Corruption—A Social & Moral Cancer (2)

ROLLBACKS NOT ENOUGH: DIESEL OVERPRICED BY P6.45 PER LITER FROM JAN-SEPT 2008

The series of oil price rollbacks on diesel implemented by oil companies this month are not enough because diesel prices are overpriced by a total of P6.45 per liter from January to September this year, according to research group IBON Foundation.

This estimate was the cumulative overpricing over the January to September period, computed based on the monthly movement of Dubai crude, diesel and pump prices, and the foreign exchange (forex) rate.

According to IBON research head Sonny Africa, the worst overpricing happened in June to August when oil firms used record Dubai prices to increase pump prices, and then rollback pump prices to less than what is justified. Overpricing in those three months amounted to a total of P13.50. Although there was underpricing recorded in some months since January, the price of diesel was still overpriced over the nine-month period.

Africa noted that this pattern has continued since the start of deregulation where diesel pump prices increased 1.7 times faster than Dubai crude prices in peso terms. The cumulative overpricing only shows that big oil firms use their monopoly over pricing to dictate pump prices that are beyond what can be justified by global crude oil price movements.



Editorial:Pain and poverty

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:20:00 09/15/2008

 

Part of the sardonic theme song of the movie “M.A.S.H.” goes this way:

“…So this is all I have to say…
That suicide is painless,
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please…’’

Sure suicide can be painless, but that a person should take his own life usually indicates that he or she had been in great pain. Suicide is often an act of desperation, of hopelessness, and is usually preceded by a period of depression. Some psychologists say that most people who attempt or commit suicide don’t really want to die—they just want their pain and suffering to end.

Last week, extreme poverty drove Janeth Ponce, 32, to poison her three children and then commit suicide in Magdalena, Laguna, according to the police. The desperate housewife forced her children, aged 4, 3 and 2, to drink a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner in their house. She then drank the poison herself. 

On Nov. 2 last year, Mariannet Amper, 11, committed suicide in Davao City. An unsent letter and a diary revealed the reason for killing herself: She had lost hope that her family would ever rise from poverty.

The Ponce and Amper suicides are not the first cases attributed to extreme poverty to be reported in the Philippines, nor will they be the last, unless the problem of poverty is solved in the near future.

The Philippines has always been counted among the poor countries of the world. Last Aug. 27, the Asian Development Bank said in a report that the new poverty line in Asia-Pacific is $1.35 (about P61) a day and about 23 million Filipinos were living below that. Using 2006 data, the ADB study estimated that about 27 percent of the Philippines’ 90 million people lived on less than the new regional benchmark of $1.35 a day. The new measure suggests that there is a higher poverty incidence in the Philippines than was recorded in previous estimates.

A survey by the poll group Social Weather Stations in the first quarter of this year showed that the number of Filipino families that considered themselves food-poor rose by one million, from 6.1 million families in December 2007 to 7.1 million last March. The latest figure is equivalent to 40 percent of Filipino households, up from the previous quarter’s 34 percent.

The Philippines exhibits a highly inequitable distribution of income. In 2003, the share of income accruing to the richest 10 percent of the population was more than 20 times the share of the income of the poorest 10 percent, according to the ADB. Since 1985, the richest quintile (fifth) of the population has consistently commanded more than 50 percent of total family income in the country, with the poorest quintile having less than 5 percent.

The situation of the poor is bad, and it is not getting any better. The common perception is that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Extreme poverty is pushing many people to acts of desperation. Is it any wonder that people like Ponce and Amper should see suicide as the only way out of a life of never-ending misery, poverty and pain?

The poor do not want to remain poor forever, to be dependent on government and other people for their day-to-day needs. They would like to work, but there are no jobs for them in the country. The World Bank has estimated that about P30 billion is lost to corruption every year in the Philippines. If this amount could be used to establish industries and livelihood programs for the poor, they could be given some means for their subsistence.

If the billions that are being frittered away in pork barrel to legislators and doled out to national and local officials to ensure their loyalty to the President were used instead to subsidize the schooling and a feeding program for the children of the poorest of the poor, they would have a chance to get some education that would allow them to earn more.

The rich also have a responsibility to improve the plight of their poor countrymen. When will the richest of them emulate the example of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, and donate a substantial part of their enormous wealth to projects that would make a difference in the lives of their very poor countrymen?

Until both government and the private sector make a coordinated effort to reduce the incidence of poverty and to correct the terrible inequality in the distribution of wealth, people like Ponce and Amper will continue to consider suicide as a way out of the never-ending pain of extreme poverty.

Invitation to Jepa Forum

NO DEAL! Movement Against Unequal Economic Agreements, St. Scholastica’s College, Benedictines for Peace, and the Institute of Women Studies cordially invite you to a forum entitled “JPEPA: Deal or No Deal? The People’s Issues” on September 4, 2008 at Barrion Hall, St. Scholastica’s College Manila from 9:00 am to 12 noon.

