Bumbling in the dark


Today, a full page ad came out (see above) answering a question posed in this Plurk thread, about the shortage in some places, of LPG. The whole question -why isn’t there an adequate supply of Liquefied Petroleum Gas?- itself is the sort of thing that’s been bothering me for some time now, going back to the questions raised when the government had to make a pretty large adjustment to its GDP figures (the Financial Times, it seems, lodged an inquiry with the government over the 2% adjustment at the time, which exceeded the adjustments governments “normally” make to to their figures).

Think about it. Basically, you have to spend 100,000 Pesos (more or less the cost of a full-page newspaper ad), to tell the government that it lacks data, and to ask the government to mount an investigation into the operations of the market, because no one, rich or poor, can answer why consumers can’t find LPG. Raul Concepcion seems to think it’s worth spending hundreds of thousands of Pesos to make such an appeal. Obviously consumers have been grumbling about the shortage in LPG supplies for months; some (see the Plurk linked to above) have families that have had to use electric ranges; think of commercial establishments that require cooking gas and the family joins the business consumer in… impotence. So you need an industrialist to take it upon himself to rattle the cages of the powers-that-be.

The result of course, as Concepcion put it in his ad, is “public doubt and confusion” concerning what on earth is going on:

Since December and into the New Year, consumers particularly housewives have been complaining about the scarcity of LPG. While the major suppliers of LPG, particularly Petron and Shell, have acknowledged the increased consumption of LPG especially during the holiday season, they have nonetheless been assuring the public of adequate supply.

The LP Marketers Association, through its president Arnel Ty, has admitted that retailers have started to increase prices due to the “lack of supply.” DOE Secretary Angelo Reyes meantime has brushed aside reports of queuing of 30 to 50 delivery trucks in front of Petron and Liquigaz plants as “normal.”

In the ad, Concepcion then asked the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Energy, and the Department of Justice to “immediately exercise their respective regulatory powers” by publicly disclosing the total capacities for LPG of the various suppliers Petron, Shell, Liquigaz, Total, Petronas, & Pryce Gas -including the value and volume of their inventories. (His secondary purpose is to point out that the oil companies should reduce their pump prices of gasoline by 5.50 Pesos and 4.50 Pesos for Diesel by January 23; my own question is perhaps there is collusion between the oil companies and the government to keep oil prices a bit high, so as to ensure profits for the oil companies and additional tax revenues for the state?).

But my point is that it may be reasonable to propose that government really lacks the information being asked of it by consumer advocates; that even if the data is there, it may not be collected in a timely manner; and that even if collected, may actually be beyond the competence of officialdom to use in a timely and effective manner, whether in terms of collections, regulation, or policy-making.

Now this is just a hunch, but a hunch getting stronger all the time. It just seems to me that reliable information is beyond the grasp of officialdom, and that even if you grant that most officials are well-meaning, their good intentions are useless because it’s all basically bumbling in the dark.

The bumbling and the darkness being a direct result of slipshod data gathering, antiquated record keeping, and sloppiness among officials.

Take the concern expressed by techies as a consequence of suggesting a proposed new National Telecommunications Memorandum Circular. Here’s the news item on the proposed circular: NTC issues draft circulars on content development, applications and ensuring access to limited band.

Bloggers Kiven and Mike Abundo among others, called attention to the “extremely broad” definition of online content in the draft. While the NTC seems pretty clear that its objective is more concerned with enabling content providers to increase their profits, concerned bloggers point out that in the hands of unscrupulous or simply idiotic officals, the draft could conceivably provide a license for extortion.

Over at Filipino Voices, Cocoy approaches the proposal from a broader perspective:

NO more added layer of REGULATION. Government should know the Importance of Private Enterprise in Economic and Social Development.


It just fraks the market up. The market is doing just fine without government poking its nose into something, it clearly has no understanding or interest in learning the culture and norms.

To sort things out, some bloggers decided to attend the public hearing. What ended up happening was that a scheduled public hearing was unceremoniously canceled by the NTC.

030608_02jr_640Colleague John Nery, over at the new home of his blog, Newsstand, yesterday observed that this passage from Barak Obama’s inaugural address:

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

Might give the present dispensation the creeps:

The… passage… must have been aimed at the Putins and Mugabes, but I won’t be surprised if Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will find herself perceived (by her critics and perhaps by others too) as being in the subset of the admonished.

Well, not just by her critics but perhaps by the Palace, too. For sure enough, the Palace began to spin-a-win.

This gem from the Executive Secretary:

“First of all, our President is ahead of Obama and probably, I would think that if there’s anything to be learned, it should be President Obama learning from President Arroyo. And wouldn’t we be proud to say that the Philippines continues to be an ‘island of calm’ because of the present crunches?” he said, when asked by media what lesson Arroyo could learn from Obama.

He said the President could even be a model or the “proper conduct under pressure.”

Followed by this one, from Lorelie Fajardo (colleague John Nery’s favorite official, incidentally!):

The President finds President Obama’s inaugural address profoundly moving and inspiring. His words deeply resonate with the President’s dream for the nation and the world — to celebrate and welcome hope, to allow peace and cooperation to reign and to triumph over the economic and diplomatic challenges that we face.

