Planes, trains, and automobiles

I think my first train-related entry was back in 2005, in Debating solutions to squatting, I pointed to this entry by Torn and frayed in Manila on how our country possesses “one of the most ramshackle railways in the world.” That’s putting it politely. Torn was reacting to a report by Howie Severino (and The Unlawyer also commented on it, including detailing the extremely low fares charged by the railroad).

One major problem, as recalled in Pain On The Train, was that squatters had encroached on the tracks and were, at times, hostile to train passengers. There was once a haunting post by Pulsar in 2006 (well, who says once on the Interweb, something’s forever? The blog’s gone!). Or sometimes, the problem were the passengers themselves, see Test-Riding The Metro-Tren:

But there were dreadfully more — and this was what made me uneasy and had second thoughts about using this mode of transpo on a regular basis or asking friends and family to patronize it. Dark thoughts ran in my mind thinking if I can actually still get out of this situation alive! Here we go:

Amongst the passengers in my coach were shirtless dudes who were not even drunk but were just as dangerously rowdy. Okay, to be fair, not all of them were topless. Two were wearing sando, one did not even have a footwear, and all of them did have confidently loud voices enough for anyone to understand that they are the “masters” in this place. They were huddled on two right-side doors. Some were standing and some were seated on the floor and the little steps that people use when boarding or getting off via those doors. Obviously, no one passed by those two doors. They were not just rowdy in the normal kind of kid things. They had very foul language offensive to many.

These folks were not young kids either. They were men probably in their 20s up to late 40s and they seemed to know just about every person who lived along those rail tracks as they often had a lewd or foul comment at everyone they saw. Samples? Here we go… “Hoy hostess, bihis ka na! Rampa ka ng maaga nang makarami”, or — Tangina! Nakaw ang cellphone na yan, kahapon lang”! And they most certainly elicited equally shouted responses from those they were shouting at. Some of the younger kids they teased even ran with wooden sticks or little stones attempting to catch and whack or pelt them as the train chugged along. And you guessed it, these men would run scampering towards the inner portions of the train (which was naturally a commotion that would make you panic). When kids on the ground can’t keep up with the train, these men would be back at the two doors and back to their usual shouting spree at people we passed by. I even saw two women-passengers stand up and walk further front — obviously to get away from this.

I’d be a liar if I said I was not alarmed. I was actually more than frightened! Then again, I could have been over-reacting, right?

Now hear this: As the train went a chugging slowly after that Espana Station going towards Blumentritt, a guy came walking from the front coaches who seemed to be looking for nothing but trouble. As he passed where I was seated and just about to pass the rowdy men by the door, someone shouted on top of his voice saying “o kayong lahat, ingatan nyo mga gamit nyo, yan naglalakad na yan isnatcher yan… The walking man did not even look back but shouted equally loud saying “tangina mo, hindi ako isnatcher, naghahanap ako ng masasaksak” and as he said that he lashed out a knife in mid-air. I looked at the faces of many passengers and almost all had the same facial expression — they pretended to have not heard that and they all did not look at the knife-brandishing man — and so I did not dare look at him too! This time I felt my balls were already above my forehead.

After having gone to the end part of the train, that knife-wielding man returned to the men perched by the doorway and he joined in the laughter, banter and dirty shouts at people we passed by. I clearly heard him telling the group that it was too unusual the week was almost over and he has not had a fight yet. As if to emphasize that, he said “kahit asawa ko ayaw akong patulan, nakakainip pare”!


This is a Wikipedia map of the NorthRail and SouthRail lines of the Philippine National Railways -theoretically, at least. I happen to like trains very much (perhaps not to the extent of being a trainspotter) and really wish rehabilitating our railways will be accomplished: just getting NorthRail and SouthRail functioning will actually merely return us to where we were prior to World War II, the last major extension having been accomplished with the inauguration of the Manila-Legazpi Line in May, 1938. That still marks the last major addition to our railway network. However, Marcos’ obsession with highways had led to the deterioration of the railroad.

The result? See photos in A Ride On Philippine National Railways Part I and A Ride On Philippine National Railways Part II. See also RILES in Digital Phtographer Philippines. In response to this sad state of affairs, an ambitious program of modernization has started.

One sad side-effect of modernization, however, is the destruction of heritage sites: see Las Estaciones Ferrocarril Manila-Dagupan in the ICOMOS Philippines site.

There are some extremely informative railroad enthusiasts’ blogs out there, which combine a strong historical sense with efforts to document the rehabilitation of the Philippine National Railways. See their mother organization, Railways and Industrial Heritage Society of the Phils. (and its Reese Blog), and these enthusiasts’ blogs: Philippine Railways S.I.G., Philippine Railways, and Laguna Railways,

Courtesy of Augusto de Viana is The railways in Philippine history which, however, so compresses the most interesting years, the 20s to the 50s, as to render that section meaningless. Oh well. Viviana overlooks the ambivalence and even hostility American officials felt towards railways, since it would affect the Philippine market for automobiles (see The Colonial Iron Horse: Railroads and Regional Development in the Philippines, 1875- 1935). When autonomy was achieved, railroad development accelerated. And the policy debate on highways versus railways also began, along with still-unrealized plans such as a railroad for Mindanao (the development of Maria Cristina Fall’s hydroelectric power was originally envisioned as primarily powering the Mindanao railways: there are interesting snippets on these debates in F.B. Harrison’s diary: as an Anglophile, he was pro-railways, pointing with envy to Britain’s not altogether altruistic promotion of its own steam engine industry in its colonies; as for its biggest handiwork in that regard, here’s an interesting item on accomplishing transport reform: Things Looking Up for India’s Trains).

