Archive for the ‘Meralco’ Category

On Philippine Corruption And Our Being Inure To It

December 16, 2008

When I tell younger people that it was much better 40 years ago, I usually draw raised eyebrows. Then I tell them that it might be broken in places but the system of checks and balances were still functioning then. That politicians can still be booted out of office because of perceived corruption. Not now.

Younger people no longer heard of line-item budgeting, a system destroyed by Marcos during martial law so he is free to divert (euphemistically called re-align) public funds as he sees fit. In line-item budgeting all items to be budgeted is given an amount by Congress and funds for it are identified. In this way no significant diversion of funds is possible, hence, corruption is also minimized. This was when Congress still held the full power of the purse. Not now. Everybody has to kowtow to Malacanang and Cory failed to realize the importance of re-setting it.

Now is it a wonder why all the congressmen act like running dogs of Malacanang? Mind you, the term tuta (running dog) has already disappeared from the vocabulary as if it was interred with Marcos. But I remember even at the worst time of his regime, he had still principled people around him who will not dip their fingers in the public till and he always had capable and competent people who are free to say no (but of course it is another matter if he will listen to their counsel). Now all I see around Malacanang are plain running mongrels. Even calling them dogs might be an insult to our loyal canine friends.

There were “commissions” (takes) during Marcos’ time. But if it was probably in the vicinity of 10-20% now it is probably in the realm of 30% or more. All the powers-that-be dips their hands in the projects, from the bureaucrats to the elected officials but it is the latter that are “grabe” (too much).

Corruption is escalating but protest against it is practically a whimper now. It seems we are simply too inure about it now or feeling too powerless to stop it. But at least, the silver lining, if it can be called such, is we have not yet reached sub-Saharan African level where more than 40% of the public funds disappear to only reappear later in European banks.

Where did this all began? Our public dealers (leaders kuno) should certainly be blamed. With a massive mandate all Cory understood was to restore “elite democracy” and its trappings (like the old Congress) and restore Marcos-seized oligarch properties (like Meralco) and reimburse those who were squeezed by Marcos like Joecon Concepcion (by funneling to them low-cost loans extended to us by other countries which was meant to jumpstart our post-Marcos economy).

Cory’s successors were also remiss in reigning in corruption. Ramos and de Venecia like pork barrel immensely so that they can buy off Congress. Making Congress their running dog was the greatest “legacy” of Ramos. And his second-greatest “legacy” is appointing an Ombudsman which will simply cover their tracts.

Arroyo, the protege of Ramos and de Venecia, certainly learned well this “statecraft” and even did one better than them. The protege got too good that she had the temeriry to dump her mentors once the mentors started signalling “sobra na” (too much already).

Erap was content with jueteng money and that’s according to him. But like the others he also cannot say no to friends. But at least he can say no to relatives.

Sometimes I wish the First Quarter Storm will come again. But rules of assembly are different now. And if the youth then had the feeling that they have to set aright their home country now the feeling is to get the necessary degree and experience needed in the least time so they can work abroad. Anyway there is always the Popovism to lull the people that the Philippines is a “great” country as if we are a “blessed” country and people to begin with. And so the circus goes round and round and round.

Bless Henry Sy! He makes us forget our problems with his malls. Who said the best things in life is not free? (Just look at Malacanang and the congressmen).

(Image credit:Wikimedia)

The Proposed Libmanan Power Plant, Bicol’s Power Situation And Some Lessons

November 22, 2008

Last September 4, on her visit to Libmanan, Camarines Sur, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced the proposed $28M Libmanan Biomass Power Plant (BPP). The proposed BPP is supposed to produced 10 MW. The government’s line is that it will help improve power supply in Libmanan and in Camarines Sur.

However, my understanding of the power situation in Bicol is that the power produced by the Tiwi and Bacon-Manito (Bac-Man) Geothermal Power Plants are well over the requirement of the entire Bicol peninsula. In fact, there is a proposal that the power to be produced from an incoming phase of the Bac-Man project, the Bacman-Kayabon project be reserved for the Bicol peninsula. It is estimated that its 40MW production should be sufficient to serve the current 30MW need of the Bicol peninsula.

It is not clear, however, how will the Bicol peninsula will be separated from the Luzon electricity distribution grid. The high system loss is the biggest reason for the high electricity rates in the region. This is ironic since the power it consumes come from region itself. And it is doubly ironic since the power is first sent out to Metro Manila (because they say it is too much for Bicol) and it is the return current which Bicol uses, causing low voltage and power fluctuation.

What they are not telling is Mega Manila is supplied ahead of Bicol because it is where the industries are located, it is the national center and it has a higher population base. It also produces half of the country’s GNP as compared to Bicol’s minuscule contribution. Talk about second-class treatment.

But this is just another manifestation of the regalian doctrine at work–that all natural resources belong to the national government and that they will decide as they see fit. It doesn’t matter to them that Bicol shares the cost of bringing the power to Mega Manila by paying the distribution cost the TransCo (National Transmission) charges for the whole Luzon grid including then inherent system losses.

An additional obstacle to the separation from the Luzon grid is that it is no longer solely an intra-government matter. The Bac-Man Geothermal Power Plant is already controlled by the Lopez group. Sell the electric cooperatives to Meralco? Well, there are precedents. Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Cavite and portions of Laguna, Batangas and Quezon became service areas of Meralco because of the people’s demand who got fed up with the inefficient service and high charges of their old electric cooperatives.

Will the Libmanan BPP’s power production be separate from the Luzon power grid? The leaders of Bicol and the people should get together and resolve the problems mentioned above. This should not just be left to government functionaries.

Actually the idea of a separate grid (or maybe use the old grid and just pay for the cost of carrying the electricity) is a step in the right direction. If Bicol will study the experience of Iligan City, it might learn a lesson or two. When we arrived in Iligan, we were surprised that the rates there were only half of Manila’s. When we asked why, the answer we got was that there was an agreement that the power the Maria Cristina Hydroelectric Power Plant, which is located in Iligan, will be sold cheaply to the city. We even heard a story that Iligan is not charged the usual distribution costs (since anyway the plant is only a few kilometers from the city).

This might have basis since people of Lanao del Sur and two Muslim towns of Lanao del Norte are also clamoring for preferential treatment like Iligan. They cite that the water Maria Cristina uses comes from their lake which they consider part of their ancestral domain, the Lake Lanao. Further, they point out that most of the generators anyway and the water cataracts are located in their areas. This refused demand has caused several bombings of the towers of the power grid of Mindanao.

With low electricity rates, many industries especially those that are big consumers of electricity came to Iligan. Iligan experienced an industrial boom in the ’50s to the ’70s making it the Highly Industrialized City it is now. Even the famed National Steel Corporation came to Iligan.

This is the lesson that Tiwi, Bacon and Manito missed. But I hope it is not yet too late for Libmanan.