A Clear but Erroneous Message

In his second state of the nation address, President Aquino traded his old nuanced style in favor of a crisper, cleaner form of delivery, but was it accurate?

It was a speech aimed at the public rather than the pundits. In the past, when seeking to convey his mastery of a subject, Pres Aquino or PNoy would often get lost in the detail of the topic at hand. Whether it was in dealing with the security issues after the January bomb blast or whether it had to do with the specifics of his budget.

Not this time. It was not that his speech was short on specifics. In his nearly hour-long address, the president covered everything from our recent credit upgrades to the US State Department’s downgrading of us in their watchlist of countries involved in human-trafficking, from light monorail to mosquito larvae and coconut coils.

What distinguishes this speech from previous ones is the unifying theme that threaded the whole piece, which was the narrative concerning his crusade against corruption. The appropriately coined term “wang-wang mentality” (so called for the unauthorized use of wang-wangs or sirens symbolic of the sense of entitlement by the powerful enclaves of society) was used as a rhetorical device to sharpen the focus of his theme.

The president spoke of progress in this effort yielding tangible benefits to our economy. He noted the rise of stock prices, the reduction of our rice imports, the decline of poverty and the growth of employment. He attributed these developments to the changes he has made in the running of state agencies from the highy impervious public works department to the grandiosely caffeinated Philippine gaming corporation where he claimed wasteful spending was brought to heel.

Inconvenient Truths

Some analysts have pointed out that the improvement of rice production that led to a lower demand for imports came more as a result of better weather conditions than anything else, and that the reduction of poverty in April came after a jump in January. To this I might add, that the growth in employment is simply unremarkable given the past ten years, and that even with a slight decline in unemployment, the twin problems of high underemployment and low productivity (a result of lesser jobs being created in manufacturing) still prevails.

These of course are the nuances that I said were left out of the equation. These facts were conveniently swept away because they did not fit into the overarching narrative arc of the president’s speech, nor did it fit in with the upbeat “vibe” that he was trying to project.

If we look at the substance and purpose of the speech, which is supposedly the setting of the president’s legislative priorities, we find that in a speech of 5,989 words, the president devoted 116 of them to his proposed measures. That is about 1.9% of the text. He went through his proposals so quickly, that he even failed to give a proper justification for them or a rationale for how these priorities fit within his broad agenda.

No apologies

In a manner of speaking, this was a “no apologies” speech. The president did not report on the state of his much vaunted PPPs or public private partnerships which was the centerpiece of his first SONA, nor did he ask Congress to pursue legislation that would improve its implementation.

After pointing out that

(a)ccording to the BIR, we have around 1.7 million self-employed and professional taxpayers: lawyers, doctors, businessmen who paid a total of 9.8 billion pesos in 2010. This means that each of them paid only an average of 5,783 pesos in income tax—and if this is true, then they each must have earned only 8,500 pesos a month, which is below the minimum wage. I find this hard to believe

he then failed to announce any reforms that would ensure a greater contribution of these privileged few to the national treasury in keeping with his no new taxes pledge which the Movement for Good Governance scored him poorly for.

The president also made no apologies for the slowdown of the economy in the first quarter of the year. Instead, he stuck to his narrative contrasting his righteous way with that of his predecessor. Buoyed by the recent string of whistle-blowers and his new-found ally in the newly designated Ombudsman, he did not hesitate to talk down the opposition or to entreat everyone to praise the “good deeds” of his government.

The president adeptly avoided confrontation with two important but some would say wayward institutions. Having bruised the egos of church leaders in the RH debate as well as the PCSO “cars for clergy” scandal, he diplomatically offered an olive branch to the Catholic bishops who were in the audience. He also made sure to gain the support of the military and the police through his procurement of defense assets and provision of low-cost housing.

He clearly did not want to get side-tracked from his simple narrative that his anti-corruption drive would bring about national development. He even found a way to weave the protection of our sovereignty to his good government agenda.

