Saturday, December 09, 2006

Lamy: World Trade at the Final Crossroad, but will the West give in?

Pascal Lamy's commentary at the Inquirer last December 7, 2006 conveniently forgot to mention the Cororaton paper published by the World Bank, which stated that using the computable general equilibrium model (CGE), the current Doha round of WTO negotiations will adversely affect rural households in the Philippines because of increased import prices and decreased export demand for agricultural products. Poverty is expected to slightly increase and will affect rural households, unemployed, and self-employed. Consumption prices are expected to rise more on average than household nominal incomes. A Doha accord will also increase world prices. See Cororaton, Caesar B., John Cockburn, and Erwin Corong (2006). Doha Scenarios, Trade Reforms, and Poverty in the Philippines: A CGE Analysis. IN Poverty and the WTO: Impacts of the Doha Development Agenda, Hertel, Thomas W. and L. Alan Winters, Editors. Palgrave Macmillan and the World Bank, pp. 375-402.

Friday, December 08, 2006

72 hour RSVP: Electronic petition against torture & killings

Thank you for this petition. Although I support your proactive action against torture and political killings in the Philippines and Bush's (inaccurate use of the phrase) "War on Terror", I cannot sign the petition unless you elaborate how the demanding "the removal of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as president of the Philippines and replace her with a coalition government comprised of representatives from different sectors of Philippine society" can be effected and will lead to petition’s stated goals.

The petition needs to expound on this because the specific demand has serious implications. My initial reading of the 2005 Philippine Human Development Report revealed that:

1) The Philippines has two of the longest running insurgencies in the world, i.e. communist and Moro insurgencies with significant human, social, and economic consequences;

2) Social injustice, poverty, lack of basic infrastructure and services are some of the root causes of these insurgencies and are evident in conflict areas;

3) There is discrimination against Muslim Filipinos by the Filipino populace;

4) The total cost of the conflict up to the present is about $2-3 billion;

5) Some recommended strategies include: (a) pursue both a national policy and constituency (civil society) on peace with less emphasis on a military solution; (b) a comprehensive and customized approach to addressing the Moro conflict; (c) maintaining communication lines to the Communist insurgency leading to negotiations; (d) including the peace process in any constitutional changes; (e) working for good governance, and (f) working for social reforms and human development.

All are well and good, but if I were to walk in the shoes of the military and their families, how do we address:

1) The relative poverty of most military families?

2) The 1359 soldiers killed and 605 injured by the NPA since 1986?

3) The 131 soldiers killed and 27 injured by the MNLF since 1986?

4) The 475 soldiers killed and 499 injured by the MILF since 1986?

(In comparison, note that since 1986, NPA killed and injured were 1404 and 184 respectively. MNLF killed and injured were 207 and 12 respectively, while MILF killed and injured were 1178 and 207 respectively. The Ramos administration era had the least casualties, while the Arroyo administration has surpassed the previous three administrations in casualties)

The Filipino people need a more comprehensive solution to the country’s problems than just a demand to end “the harassment, detention, torture and political killings of activists by the Philippine military and other paramilitary agents”. How about more pressure on the minority elite and power brokers who are using parts of the military and police to maintain the status quo in the Philippines? What about the internecine killings of leftists by their own? What about the reported harassment of initiatives such as Alter Trade in Negros? Are revolutionary taxes and attacks on infrastructure justified? What about the use of child soldiers? The petition cannot just hide under the blanket phrase “support progressive causes”.

If there is a demand that is appropriate, it should be the demand that Filipino scholars provide the Philippines with a more critical and thought-out action plan on human and national development.

Best regards and please keep me in the loop.


Dear colleagues,

Some U.S. scholars and writers have signed this petition against torture and the political killings in the Philippines. We plan to disseminate this petition here in the U.S. and in the Philippines. If you will support our petition, please send me your name and your affiliation or your place of residence.

Please respond in 72 hours, on or before Dec 11, Monday, 5 pm, Eastern standard time.


A statement by concerned citizens, residents, academics, writers and artists of the United States to protest violence and killings in the Philippines and around the world

"This country doesn't torture, we're not going to torture."

-- President of the United States George W. Bush, Oct. 17, 2006

The Bush administration's War against Terror is what one scholar has called a "state of exception,"-- "a legal civil war that allows for the physical elimination not only of political adversaries but of entire categories of citizens who cannot be integrated into the political system." We consider this state of exception as an exception to internationally recognized codes/practices of war and values of human rights. This War against Terror is itself as a government-sanctioned form of terrorism enabled by such laws as the Military Commissions Act signed by President Bush on October 17, 2006.

