Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Something Wicked This Way Walks

Jimmy Tadeo, head of the National Rice Farmers Council, had an explosive analysis on Korina Today (ANC). He notes that the government caused rice traders to stop buying rice from local farmers (at the prevailing price of 17 pesos per kilo) after it conducted raids on warehouses that they publicized "might be hoarding rice." Then the government turns around and offers to buy 675,000 metric tons of rice from the Mekong River countries (Thailand and Vietnam mainly) at an amazing price of P48 per kilo. "WHY?" Korina asks. Because, Tadeo replies, of a $58 per ton COMMISSION going to government agents and personnel! Grrrrr! Damn this Government!

A PERFECT STORM of problems involving the rice supply, electricity bills and transportation costs is about to teach this heedless and willfully self-deluding country a painful lesson and I am afraid it will be ugly.

The unexpected failure of the government's recent attempts to import 675,000 metric tons of rice, the nasty fight over Meralco initiated by GSIS hatchetman Winston Garcia on behalf of the increasingly demented Arroyo government, and a looming jeepney "transport holiday" are all dark omens that something evil walks this way and that the Philippines is in for a very bad time, perhaps as bad as Somalia. With the "lean months" coming and the heavy typhoon season just around the corner, I cannot help but feel uncharacteristically pessimistic that something very bad is about to happen.

Even the usual bright spots are darkening. For example, while OFW repatriations have kept the more fortunate of poor families afloat, anecdotal evidence abounds that the main component of the overseas work force, the Filipino Americans in the United States, are themselves going through very bad times as the U.S. falls into recession (CNN reports that 71% of Americans now believe that happenstance). Turns out, many Fil-Ams victimized themselves by taking on too much debt and are suffering the worst fallout from the subprime lending debacle; many are losing homes and jobs and are therefore able to support folks in the Archipelago less and less. It can only get worse before it gets better for them.

Meanwhile, back home, a period of looming energy shortages and electricity-related problems are casting a heavy pall on the short and medium term prospects. The Philippines is heavily dependent on increasingly expensive foreign oil and it appears an inflation-igniting transportation fare increase and weekly pump prices are now inevitable.

The solutions that readers of Philippine Commentary have prescribed for all of these problems--including reduction of taxes and duties, elimination of graft and corruption, and the liberation of private sector initiatives to provide more food, energy and jobs all meet with my agreement and approbation. But even given that the most optimistic circumstances come together and all these solutions miraculously come to be applied in the most ideal manner, one is still faced with an ineradicable and irreducible residue: the population denominator!

By whatever metric one wants to project the various scenarios in the major problems areas of food, diesel and gasoline and cooking gas, electicity, transportation and wages, there is this common factor of having to provide for now nearly 91 million people. Here is REALITY and not THEORY staring us starkly in the face, and not even the most favorable of possible outcomes can reduce what now promises to be a major lesson in the awful game of TRUTH and CONSEQUENCES.

The truth is that for the lucky few who can afford to be philosophical, there will be some bit of inconvenience, but for the overwhelming MASSES of the Filipino people, the consequences of having ignored the overpopulation issue for decades, of giving the Catholic Bishops too much the benefit of the doubt and of their dogmatic intransigence on the crying need for education and utilization of modern birth control methods -- will be TRAGEDY on a colossal scale.

For those who think that these are all global problems and world wide crises. Of course they are right. But in every case, the SEVERITY of the disasters will be directly multiplied by the population number and any forthcoming solutions and mitigations divided by it!

I urge those who think they've properly analysed this problem as manageable because there are other causes to the crises, to please consider consider this new argument by analogy. The Philippines has been the sick man of Asia, one with all these many ailments: inefficient and corrupt government, a lack of modern infrastructure from a neglect of investment, slow job and economic growth, dependence on foreign oil, a largely mendicant agricultural policy, etc. But our chronic disease of overpopulation, the abuse of the freedom to breed resulting in multiplication like rats and rabbits all over the place, this is tantamount to serious cardiovascular disease marked by social obsesity, arterio- and athero- sclerosis, that I am afraid will now lead to multiple organ failure, strokes, heart attacks and various other manifestations of a most disturbing and devastating sort. It is a chronic condition in the sense that almost all the other problems could conceivably be solved in relatively short order. But unlike even hypertension, overpopulation has no quick fix that is morally acceptable, and like hypertension only has long-term solutions that require resolute and forthright action over decades of steady application.