The need for nuance

The sharpening of the edges around this vision of a nation free of the wang-wang mentality and the personalization of this vision as pronounced by PNoy himself was crafted to appeal to the broader sections of his audience. The president was railing against the very government he led. He spoke as an outsider, as an insurgent much like the late former US president Ronald Reagan who saw it as his task to fight the menace of “big government” or more contemporaneously of British PM David Cameron who seeks to displace it with a “big society”.

If you agree with his thesis that corruption prevents growth, then there will be much in the SONA to cheer about. If on the other hand, you consider the empirical as well as historic evidence that corruption per se is not the culprit, but rather the lack of a coherent bureaucracy around a national development project, then you will recognize the effectiveness of myth-making in public speeches.

Indeed if you believe the former, then everything is fine and dandy. But if you believe the latter, then the lack of substance or clarity on how the government intends to reverse the dangerous trend in our employment mix through some kind of industry or tax policy with the stalling of the government’s major investment strategy means that when the favorable conditions turn sour, as they most certainly will, we are in for a rude awakening somewhere down the track.

One of the best public speakers in his day was George W Bush. He was able to rally his people behind a clean, crisp message against the “evil doers”. He left the incovenient truths and nuances of intelligence out of public debate. Ten years later, we find the repercussions both strategically and economically of this form of “messaging” that have mired his country in a highly polarized debate over the national debt.

The need to speak clearly is one thing, but the need to speak more factually is another. Hopefully in the future, the president’s communications and strategy team will be able to craft a message that marries the two.

EDSA and Tiananmen, a generation after

A generation ago two historic events unfolded both in the Philippines and in China – the 1986 EDSA Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen Protests. These two turning-point events have made such a big impact to both nations’ socio-economic-political life so much so that it has become an important historical reference point as to how their respective countries have come so far in improving its society and in giving its people a better life.

The 1986 EDSA Revolution was a result of the 20 years long struggle of the Filipino people to end the authoritarian, corrupt, and repressive regime of President Ferdinand Marcos. During the early years of the dictatorship, Leftists and Center-Left organizations were in the frontline of the struggle to oust Marcos. In 1983, leading opposition leader  Benigno Aquino II was slain and prompting the middle class and the elite of the Philippine society to mobilize against Marcos. In 1985, Marcos decided to hold an election in attempt to legitimize his hold of power, Marcos run for the presidency against Corazon Aquino, wife of Benigno Aquino II. In February 1986, government election officers declared Marcos winner amid widespread fraud, violence, and irregularities. The Filipino people refused to accept the results, however, asserting that Aquino was the real winner.

Appalled by the election results key government military officials launched a coup against Marcos. However, Marcos learned about the coup and was able to abort its initial plan. The leaders and members of the coup attempt were caught in a possible confrontation and cross-fire between Marcos’ military. Considering that that the military troops loyal to Marcos was far stronger than theirs, the leaders of the coup asked opposition groups, the church, and the common people to help them oust Marcos by congregating  in EDSA, a main thoroughfare in Manila. Notwithstanding the possible bloodshed that may occur about two million people including prominent political, military, and religious figures congregated in EDSA. Marcos deferring a military assault to the protesters and acceding to the United States government admonition to “cut and cut cleanly” decided four days later to resign and together with his family left the Philippines for Hawaii. Marcos wasn’t able to go back to the Philippines until his death in 1989.

The 1986 EDSA Revolution successfully removed the Marcos dictatorship and brought in Western-pattern liberal democracy to the Philippines. For many of Filipinos, 1986 was the start of a new life for the Philippines and a hopeful beginning of a genuine political and economic democracy.

The 1989 Tiananmen Protest was a result of the political and economic tumult that shook China in the 1980’s. Chairman Deng Xiaoping’s “opening-up and reform” program, considered now as the economic miracle formula of China at first did not produce desirable results. The Communist Party of China (CPC) was in a political crisis. CPC was divided in three major factions – those who are for further reforms; those who are for gradual reforms; and those who are against it. Side by side with this political crisis within CPC was the ongoing economic hardship of the Chinese masses brought about by high inflation and the people’s pent-up anger towards corrupt government officials.

