Thoughts on a double vodka

is my Trade Tripper column for the last Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld for 2012:

The new year is approaching. This would therefore be a good time to re-evaluate certain important things: such as one’s drink of choice. Inasmuch as I’d like to order martinis the problem is twofold -- one can’t or it’s almost impossible to find a decent martini in the Philippines. Also, martinis nowadays are as pedestrian as a Harvard degree. So I’ve decided to switch to Gibsons.

Now if you think that there’s no difference between a martini and a Gibson, you’d be right. Actually, you’re not. In any event, who cares? Order a martini if you’re an ANC watching, James Robinson forum attending (even if you don’t understand his book), Catholic but still pro-RH, and philosophy spouting in a party kind of chucklehead. Cantabrigians and Oxonians, however, would correctly go for Lagavulin or Ardbeq. I’d go for a Gibson.

Incidentally, the article last week ("A very significant announcement," BusinessWorld, Dec. 21, 2011) was not based on this writer’s imaginings, much as I’d like to take credit for it. The details were culled from various sources, amongst which are the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich, the non-canonical gospel according to James, historians’ account of the environment and economy of Nazareth, and -- of course -- the Gospels according to Sts. Mathew and Luke. There was another article I’d recommend: "Olaf, the Other Reindeer" (originally published in 2009), which was indeed written with too much distilled potato juice in the head.

Speaking of idiocy, the RH Bill would most likely be law as of this writing (or soon thereafter). How people could support such a measure considering that contraceptives are actually and always has been legally available, at prices cheaper than cellphone loads, is beyond me. They must have had some serious childhood trauma to actually support the RH Bill just to spite the Catholic Church (which will never go away, anyway). Smart people take this piece of advice from Archbishop Charles Chaput: "If you’re Catholic and you disagree with your Church, what do you do? You change your mind." But leading advocates of the Bill are essentially from our old, rich families anyway so I guess lack of intelligence is a given.

Speaking of lack of intelligence, Germany’s Merkel has a Phd in physics, UK’s Cameron is an Etonian and (unfortunately) Oxonian, US’ Obama is expectedly a Harvard guy, Indonesia’s Yudhoyono studied at the US Army Command and General Staff College and Webster University, Malaysia’s Najib Razak has an industrial economics degree from Nottingham, Singapore’s Lee is a Cantabrigian (as all truly smart people are), India’s Singh is an Oxbridge man, and Thailand’s Yingluck Shinawatra has a master’s degree in public administration from Kentucky State. But of course, we have the most prepared and best of all possible leaders in Noynoy, and this is shown in his soaring popularity and satisfaction ratings. I’m sure those affected by Pablo are utterly grateful that he is at this country’s helm.

And more downers: I’ve finally had it with PLDT. It’s incredible how a phone provider could be so mean towards its customers. Even if you’re not remiss in paying phone bills, yet mere delays in payments, perhaps due to PLDT’s check payment policy, and your internet services would be suddenly cut off. Well I’ve had it and shifted to Globe, which so far we’re happy with. Unfortunately, the same problem goes for Meralco. Make the mistake of a one day delay in payment, which can happen as their billing is given close to the deadline, then you get a written threat of having your electricity cut off. Think of it: their repairmen are always nowhere to be found in cases of calamity but their disconnection people are incredibly determined workaholics. Idiots.

Turning to more cheerful matters, the people of Liliw, Laguna have to be truly congratulated. It’s a clean, cheerful, bustling town, with one of the most beautiful (interior and exterior wise) churches in the country. Huge credit must go to parish priest Fr. Philip Atienza, who unfortunately is being transferred from his post this coming January. He celebrates Mass as it should be celebrated: solemn, quiet, orderly. The only other place one could find such Masses are at Stella Orientis in UA&P. In any event, I’d like to thank the good people of the lovely Balay Celina, particularly former Mayor and Mrs. Polistico, as well as Lassie, Marinel, and Nida. The fact that they have such well trained and competent staff speaks well of their employer and Liliw was lucky to have had such an official as their mayor.

For my smart readers, I urge you to catch The Five on cable, as well as buy the book The Joy Of Hate by Greg Gutfeld. To see what a real president is like, do watch Lincoln starring the greatest actor ever: Daniel Day-Lewis.

And if you disagree with anything I wrote here, then you sir are worse than Hitler.

