Author: Admin

Concession pacts turned over water rate setting to foreigners

PRESIDENT Fidel Ramos in effect surrendered the Republic’s sovereign powers to foreigners in the water concession agreements that his government entered into in 1997 with two oligarchs that had been close to all Yellow administrations: the Ayalas and the Lopezes.

The agreements that turned over the running of the water and sewerage system in metropolitan Manila and several adjacent provinces had provisions that ultimately gave foreigners the ultimate authority to determine how much they could charge their 12 million customers, their captive market, as Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services are monopolies in the areas they serve.

While the government agency Metropolitan Manila Waterworks and Sewerage Water (MWSS) sets the basic tariff rates every five years in the so-called rate-rebasing procedures, the concession agreements gave the two companies the right to appeal the government’s decision in two ways.

One was for them to appeal to a so-called appeals panel, as provided for in the concession agreements’ Article 12. This panel has three members, with the concessionaire and the MWSS each appointing one member. The third member though, the panel’s chairman, is appointed by the president of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). In all the appeals so far, the two concessionaires appointed foreigners, who together with another foreigner appointed by the ICC president, outvoted the sole Filipino designated by the MWSS.

One would be too naïve to think that conglomerates like the Ayala Corp. and the Hong Kong First Pacific Group (which bought out the Lopezes in Maynilad in 2007) do not have strong connections with the ICC. And why would a social club of global capitalists like the International Chamber of Commerce have a say in determining how much water Filipinos should pay for?

Photos, chart, data from First Pacific 2018 annual report and Maynilad 2017 report

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Aquino, Hilbay agreed to keep water arbitration suits secret

FORMER President Aquino 3rd and his solicitor general Florin Hilbay agreed to the two water companies’ demand to have the arbitration suits that the latter had filed against the government kept secret.

The two arbitration panels, one each for Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc., in decisions announced in July 2017 and November 2018, upheld the two concessionaires’ claims, and ordered government to pay them P3.4 billion and P7.4 billion, respectively. Each panel had three members, two of which were foreigners, and one Filipino. The suits were heard by a three-man panel the two parties agreed to, with the Singapore unit of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration acting as registrar.

What’s so outrageous about this is that the water companies in their suit claimed that these amounts represented their losses when the regulatory body Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) refused to grant their petitions to raise their tariffs from 2014 to 2018. (The other day though, the Ayala-led, majority foreign-owned Manila Water claimed the suit was filed for “breaches of procedure” it hasn’t explained.)

But the MWSS proved to have been correct in its computations. Even without the rate increases they demanded, these firms’ income in those years totaled P67 billion; their average annual income of P13.4 billion during those five years was even higher than the P10.5 billion of the previous five years.

Yet the firms still wanted to recover those amounts that they claimed in 2015 when they filed the case they would lose, but didn’t.

Hilbay at the arbitration hearing against China at The Hague. Did he also appear in the hearings for the suits filed by the water companies, even if these were only in Singapore, which the government lost?

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Water monopolies’ overflowing with greed

YOU can’t blame President Duterte for blowing his top when he was told that the Ayala-owned Manila Water Co. Inc. had asked Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd to pay ASAP the P7.4 billion that an arbitration panel in Singapore had awarded the firm just two weeks ago.

The panel ordered the Philippine government to compensate the firm for the alleged losses it incurred from 2015 to 2018 from slashing the tariffs it charges its customers.

How the hell could that arbitration panel have ruled that way? How the hell could Manila Water allege that, when its own financial reports show that its net income from 2015 to 2018 totaled P25 billion. In fact, its average annual earnings in that period was P6.2 billion, increasing from the previous four years’ (2011 to 2014) P5.6 billion (See table).

In fact, Manila Water was so profitable that during those years that it claimed the government had been making it lose a lot of money, it paid out to its shareholders dividends of P7 billion. From 2006 to 2018, profits from the monopoly that was put in its owners’ banks totaled P16 billion. Manila Water has indeed been so profitable that its share prices have increased five times, from P6.2 in 2006 to P28 in 2018.