This confluence of events provided a background for the Tiananmen Protests. From May to June of 1989 a huge crowd of Chinese composed mostly of students and intellectuals launched massive street demonstrations in key cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu. A huge crowd of protesters numbered to hundreds of thousands to a million at certain point camped-out and set-up a “freedom commune” at Tiananmen Square in Beijing and demanded political-democratic rights and speeding-up of reforms.

Top government and CPC leaders decided to declare martial law after sensing that the protests would cause serious division within CPC and a possible civil war. Crack Military troops forcibly cleared protest sites in different cities. In Tiananmen Square in Beijing battle tanks and armored vehicles crushed the protesters’ “freedom commune”. There were many casualties and injuries. In the Tiananmen Square, Beijing Protests alone 241 protesters died and 7,000 were injured (according to official government reports). The numbers are in stark contrast with a purported NATO intelligence report that there were 7,000 deaths. Hundreds of student leaders, intellectuals, sympathetic government officials were detained and “re-educated”.

The suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen Protests have made CPC’s hold of power in China uncontested. Government leaders advocating Chairman Deng Xiaoping’s gradual reform and opening-up prevailed.

How’s China a generation after Tiananmen? Numerous foreign media and governments’ vehemently criticized the Chinese government for suppressing the protesters. Western countries protested by sanctioning China and by suspending multilateral official loans to the Chinese government. China’s GDP dropped down to 3.8% in 1990, a steep fall from the 9.5% average year-on-year GDP growth since Chairman Deng’s modernization program was unveiled in December 1978.

But then China’s economy soon rebounded, and grew by an unprecedented 10% annually from 1991 to 2010, from Jiang Zemin’s administration to the current President Hu Jintao’s administration. In the past two decades, more than 400 million people were pulled out from poverty. Last year China officially surpassed Japan as the second largest economy next only to the United States. China has also become the biggest lender to the United States. From becoming the “world’s sleeping giant” to the “world’s global power” China has become one of the global leaders in any given human endeavour – from sports to science and technology to trade and industry.

I have asked a Chinese professional working with a state-owned enterprise as to how and why China recovered from the 1989 debacle so fast. He said “Two things – One, after 1989 our government worked even hard to show its legitimacy to the people by enabling them to contribute in building a prosperous and harmonious society. Second, after 1989 there was almost absolute political stability and smooth transition of government power from one leader to another. There was a continuation of economic policies and strategies.”

How’s Philippines a generation after EDSA? In 1986 the world all over praised the Filipino people for its successful display of democracy and “people power”. EDSA 1986 Revolution became a subsequent inspiration for the revolutions in the late 80’s that ended communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe. EDSA 1986 Revolution also gave inspiration to the birth of democratic movements in Taiwan, China and South Korea. Astute political observers from the United States have mentioned that the Filipinos whom they’ve mentored in democracy have taught the world about democracy.

Despite the international accolade, goodwill, and respect the Philippines had garnered in 1986, the subsequent years after the revolution would prove to be very challenging. The political instability that led to EDSA 1986 Revolution, new rounds of coup attempts, and catastrophic environmental events resulted in a very weak 3.4% GDP annual growth under the Corazon Aquino (1986-1992). Under Aquino’s successor Fidel Ramos (1992-1998), the Philippines gained a respectable growth rate of 3.8% year-on-year. Philippines’ 1997 growth rate of 7.2% was the highest for the past three decades.

However, Philippines’ seeming economic flight was interrupted by the 1997 Asian economic meltdown and uneasy political transition.  Under Joseph Estrada’s short-lived and corruption-ridden presidency from 1998 to 2001 and politically unstable regime, the Philippines’ GDP growth blip to 2.9%.

The year-on-year average of 5%GDP growth during the highly controversial and graft and corruption-ridden Gloria Arroyo administration from 2001-2010 are considerably better than the previous administrations GDP growth rate yet there has also been rising joblessness, persistently severe social inequality and growing numbers of poor people. The 2.6 million unemployed Filipinos in 1986 increased to 4.4 million in 2010.

