Letter to “Senator” Zubiri

Last Easter, the man occupying the Senate seat won by Koko Pimentel, expressed disappointment with President Aquino.

“The President is a friend, but he has no clear vision for our country. He has no 2020 agenda. FVR had a Philippines 2000, while P-Noy has none, not even for 2015… I support his anti-corruption, but after that what? What else is new?” said “Senator” Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Dear “Senator”,

Philippines 2000 was just a slogan. The Asian financial crisis demonstrated quite clearly that Philippines 2000 didn’t have a strong foundation. Remember the futile attempt to shore up the peso and the force-feeding of IMF medication? Vision is more than just copying Mahathir’s “Malaysia 2020” slogan.

In retrospect, the Ramos administration appears to have expended more energy and time politicking for a term extension through charter change than building a launch pad for the country’s economic take-off.

You need to take an objective look at the Ramos years. It will help you understand why Teodoro Locsin Jr. called your party, Lakas, the party of thieves.

Speaking of thieves, you dismissed President Aquino’s fight against corruption as if it were a distraction from more pressing matters. Well, it’s not.

For starters, if Aquino’s anti-corruption campaign succeeds, our elections will be rid of cheaters. That’s one “after that what?” that candidates like Koko Pimentel will surely welcome.

Furthermore, President Aquino’s anti-corruption campaign is not only about going after plunderers, election cheats, and human rights violators from the previous administration. It is also about eradicating the climate of impunity where vermin thrived and prospered. It is about bringing back a sense of shame, propriety, and delicadeza. That’s another “after that what?” for you to chew on.

Let’s go to your unsolicited advice on oil price increases.

You said, “My first suggestion to them is to remove the value-added tax (VAT) on oil, so that will automatically give a 12 percent discount from fuel products. And then, we’ll find alternative vehicle and fuel programs.”

Let’s start with your baby, the bio-fuel program. The bio-fuel law mandates arbitrary increases in the ratio of ethanol to fuel without regard to the price of ethanol. Consequently, the public can suffer a double whammy when both oil and ethanol prices go up. That’s happening now. So how about amending that mandatory ratio provision in your bio-fuels law before touching the VAT on oil?

There is more than just price to worry about when it comes to bio-fuels. When planting crops for bio-fuels becomes more profitable than planting food crops, what do you think will make more business sense to farmers, plant to feed people or plant to quench the thirst of SUVs?

Thus, going full blast on bio-fuels production in a country with very limited space to plant and an exploding population that needs to be fed is not very sensible. It would make more sense to revive the slogan made famous during martial law, “Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, bisikleta ang kailangan.”

Let’s move on to your proposal to eliminate the VAT on oil. It sounds good. Subsidies always sound good. However, the revenue gap created by the loss of 12 percent in oil VAT, a very substantial amount, must be covered. There is no going around it. The question then is should the government impose new taxes or introduce cuts in the budget or do a combination of both in order to “pay” for the 12 percent fuel subsidy?

I would not worry you about covering lost revenue if our government, like the US, can pull money out of its ass. But we are not the US; we cannot print money. So I’m afraid your answer to the oil price hike, eliminating the VAT on oil, might create a bigger problem than the one it’s supposed to solve. Hay naku, “senator”.

At any rate, I promise to be nicer as soon as you vacate Koko Pimentel’s senate seat.

Hugs and kisses,

Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Uniffors.com. Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.

  • manuelbuencamino

    Why hello there Benigno! When did they let you out?

  • the senator is echoing what he believes is the sentiments of the public, he wants to be popular.
    his proposals may not be best for the economy, but it is politically sound.
    it seems pro poor, which is what our country will end up being.

    • manuelbuencamino

      it seems pro poor

  • Noynoy apologist alert! Noynoy apologist alert! 😀

    I think the insight of your colleague Doy Santos is a lot more, well, insightful.