I remember when I was still new in the Inquirer, the President had a dinner with editors and spent much of her time discussing the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (this will be one of her lasting achievements, I think). Along the way, she discussed trains and how she wanted to eliminate the old PNR lines, and have new railroad lines simply feed the metropolis, with intra-city travel done on the LRT. At the time I remember remarking that her strong grasp of detail was one of the President’s most impressive qualities, but one little-seen by the public: just as the overall schemes fed by her grasp of detail failed to be grasped, in turn, by the public: and government is at fault for this.

Today’s Inquirer editorial, Derailed, looks at the possible permutations of the ongoing problem with NorthRail: Even as our government insists that NorthRail project to push thru the reality seems to be Gov’t scrambles to save NorthRail: China threatens withdrawal, legal suit over a situation caused by the sad reality that Northrail ‘mobilization’ ate up 23% of total loan. (Here’s a helpful Northrail timeline.)

See Target for Northrail: ‘substantial’ completion by 2010:

As things stand now, the most realistic assumption is to have a partially – or at least, substantially – completed stretch of rail road some kilometers short of the first section of the 80.2-kilometer distance between Caloocan City in Metro Manila and Clark in Pampanga.

Officials familiar with the twists and turns of the project told that the initial goal to complete at least the first phase, or the first 32 kilometers up to Malolos in Bulacan province, is not realistic anymore…

A year since the project’s 36-month construction period kicked off in February 2007, clearing the tracks, acquiring right-of-way, and relocation works are still to be crossed out from the list of pre-construction must-do’s.

No civil works on the actual railway have commenced nor has a project design been finalized, yet the designated contractor, the Chinese National Machinery & Equipment Group (CNMEG), wanted to add almost $300 million on top of the current $421 million agreed upon and signed construction cost…

According to various sources, including correspondences from NLRC and the demand letters from CNMEG, the latter unilaterally suspended work on the Northrail in February 1, 2008, with CNMEG’s Chinese engineers returning home.

Pamintuan explained that the engineers have run out of things to do since the project design has yet to be finalized.

But that was only part of the story. Apparently, while the design plan is still pending, CNMEG has been verbally demanding to increase the project cost. In succeeding correspondences, CNMEG has pegged the additional cost, based on computations as of March, 2008, at $299 million.

That would increase the project cost of the 32-kilometer Caloocan to Malolos stretch from $421 million to $720 million. That means the cost of the entire 80-kilometer Manila to Clark distance, which has no financing in place yet, will increase from $1 billion to $1.39 billion…

…After President Arroyo thumbed down CNMEG’s verbal demand in February to increase the construction price by $299 million, CNMEG formalized its demand in their May 13 notice of claim and in their June 3 demand letter to Northrail.

Of that amount, $88.63 million was due to variations in the original scope of work, such as the need to build viaducts instead of embankments in Valenzuela and Marilao areas.

The remaining $211 million was mainly due to foreign exchange losses ($106 million), inflation ($71 million), and cost of the delay in construction. CNMEG pointed fingers at Northrail’s inability to clear obstacles within the right-of-way areas and its non- completion of squatter relocations…

…In the April 24, 2008 letter of resigned Northrail president Arsenio Bartolome III to President Arroyo, he referred to a “presidential directive” regarding the completion of the Caloocan-to-Clark phase.

The directive emphasized two things: that it should be finished by 2010, the end of President Arroyo’s term, and that it should be within the project cost of $1.008 billion.

Construction cost for the 32-kilometer Section 1 from Caloocan to Malolos is $421 million, while Section 2 from Malolos to Clark is $673 million.

The design, supply, construct contract with CNMEG, for Section 1, Caloocan to Malolos, stipulates a construction period of 36 months, or 3 years, after Notice to Proceed was issued in Feb 19, 2007. It was meant to be completed by February 2010, perfect timing for the national election in May 2010.

The relocation of urban poor residents (one day, perhaps, destined to be only immortalized in photos or some videos) has proven expensive but relatively successful (most recently: an amazed foreign friend who had done some filming for a documentary in Blumentritt, Manila, and then saw how the community he’d filmed has been relocated and disappeared) see From ‘Home Along Da Riles’ to ‘Dreamland‘) Of course, not every delay is due to gross inefficiency or corruption on the part of government:

The report also says,

Unlike other controversial projects that were also cancelled, like the NAIA-3 airport terminal, where there is already a massive building that just needs a few months worth of repair and remediation work, the Northrail project’s railway construction has not even started.

I’m not sure if this is accurate.

The thing is, if you look at the reports and photos in the railroad enthusiasts’ blogs, you’ll see that a tremendous amount has been accomplished in terms of rehabilitating the railways (see Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project Update and Rail Lifting at Paco Station for example) though perhaps it’s fair to say no real laying down of track has taken place.

The question is to what extent the whole gigantic effort -and it is gigantic, you’re reversing the deterioration of the past forty years while at the same time laying down an entirely new railway system- has been marred by inefficiency or even corruption. These things take a toll on ongoing projects, as the headlines make pretty obvious, but it also raises another problem: even if hounded by corruption and inefficiency, is the solution to simply tear up contracts and scrap the project?

I once heard someone explain Romulo Neri Jr.’s pragmatism as follows. First question: does the country need a modern railway system? Yes. Since it does, can it be built without corruption? No. If it cannot be built without corruption, then whether major or minor corruption takes place, what is essential is for the railway to be built, because the economic benefits of the project dwarfs whatever corruption will take place.

And pragmatically speaking, Neri is correct and was thinking in true Southeast Asian fashion. This was the Marcos way: anyone who remembers the ferocious debates on MRT-1 along Taft Avenue (expensive! impractical! will never work!) will realize that despite all the objections, the elevated railway line has become an essential part of metropolitan infrastructure.