In 1985 the top 20% of families cornered 52.1% of total family income leaving the bottom 80% to divide the remaining 47.9% between them. In 2009, the net worth of the 25 richest Filipinos of P1,021 billion was equivalent to the combined annual income of the country’s 60 million poor. In 2009 six out of ten Filipinos were trying to survive on incomes of P82 or even much less per day for all their food and non-food expenses.

Economic development in the Philippines after the 1986 EDSA Revolution has been so frustratingly slow.

Last year, the only son of Corazon and Benigno Aquino II – Benigno Aquino III was voted overwhelmingly to the Philippine presidency amid high hopes that he would stamp out corruption in the government. Will the second Aquino presidency be able to achieve, even on a modest terms, the two-pronged political and economic democracy objectives of EDSA 1986 Revolution? Will he trailblaze the path to the economic renaissance of the Philippines which was before the Marcos era an economic powerhouse in Asia? Will he set the foundation of political stability so crucial for national economic development? The answer will depend in a large measure not only on the second Aquino administration’s ability but to the Filipino people’s power.

The Daily Roundup: 28 January 2011

Tetangco given second 6-year term as BSP governor | Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino has given Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco a new six-year term after the end of his current tenure in July, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Thursday night.

Fed gives BSP room on rates | BusinessWorld

THE US FEDERAL RESERVE’S decision to maintain its policy rate at near zero supports the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) current stance of keeping its own rates at a record low, the central bank chief yesterday said. “The Fed move relieves some pressure off the consensus that has been building up that the US economy is at a pace of recovery which may lead the Fed to change its policy stance, and the effect of such development on inflation expectations and portfolio rebalancing out of EMs (emerging markets),” BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said in a text message yesterday.

US monetary authorities cautious on recovery | BusinessWorld

Inflation fears overblown | BusinessWorld

‘P50-M send-off gift for Reyes’

Colonel explodes bombshell in Senate | Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—A retired lieutenant colonel on Thursday made a surprise appearance at the Senate and disclosed how he and his ex-bosses allegedly amassed wealth, with a large portion of the loot taken from soldiers’ salaries.

Angie: I’ve never been corrupt | Philippine Star

Massive corruption in AFP traced | Malaya

No need for Palace to draft new RH bill–Lagman | Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—There is really no need for Malacañang to draft a new responsible parenthood bill for endorsement to Congress as a consolidated bill with identical provisions is now on third and final reading at the House of Representatives, according to Minority Leader Edcel Lagman.

Witnesses recall death fall from Makati building | ABS-CBN News

MAKATI CITY, Philippines – Images of human bodies bent and broken like ragdolls are haunting witnesses and emergency workers who were among the first to respond to a construction site accident in Makati City on Thursday.

Economic officials head for Japan to pitch projects | BusinessWorld

ECONOMIC OFFICIALS will leave for Japan on Sunday in a bid to drum up interest in six key sectors pushed by the Aquino administration as well as promote public-private partnership (PPP) projects, officials said yesterday. Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo said he will be joined by Finance Sec. Cesar V. Purisima, Energy Sec. Jose Rene D. Almendras and a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) official, who BSP Investor Relations Office Executive Director Claro P. Fernandez identified as Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo, on a visit to Japan from Jan. 30-Feb. 2.

Economy expected to grow by 5.2% in ’11

Hike in key rates may take place in Q4 | Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines – The global economic crisis is pushing more people into poverty, and the picture is even more grim in developing countries like the Philippines, according to the Asian Development Bank.

UN agency sets new guide in fight against high food prices | BusinessWorld

ROME — The UN’s food agency published a guide on Wednesday for policy makers in developing countries to help address negative impacts of high food prices but said there was no one solution for all countries effected. The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned countries to carefully reflect before launching into policy actions that may appear useful in the short term but could be harmful in the long term.”The experience of the 2007-2008 food crisis shows that in some cases hastily taken decision by governments to mitigate the impact of the crisis have actually…aggravated its impact on food security,” Richard China, head of FAO’s Policy division, said in a statement.