I think certain tragic disasters are what will teach our heedless religious and political leaders the lesson I was hoping could be delivered more gently and persuasively by opinion writing and the right reasoning of bloggers and thinkers.

I am afraid it is all too late for that now! All we can do now is chronicle the events that are about to unfold with sympathy clarity.


Anonymous said...


A perfect storm indeed.
I also have to be pessimistic because the most critical factor :over population, can not be solved asap, even if we change policies now it will take too long to be even noticed.

Until any future government will face the church head on,the vicious cycle continues.

The church is the most stongest lobby group, I hope I am wrong.

Dave Llorito said...

hey djb: did you wake up from the wrong side of the bed? this is not you. i expect you to be more realistic than that. lol!

Equalizer said...

It is a confluence of events. . . . Aristotle says that a probable impossibility is preferable to a improbable possibility. . . . It's Aristotle all over the place here.

cvj said...

I guess recent events have thrown a monkey wrench on your hunger trendline?

DJB Rizalist said...

the lesson from the hunger trendline was the paradox of apparently increasing hunger in the midst of rising prosperity (falling poverty). This was an important sociological phenomenon that the ideologically inclined still fail to recognize...that as people's income rises their demand for better food can manifest itself in valid, but deceptive answers of yes to the question that SWS usually asks about "hunger incidence."

That phenomenon is manifested in the increased demand for meat and dairy products in China and India where before they only sought sorghum and wheat cakes.

The linear thinking of the Left imposes a necessary relationship between poverty and hunger that does not exist or is more subtle than they suspect.

What is happening now is NOT poverty induced hunger, but inflation induced supply and demand perturbations, a somewhat different, non equilibrium condition.

Both types of phenomena happen to be real. But we must all learn to distinguish between them. SWS has not even learnt to understand trendlines, it seems. The latest news from them is that hunger is trending down in the last quarter. Ngek!

Econblogger said...

A bit of perspective: the price the farmer receives is for palay. The price of imports is for milled rice. Recovery is typically two-thirds (if I recall correctly), so the appropriate comparison is a local price of about 22.50 for milled rice. NFA wants to augment total domestic stocks, which can only come from imports, whereas world markets are now very tight.

That said, I do oppose the government monopoly in rice importation. This should be purely a private sector function. NFA can simply build up emergency stocks, which traders can supply regardless of the source. Incidentally, NFA purchases of palay is also corruption-prone; just ask any rice farmer. The support price tends to be cornered by well-connected traders.

cvj said...

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by 'inflation induced supply and demand perturbations' but i do think we need to correlate the incidence of hunger with the increase (or decrease) of food prices (specifically the staples) to check if there has been a relationship, as i believe there might be.

Jaywalker said...

Unfortunately that evil is not just walking our way it is actually stepping all over us and there are still those who deludes themselves that it is not so.

To think that despite the hardship and impending calamity that we faced that is bound to happen in just a few months we still see the greedy corrupt bureaucrats and politicians dip their fingers at the expense of a hungry people is just as evil as it can get. If hell really exist this is it......

mesiamd said...

We have been in a state of calamity for a long time. But we manage to adjust even if we find ourselves inching precariously down the pit.

Not surprisingly, we don't notice the difference of our inaction. We're resilient, and curiously endowed with a good sense of humor each time we survive calamities.

The prices of services and commodities this time is scary. I wish we could escape them. Yet, considering that problems have their cumulative adverse effects, somewhere down the line, our compensatory adjustments might not work at all.

It seems, the time for "whistling past the grave" or "bahala na" is about to end.

DJB Rizalist said...

thanks for the clarification. I did not get the distinction from tadeo, but need to look further into his claims.

DJB Rizalist said...

must admit I don't know what the complex jargon I use means either (haha), only that the hunger trendlines you were referring to are different than what we are talking about now. Then it was about self-reported hunger and poverty statistics, which appeared to have an inverse relationship (at least when it comes to "moderate" hunger metric and self-reported poverty).

Also, I guess we may not quite be talking about hunger as yet, but a growing scarcity that may even be artificially created by "hype".

The role that Filipino vices play in both metrics was an impt factor I'd harped upon last year. This year there is overpopulation to consider again.

ricelander said...

Crunches forces us to be creative and really look for brilliant ideas only brilliant people could provide. Mediocre people will have to be pushed back. Haha.