And this brings me to Neri, his latest reincarnation as SSS Chief.

The PCIJ in a Special Report reveals that the resignation of Corazon de la Paz and the assumption of the leadership of the SSS by Romulo Neri Jr. has a major policy shift at its core:

De la Paz first intimated how she has not been able to accustom herself to the workings of government, indicating a preference to return to her work in the private sector. But upon further questioning by the media, she eventually relented to a little known fact: she had stood up against the use of SSS members’ funds for the government’s pro-poor agenda, in the process offending the powers that be.

“Using the fund has limits. (It) cannot be used to finance pro-poor projects of the government unless it is defined in the (SSS) Charter,” De la Paz explained, serving up a warning to SSS members and the public of the potential danger of the fund being misused.

With Neri at the helm of the SSS, many have indeed expressed fear that the funds will be used for partisan political interests. Both Malacañang and Neri’s avowal that the funds will not be touched for government’s welfare programs has not helped assuage such concerns for the very reason that the appointment boils down, not so much to the issue of competence, but to Neri’s integrity and credibility - and that of the one who appointed him – as a public official.

Those who insist that the economy in general, or government financial matters in particular, can and ought to be insulated from politics have another lesson coming in why this is neither possible nor desirable. This is a defect that afflicts not just loyalists of the present dispensation, but bureaucrats, too, as the PCIJ report reveals:

Neri also probably felt his detachment that he had to bring along with him to NEDA people whom he could trust. His consultants, many of whom were not known to the NEDA staff, were like a parallel office which acted as his political arm. At first, some at NEDA appreciated the arrangement as it insulated the staff from politics, preferring not to deal with politicians and just continue to do their work professionally. Later, on instructions by Neri himself, NEDA officials had had occasions to interact with his consultants. Even his meetings with them were recorded as part of his official schedule.

The way one director understood it, Neri played politics as a matter of course in public policy. The NEDA Secretariat and other oversight bureaucracies are to exert effort in providing full information to decide policy, he says, and that necessitated engaging with politicians and playing the game of politics.

From his own experience working with him, the CPBO’s Vicerra believes Neri played politics not in the sense of politicking, which he says Neri always tried to avoid. “It’s more of realpolitik,” he explains, “as he always wants to involve himself in policy issues. And he has his advocacies.”

Doing so may have made the NEDA Secretariat more aware of the nature of public policy in their work, but it also made them vulnerable, admits the same director. “It put the organization and employees unprecedently in an unrequitedly bad light,” he says, though maintaining that the Secretariat has remained nonpartisan, its own standard of integrity and professionalism undiminished by this initiation into politics.

But Neri’s pragmatism, the NEDA staff also claim, conflicted with his reformist image. Some would say on hindsight that this probably explains why he is seemingly not appalled by unethical behavior, that is, corruption by way of commissions, extortions, kickbacks and the like, because these make things move or work. Others find it ironic that he wanted reforms yet “still wants to be in the good graces of this government.” Still others comment that since he is a “political animal” himself, it was not surprising that he had been offered bribes as he had admitted.

This is a confusing passage, but then it neatly illustrates the confused, because ignorant, attitudes of bureaucrats themselves about politics and its place in governance.

Government’s policies and management of the economy can be left alone if the public feels officials are capable and trustworthy stewards. If not, then they can and should be guarded every step of the way.

In its editorial, The Business Mirror, not inclined to be an instinctive critic of the administration, advocates retaining the VAT on oil, but points out the essential problem with expectations being built on spending the windfall for the public good:

Removing the oil E-VAT may be akin to a voluntary disarmament at a time when we need all the weapons we can get our hands on to confront grave threats to our economy.

Gordon’s proposals may not be popular – but they make sense. Having said that, the only problem with following his tack is this: Local experience is replete with evidence that, in this country, it’s next to impossible to get a good accounting of where and how precisely special-purpose funds – say, E-VAT “windfall” as used for infrastructure to rebuild disaster-ravaged areas and spur local economies – were applied. For even as critics complain that letting the government use the E-VAT windfall for doles is tantamount to giving more money to crooks, that same peril lies in using the funds instead, as Dick Gordon wants, for infrastructure.

Finally, in a town where a crusading auditor who keeps asking a warlord to “please liquidate” millions of pesos in public funds may easily get what he prays for – that is, be literally liquidated from the face of the earth, his killer(s) never brought to justice – accountability, like honesty in the Billy Joel song, is such a lonely word. So, to Dick Gordon, you may be right on this one, but, good luck.

Which goes to my point about NorthRail, the handling of the economy, and what Yen Macabenta points out: that the economy is coping with increases in the cost of oil pretty well, not least, it seems, to some pretty OK handling of economic matters by the powers-that-be; the problem is that while this redounds to the benefit of big business, ours is Still a jobless-growth economy; and the powers-that-be don’t quite know how to effectively toot their own horns and even if they do, there’s a widespread assumption officialdom’s on a looting spree (made even deeper, I think, because most of the public can’t quite grasp how it’s being done):

The report on Monday that the government kept its first-semester budget deficit at about P18 billion – only half of the programmed ceiling – despite the food and fuel price crises is encouraging. Two points stand out in the report:

First, revenue collection improved during the first semester.

And second, our fiscal managers were concerned that the various agencies of the government have not been able to absorb additional funding to help perk up domestic growth. In other words, the problem is not lack of funds, but projects to spend on.

When the President decided that the government would no longer aim for a zero budget deficit this year, it was for the specific objective of cushioning the impact of high consumer prices on the most vulnerable among our people. The government has the resources to provide subsidies to the needy during these trying times. And just as important, it has the funds to put into infrastructure and social and economic programs that will boost economic growth this year and next year.

