smoke

I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Angry

I understand why people should be infuriated over the rising cost of gasoline and diesel. And I can understand the anger directed at these big oil companies. But I can’t understand why we should stew in our own anger.

The rise in pump prices in inevitable. They go up and they go down, and there’s really nothing anyone can do about that unless they have their fingers on the oil spigot – like OPEC does. During the dictatorship, the public very rarely felt these fluctuations because of the oil Price Stabilization Fund (OPSF) which ‘stabilized oil prices’ by subsidizing the fluctuations. The stability, in other words, was an illusion, still paid for by taxes. It was just that with the OPSF, people weren’t really conscious of the fact that they were still paying, albeit indirectly, for increase.

Regulation is not the answer. On one level, the concept of regulation is a throw-back to our deep seated desire to have someone else take care of our problems for us. On a more pragmatic plane, I’d remind de-regulationists that under the old regulated regime, the major players were practically guaranteed returns on their investments – the entry of new players was severely hampered, creating a virtually captive market for the big boys. With de-regulation, the entry of new players makes lower prices possible since – in theory anyway – consumers will choose the brand with the best cost-benefit ratio. I say in theory because – and this is prolly the reason why de-regulation seems futile – Filipino consumers are so friggin’ brand conscious. I know people who refuse to patronize outfits like SeaOil or Flying V simply because they were unrecognizable brands. This defeats the purpose of allowing new competitors.

So if de-regulation is such a good thing, why are pump prices rising like crazy? The answer is very simple: the pump prices rise because the cost of the raw material – crude oil – continues to skyrocket. So, even if de-regulation acts to bring gas prices down, the mere fact that crude oil gets more expensive by the minute guarantees that you won’t see any noticeable dip in pump prices the way you would if crude were not constantly getting costlier. Oh, and do I even have to mention that we have no control over the cost of crude except perhaps to drive it higher?

Even if the industry were regulated, the cost of crude would still be on the rise, and government would have to keep up with that cost anyway. Increasing the cost of raw materials necessarily increases the cost of the final product. Sure the pump price can prolly be pegged, but behind the peg is the need for government to pay for the difference between the pegged cost and the actual cost. And where will government get the money for that, I wonder?

One could argue that a pegged price will be better for the poor. Sure, it would – but only in terms of buying gas. The money to subsidize the cost has to come from somewhere, and when it does, other important things get under-funded. The annual budget represents, after all, a finite amount of money. If you put money aside for subsidies, other equally important budget items must take cuts.

At this point in the argument, agitprop shifts to its endgame by trotting out the tried-and-tested argument: corruption increases the cost of government. Cut corruption and you’ll generate enough savings to cover the subsidies. True enough, but the negative effects of pegging pump prices are immediate – money gets diverted from defense, education, health, and so on. Whereas the war against corruption is a long-term thing; and the benefits to be derived from it do not accrue in the immediate term either. So, your left with the situation where the disease is already killing you while the super-medicine you’re pinning your hopes on still hasn’t even arrived in the building.

Oil companies are under no obligation to cut their profits for the sake of the Filipino. Does that hurt?

Well, suck it up, bitch.

Despite their press releases and media manipulation and gala charity nights to the contrary, oil companies do not actually feel any moral obligation to sacrifice their margins for the good of the host country. Neither should they. Its a business, for cryin’ out loud, not a charity.

Ultimately, the best weapon we have for forcing oil companies to bring down their prices is to patronize the smaller players who, because of de-regulation, are able sell gas at lower rates. Boycott the big three, for instance, and they will certainly lower their prices to lure customers back. It’s actually as simple as that. Think of it as a restaurant competing against a small canteen.

Jeepney drivers, f’rinstance, will always eat at the cheaper canteen. If the market were all jeepney drivers, the big restaurant will go out of business unless it brings its prices down to compete with the teeny carinderia. That’s common sense. So why do jeepney drivers still line up at the Big Three’s rigs? All the while that they grumble about being victimized, these jeepney drivers actually feed their predators, thereby perpetuating their state of victimization.

Why try to spread anger?

So, the question is, if we’re not doing anything to help ourselves – like maybe choosing to patronize cheaper gas from smaller rigs – what call do we have to try to spread anger? It’s not like getting angry at the Big Three will make them roll back their prices. Hell, what do they care if a handful of Quixotes hurl paint or even shit at their walls when, at the end of the day, these same people buy gas from them anyway. Better by far to just teach people to stay away from these giants and work towards developing a more practical mentality about the whole problem.

Filed under: education, international, news, society, , ,

Rather not re-float

They want to re-float the MV Princess of the Stars? I’d rather not, if it were up to me.

The proposal to re-float the vessel makes sense only because of its humanitarian aspect – it’ll help recover the bodies. But we all know that this is a business decision. Recover the bodies, sure, but isn’t it pretty obvious that the main point is still to recover the vessel and thereby eventually resume making money with it? Only the unbelievably or deliberately dense would say otherwise.

SO, my proposal is – raise the damned thing; recover the victims; and allow it to settle back to where and how it is situated now. AND leave it there.

Leave it there as a reminder to all and sundry that life is fragile; and that because it is fragile, life must be protected at all costs – especially from crass commercialism and hubris.

Leave it there because the spirit of the law says that the perpetrator of the crime cannot be allowed to profit from the proceeds of his criminal acts; Sulpicio Lines cannot be allowed to recycle this vessel into yet another means to make money for itself; not ever, and especially not when the memory of the people who died in this ship is still fresh.

Or if it’s too morbid to leave in the water ( a feng shui expert once commented that the reason our country persists in the doldrums is many of our modern statuary show people in anguish, or anger, or – in the case of Ninoy Aquino – dying), turn it into scrap iron, and out of that create a lighthouse (or some other monument) that will serve as a warning to all ships not to set sail into a typhoon.