Kidding aside, this energy crunch for instance will force us to take a second look at the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. This plant has so far been the monument of our collective technophobia and Marcophobia. There it is sitting idly by like taunting the antinukes and the Marcos haters : "ayaw niyo sa akin ha, sige nga!"

Anonymous said...

Yes ricelander, re nuclear power plants, but not in Bataan,if we are to beleive seismologists that it would be vulnersble to earth quakes.

Of course,they should not rush things like the Ramos solutions to our power crisis.

But you are right, they are not even demolishing the plant yet ,and that exacerbates our collective technophobia,and macrphobia.

Another variable to the perfect storm, power shortages.

I also believe that people refuse to see the incoming perfect storm because of the hypes of BBC and CNN of the food riots; and some provinces saying we don't have a problem(re: rice),speak for your self. And of course with our respective economists saying that our food crisis was panic enduced, which only tells us of not even half the story.

ricelander said...

Karl, it withstood Pinatubo and the Big One in 1990(?, didn't it? Well, it's for the experts to find out, anyhow.

But the point is, it's there.

In the event of an extreme natural calamity, I don't think there is any place anywhere totally safe. If that thing remains standing a hundred years from now, they'd be laughing at us our descendants.

DJB Rizalist said...

Japan has 53 operating nuclear reactors, 49 of them are of the light water type, just like BNPP.

When Westinghouse sited this plant, they did it with all possible care and planning.

I think it cannot be any less safe than those or France's many more nuclear reactors.

Anonymous said...


Gotcha,loud and clear.

Ang masasabi ko lang,

OO nga ano?

Anonymous said...


This is not to criticize your POV, which I already acknowledged,but take a look at these...

"The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant (柏崎刈羽原子力発電所, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa genshiryoku-hatsudensho?, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP) is a large, modern (housing the world's first ABWR) nuclear power plant on a 4.2 square kilometer site including land in the towns of Kashiwazaki and Kariwa in the Niigata Prefecture, Japan on the coast of the Sea of Japan, from where it gets cooling water. The plant is owned and operated by The Tokyo Electric Power Company.

It is the largest nuclear generating station in the world by net electrical power rating, and has also been hit by the strongest earthquake to ever occur at a nuclear plant, the July 2007 Chūetsu offshore earthquake. As of May, 2008, the entire plant is still shut down due to effects from the earthquake. A group of concerned scientists and engineers has called for the closure of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant."

I know ricelander had already given his/her pov, and I also acknowledged it;And most of this findings came after the fact,that it was closed due to alleged anomalous dealings.

"Following the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the United States, construction on the BNPP was stopped, and a subsequent safety inquiry into the plant revealed over 4,000 defects.[1] It was built near major earthquake fault lines and close to the then dormant Pinatubo volcano."

DJB Rizalist said...

We cannot conclude from this that BNPP cannot be operated safely. There are hundreds of nuclear power plants all over the world that are being operated safely. Moreover, my understanding of the design of BNPP is that at least, it cannot "go Chernobyl". Perhaps the Japanese plant needs to be closed, but at least they got something out of the investment. We closed BNPP without getting a single kilowatt out of it. Moreover the Pinatubo explosion would not have shut it down. I think it's worth at least getting a better opinion of its safe operability than Greenpeace and Cory Aquino.

mesiamd said...

I agree with DJB that there'r no exhaustive study to tell BNPP can't be operated safely. And rightly, the risk of "going Chernobyl" isn't dependent only on design. The human factor is equally important. Bad judgement, incompetence, terrorism, poor maintenance, briberies, and paucity of accountability are strong concerns.

After years of neglect, the 4,000+ BNPP defects have added up right above the dangerous faultline on which the plant sits. Perhaps, they aren't even the least of our worries. How much will we spend to keep it running safely? And who are the people whom we can trust?

When our ferry ships (simpler to operate than BNPP) go down and kill innocent people, do we get satisfaction in thinking someone is accountable? Or is it more convenient to just say "we're sorry" and let tragedies muddle with a shrug on our shoulders, before we forget everything?

Nuclear power is beneficial, but it carries with it tremendous risks and responsibilities. We need energy badly more than America and other countries abroad, but unless we're ready to go nuclear, we can't have it.

When something goes wrong and those responsible dodge punishment, how can we sleep? Is it the reason why Herminio Disini is laughing loud as a royalty in Austria?

Anonymous said...


I agree.