Inflation for now is our biggest worry, as it hit a 14-year high of 11.4 percent in June. But Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. believes the problem should ease before the end of the year, and the country should fully recover by next year.

If you’re wondering why skyrocketing oil prices – with talk of crude hitting $200 a barrel by the end of the year – are not taking the bottom out of the economy, here are a few reasons:

1. It’s not just the price of crude oil that has soared to record levels this year; the prices of other commodities have hit peak levels, as well. This is the difference between this oil-price shock and the shock of 1974. Higher commodity prices across-the-board are also benefiting the exports of the Philippines and other countries. So our import bill is not as crushing.

2. Oil is not as all-pervasive in our economy as many believe. It affects mainly transport. Most of our electricity needs are fueled by other sources of energy, such as hydropower and geothermal energy.

3. The general prognosis of experts is that oil prices should come down during the second half of the year, though not to the same level as last year. The bubble is simply unsustainable. Demand will ease and supply will rise following the basic law of economics.

But again, the windfall is there. Surely it’s helped fund the following: Government subsidy for cheap rice in first half reaches P8.6B:

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the rice stocks were distributed and sold through 3,197 Bigasan ni Gloria sa Palengke, 8,080 Tindahan Natin outlets, 540 Bigasan sa Parokya and 199 rolling stores nationwide.

Government subsidy for cheap rice is expected to rise as the DA said 28 million more bags of rice will be infused into the domestic market from now until December to stabilize prices.

The NFA will be injecting some 6.5 million bags monthly, from now until August.

This volume will be reduced to 5 million bags by September, when palay harvests for the wet or main crop will start coming in.

Yap said the government is confident that it will have more rice to distribute until the end of the year as 900,000 metric tons (MT) will arrive in the country before September 30.

But the questions won’t go away whether the windfall’s economic potential’s being maximized. As it is, the President has announced Round Two of her “Katas ng VAT” program (no mention if it’s part of the commemoration of National Nutrition Month):

Which brings me to something Jarius Bondoc puts forward in his column for today (no link to the Star because it still hasn’t figured out permanent links):

The truth is unraveling, slowly but surely. A clique in the Arroyo admin is capturing the energy sector for kickbacks.

First, there was a sudden flurry to amend the Electric Power Industry Reform Act. Rep. Mikey Arroyo, the presidential son who chairs the House committee on energy, said it was necessary to bring down consumer rates. His congressmen-brother Dato and uncle Iggy assented as committee members. It turns out, however, that the main amendment is to advance the start of open access from the time 70 percent of Napocor generators are privatized to only 50 percent. While speeding up open access is fine on paper, since it will allow big users to pick their own electric retailer earlier, it would be unfair in practice. State-owned Napocor will still control half the power plants, so there won’t be true competition. Worse, the Napocor mafia will continue to dictate, for multimillion-dollar kickbacks, imports of coal to fuel the plants, whether sold or not.

Then, Gloria Arroyo appointed amiga Zenaida Ducut as Energy Regulatory Board chief. Aside from Ducut being the town mate from whom Mikey inherited his congressional seat in 2004, they have a common friend, the oft-named jueteng lord Bong Pineda. Ducut’s posting jolted the industry because of a recent Napocor scam. The state firm last Feb. awarded to a four-month-old, undercapitalized and flighty broker a P956.4-million coal import from Indonesia. There must have been P258-million overprice, since the bid price was $109.50 per ton, although the Indonesian posted rate then was only $77 (at P40.418:$1 for three shiploads of 65,000 tons each).

Among the listed incorporators of broker Transpacific Consolidated Resources Inc. are Leslie and Ressie Ducut, but Zenaida disclaims kinship. Still, there are many inconsistencies. Napocor faxed the bid invitation two weeks prior to TCRI’s only known address then, the nearby Danarra Hotel’s business center, closed since Christmas. Now Napocor insists it awarded the deal when TCRI moved into a real office – in two short weeks. Paid-up capital was only P62,500, but Napocor says “so what?”, in disregard of the Public Bidding Act that requires congruity of capital with contract price. Ducut says the scam does not matter since, as ERC chair, she will have nothing to do with Napocor operations. But Napocor spokesman admits that the ERC, aside from the energy department and NEDA, needs to approve coal imports.

The capture of the electricity sector is complete - from the executive and legislative branches to the quasi-judicial ERC. From there the clique can move to other energy sectors - say, oil exploration - if it has not already.

(Incidentally, a sense of deja vu comes from this article: Lights Out in Indonesia: Jakarta as 1990s Manila? With India, Indonesia, Vietnam,scrambling to put up more power plants, and with the Philippines going to need more power plants soon, those who position themselves in the energy sector now are going to be positively minting their own money in years to come) If you’ve ever read how Ferdinand Marcos squirreled away funds abroad, then the stories -occasionally dribbled out in the press, but more often than not, whispered about in business circles- of what’s going on in the energy sector are equally intriguing -because the money’s come home, unlike most of Marcos’ stash. One day, hopefully, someone will write it all down, from the time money began to leave the country, a hop, skip, and a jump ahead of sleuthing legislators, journalists, and American anti-money-laundering officials, with the money making its way to places as far afield as Austria, then eventually, back home again where it could be used to buy banks, and dummy firms.

Manuel Buencamino looks at the curious story of Homobono Adaza’s alleged attempt to extort money from a Japanese businessman.

Ellen Tordesillas has the skinny on what the President was up to in Washington:

A Malacañang source who was part of Arroyo’s entourage in her recent US visit said there was no mention by Arroyo of any plans to implement martial law or authoritarian measures in her meeting with Bush, the first since she fell out of his grace after she pulled out the Philippine military contingent in Iraq in exchange for the release of kidnapped Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz in July 2004.