As the Philippine Senate prepares its deliberation on the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement(JPEPA), we believe it is timely for the members of the Senate to once again hear the people’s concerns on the JPEPA. Many issues remain unresolved as far as the impact of the said treaty on the national economy and industries and the livelihood of our poor and marginalized sectors are concerned. The treaty continues to be controversial also because questions on its constitutionality remain, in spite of the efforts of Senator Miriam Santiago to forge a so-called side deal with Japan , not to mention the fear of toxic waste dumping which has not been substantially assuaged even by the “exchange of notes” between Japan and Philippines .

Among the invited speakers are Senators Manuel Villar, Francis Escudero, Pia Cayetano and Former Vice-President and No Deal! Lead convenor Teofisto Guingona.

For details on the forum, please contact the NO DEAL! Movement Secretariat at 435-6930 or Benedictines for Peace Secretariat c/o Rose Buyucan at 526-8075 loc. 107.

NO DEAL! Movement is a broad coalition of organizations and individuals campaigning against unequal economic agreements. St. Scholastica’s College, Benedictines for Peace and the Institute of Women Studies are Catholic institutions promoting the call for “SSS” : Serve Others, Save Mother Earth, and Seek Justice and Peace.

DON’T BE RUSHED INTO TRADE DEAL WITH E.U., THINK-TANK WARNS

Independent think-tank IBON Foundation said that the Philippine government should not  rush into negotiations for a partnership cooperation agreement (PCA) with the European Union (EU).

IBON research head Sonny Africa said the EU Ambassador’s statement that the Philippines was slow in negotiating for a PCA compared with neighboring countries Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand was merely a way of pitting Asean member-countries against each other to coerce and rush them into concluding a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU.

Africa pointed out that the ultimate agenda behind such an EU-ASEAN FTA was to liberalize Southeast Asia ‘s services sectors to European corporations, citing that three-quarters of the EU’s gross domesti c p roduct is in the services sector.

This could result in privatization of vital sectors such as water, Africa said, citing the EU’s two water related programs– the EU Water Facility and the EU Water Initiative. Civil society organizations have accused both programs of favoring privatization over state or community operations of water utilities.

Africa also pointed out that the EU’s moves to complete an FTA with ASEAN are also an expression of its rivalry with the US to expand its economic sphere of influence in the region.

With the slow developments in the World Trade Organization, developed countries like the US , Japan and EU members are now pushing for bilateral free trade agreements to hasten economic liberalization in developing countries and gain unhampered access to their markets. However, poor nations have witnessed their livelihood get worse from decades of free trade, while developed countries continue to protect their economic advantages.

GOV’T CLAIM OF BILLIONS OF INVESTMENTS FROM JPEPA TO SPELL DOOM FOR RP MANUFACTURING


As the Senate resumes its sessions today, independent think-tank IBON Foundation again urged senators to reject the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) saying that the P365 billion in investments that the deal will supposedly bring is too high a price to pay for the death of the local manufacturing sector.

As it is, the long-term liberalization of the economy has further weakened the country’s manufacturing base. But the implementation of the JPEPA, and the free trade pacts that will inevitably follow in its wake, would end any chance of improving the local manufacturing sector and will permanently reduce it to being a mere assembler of imported inputs for re-export.

This trend is already evident in recent export figures from the National Statistics Office, which showed that industries which use imported raw materials or assembled parts, have overtaken those sourcing chiefly domestic raw materials.

IBON research head Sonny Africa said the trade liberalization brought by the JPEPA would further worsen the already dire situation of the country’s manufacturing sector. The “national treatment” and “most-favored-nation (MFN)” provisions in the free trade pact would prevent the country from imposing policies to help local manufacturers, such as restrictions on imported products and local content requirements.

Africa pointed out that the JPEPA is merely a way for Japan to promote the interests of its transnational corporations along with their local elite partners. Japanese companies already dominate many of the sectors in the local electronics manufacturing export industry, with its three biggest electronic firms accounting for over 53% of total gross revenues in the computer manufacturing sector as of 2006.

Instead of passing exploitative free trade pacts like the JPEPA, Africa said the government should instead implement national industrialization policies, which would lead to the creation of millions of much-needed permanent jobs and the country’s long-term economic development.

ERMITA PRESENTATION FAILS TO REPRESENT FILIPINOS’ TAKE ON RP STATE OF RIGHTS

It appears that even an unusually large contingent of government advisers was still not enough to ensure that Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita presented an accurate picture of the human rights situation in RP, much less truthfully represent the Filipinos’ perception of it.

According to research group IBON, one of the convenors of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Watch, Sec. Ermita’s presentation at the UPR deliberations was the exact opposite of most Filipinos’ preception of the state of human rights in the country. Based on IBON’s yearend nationwide survey, most Filipinos are aware that many activists and civilians critical of the Arroyo government have become victims of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances since 2001. Majority of respondents who were aware believe that the police and/or military are behind these human rights violations.

IBON executive director Jaz Lumang said, “As the Philippine representative to the UN Human Rights Council, Ermita failed to represent the sentiment of his countrymen and completely distorted the real situation of human rights in the country.”

The shameful efforts of Ermita and the government delegation to conceal the administration’s deplorable human rights record and misrepresent the truth before the international community are more than enough basis to remove the Philippine government from the UN Human Rights Council, said Lumang.