Or if a lighthouse is too pedestrian, why not use the scrap to build a statue of a woman, waiting to welcome her sons and daughters home from the sea?

And in order to round out this list, why not chop the ship up into little pieces to be used as artificial reefs. The imagery should be obvious: out of death, life; that which caused death has been transformed into something which shelters life; swords into plowshares and all that.

Any other suggestions in the comments will be welcome.

Filed under: musings, news, weather, , ,

101 Sons and Daughters

As always, how could we have been so not ready for the typhoon?

Over at Filipino Voices, at least some responsibility seems to fall at the PAG-ASA doorstep. Now i understand that the weather is unpredictable – I learned that much from the Sound of Music – but, as pointed out by the article I linked to, there was an easy way to narrow down the possibilities. In fact, the internet makes it almost criminal for the weather station not to have consulted other weather forecasters.

Because PAG-ASA didn’t seem to cover all its bases, the provinces were caught flat-footed, and it would seem that at least one province blew a major portion of its disaster preparedness money on a false alarm.

But I don’t think it’s all PAG-ASA’s fault. Especially when it comes to the Princess of the Stars. Although I believe the Coast Guard issued the proper warnings, I don’t think it’s off the hook. So, yeah, once the warning was issued to the vessel, it was the shipping lines’ call. The tragic thing for those dead – including 101 sons and daughters of Iloilo – is that the shipping line happened to be Sulpicio. That fact alone should have put the CG on alert.

It’s actually a source of amazement for me that Sulpicio is still plying the waters. Their safety record is so full of holes (pun intended) that their ships should have been beached by now.

In December 1987, some 4,341 people died when Dona Paz, an inter-island passenger ferry owned by Sulpicio Lines collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro Island. Sadly it was not to be the last sea tragedy in the Philippines, an archipelago of 7,107 islands.  In 1988, around 250 people died when Dona Marilyn, another passenger ferry owned by Sulpicio Lines, sank. On April 11, 2002, at least 30 people were killed when MV Maria Carmella, which was bound from the island-province of Masbate for Lucena City in Quezon province, caught fire.

And yet, these temporarily floating coffins are still allowed to carry people. And you better believe that those motherfuckers are loaded to the scuppers, prolly flouting all known over-loading rules in existence. In fairness, we don’t know yet if the Princess was overloaded. My bet is that it was. And when that happens, I’m gonna come back and smack the Coast Guard upside their heads.

Filed under: news, , , , , ,

Shouting the news

Bencard, in a comment on a previous post, reminded me of a pet peeve: shouting newsreaders. You know? The Mike Enriquez types, and the Henry Omaga Diaz stylings.

Then, I also remembered that there are some countries in Europe where some newscasts have the newsreaders doing a strip tease as the broadcast progresses.

So apparently, we don’t have a monopoly on ridiculous. But the fact that, on opposite sides of the globe, station managers are choosing to adopt these strange methods gave me pause and awakened the non-purist in me. Now I understand that we have time-honored notions of how dignified news readers ought to be and all that. But I’ve just got to ask: is there really an established aesthetic for newsreading?

It is a changing world, after all, where people who watch the tube generally have the attention span of a fruit fly.  SO, although personally I still prefer Coop’s laid back style of sober reporting, maybe – just maybe – even these annoying gimmicks serve a laudable purpose, i.e., to keep the audience interested enough to listen to the news.

Filed under: journalism, news, television, , ,

Oil!

Finding oil within your country’s boundaries is like winning the geological lottery – and that’s apparently what happened off Palawan: OIL!

Angelo Reyes, in a news conference in Malacañang, said … the $ 120-million oil field in Palawan operated by Galoc Production Co. is expected to produce 17,000 to 20,000 barrels of oil per day, thereby boosting domestic oil supply. Together with current production, the country will be producing over 30,000 barrels of oil per day, Reyes said, almost 10 percent of local demand.

“We are pleased to announce that the development of Galoc Oil Field is completed and that the first flow of oil is estimated to be commencing on June 16, 2008. This will be the first time oil field development in Philippines since 1992 will occur,” he said.

“The Philippines will earn from the sales of crude oil, which will be benchmarked at international prices and with domestic refineries being given the first priority so rather than being exported, it will be consumed locally,” he added.

Reyes said foreign exchange savings from Galoc oil field will reach around $ 1.4 billion or P61 billion during the life of the well and until full extraction of the proven reserves. “Current oil reserves are from 10 million to 20 million barrels but additional exploration work will be done to confirm additional reserves,” he said.

Reyes said if sold in the country, the oil coming from Galoc oil field will be cheaper than the imported petroleum due to reduced costs from insurance and transportation, among others.

Whoa. Will someone please explain to me why this news isn’t making bigger waves than it is? I mean, I understand the morbid fascination with kidnappings and massacres, but isn’t the start of oil production in Philippine territorial waters something to write about?

Whoever is running the department of public morale (if there isn’t such a department, then there damned well ought to be!) should totally capitalize on this. If it were me (HAH!), I’d organize tourist trips to see the oil rig; study trips that’ll take kids out to the well and give them a first hand look at how those things work; i’d set up a promo scheme that’ll funnel consumers to those companies that sell petrol and petroleum products produced from locally sourced oil. Haha. I think I’m oil drunk!

Too bad I’m prolly gonna wake up tomorrow to find some shmuck saying there’s nothing to get excited about, or that the whole deal should be called off because someone thinks that GMA will benefit from this somehow.

Filed under: environment, news, , ,

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