Aquino says Filipinos’ innate talent fuels nation’s progress | Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines, Jan. 27 (PNA) — President Benigno S. Aquino III cited the innate talent among Filipinos, particularly their creativity which, he said, fuels the progress of the nation. In his keynote address during the 13th Cycle Philippine Quality Awards (PQA) Conferment Ceremony on Thursday at the Rizal Hall of Malacañan Palace, the Chief Executive noted the Filipino workers’ natural talents that make them exceptional among others in the world.

Aquino should take opportunity for Charter change — Marcos | Manila Bulletin

By MARIO B. CASAYURANJanuary 27, 2011, 7:00pmMANILA, Philippines — President Benigno S. Aquino III has all the chances of seeing the 1987 Constitution amended during his six-year term with the people believing he is not personally interested in any changes after stating he won’t run for office again, according to Senator Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

Bishops will fight HIV, but won’t endorse condoms | Malaya

ARCHBISHOP Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, yesterday said the Church has told the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) that it would be lending a hand in the fight against the disease by focusing mainly on the social aspect of the problem.

Why FDI inflow to the Philippines posted record decline

Makati Skyline
The Philippines: How can we contribute towards its progress?

Business World published an article, “Asian FDI gains noted by UN; investors bypassing Philippines?” In the BW piece, it was noted that our “Southeast Asian neighbors have been enjoying five fold increase in foreign direct investments, while the Philippines posted a sharp decline.” Benjamin Diokno was quoted by BusinessWorld saying, “that the disparity was likely caused by last year’s elections.” If it was simply a yearly snafu perhaps, but it is a known fact that for the past decade, FDI inflow to the Philippines has been on a decline.

The root cause has been two things. First: uncertainty in the business climate. For the past decade, investors have been repeatedly been burned by the schizophrenic policy the Philippines has employed. Contracts are not honored. Deals broken. A recent example is the SLEX project, which was in danger of it. If you will recall this is one of the questions raised when government launched PPP.

The second reason is the lack of infrastructure.

We’re not just talking about roads. We’re talking about Communications infrastructure. Our country’s network readiness is 85 out 133 countries in the world. Today’s business is data driven. That means, email more than Fax. That means Skype for a conference call. The infrastructure is that terrible and unless Government can untangle the mess of the ICT sector, people will be flocking to different countries.

We’re not talking about just communications infrastructure, on an industrial-agricultural dimension, the Philippines is an ideal spot for Contract Irradiation, yet we have none. Our friends in Vietnam, and Malaysia have several. The country is a great spot for it. Contract irradiation is a process where medical supplies like gloves, syringes are sterilized, as well as used to process talc for the fashion industry. It is also used to increase the shelf life of spices, kill fruit flies in mangos, just to name two.

In short, these are the places where government needs to draw emphasis on. Though it may take years to do so, as the focus of the government is to strengthen its fiscal position, and patch the leaks in the system.

Philippine Telcos' Zealous Autoconfig

i hear this is an option in the latest Ubuntu release

The National Telecommunications Commission, which regulates telecommunications in the Philippines began hearings on regulating Internet in the country. Their draft memorandum called, “Minimum Broadband Speed,” and with the NTC determining that they are removing the broadband cap from the draft memorandum order, now the telecommunications industry has shifted its strategy to defining that broadband is a “value added service.” Clearly there is a need to define what broadband is, and how it affects the economy, and how to leverage the Internet for the future.

The telecommunications companies have taken the position that Internet is a value added service. Meaning this is not standard offering. And they continue to have the position,

“Requiring the providers of such service specify their minimum connection speed, service reliability, service level and service rates would amount to regulating the same,” said the Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators (PCTO) in its position paper uploaded in the NTC Web site on Friday.

“In keeping with broadband access services’ true character as value-added service, we respectfully submit that broadband service providers be allowed to retain present setup where no minimum service standard is required,” the group said.