The two water concessionaires — Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services Inc. — have in fact been so profitable, or have been engaging in so much profit-seeking, that they have set up water distribution companies — which however are not monopolies — in other countries. Manila Water has operations in Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, and Maynilad in two Vietnam provinces.

And Manila Water still wants to wrench another P7.4 billion in taxpayers’ money, ordered by a three-man panel of foreigners in Singapore, the country of the Ayalas’ biggest partner in Globe Telecom Inc., the Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. or Singtel?

They own and/or control the water monopolies: the Zobel brothers; insets, the Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim and his executive. PHOTOS FROM COMPANY WEBSITES

If that’s not overflowing greed, I don’t know what is. Continue reading

Filed under: Manila Times Columns

SEA Games hosting helps build nationalism

I CAN’T remember anything recently quite like it. But there was inarguably so much joy among Filipinos who saw — directly or through videos — the opening ceremonies of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2019 in New Clark City the other night.

What was amazing was that two words were often used to describe their feelings: “goose bumps” and” tears.”

Veteran journalist Jay Sonza, whom one would expect to be so jaded with his long career, posted in his Facebook time-line: “Noong sindihan ni Pacquiao iyong cauldron at magliyab ito, kasabay ng world-class fireworks sa loob ng Class 1A Olympic Track and Field sa Athletes’ Village, New Clark City, nanindig ang balahibo ko, sabay nangilid ang aking mata sa tuwa at kagalakan.We have built a monument, a work of art, and a remembrance of good governance.”

“Goosebumps and tears! World-class ceremonies indeed! So proud to be a Filipino! We win as one! Go Philippines!,” wrote TV presenter Gretchen Fulido. “Naiiyak ako with pride seeing the entire Team Philippines take center stage,” renowned singer Gary Valenciano said.

It was also sheer genius for the organizers to have our eight ‘legendary’ sports heroes carry in a dramatic way the SEA Games federation flag. That made it an event in which we were reminded that the Filipino could be world-class. Continue reading

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Sy Jr., Porsche dealer, China state firm make P171-B super profits from electricity grid

WHATEVER hard-core believers of the once-upon-a-time magic wand called “privatization” will tell you, I’m sure you’ll find something deeply wrong here.

Henry Sy Jr. of the SM empire; insurance tycoon Robert Coyuito, known more as the dealer of Porsche here; and a Chinese state-owned company have been making super profits as owners of the monopoly that runs the country’s electricity transmission network, the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP).

Sy has 30 percent of NGCP, officially through his One Taipan Holdings and then through Monte Oro Grid Resources. Coyiuto owns 30 percent through his Calaca High Power Corp. It is not clear though if Sy, who is either vice chairman or chairman of most of the SM conglomerate’s firms, represents the investments of that group in the NGCP or his own personal investments. I suspect though that while he may have his own money there, the SM empire’s money accounts for the bulk of One Taipan’s holdings.

The Chinese firm with 40-percent holdings is the Chinese government-owned State Grid Corp. of China, which was the second largest firm in the world in 2018 in terms of revenue. You read that right: it is second only to Walmart and had bigger profits than Royal Dutch Shell, Aramco, Apple and Toyota.

They run the firm that transmits electricity to us: Sy, 30 percent; Coyuito, 30 percent; China state firm, 40 percent. COMPANY PHOTOS

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Sick and tired of blah-blah by, and on, Robredo

I’M sick and tried of all the blah-blah by, and on,Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo these past three years. As vice president, she has accomplished nothing and said nothing really substantial or reasonable. Why the heck do we spend time talking about her?

To be honest, this column is obviously another such blah-blah on Robredo, but what I can do when media has been over-reporting her? C’mon, what’s really the news value justifying banner headlines yesterday reporting Robredo’s inane remarks like, “I have only started” (The Manila Times and Philippine Star) and “Leni to DU30: What are you scared of?” (Philippine Daily Inquirer). (To save this column from being another total blah-blah, I raise later below issues confronting the war against drugs I hope government will consider.)

After three years of bashing Duterte and painting the country, in the words of her cheerleader Maria Ressa, a “war zone” where corpses by the President’s death squads litter the streets, she is still “starting”? Then that mindless question by Robredo asking if Duterte is scared is big news deserving banner treatment?