But he admitted that increased military assistance was top in her agenda in her talks with American officials.

The source was amused that Philippine media covering Arroyo’s US visit followed Malacañang’s spin about the near passage of the Veterans Equity when they know very well that it has a slim chance of it passing in the House of Representatives despite the approval of the Senate.

He said the real reason Arroyo wanted to meet with American congressmen was to explain to them the government’s side on extra-judicial killings. Like in the Philippines, any appropriation bill originates in the House of Representatives. That’s the reason behind the idea of giving the newly minted Order of the Golden Heart Award, which is different from traditional Order of Sikatuna awards given to diplomats or nationals of other countries who have made outstanding contributions to strengthening of relations with the Philippines. According to press reports, not all awardees showed up during the conferment affair in Washington D.C. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came very late.

(Just a correction, which I told Ellen: the Order of the Golden Heart was established by President Magsaysay. It was not “newly-minted.” A more relevant question might have been whether the Philippine Legion of Honor might have been more appropriate; but then a lower-ranking Order might be appropriate because no law has been passed yet.)

Foreign Affairs officials lobbied hard to get a meeting for Arroyo with Senator Barbara Boxer (D., Cal.) chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific. It will be recalled that Edith Burgos, widow of press icon Jose Burgos and mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos, met with Boxer last March.

In the hearing that she conducted on alleged extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the military, Boxer said, “We do not want blood on our hands. We do not want to use US taxpayers’ money to train their (Philippine) military and police to kill their own people.”

Arroyo was able to meet with Boxer, the source said. The meeting must have been so insignificant that it didn’t merit a line in Boxer’s website. Not even Malacañang reported it.

It was unfortunate for Malacañang that whatever propaganda it wanted to generate domestically for Arroyo’s US trip was negated by typhoon Frank which struck on the eve of her departure, sank a passenger ship and devastated many parts of the country. Compounding the stigma was the junket of 63 congressmen whom Arroyo brought along with her as part of her pre-2009 impeachment payment.

But the source said, despite the bad press that Arroyo’s US visit got, she feels that she accomplished her main objective which was to impress the military that she still has the support of the US establishment.

It maybe a meeting of lame ducks but it was still a White House meeting, the source said. Add to that was her meeting in Pentagon with Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

She may not have gotten categorical support for the things she might do in case her unpopular administration is shaken by the wrath of a long-suffering people, but it is good enough for Arroyo that she has given the military the illusion that the US is behind her. With that, she believes that her presidency, whatever questions about its legitimacy, is safe.

In the blogosphere, radicalchick aims a broadside at ABS-CBN and its Ces Drilon Kidnap Special.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

487 thoughts on “Planes, trains, and automobiles

  1. KG: siguro nga, pang ratings. Pero wala ba silang respeto sa sarili nila? Many in the media are the worst practitioners of this thing we call “crab mentality”, and the cancer they spread is lack of respect for the Filipino. Iyong ikinuwento mo tungkol kay Tulfo. Without any facts, without any witnesses to his claim, itinuloy pa rin niya na insultuhin at sirain iyong repyutasyon ng mga marines. Hindi iyan marines ng singapore; hindi iyan marines ng Zimbabwe. Ang ininsulto niya, Pilipino.

  2. Magdiwang, your statement….

    It does not mean that we have to look the other way on the shenanigans. – magdiwang July 27th, 2008 at 5:21 am

    …is a case of doublespeak given your previous statement….

    …Do you go ahead or axe all these worthwhile projects because of the fear of corruption? The filipino nation eventually will be the only one who can decide as corruption is endemic and systemwide with no easy solutions. – magdiwang July 27th, 2008 at 3:00 am

    In effect, you are asking us to ignore the signs of endemic corruption in these infrastructure projects in favor of some future benefit to the public. How can what you say be interpreted otherwise?

    This approach of allowing anomalous infrastructure projects to proceed is the reason why we have accumulated a large foreign debt burden with no corresponding gains to the show for it. That’s the price of expediency. As to your fear of the consequences of rocking the boat, remember that the passengers of Sulpicio did not rock the boat, but it capsized anyway.

  3. when reporting about the moro conflict, reporters still equivocate, using mindanao to mean the conflict areas and a while later, the island itself. can’t they really get it straight?

  4. Upn, I have the greatest respect for the Philippines Marine as symbolize by my best friend, Tom.

    Tom immigrated in l990 with his parents after serving the Marines for 7 years, mostly slogging it in Basilan and Sulu. He’s Big, and strong and steadfast…during one summer years ago, I noticed a tattoo in his forearms that State: God save me or something to that effect and I asked him what’s the Marine Slogan, he told me “First to Fight”, but he said he believes, only devine intervention saved his life when during one of his patrols leading the squad, a grenade launced by enemy fire landed just a very short distance in front of him, he alone took the shrapnels…he lost one testicle, most of his large intestine and the next time he found himself in hospital after few days coming out of coma. He was hospitalized for so long that he had a baby boy with his nurse, but fate didn’t work out for them, they are both happilly married to different individuals..He earned a Purple Heart for that heroism and still doing lot of heroics here, that even without a degree or college education, he has attained a mid-level management position in his work. His eldest daughter is my Goddaughter… The Marines have many Unsung Heroes, fighting battles after battles with valour and bravery that are never appreciated by many..

  5. cvj: many countries (to include all the countries you hold in high esteem like South Korea, Taiwan, Mao’s China, Venezuela) let projects to proceed even if there is suspicion of embedded corruption. There is a very simple reason why this is so.

