Oil painting: Noynoy, Big Three and Uncle Sam

Here’s how to visualize the President Noynoy Aquino’s puppetry to US imperialism’s oily greed:

Big Three oil companies

But the Aquino regime-Big Three oil cartel show wouldn’t be for long, as drivers are fighting back. Today, FX and jeepney drivers stormed the Palace to protest the non-stop oil price hikes and call for the junking of oil overpricing and the Oil Deregulation Law.

While 3 OFWs face death, Aquino pleases the profiteers

Haven’t you asked where President Noynoy Aquino is during the execution of three Filipinos convicted of drug trafficking in China?

While many of us were on our feet and hoping for a miracle for kababayans Ramon Credo, Sally Ordinario and Elizabeth Batain, the President was busy teasing foreign investors to further plunder our resources.

At a Palace press briefing around noon today (March 30), deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte disclosed that President Aquino started a meeting at 10am with representatives from the US-ASEAN Business Council. A separate news report said Aquino was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima. Perhaps this explains why the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) refused to issue any statement on the news of execution and instead resorted to a moment of silence.

Quoting Valte:

In fact,  the President just concluded the meeting with Representative from the US [United States] ASEAN Business Council this morning. I believe the meeting started at ten. And the Representative did welcome the thrust of the government when it came to anti-corruption, and they agreed with moves to rationalize laws when it came to investment and in incentives.

Personally monitoring the developments in China could have been the least that Aquino had done. Yet he chose to please profiteers at the precise moment when our fellow countrymen faced death. He chose to hammer in the same policies and deals which have pushed Ramon, Sally and Elizabeth into abysmal poverty.

Isn’t this the height of insensitivity? President Aquino might have been heavily drugged – so much that he kept a blind eye to a nation in mourning. He must certainly pay for this.

‘Impeach Merci’ Season 2

First published on thepoc.net

As the drive to impeach Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez goes to the Senate, will it be the same show only with the same villain but with a new set of heroes? Is the new season worth the wait? Who ultimately receives higher ratings at the end of the protracted series?

The controversial Gutierrez will be facing a marathon hearing at the Senate as the House of Representatives led by House Justice committee chairman Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. officially transmitted the six articles of impeachment to the Senate last March 23.

The impeachment trial would likely start when Congress resumes session on May 9, or more than a month from now. Lawmakers said the trial may take six months to finish, using the impeachment trial against former president Joseph Estrada as reference.

Historic vote

The articles of impeachment were transmitted to the Senate following the Lower House’s historic vote for the ombudsman’s impeachment at 212-47 after almost eight hours of plenary debate towards the wee hours of March 22. The “overwhelming” vote was described by some lawmakers as a “strong message to Senate.”

A list of House lawmakers and their vote was published in a news website.

Reacting to the result of the impeachment vote, Ombudsman Gutierrez said “dark politics ruled the day,” adding that the outcome of the House hearings was “lamentable but expected.”

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte gave the credit to President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III for “inspiring” the ombudsman’s impeachment, a report said. “I was surprised because the results were higher than I expected. It showed that they really wanted to see [the President] succeed because he kept saying that [Gutierrez’s impeachment] is important to his administration,” Belmonte said.

Carrot-and-stick approach?

Newsbreak report disclosed however that Belmonte allegedly “drove a hard bargain with vulnerable congressmen” based on sources from the ruling party and the opposition. The report alleged that some legislators were assured that their pending cases with the Ombudsman would be dismissed once Gutierrez is impeached.

Read more

Economic tremors from Japan to PH

First published on Blogwatch.ph

The Philippines may have been spared from aftershocks or tsunamis from Japan’s most powerful quake last March 11, or from any trace of radioactive fallout from the troubled nuclear plants in Fukushima. On the economic side though, the country may actually be experiencing tremors in the days or months ahead.

The World Bank itself said in its most recent East Asia Pacific Economic Update that the Philippines, aside from China, is “more connected to developments in Japan than the rest of East Asia.” Of course, this is still an understatement. The country is more vulnerable to Japan economy’s woes than what official projections say.

How will the Philippine economy be affected by Japan’s devastation? Perhaps a look first at the damage wrought on the world’s third largest economy will help us arrive at some plausible inferences.

Government and private estimates have put the damage on Japan’s economy up to US$235 billion (P10.12 trillion at P43 = $1), or roughly 4 percent of Japan’s gross domestic product (GDP). While this estimate is still tentative, analysts agree that the damage would be higher than that wrought by the 1995 Kobe earthquake, which was around $100 billion.