I dare to lecture my media colleagues: Banner headlines are for, to exaggerate it, earth-shaking events, or statements by people who have some kind of power to walk the talk. If, say, in the context of hypothetical news that some stupid UN human rights group comes out with a report condemning alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, Duterte says, “I have just started,” that is big, fearful news. He has the authority and resources to walk his talk.

But a vice president with no political power, and obviously not enough brains, mouthing a sound bite? Continue reading

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US Navy confirms real intent of PH arbitration vs China

THE US Navy last week, in its actions and official statements, in effect revealed what was really one of the real aims of the Philippines’ arbitration suit that President Aquino 3rd and his foreign secretary Albert del Rosario brought against China in 2013.

It wasn’t to win back for the Philippines islands or reefs it claims to own in the Spratly islands, which it alleges China grabbed from it. The arbitration was intended — other than to demonize China as an evil aggressor in the South China Sea — to provide the US Navy with additional legal justification to undertake its so-called freedom of navigation operations (Fonops) in the South China Sea, a major part of the American “Pivot to Asia” program started by President Obama in 2011.

The Fonop has been the US’ way of challenging what it thinks are territorial waters and maritime zones that countries have declared but which it thinks are illegal. It does this by having a warship sail into such waters and zones to challenge the claiming countries to enforce what they claim are their sovereign rights – which of course they don’t, faced with the might of the US navy.

US combat ship Gabrielle Giffords: Free to patrol the Spratlys, thanks to PH arbitration suit. US NAVY PHOTO

On November 18, the littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords passed by Mischief Reef in the Spratlys, occupied by China on which it has built an artificial island. China as well as the Philippines and Vietnam claim the reef as part of their sovereign territory. China calls the Spratlys its Nánshā Qúndǎo, the Philippines its Kalayaan Island Group, and Vietnam, Quần đảo Trường Sa.

The US ship deliberately sailed within 12 nautical miles of the artificial island, or within its theoretical territorial sea. Continue reading

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Pasig Mayor Sotto coddles a KMU union

TO be frank, I find it astonishing that a young mayor of a major city in Metro Manila, the scion of wealthy celebrity parents and educated in the most expensive school in the country could be so naïve or brainwashed by the Yellow Cult as to allow himself to be used by a Red front. And all along he deludes himself as defending “workers fighting for what they believe is just.”

I am talking about Vico Sotto, mayor of Pasig City and son of showbiz celebrities Vic Sotto and Coney Reyes, who has gone all-out in support of a group of workers battling snack-food manufacturer Regent Foods Corp., which has been doing business in his city since 1988, or a year before he was born.

The alleged union, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Regent Food Corp. — “alleged” as there is another bigger union recognized by management for years and dealing with the company — appears to have been organized by cadres of, or is affiliated with, the once-powerful leftist group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU). Check out the KMU Facebook page to find out how deeply involved they are with this “Unyon.”

The company had issued a statement that this KMU union, which is the minority union in the company, blocked the entrance to the company factory with its pickets, forcing it close down. When Mayor Sotto refused to intervene in the dispute, the company secured a private security firm to guard the gates so its employees could resume their work.

The KMU union clashed with the security men and, according to the company, attacked them even using knives. Several of the security agents were injured, and one is still in critical condition. The Pasig police, who were at the scene, arrested 23 of the workers whom they claimed were responsible for the violence. The KMU and other leftist organizations, as has been their template, launched a campaign to “free the Regent 23.”

Bail
Astonishingly, Sotto paid the bail of the arrested KMU workers, and claimed that they “were just fighting for their rights.” He told the company that it must drop its charges against the workers if they want a “healthy relationship with the city government.”

The company, as its statement put it, “refused to be cowed,” saying that it might as well transfer its factory elsewhere than give in to the KMU strikers.

KMU happy over Mayor Sotto’s help. From its Facebook page

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Lunacy of leftists, middling minds of (some) media men

IF this brouhaha over the communists’ vandalism of the Manila’s iconic Lagusnilad (the first underpass in the country) tells us anything, it is as follows:

Communist activists today are lunatics, yet they astonishingly are still able to get some media people to buy into their crazy narrative.