  6. UPn, i’m sure that even with maximum public vigilance, we cannot totally eliminate corruption. However, think of it as a tug of war where public vigilance is needed to keep matters from completely deteriorating where most of the foreign loan proceeds get stashed away in foreign banks.

    Even in South Korea, once found out, the culprits have enough sense of self-respect to jump off buildings. Even in China, from time to time, they shoot corrupt officials in the back of the head. We similarly have to do our part to keep the corrupt on their toes. We wouldn’t want to make it too easy for them or they might get bored and look for other bigger scams to pull off, do we?

  7. Pwede kaya mangyari in the future Sonas: na dito napunta ang budget na nakalaan para sa edukasyon,blah,blah,blah
    dito napunta ang porkbarrrel na nakaallocate kay congressman or senator ganito.

    I think it was Nash who asked about a yearend report aboit the budget,kundi year end mid year report dahil mid year ang sona.

    siguro fair enough ito hingin sa future presidents o kahit sa president ngayonj

  8. What I mean is figures,exact figures.pwede kaya ito?
    Pati na din yung sinasabi ni cvj na foreign loan; we all know figures are boring, pero naghahanap din naman tayo ng transparency di ba?so instead of saying na di totoo yan niloloko nyo lang kami,pakita sila ng figures at pictures, we are not asking them to show us all their bank books or passbooks, just a transparent show and tell.

    di yung babanggitin yung bayan ni ganito, nasaan sya (congressman)palakpakan naman natin.

  9. “Clearly, this is Mrs. Arroyo’s own FrancSwiss scam. While we are fixated with apprehending those responsible for the FrancSwiss swindle, We, particularly, the new Congress must also put a stop to the pyramiding scam that is the Arroyo government’s flawed debt management strategy which continues to deceive the Filipino people,” Nemenzo said. ”

  10. KG,

    During her penultimate SONA, President Arroyo would receive a good round of applause if she makes a statement to the effect that she would ensure a smooth transition of power in 2010.

    The demonstrators and rallyists outside Batasan might also be pacified. Also happy will be presidential wannabes who will wear their nice barongs and big smiles.

    Of course with such a statement, there would be winners and whiners.

    Sad will be cabinet members (especially in franchise-granting and money machine departments like DOTC, NTC, BOC, PAGCOR), governors, and last-termer congressmen desiring of a constitutional change so that they could be in positions of power longer.

    These people would sigh ‘wala namang iwanan.’

    Then you would have a good conspiracy plot for cha-cha, martial law, ‘coup me’, etc. Oh well.

  11. leytenian: from the accounting/finance classes you’ve attended, would you label “.. a pyramiding scam” the debt-management techniques applied by Malacanang?

  12. What I mean is figures,exact figures.pwede kaya ito?

    it is possible that they can publish the total project cost or the statement of cost and expenses of a department.

    It is the verification whether the total amount that goes to the different accounts is not bloated or windowdressed.

    Volumes of documents are used to support each transaction. Can the layperson who peruses the statements ask for these documents?

    And if they can, which documents are they going to ask.
    Auditors merely used sampling to be able to certify or express an opinion about the financial condition of an organization or an agency.

    And if there is overpricing, well they have the time and resources to canvas other suppliers to compare the prices and dig deeper why the bid was approved?

    Who is going to conduct the investigation. Congress? Senate? All investigations so far are merely for grandstanding of these elective officials. Papogi.

  13. leytenian: from the accounting/finance classes you’ve attended, would you label “.. a pyramiding scam” the debt-management techniques applied by Malacanang?

    Upn, maybe what you should ask if she understands what a pyramid scam is. I believe that her iq level is only up to camote garden.

    She even said that the McDonalds franchise is small-time. A franchise which has a university of its own and several thousand franchiseholders worldwide.

  14. Ang pagka intiende ko ang ibig sabihin ni Leytenian na small franchises, yong malili-it na McDonalds restaurants sa loob nang manga mililiit na Malls at manga isolated na highways stops..ang dami nyan sa North America..

  15. No matter how one look at it, our society is one big pyramid scheme serving the elite and enslaving masses. And like with every other pyramid scheme, there are a whole bunch of losers at the bottom- the majority.

  16. So meaning to say Gloria Arroyo, Senator Richard Gordon and Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia have low IQs for supporting my favorite kamote garden?

    It is one of the many solutions to feed the very poor.

    “Senator Richard Gordon supported Cebu governor Gwendolyn Garcia’s local food program promoting “saksak” as one solution to the current rice price crisis.
    “Saksak” is a Cebuano term for a mixture of rice and camote that Governor Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu pushed as a substitute for the rice staple which is now in short supply and subject to rising prices.”

    “The President was made aware of the “SakSak” program and she was very, very excited and supportive about it,” Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia told a press conference yesterday”

    The pride of unexperience high IQ (kono) has no solution or support to help our people. … For me, that’s the real LOW IQ and low emotional IQ . Good luck with attitude…

  17. with the saksak program , cebu and the rest of the visayan islands may not need to ask for more rice subsidies and become an on going burden to the overall economy. It will help reduce rice importation and dependency, at least… think about it.

    Cebu normally buys rice from Leyte. If Cebu has not come up with “sak sak’ program, the people of Leyte will suffer from over pricing of rice… an additional burden to our national economy. thanks kamote garden is an alternative… i also love Manolo’s Victoria Garden. I think, it is very helpful…

  18. Cathy, I read you loud and clear.

    Then Cat then what ever the next best thing is other than general promises like patubig,pagkain,megainfrstructures
    would be feasible .or maybe a succeeding president could also talk about projects of the president na nauna sa kanya kahit di nya ito nakasundo.