From a business and technological standpoint, the telecommunications operators are out of touch with reality. This group the telecommunications companies have formed seem to act more as a collusion between them than the free market forces they claim to subscribe to.

This is zealous autoconfig on the part of Philippine telcos.

The world over, Broadband is seen as an enabler similar to how roads, railways and electricity has historically been seen in that position.

Broadband is not and cannot be characterized as value added because it is fast becoming the telecom industry’s bread and cheese. Data is fast becoming the norm. Looking at CES 2011, everything is data driven. Television is downloading content; Tablets are communicating wirelessly. The telephone lines and the cable lines of the telecom providers are no longer used as voice communication lines, they are used to broadcast and receive information in the same way our airwaves are used by television and radio.

Broadband is no longer fringe, it is the norm.

In Building broadband: strategies and policies for the developing world, it suggests that “countries with successful broadband markets typically also had vigorous competition among various networks as well as among service providers.”

It is clear that the position of the telecom industry is that there is limited competition amongst the providers. As such, this is simply no longer just an issue with the NTC, in fact, the nature of commerce and trade, of which broadband creates an impact in demands that the Department of Trade and Industry become part of the equation. I urge too, that the President actively use the country’s embassies to play matchmaker with local businesses and telecommunication providers to step in and create greater competition.

As I have noted in my open letter to both the Congress and the President, our legislature must look into the Telecommunications Law, and see if the NTC does have teeth in dealing with today’s and tomorrow’s broadband. I urge the Palace and its Allies in Congress to put this on the agenda as it does affect the economy. It is becoming clearer by the day that there needs to be better competition in the telecom industry. The issue of Broadband is not simply a regulatory issue, it is an economic and trade debate.

Comic “zealous autoconfig,” by XKCD, some rights reserved.

PH News you should know: 14 January 2010

RH bill passage will help achieve country’s development goals, says solon” by Lira Dalangin-Fernandez

“The passage of the Reproductive Health bill will give the Philippines a better record of achieving its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) on reducing infant mortality, improving maternal health and eliminating hunger and poverty, a leader of the House of Representatives said Thursday.

Minority Leader Edcel Lagman thanked President Benigno Aquino III for listing the RH bill as one of the priority measures that will be up for discussion in the forthcoming meeting of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).”

Read more at the Philippine Daily Inquirer

World Bank sees PH economy growing by 5-5.4%” by Michelle Remo

In its latest publication, “Global Economic Prospects 2011,” the World Bank has set its growth forecast for the Philippines for this year and next at a range of 5 to 5.4 percent. This is slower than its 6.8 percent growth projection for the Philippines for 2010.

“Crucial to this projection is the assumption that strong investor confidence, manifested in strong private investments and (favorable) consumer sentiment surveys, would be sustained by the government’s efforts to step up reforms in governance and to improve overall investment climate,” Eric Lee Borgne, senior economist of the World Bank for the Philippines, said during the launch of the publication on Thursday.

Read more at Inquirer Business

Higher 2010 growth seen by World Bank
THE WORLD BANK has again revised its 2010 growth estimate for the Philippines, raising it to 6.8% from the 6.2% outlook issued last October.

The adjustment, contained in the bank’s Global Economic Prospects Report that was released yesterday, is higher than the government’s 5-6% target — widely expected to have been breached last year given the 7.5% average as of September.

The Philippine forecast is below the bank’s estimate of 9.3% for East Asia and the Pacific but well above projected global growth of 3.9%.

It also compares to the International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank outlooks of 7% and 6.8%, respectively.

The Washington-based institution, however, maintained that gross domestic product (GDP) growth would ease to 5% this year, below the government’s 7-8% target, before rising slightly to 5.4% in 2010.

Read more at BusinessWorld

Toll Hike Tsunami in the making

SLEX after rehabilitation

Transportation Secretary Jose de Jesus
Dept. of Transportation and Communication

Dear Secretary De Jesus;

Thank you very much for considering hearing the side of the public with regards to the Toll Hike. It is indeed a heated and much debated issue since the toll fee hike was first discussed last year and implemented this January 2011.