I do not exaggerate when I call them lunatics. The slogan painted by the communist vandals of the group Panday Sining on Lagusnilad’s white-tiled walls was “Digmang [sic] Bayan, Sagot sa Martial Law” (People’s War, Response to Martial Law).

That slogan was what we — that is, when I was a fire-breathing activist in my youth — splashed on walls in 1971, when rumors were rife that then-President Marcos was poised to declare martial law, in response to the bombing of Plaza Miranda — which many years later would be proven to have been actually done by the Communist Party to foment chaos.

There was even a twist, hilarious but tragic, to that slogan. Then Communist Party chieftain Jose Ma. Sison boasted at the time that Marcos would be overthrown by “people’s war” if he declared martial law.

In panic
When Marcos did impose martial law in September 1972, Sison and his core group scampered away in panic, so much so that he was able to contact the New People’s Army leadership, based in Isabela, only after two years. Worse, in a few years’ time after martial law, nearly the entire communist leadership would be killed or arrested, including Sison and his military commander, Kumander Dante. Martial law proved to be a boon for Marcos, enabling him to rule the country for a decade with hardly any opposition.

It is the year 2019 today, how can you not call these communist vandals lunatics if they’re in a time warp, using a slogan that is 38 years old? How can you not call them lunatics if there has been no people’s war breaking out in Mindanao, where Duterte did declare martial law?

The slogan symbolizes the overall lunacy of the Left. How else can one explain their view of the Philippines as ripe for revolution through a “people’s army” of peasants encircling the cities; their continuing embrace of “Mao Zedong Thought” and “dialectical materialism”; and their veneration of their guru Jose Ma. Sison who has lived very comfortably for 22 years in a country that is part of the imperialist camp? They have even a stark-mad slogan: “Down with Duterte-US-Chinese Imperialism”.

The utter ludicrousness of the graffiti in Lagusnilad, which a representative of Panday Sining, Francis Joven, claims is “protest art,” is even demonstrated in one detail. The vandal who painted the graffiti misspelled “digmaang” (war) as “digmang.” That either shows how bad our educational system has become, or the vandal was so terrified at what he was doing he misspelled a word he obviously has been fond of using.

Brouhaha
This brouhaha reveals another astonishing yet very disappointing fact. Our media — at least a few of them — have become so weak-minded as to be drawn into the communist justification for their vandalism, that it is “protest art.”

Top panels, vandalism by street gangs; bottom left, street art, Athens, right, Beirut. Bantay Manila, bklyner.com, thewildmagazine.com, and nahamet.com

Supposedly a veteran journalist, Ed Lingao was a mouse when he interviewed the Panday Sining head, who exuded the arrogance of a fanatic lecturing him on art. Lingao even claimed that there was “debate” in social media whether the Lagusnilad graffiti was vandalism or protest art, and titled his program “Street art or vandalism?” Continue reading

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Drilon, Robredo — and PDI — pushing opposition to extinction

AT the rate the Yellow Cult leaders are demonstrating how incompetent they are, and with the Philippine Daily Inquirer unwittingly broadcasting their ineptness, there won’t be any opposition in the next national elections in 2022.

In the span of a few days, Sen. Franklin Drilon, the most experienced and smartest Liberal Party leader, and Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo showed how blatantly incompetent they are to be leaders of the nation.

Of all criticisms against the Duterte administration, Drilon attacked what is inarguably the most popular — among all classes — and most solid accomplishment of this administration: its massive “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, its roads and bridges component led by the most respected Cabinet member, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar.

If there’s anything wrong with the “Build, Build, Build” program, it is whether the massive infusion of funds into the system would be inflationary or whether government can sustain the debt burden on borrowed funds used for it.

I won’t waste this space debunking point by point Drilon’s claim that the Build, Build, Build program is a dismal failure. (Check out the rebuttals of Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo and his adviser on flagship Vince Dizon who have very ably shown Drilon to be ignorant, bigtime.) Continue reading

Filed under: Manila Times Columns