
Two telcos dominate the market: the Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) company (with 70% market share) and Globe Telecom, Inc. (28%). The incumbent operator, PLDT,and main competitor, Globe, are the major providers of fixed and mobile broadband services nationwide. The two incumbents have some of the highest earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) margins compared to other telcos globally. In 2010, PLDT and Globe were enjoying between 60% and 70% EBITDA margins despite very low average revenue per user (ARPU). Over the past few years, PLDT and Globe have recorded EBITDA margins of 40-45%.

PLDT and Globe, the country’s largest internet service providers (ISPs), own and control most of the existing internet infrastructure – from the submarine cables, the landing stations, the back haul network (“middle mile”), up to the last mile. As such, the dominant telcos also dictate access to and the cost and quality of internet and broadband service in the Philippines, both fixed and mobile.

The Philippines recorded the second slowest average download speed (at 2.8 Mbps) in the Asia Pacific, besting only India. The country has been constantly outperformed by its ASEAN counterparts such as Indonesia (3.0Mbps), Vietnam (3.4Mbps), Malaysia (4.9Mbps), and Thailand (8.2Mbps).

In Q4 2014, the Philippines offered the second most expensive retail internet service out of 62 countries that were ranked. Philippine ISPs offered the lowest value for money – in terms of actual download speed experienced by customers vis-a-vis the cost of a monthly data plan – compared to their counterparts in South and Southeast Asia.

What Philippine Law states about Telecommunications:
By virtue of Commonwealth Act (CA) 146 or the Public Service Act of 1936, telecommunications – defined as “wire or wireless communication” and “wire or wireless broadcasting” – is considered a public service offered by a public utility.

JFC_2
Ms. Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos, Author of ArangkadaPH2016’s Broadband Policy Brief. With a personal advocacy to promote better internet service in the country, Santos is currently an ICT (Information/Communications Technology) consultant at Asian Development Bank.

A Stop to Duopoly and Encouraging Entry of Industry Players:
Key stakeholders agree that the Philippine telecoms sector will benefit from the entry of new players, both domestic and foreign, and effective competition. Past reforms that introduced liberalization and competition have proven that the entry of new players can reinvigorate the market, promote better services, and lower prices due to competing providers that ultimately benefit consumers.

The Philippine telecoms market has been tagged as “less competitive” and “effectively a duopoly” by various analyses. It lags behind in terms of contestability or freedom of market entry and exit. Contestability is important as studies have shown that even the threat of a new entrant will improve the quality of service and pricing of current market players. Market entry in the Philippine telecoms is hampered by several major barriers.

Limitation on foreign ownership is a major issue that affects telecommunications. PLDT and Globe have been said to have major foreign equities that are technically accepted as compliant due to layers upon layers of holding companies that mask these ownerships. This is cumbersome but effective way of circumventing the law. The constitutional provision has given rise to workarounds that encourage non-transparent and scheming business practices. Meanwhile, other legitimate foreign telcoms are discouraged from entering and competing in the market by the company-layering and even political lobbying that are necessarily to work around the law.

The current structure makes smaller telcos and ISPs prone to anti-competitive practices by the large telcos who not only control the infrastructure and wholesale pricing, but are also allowed to compete in the same retail market as their client ISPs. As a result and end-users have to contend with high wholesale and retail costs.

How This Affects YOU:
The internet is an information and communications tool that is increasingly changing the way people live. Connectivity can improve the quality of life by the sheer reduction of time and distance in carrying out tasks related to education, health and livelihood. It can increase a country’s competitiveness, promote inclusive growth and development, and spur investment directly by the emergence of internet-related businesses and indirectly by improving the ease of doing business. The internet has also been known to help promote good governance by increasing transparency and aiding in initiatives such as open data.

In the coming months, the Filipino nation will elect a new leadership. This is a good opportunity to design and implement another cycle of major reforms. It is hoped that broadband connectivity would be one of the key focus areas not just as an issue of infrastructure, but that of competitiveness, innovation, development and consumer welfare. The challenge for the next administration is whether it has the vision and informed appreciation for how broadband technology could influence a country’s development path.

Source:
Mirandilla-Santos, Mary Grace. Broadband. Policy Brief No.4, February 2016. The Arangkada Philippines Project (TAPP). American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.