Happy New Year.


Two Christmas stories

Hi all. Here are two stories for Christmas, A very significant announcement (which appeared in the recent Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld and was originally published back in 2011) and Olaf, the other reindeer (which was published in 2009).

May all of you have a Merry Christmas!


Doha, recovery, and the TPP

was my Trade Tripper column in last Friday-Saturday's issue of BusinessWorld:

While many people are celebrating the reelection of US President Barack Obama (for who knows what reason), the realities that such brings are none too cheerful. For an administration that seemingly has been focused on reviving its sputtering economy, its lack of engagement in the area of international trade is quite disconcerting.

Furthermore, while there have been promises indeed about placing focus on the Asia-Pacific region (again bringing cheers from this part of the world), the reality actually is far different. As Greg Rushford ("Disconnect," Nov. 13, 2012) insightfully puts it: "There’s a disconnect. Obama’s foreign policy -- the so-called Asian ‘pivot,’ or ‘rebalancing’ -- promotes closer security ties across the region, with a particular emphasis on traditional Asia-Pacific treaty allies like Japan and the Philippines (which are embroiled in threatening maritime disputes with China). But the president’s trade agenda excludes the Japanese, the Filipinos, and other important Asian trading partners from participation anytime soon in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks."

The quandary is evident. With a more energetic economy, the desire for increased trade by Asian countries is understandable. Whether Mr. Obama will respond positively to such is another matter. His administration has been noticeably detached, even perhaps wary, of trade. Mr. Obama certainly has no affection for the WTO: "Doha was a multilateral-liberalization initiative; and ironically, it was killed by President Obama who had ironically been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by Norway in the expectation that he would promote multilateralism and turn his back on US unilateralism! [This is so because] under the Obama Administration, already under siege from the labour unions who were hostile to trade, was resolutely opposed to closing the Doha Round unless numerous concessions were made to appease its business lobbies." (see Jagdish Baghwati, writing for Handelsblatt)

Instead, what Mr. Obama decided to do is: 1) center his trade policy around threatening other countries who, in his mind, are engaged in unfair trade; and 2) dangle the Trans-Pacific Partnership in front of other countries.

But this strategy, coming from a country of which leadership in the global economy is expected, is not helpful. To have an energetic dispute policy would make sense, perhaps even beneficial, in a situation where you have a healthy global economy. But in a time when the European countries are staggering under the weight of their own entitlement systems, with Japan still unable to get fully going, China under fears of a bubble bursting, and the US misguidedly wanting to spend their way out of their problems, to aggressively proclaim disputes (either as a political sopping rhetoric or as an actual policy to be carried out) is bizarre.

As for the TPP, Mr. Rushford was more trenchant: "The TPP… is increasingly being perceived as ‘part of a U.S. foreign policy strategy to contain China.’ Already the White House has heard from officials in Australia, New Zealand that ‘it is not in their interests to participate in trade arrangements that are seen to be hostile to China.’ The Aussies and Kiwis have laid down a red line that they could bolt the talks, if the Americans don’t step up their economic game." Furthermore, while "the White House has been happy to use such high-sounding rhetoric, much of what Washington has actually put on the negotiating table is a familiar litany of old-style protectionism aimed at pleasing Obama’s base in the anti-trade wing of his Democratic Party. It mainly comes down to special carve-outs to protect US sugar quotas, subsidies for US dairy farmers, legally binding rules on labor and the environment to satisfy US labor unions, no liberalization of widely-resented US anti-dumping rules, high tariffs on athletic footwear, and complex rules of origin aimed at preventing Vietnam from expanding its exports of garments to the United States. (Strident American demands for just the latter two alone could be deal killers.) Consequently, the once-promising TPP is beginning to look like just another ordinary trade-distorting scheme, and one that is not particularly economically important.

The Philippines, correctly, has expressed no hurry in signing on to the TPP. Baghwati calls free trade agreements (of which the TPP is one) as "termites in the trading system," used "by hegemonic powers to foist on weaker trading partners demands unrelated to trade but desired by domestic lobbies, at times in a markedly asymmetric way." Such is a sentiment this column shares. Specifically, the TPP imposes certain conditions, a lot requiring constitutional amendments, as well as measures that for a still developing country like the Philippines, would simply not make sense. This is on top of this column’s repeatedly stated position that free trade agreements are just poor trade distorting substitutes for the WTO.