    You have attended many powerpoint presentations of 5 years worth of research,I suppose or I am sure..
    You have prepared budgets then you can tell me what the next best thing is.sabagay it is always unpredictable what a president will say during her sona kala lang natin (or should I speak for myself instead)alam na natin sasabihin nya and I hope she does not disappoint.

    for the sake of discussion na lang ,sayang naman itong comment thread.

    Is it always tabula rasa,budgets can be for projects na minana lang nya ;an update would do.
    like for example malay ba naman natin na me global maritime positioning equipment na pinurchase nung panahon ni Ramos na di pinatuloy ni erap dahil anomalous daw..Given there is always overpricing and it could be untraceable and walang nangyayari kung puro investigation,any suggestions?
    me nakita ako sa taas na ituloy nalang ang project kahit na me nagsabi o nag expose na overpriced ito (di ganun ang sinabi pero ganun na din yun) dahil lahat ng bansa na progresibo, ganito nagyayari to avoid stalemates,binaggit din ito ni benign0 by using the word trust; and this is also what supremo calls na just do it approach,Do you subscribe to that?

    many thanks,with or without reply.

  19. In fairness to the sweet potato suggestion,Supremo already suggested na masanay tayo with rice substitutes.ang sinabi ko naman na ang ddating sinasabihan na hammpas lupa umuwi ka na at magtanim ng kamote ay di ibig sabihin na sa tingin ko matapobre si leytenian.

    ganun yata ang lumabas eh,pabayaan ko na sana pero buhay pa itong comment thread na ito kaya a little explanation would do.some does not think that agriculture has a place in this country but I say otherwise. ang mga humahampas ng lupa para magtanim ng kamote o ano pa man ay ang pag asa natin,granted na madami ang di alam kung pano gawing produktibo ang maliit na bahagi ng lupa ay di ibig sabihin na pababayaan na lang silang magusap at sabay na ibenta na lang ito sa mga gumagawa ng mall dahil ang nagyari pinautang nga sila me pinadala na silang mga taga uplb para turuan ang nagyari ay lubog pa din sila sa utang.

    The system can not always be blamed.another apples and oranges watching house; he is a diagnosticisian but somehow he pinpoints the exact problem of course by ordering lab tests and the works; BUT add to that common sense and keen observation.

    I don’t want to be called an armchair analyst because parang ganun ako pero audience ko lang isa tatay ko.pero sometimes simple ideas get presented to a lot of people,sabihin ko kaya kinuha ko lang ke supremo yun o kay cat o kay leytenian ,ke cvj o sa inyo kung pwede lang sana ihalo kayo sa acknowledgements.kaya lang I have to look for other sources para mag mukhang academic.

  20. Long term Peace solution to Mindanao conflict has been implemented.

    Davao Catholic school: “If we really want peace, we must involve our young people who will someday become future leaders of our country and city,”

    Under Arroyo Administration: Peace education to be included in public school curriculum

    Good news for me and for everyone. MABUHAY.

  21. In my research about our procurement system eto totoong buhay to ha,things like that are very important.(supremo’s link)

    ayaw ko maging pessimistic and defeatist pano mo babaguhin ang international financial institution dictated procurement,imagine gagawa nga tayo ng batas pero ang batas ay ang World bank at iba pa,dyan tayo nate temp kumita. The government estimate of the project cost is the lender estimate so many things can happen in between.
    we allow it ,ang tanong me magagwa ba tayo,meron kung ano, alam na nila yun. so kung puro papogi o porma lang di tanggalan ng media access ang congresso,aangal naman ang mag nagdedemand ng transparency.

    Alam ko you challenge people to think,pero wala na akong maisip baka ikaw meron instead of being a devil’sadvocate can you suggest something..

  22. Most of our big projects from the past not Gloria’s term were ODIOUS DEBTS.
    “If a despotic power incurs a debt not for the needs or in the interest of the State, but to strengthen its despotic regime, to repress the population that fights against it, etc., this debt is odious for the population of all the State.
    “This debt is not an obligation for the nation; it is a regime’s debt, a personal debt of the power that has incurred it.

  23. Leytenian, your Idea of “kamote garden” is for today’s food crisis, but this Planet Earth is expected to Host 9 Billions souls by 2050 and the best Farmlands in most countries will be covered by Pavements by then(too many of them already are) as the Housing and Business needs of these Billions are to be met. Today in the Idea Section of the Star some scientists and an architect came up with this one; how to meet the food requirements of these Billions..

    It may sound like a flight of fancy, but highrise farming is drawing increased attention amid mounting worries about our food supply. Is a proposal for downtown Toronto a thrilling leap or ‘wacko science’?

    The idea of skyscraping food-production isn’t new, though embracing it in earnest might be. In 2001, MVRDV, a Dutch architecture firm, proposed a series of towers along the country’s coastline. Inside, muddy cubicles with automated feeding and watering stations saw to the comforts of thousands of pigs–a convenient, space-saving scheme for harvesting tonnes of pork-chops-in-waiting.
    Aptly dubbed Pig City, the intent was ironic – tongue firmly in cheek, MVRDV was taking a jab at an over-consuming society with little sense of how to support its voracious habits. But seven years on, such notions are starting to look less cheeky. By Graff’s calculations, Skyfarm would generate gross revenues of $52 million a year -a small fraction, perhaps, of what a 59-story condo might net a developer.

    But remember, Skyfarm is perpetual income,” he says. “It’s absolutely insufficient to think of this as some kind of government initiative. The system has to be profitable to work.”
    Nothing like a crisis to provide economic stimulus: For perhaps the first time ever, after decades on the edge of financial disaster, agriculture is a hot property. Prices for staples such as beans, corn and wheat have been rising steadily on international commodity exchanges in recent years – so much so that hedge funds in North America are now quietly investing in farmland not as development property, but as a potential high-yield industry with room to grow.