Power supply disruptions due to damaged nuclear power plants have resulted to shutdown or reduced operations of manufacturing plants across the nation. Three of Japan’s biggest brands – Toyota, Sony and Honda – announced that they wil further delay normal operations due to power shortages and lack of parts. Overall, the quake and tsunami have caused a significant decline in the nation’s manufacturing activity.

Following the disaster, Japan’s government and private institutions are expected to heavily spend on reconstruction efforts, which the World Bank estimated to last up to five years. This will reasonably put pressure on the amount of foreign investments and aid being extended by Japan to other countries including the Philippines.

Local think-tank IBON Foundation said that “Japanese investments and official development assistance to the Philippines will drop or at least slow down as Japan tries to reconstruct itself.”

Japan accounts for the second biggest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) flows to the country next to US. From 1995 to 2005, Japan’s cumulative FDI to the Philippines reached US$3.16 billion, bigger than the combined total investments from Europe, ASEAN and China during the same period. Traditionally, Japan is also our largest country donor of official development assistance (ODA).

As Japan prioritizes spending at home, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s investment mantra for supposed local economic growth would not hold at this point. It would be grossly insensitive. President Aquino and the neoliberal crusaders in his Cabinet should realize by now that aggressively wooing Japanese capital in the face of the disaster smacks of desperation and insensitivity. They should know by now that pursuing such line will only further expose the mendicant character of the Philippine economy. Continue reading

Should we brace for a food price tsunami?

First published on Blogwatch.ph

Is Sen. Edgardo Angara being alarmist when he warned of a looming food crisis? Or is there a grain of truth in it?

Last week, Angara called on the Aquino government to act on a looming food price hikes in light of the rising prices of oil products allegedly spurred by the ongoing unrest in the North African and Middle East countries.

But the Palace downplayed the alarm, insisting that there is no food crisis at the moment. The government said though that President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III will meet top officials of the National Food Authority (NFA) and the agriculture department upon his return from the Indonesia and Singapore trip.

Amid concerns over a looming food crisis, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) assured the public of a stable supply of basic goods, preposterously warning the people against panic buying.

Someone should have told the President and the DTI that the prices of almost all basic goods – from bread to rice and vegetables – have unusually increased several times since the start of the year despite stable supply.

In the latest round of food price hikes, prices of loaf bread increased by P2 last March 7 while vegetable prices recently spiked alongside non-stop oil price hikes.  Even processed meat has joined the price hike bandwagon. Meanwhile, sugar (refined) remains steeply priced at around P65 per kilo.

Put this barrage of price hikes side by side with stagnant wages and dismal employment situation, and we’ll more or less see how panic buying, as what the DTI has forecast, can be close to impossible. How can the majority of Filipinos resort to panic-buying when they barely have anything to spend on? As it appears, the problem with the Aquino government’s diagnosis of the food situation is its penchant to focus on the supply side even without taking into account the wages of Filipinos.

After all, the problem boils down to food accessibility. When you have 45 percent of the population living on $2 a day, any price hike will certainly hurt. Sadly, the Aquino government plays blind to this as it uses to the new poverty yardstick, which ridiculously pegs the tolerable standard of living at just P46 per person per day.

Another reason why Aquino should not belittle the current food price hikes is the fact that global prices of food commodities have sharply risen since late last year. Based on the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) world food price index, current food prices are the highest in 20 years, even higher than the levels during the 2008 world food crisis which sparked food riots across the globe. Continue reading

A global food price tsunami

Remember the food crisis in 2008 which sparked riots in many parts of the globe, and which artificially caused local food prices to soar (the sight of long queues for NFA rice)? We are now actually treading the same crisis, now only greater in magnitude.

Based on the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) food price index, current world food prices are actually higher than during the 2008 food crisis. The global food price index is also at its highest in 20 years. It goes without saying that the world’s poor aren’t better off today. And millions more across the globe are expected to slide to hunger and poverty.

Perhaps the stark manifestation of the current food crisis is the ongoing uprisings in North African and Middle East countries. It must be remembered that food price hikes, aside from unemployment, sparked what are currently anti-government protests in the region.

The repugnant fact about the current surge in food prices is that the phenomenon isn’t chiefly caused by supply problems. It is currently intensified by wanton speculation by the Wall Street and other banks on food commodities. In their drive to squeeze more profits from commodities, these financial giants have been betting on rice, wheat, corn, among other agricultural produce – just like how they play speculative trading on oil.