However, there is an added point: perhaps what’s worse than an ill-conceived US trade policy is an ill-conceived trade policy half-heartedly carried out by the US. For a country presumably wanting to maintain its sole superpower status, such flip-flopping is unbecoming.


Updated compilation of materials against the RH Bill

Here again is an updated compilation of materials you can use in arguing against the RH Bill:

> Contraception is not a human right
> Contraceptive faith
> It's just sex
> No need for an RH Bill, now or ever
> RH, the academe, and human rights
> Contracepting common sense
> Some notes on Fr. Bernas' response to Bp. Reyes
> Comments on Fr. Bernas' RH Bill article
> Ethical reasoning about a legislation promoting contraception
> Snappy replies against condomics
> Snappy replies to condomics 2
> Snappy replies to condomics 3
> Contraception and natural law
> Wealth and the Catholic Church (response to Angsioco)
> Sex, lies, and the Catholic Church
> Reasons against RH
> Do the right thing: Oppose the RH Bill
> On kicking God out of government
> Why we must fight the RH Bill our way

Some good resources putting the lie to claims that contraception or family planning is a human right:

> WYA White Paper On Family Planning
> WYA White Paper on Reproductive Health

This one I got from a friend's FB page:
Below are the list of laws that already address the various concerns raised in the RH bill:
1. R.A. 9710 or An Act Providing for Magna Carta for Women
2. Republic Act No. 9262 or Anti-Violence against Women and Children
3. Republic Act No. 8504 or Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998
4. AO 2008-0029 Implementing Health Reforms for Rapid Reduction of Maternal and Neonatal Mortality
5. Children’s Health Program of the DOH
6. Family Planning Program of the DOH
7. Prevention and Management Control of Abortion and its
Complications (PMAC)
8. PD No. 965 or A decree requiring applicant for marriage license to receive instructions on family planning and responsible parenthood
9. R.A 7883 or the Barangay Health Workers Benefits and Incentives Acts of 1995
10. R.A. 7160 or The Local Government Code of the Philippines
11. AO No. 2010-0036--The Aquino Health Agenda: Achieving Universal Health Care for all Filipinos
12. Women’s Health and Safe Motherhood Project of the DOH
13. Republic Act No. 8504 or Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998
14. Republic Act No. 7875 or the National Health Insurance Act of 1995
15. Republic Act No. 9502 or the Cheaper Medicine Act
16. Executive Order No. 453 or Directing the Enrolment of 2.5 Million Indigent families pursuant to E.O 276
17. AO No. 2010-0010 or the Revised Policy on Micro Nutrient Supplementation to Support Achievement of 2015 MDG Targets to Reduce Maternal Deaths and Address Micronutrient needs of other population groups.
18. Botika ng Barangay Program of the DOH
19. PD No. 79 Revising the Population Act of Nineteen Hundred and Seventy One
20. PhilHealth Circulars and Policy Guidelines
21. CCT program of the DSWD
22. PD No. 79 Revising the Population Act of Nineteen Hundred and Seventy One.
Feel free to share with your friends.


China anger management and the UN General Assembly

is my Trade Tripper column in this recent Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

China's government, for some inexplicable reason, is again playing the bully card. Less than a month after declaring its desire of resolving the territorial disputes peacefully among the Asian countries involved, it then pulls a bizarre stunt of legislating a measure that will supposedly authorize its police officers to board and inspect vessels found within the said territories.

As the New York Times reported: “New rules announced by a Chinese province last week to allow interceptions of ships in the South China Sea are raising concerns in the region, and in Washington, that simmering disputes with Southeast Asian countries over the waters will escalate. The move by Hainan Province, which administers China’s South China Sea claims, is being seen by some outside analysts as another step in the country’s bid to solidify its claims to much of the sea, which includes crucial international shipping lanes through which more than a third of global trade is carried.”

Never mind that the rules are actually legally inutile against other countries as China’s rule-making powers are without effect outside its correct borders. However, as the New York Times correctly points out, “China, now the owner of an aircraft carrier and a growing navy, is plowing ahead with plans to enforce its claims that it has sovereign rights over much of the sea, which includes dozens of islands that other countries say are theirs. And top Chinese officials have not yet clarified their intent, leaving room for speculation. If China were to enforce these new rules fully beyond the 12-nautical-mile zones, naval experts say, at stake would be freedom of navigation, a principle that benefits not only the United States and other Western powers but also China, a big importer of Middle East oil.”