It seems that the ripples of this coming Tsunami has not been considered by those who proposed it if they were indeed looking out for the welfare of their riding public. A 300% increase does not only affect commuters and those with vehicles, it will affect everyone – and I mean everyone, even those who do not use the SLEX.

With a 300% increase – everything – from the simple newspaper delivery to and from Metro Manila to the cargo delivery to and from Metro Manila of everything under the sun – from consumables [food, livestock, poultry, fish, vegetables, canned goods, dry goods, etc] to things used that are delivered [car parts, furniture, spare parts, appliances, different types of equipment and their parts] and even fuel – raw to processed fuel – everything will be affected. Things and produce that come from the southern part of Luzon that use the SLEX as a main artery to deliver their wares and goods will also be affected.

Delivery fees, middlemen fees, bus fares, jeepney fares, etc will jack up just cover the cost of plying the SLEX and this exorbitant toll fee charge. Prices of each and every item that pass through the SLEX will be affected and it will go up and everyone in Metro Manila and those in the southern part of Luzon will be adversely affected by any expected price increases of goods, services and other deliveries. The prices of fuel will go up, the cost of travelling to and from will go up, and this will affect everyone who travels via SLEX, parents and students, the working class and even local tourists will be affected.

Just as this country sees hope with a new administration, the prices of everything seem to be going up and to put an increase this big on such a vital artery like SLEX might and will be the straw that breaks our backs. This unfair increase isn’t something that jives with the ideals set upon us when President Aquino took his Oath of Office.

I hope and pray that any increase be seen from all angles and be considered from all angles and not just of those who will benefit from this. Apparently, the SLEX isn’t there anymore to “serve” the riding/commuting public nor does it appear as something that is more beneficial to the greater majority of Filipinos. I honestly feel those who manage the SLEX and insist on pushing through with this increase does not want the public to use the highway. It actually feels like entrapment because there is no other choice nor alternative to get from point A to point B and for those who manage it to loosely comment that those who object can use the “service roads” and/or alternative routes is utterly insensitive to the plight of ordinary citizens – millions of whom live at both ends of the SLEX even in and around it.

The Philippine Constitution states that the right to travel will not be ” impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law.” – in which case – the right to travel freely within our country is going to be greatly impaired with this increase. Of course, nothing comes for free. There has to be some middle ground everyone can benefit from. 300% increase is not middle ground nor is it a win-win solution. It is very lopsided favoring only those who proposed it and will prosper from it and they are not even Filipinos but this is on Filipino soil used by Filipinos.

I pray the voices of Filipinos be heard and the plight of the common man be addressed first before anything else by this government.

With best wishes.


Jenifer C. Aquino-Xavier
306 Buena Vida Homes
Merville Park Subdivision
Parañaque City.

Bangko Sentral says 2011 is critical year

Business World published an article saying:

“”2011 is beginning of a new decade. It is also a critical year that could spell whether we would be able to press on the road to sustained strong recovery,” Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said in a forum at the Makati Shangri-La hotel yesterday.”

Tetangco has set a tone. Three things he cited:

1. uneven economic growth.
2. unpredictable investor preferences.
3. market reaction to regulatory changes

When has it been a year that wasn’t critical?

ABS-CBN noted things to watch out for in 2011.

Products the Philippines produces that use child labor

The Philippines currently produces 12 products that employ child labor and ignominiously occupies a place in the top 10 list of countries that put children to work.

The products, according to this:

  1. Bananas
  2. Coconuts
  3. Corn
  4. Fashion Accessories
  5. Gold
  6. Hogs
  7. Pornography (!??!)
  8. Pryotechnics
  9. Rice
  10. Rubber
  11. Sugarcane
  12. Tobacco

What’s glaringly missing from that list are those who are ‘employed’ as maids, servants, and those who have had to find means fend for themselves due to absent or unemployed parents.