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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Reading Belmonte’s thoughts

By Rod Kapunan
Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte and his shameless cabal are again exhibiting their most disgusting act of selling the country’s interest, harping as usual on the need to amend the Constitution to attract foreign investors.   However, in so doing, Belmonte exhibited his stupidity because the nuances in the economy can never be legislated as one politician suggested of amending the “law of supply and demand.”  Rather, the Speaker’s motive is for his idol to stay beyond the period, making a fool of himself by promising to tamper only the economic provisions. 
It is the same modus operandi this power hungry Speaker did in ramming into our throat the passage of his bribe-budgeted law that saw the consumers of electricity electrocuted.   He did not mind being called a fool for as long as he gets what he wants.  While claiming that trading could induce competition vis-à-vis reduce the cost of electricity, in truth Belmonte wanted to fully deregulate the industry.   The icing in his anomalous Epira Law ended up in him appearing more ridiculous because he failed to remove the provisions about the role of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). 
His clever ploy backfired.  Public indignation forced the ERC to set aside the rate fixed by the syndicated cartel that styled itself as the Philippine Electric Marketing Corp. (PEMC). To cover up the embarrassment, this pretending-to-be-honest government explained that the ERC simply exercised its “police power” to regulate.  That decision put the greediest generation and distribution utilities on the spot with Speaker Belmonte dumbfounded seeing the ERC scarecrow alive and kicking.   
The fiasco caused by the insider trading with PEMC possibly colluding with their assigned floor traders opened the eyes of the consumers about the role of the Secretary of Energy Jericho Petilla.   Instead of him overseeing the supply of electricity and its cost per KWH, it turned out that he presided in the decision made by PEMC. 
Secretary Petilla’s alibi in  blaming the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM)  for failing to deliver the load on time only made him ridiculous because all decisions made by that syndicated cartel was with his approval.  Belmonte and Petilla should have been reminded that electricity as a commodity cannot be traded and regulated at the same time, much that trading is “implied deregulation.” The government can only fool either the generation and distribution utilities or the customers at a time, but it can never fool both of them at the same time.    
The Constitution has nothing to do with the problems that have overwhelmed us.  They were created by politicians like Belmonte.  Besides, our metastasizing problems are not just confined to economics.  It is the aggregate result of the conspiracy by the greedy elite and their imperialist masters, the corrupt politicians, the blinded but raving ideologues, and by the self-righteous clerics.  There is no way we could extricate ourselves from the quagmire unless we detach our values and orientation from foreign interests.  
Otherwise, we would perish as a state, not from the point of view of having attained the Marxist nirvana about the withering of the state, but one that sourly failed to carry out its basic obligations to our people.   Investors will come even before laws welcoming them are legislated.  Most are even willing to take the risk if the profit is enormous to make it worth their gamble.   In our case, we have an inverted economic policy to cause one to shake his head and ask if he is in fact dealing with some kind of a nut. 
We can cite our monetary policy to allow the continuing deprecation of our currency.  We are now nearing the point where to buy an item we would have to bring a bayong full of money. To catch up with the day-to-day inflation, we are forced to jack up the daily minimum wage because of the increasing cost of living, including their monthly-budgeted payments for electricity, water, transportation, rent, etc.  In fact, the minimum wage is more of a joke that as one would quip, “For the Department of Labor to compel all employers to pay the right amount of wage would be to send more than half of them to jail.” 
Somebody should tell Speaker Belmonte that we have capital to help us go through with all the difficulties we are experiencing right now.  It may not be that much, but that would allow us to cross the line.  Better still, he should explain why Cojuangco’s San Miguel Corp. is in Malaysia and China, why Razon’s arrastre and port services are in Latin America and Africa, why Pangilinans’ power plants are in Africa,  why Ayala’s real estate and telecoms are in Spain and Singapore, why Henry Sy’s bank and retail chain are in China, like the holdings of Lucio Tan, John Gokongnwei, Andrew Tan, and numerous other Taipans are in many other places. 
Belmonte should also explain why such Filipino-owned name brands as Bench, Human, Rusty Lopez, Mendrez, Oishi and many others have their production plants in China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangladesh.  For that matter, a large number of corrupt politicians, big time swindlers, and upper and upper-middle class families are buying real estate properties in the US.  Belmonte should anticipate that foreign investors are likely to ask why many of his compatriot businessmen are living en masse.
Foreign investors need no laws to entice them.  They are quick to locate areas where they would earn profit.  They will even force their way in, like pressuring the government to open its door.  In fact, even if there is an on-going war, like vultures, they will come much that it is like feasting on rotting carrion, which reason why they are called war-profiteers.  Maybe Belmonte has in mind the idea of inviting them to come with only their saliva as capital. 
Even the gamblers in our casino economy called “portfolio investors” now classify us as goners.   If they are now hesitant to place their bet, how much more for the direct investors who would have to pour in their hard-earned capital to build factories and assembly plants, hire employees, and are exposed to all kinds of risks like extortion, corruption and labor unrest?  Statistics is more than enough to remind Belmonte that among the countries in Southeast Asia, we only managed to nudge Burma and Cambodia in the race to entice foreign investors, and no sooner we will be holding the trophy as the economic tail ender in the region. 
 rpkapunan@gmail.com

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