We are two nations blessed with two leaders bound by the same vision and ideology.

The real problems of the administration are twofold.

First, its inability to dispel the rumor that the President and her husband are in some sort of money-laundering trouble Stateside.

Second, that the new dispensation, when it finally gets around to noticing the Philippines, won’t be friendly towards the current regime, because of the corresponding general, creeping, disrepute into which the country is sinking, in terms of perceptions of official corruption.

The way that Indian company blew up because of the World Bank’s blacklisting has its domestic counterpart here with allegations of the World Bank’s findings concerning corruption by local contractors.

But more on this point, tomorrow.

For now (as everyone seems to be marveling over the revamping of the White House Website, compare it to the Malacañan Website), it’s noteworthy that among Obama’s first official acts is an Executive Order on Presidential Records revoking Executive Order 13233 of November 1, 2001, issued by George W. Bush, ostensibly to implement the provisions of the Presidential Records Act, 44 U.S.C. 2201-2207, but which had led to a campaign by archivists to revoke it after it was signed.

Thus, a message from the President of the Association of American Archivists:

On behalf of the Council and Executive Committee of the Society of American Archivists, I want to urge all archivists, whether SAA members or not, to communicate to their representatives in the House and Senate, their concern over the implications of Executive Order 13233, entitled “Further Implementation of the Presidential Records Act.” This order, far from being a “further implementation,” is more like a complete abnegation of the original 1978 Presidential Records Act. Links to the text of the orders and background information are provided below.

The archival and public information implications aspects of this order are profound, being contrary to established archival principles and standards, being inconsistent with existing statutory law, and, most important, being at odds with the principles of open access to information upon which our country is founded.

Seems the archivists won their battle! Hoorah! But this also has implications for governments, like ours, that adopted the Republican Playbook for politics. The Obama order might conceivably make it easier to access the Bush administration’s papers, for example -and if Freedom of Information Act requests are made concerning policy and other papers concerning the Philippines, might reveal some interesting things concerning the present dispensation (and yes, its enemies).

The Obama Executive Order should be of interest to those still lobbying for a Freedom of Information Act for the Philippines -because such a law will be useless, even if enacted, unless record-keeping and management improves in the government.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

12 thoughts on “Bumbling in the dark

  1. MLQ3,
    Well, the Dept of Energy is headed by Angelo Reyes, the most favored Crony of all, being a Charter Member of the Edsa Dos Coup. Need we say more about the LPG problem? He’s a do-nothing derelict that has occupied 5 or 6 cabinet positions.

    IN 2010, I think Filipinos should choose a President that runs on the promise to investigate, prosecute and punish the long litany of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s crimes. Because to reverse the international community’s perception and verdict really, that we are the most corrupt country in Asia, we must re-establish the Rule of Law.

    Assuming just for the sake of argument, that Joseph Estrada is the only one that would be willing to do that, and be one of the candidates with a ponderable chance of winning would you support his election to the Presidency?

    IN other words what price would you pay to bring GMA to Justice?

  2. On the issue of gas prices. A lot of companies were caught with high priced future contracts for crude when the price suddenly took a dive.

    At the start of the year buying future contracts at $80 to $ 100 when oil was at $140 was prudent.

    However with oil between $30 to $45 the oil companies here do not have to mark their prices to market. They are marked to their contract prices.

    That unfortunately is a state secret as companies will not show their hedging strategies in the country. Now you have Danding in charge of Petron.

  3. ‘Seems the archivists won their battle! Hoorah!’

    Not too fast. Wait till Obama reads what information Bush was holding back. Can Obama handle the truth?

  4. There are ways of getting reasonably accurate data as long as the intent is to clarify and not to use it for PR purposes. The trouble has been that this Administration relies on good economic data [aka ‘results’] for the legitimacy that it has not obtained through the ballot.

  5. djb,

    Erap on the helm again… I shudder to think about it. The man only got a slap on the wrist and a pat on the back… Nah, he wouldn’t have the balls to get Gloria, after the Pardon thing. But Noli De Castro… May the good lord have mercy on us if that happens.

    regarding the blog,

    they’ve been bumbling a lot since the last presidential election, especially with their quick pronouncements of World Bank and IMF help without verifying their data. Talk about bumbling.

  6. Hi, Manuel. It’s the first time for me to post here. I don’t know if you remember me, but we met briefly at Pisay last year during a blogger’s forum (or was it two years ago).

    In any case, regarding the NTC issue, there are interesting discussions ongoing on my blog and on another one:




  7. mr. cabarios did not mention us in the draft because what we are doing is protected by the constitiution so the law can’t touch us even if we are included in the definition the same thing happened on the law about CD/DVD burners that OMB implements we are in the definition but are exempted from that,yes the law is identical to that of the CD/DVD regulation by OMB.

    Honestly those kind of laws are confusing to the majority because the majority does not even know the constitution,law makers seem to forget that

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