    To check how skyfarm would work, how it will supply its own lighting, an estimated 82 millions kWh annually and the hydroponics thirst for Water..check this one Architect’s Idea….

  24. i will support that too. na suggest na yan ni KG or CVJ, pero iba ang name…Vertical Gardens.
    Tips for Vertical Garden:

    I hope the government will implement an awareness program. Like what Cebu is doing for saksak, they are giving incentives by having a contest. Education is the key. Role model must be used to encourage everybody. Meron bang artista sa atin na may vertical gardens? Mas masaya din ito. lahat ma-involve. Pa uso lang naman ang kailangan sa atin.. The media can play a great role.

  25. Vic, looking ahead, i read somewhere that the Carrying Capacity of the Earth is for 8 billion people, and in some Climate Change scenarios, the carrying capacity might even go down to 2 billion people.

    If that were to happen, some hard decisions would have to be made and mankind might have to reconsider its taboo on cannibalism. The process might be made cleaner by turning humans into Skyflakes crackers as was shown in the movie Soylent Green.

  26. If the sea needs salt dahil natutunaw na ang polar caps, then lahat tayo sabay sabay umihi sa dagat.

    salt works on dirty icecream carts kahit mag benta ang iceream man sa init ng araw, baka makatulong sa earth.
    but has that study thought of this;all our urine ends up in the sea to begin with. pwera na lang ang umiihi sa lupa,sa sahig at sa pader,so let us do it directly by pissing at the beach.

    so it’s simple,really?

  27. omigosh, this leytenian is flooding this thread so much… mukhang 50 % yata ng comments sa therad na eto sa kanya.! Yet you dont get that much from her comments!

  28. Going though the feedback (comments) of the Article I posted above, the Skyfarm, I encountered this interesting comment from the reader who claimed to be Architect Gordon’s Masteral thesis supervisor.

    Gordon Graff’s project is his thesis at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture.
    Gordon’s much discussed Toronto urban farm project is not a design which he did with Despommier at Columbia University. Gordon is a Masters student at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture and the building design is part of an ongoing thesis design work. Despommier is not an architect and only used Graff’s image on his more scientifically-based web site.

    The New York Times just made an attribution error with sloppy research for its article. I need to correct this since I am Gordon’s thesis supervisor and feel that a Canadian university should get more credit for raising such issues of urban ecology in its curriculum. As Gordon implies, there is probably as much irony in his Toronto skyscraper farm as in the MVRDV work on Pig City, but it’s important to remember that the architecture of the future has always seemed a little “wacko” twenty or so years before it actually gets built.

  29. i

    ke for example malay ba naman natin na me global maritime positioning equipment na pinurchase nung panahon ni Ramos na di pinatuloy ni erap dahil anomalous daw..Given there is always overpricing and it could be untraceable and walang nangyayari kung puro investigation,any suggestions?

    Minsan hindi naman talaga anomalous. gusto lang nila ang mga suppliers nila ang kanilang kunan para naman sila ang kumita ng kickback.

    kagaya sa DepEd noon. maraming libro ang binili bago si Erap, umupo. pero hindi rin pinagamit dahil yong pinsan niya ay may dalang book publisher na sarili na ang comission dinala pa sa malacanan.

    karamihang projects of previous administrations were declared anomalous, overpriced or were bloated but there never were hard documents to prove it. result, the projects were cancelled and we continue to pay the loans because
    we have already committments to pay.

    I go for the suggestion to continue with the project. anyway, with or without the project, we are going to pay the interest and the principal over time.

    The FOlk Arts Theatre and other edifices built by Imelda were criticized to have been highly overpriced but still we ‘re using them. Cory’s Administration finished with so many buildings and projects unifinished because shewas afraid to be accused of corruption. Wala namang progress.

    I am not saying that we condone corruption. Yong mga itinayo ang magiging ebidensiya para habulin ang mga sabing corrupt.

    PRoblem with the people accusing is that they fail to prove the corruption. siguro dahil nakakausap sila o kaya ay
    nabibigyan sila ng kanilang share.

    Sa US, FBI ang nag-iimbestiga. Sa atin, mga congressmen at senador na marunong lang humarapsa camera.

    Tama ang sabi mo walang access sa media, walang transparency.

    Pero sana, imbestigasyon na at wala munang media bago all out media coverage pag kumpleto na ang mga ebidensiyang kailangan. SA atin satsat muna bago ang imbestigasyon.

  30. Cathy,
    Alam ko you challenge people to think,pero wala na akong maisip baka ikaw meron instead of being a devil’sadvocate can you suggest something..

    There are always conditions given by the lending institutions ; among which are materials sources and technology transfer.

    The purposes of the conditions are to ensure quality materials and high end technology for the projects that require such.

    The JApanese ODA requires more stringent condition…to hire their Japanese consultants in the implementation… to use their Japanese technology in exchange for their low-interest loans.

    We got to admit those, whoever have the money dictates.

    The government can choose whether to avail the loan or just scout for another lender. Pareho rin kasi lenders will always protect their “investments”.

    PEro merong mga expenses diyan na may discretionary power ang borrower. Doon sila pumapasok ng kanilang overpricing.

  31. omigosh, this leytenian is flooding this thread so much

    akala niya siguro blog niya ito. bwahahaha. sabi nga niya iniimprove niya ang website na ito. hekhekhek

  32. haaaay, salamat may bagong thread. para na tayong mga aso’t pusa (pun intended) sa awayan sa thread na ito.

    baguhin na nyo mga ugali nyo sa kabila, hane?

  33. IMO, the PNR should be completely rehabilitated considering it’s one of the oldest train system in Asia. The rehabilitation should be spearheaded by someone with political will.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.