The new law allows:

· the permanent detention of anyone, including American citizens;

· the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) will be allowed to resume "aggressive interrogations" in secret prisons;

· that those currently detained in Guantanamo and other prisons cannot challenge their detentions in a court of law due to the suspension of habeas corpus;

· that the permanent detention and "aggressive interrogation" of an individual will be based solely on the decision of the President of the United States.

In the Philippines today, the Philippine President Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo and her U.S.-trained and financially supported Philippine
military practice its own state of exception. In June 2006, the Arroyo government declared an "all-out-war against progressives by branding critics of her government as "terrorists". Since September 16, 2006,

· 776 activists have been killed in the past five years of the Arroyo administration;

· more than 169,530 individual victims, 18,515 families, 71 communities and 196 households have been affected by the political killings;

· those killed or "disappeared" were farmers or worker activists, priests, clergymen, lawyers, journalists and students;

At a time of surveillance, detention and deportation in the United States, torture, genocide and war in Iraq sanctioned by the Bush administration, the torture and killings of Filipino activists in the Philippines are global effects of the War against Terror. In the United States and in the Philippines, we witness states of exception that are in fact states of death.

We are concerned citizens, residents of the United States, academics,
writers and artists who strongly denounce the global-U.S. War on Terrorism which provides legitimation as well as financial and military support for the Arroyo regime's domestic war against its own citizens. We call on the international community to protest the U.S.-led war in Iraq and to show solidarity with Filipino human rights activists and community leaders.

We therefore appeal to concerned progressive citizens of the world
community to:

· call for an end to all U.S. sanctioned terrorist acts including the
detention, deportation and torture of immigrants and other so-called enemies of the state, as well as the occupation and war in Iraq;

· call for an end to the the harassment, detention, torture and political killings of activists by the Philippine military and other paramilitary agents;

· demand the removal of George W. Bush as president of the United

· demand the removal of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as president of the Philippines and replace her with a coalition government comprised of representatives from different sectors of Philippine society;

· organize local fora, start solidarity organizations to raise consciousness build support for the Philippine progressive movement;

· envision and make real global justice, self-determination and human
dignity for all.



Members and associates of the Critical Filipina and Filipino Studies Collective (CFFSC)

individual signatories not shown

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Traffic suggestions

A recent PhilStar columnist (Wilson Lee Flores) discussed his recommendations to solve Metro Manila's horrendous traffic. Apart from the usual calls for better traffic enforcement, listed below are my additional suggestions.

1. Use economic incentives/disincentives. Pricing modifies behavior. There is no need to confiscate driver's licenses. However, impose traffic fines on a progressive basis, meaning the bigger the engine displacement, the stiffer the fines. Bigger vehicles occupy more road space and many of their drivers tend to violate traffic laws. Their recklessness have more significant traffic consequences.

2. Percentage of traffic fines should go to socialized housing. A major cause of traffic is the squatter problem. The garbage-flooding-traffic link is due to the lack of adequate infrastructure (roads, drainage, water supply, sewerage, transportation nodes, etc.) and social services (garbage disposal) in squaatter areas. Squatters are a 40% reality of Metro Manila. Address the squatter problem and you root out a major cause of traffic.

3. Shame them. A number of the traffic violators are politicians and bus drivers. Traffic hotspots should have cameras that are linked to a website, which the public can access. This website should also be a repository of pictures, the license plates and car details of power trippers-traffic violators. I wonder how owners and firm officers of unruly, dirty, and polluting buses will react when they are publicly identified. All fines imposed and collected should be posted online for the public to check anytime.

4. Night workers. All road construction and maintenance should be done only during nighttime. This should be strictly enforced. Violators must be fined or bonds foreclosed.

5. Busways. We all agree that we need mass transit, preferably light rail or a train system for Metro Manila. However, the costs involved, issues of conflict, and the land needed make it almost unfeasible. Light rail/railways are desirable because these are dedicated lines that ensure consistent travel and pick up/drop off points. Why not reclaim one lane of EDSA and the other major roads and make it these dedicated busways or buslanes? The only cost would be the bus stations. Bid out the busway and the right to put in buses that are clean, environment-friendly, safe, and have professional drivers. They can charge a bit more than the buses. Estimate maximum number of buses needed for profitability. Check out

6.Buy out South Expressway toll contract and rebid.
The Skyway is an embarrassment. The residents of Paranaque all the way to the Laguna and Batangas should not suffer because of the business incompetence of CITRA/Stradec. They should give up management control if they can not extend and expand the Skyway system. Let in other business parties now.

7.Buy out jeepney franchises in major roads or phase them out in five-ten years. Society and government need to address this anachronism and major deterrent to efficient traffic management.

The goal is to solve multiple problems/issues using economic incentives. Culture always wins. There are ways to tweak Filipino practices that lead to more desirable behavior. Of course, all these are dependent on political will and transformational leadership. Alas, that is another discussion.