The measures come just a few weeks after China unnecessarily aggravated relations with its neighbors (particularly Vietnam and the Philippines) by including in its passports a map implicitly claiming ownership over the disputed territories.

China’s acts are so needlessly provocative even the normally placid ASEAN officials felt compelled to speak up. Reuters reported of ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan as calling the Chinese steps a “very serious turn of events” that “certainly has increased a level of concern and a level of great anxiety among all parties, particularly parties that would need the access, the passage and the freedom to go through”. Surin further was supposed to have said (“using unusually strong language”), “[that] the plan could trigger a major incident that would affect confidence in East Asia, a key engine of global economic growth.”

As I wrote previously, this is simply a country whose government cannot be trusted. Note the reportorial by the Wall Street Journal (“China’s aggressive new diplomacy,” Oct. 1, 2010): “Hillary Clinton took the side of Vietnam in mildly pushing back against China’s claims to the South China Sea, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi could barely contain his anger. Calling the Secretary of State’s remarks ‘an attack on China,’ he lectured that ‘China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact.’” In human rights, China’s duplicity is well recorded (human rights activist Wei Jingsheng’s New York Times article “Don’t Believe China’s Promises,” May 4, 2012, is an example). And China has no qualms backstabbing even religious freedoms: see George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center declaring: “For some time, a modus vivendi was in place between the Vatican and Beijing on the appointment of bishops. It was never codified, but everyone knew the basic rules of the road: No bishops are to be ordained without the tacit approval of the Holy See. The regime brazenly broke that working agreement late last year, going so far as to drag one elderly Chinese bishop by his hair to an illicit episcopal ordination.”

The DFA is laudably standing firm on our claims, declaring that Chinese actions deserve “international condemnation” and are “illegal and will validate the continuous and repeated pronouncements by the Philippines that China’s claim of indisputable sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea is not only an excessive claim but a threat to all countries.”

But we should do more. China’s actions are clear threats to international peace and security. While we can’t go to the ICJ (as China is too scared to face us there) and resorting to the Security Council is useless (as China is a permanent member with double veto powers), we can certainly call attention to the situation and ask for international action through the UN General Assembly (UN Charter: Chapter IV, Articles 10, 11, and 14). At the very least, let’s demand that China explain itself to the GA as to why it is being so asinine.

We’ve always been proud of us being “good international citizens.” So it’s time we call in our chits and ask that the international community practice what they preach about international rights and peaceful processes.


For reference, here are the relevant chapter provisions of the UN Charter mentioned in the above article:


Article 9
1. The General Assembly shall consist of all the Members of the United Nations. 2. Each Member shall have not more than five representatives in the General Assembly.
Functions and Powers
Article 10
The General Assembly may discuss any questions or any matters within the scope of the present Charter or relating to the powers and functions of any organs provided for in the present Charter, and, except as provided in Article 12, may make recommendations to the Members of the United Nations or to the Security Council or to both on any such questions or matters.
Article 11
1. The General Assembly may consider the general principles of co-operation in the maintenance of international peace and security, including the principles governing disarmament and the regulation of armaments, and may make recommendations with regard to such principles to the Members or to the Security Council or to both.
2. The General Assembly may discuss any questions relating to the maintenance of inter- national peace and security brought before it by any Member of the United Nations, or by the Security Council, or by a state which is not a Member of the United Nations in accordance with Article 35, paragraph 2, and, except as provided in Article 12, may make recommendations with regard to any such questions to the state or states concerned or to the Security Council or to both. Any such question on which action is necessary shall be referred to the Security Council by the General Assembly either before or after discussion.
3. The General Assembly may call the attention of the Security Council to situations which are likely to endanger international peace and security.
4. The powers of the General Assembly set forth in this Article shall not limit the general scope of Article 10.
Article 12
1. While the Security Council is exercising in respect of any dispute or situation the functions assigned to it in the present Charter, the General Assembly shall not make any recommendation with regard to that dispute or situation unless the Security Council so requests.
2. The Secretary-General, with the consent of the Security Council, shall notify the General Assembly at each session of any matters relative to the maintenance of international peace and security which are being dealt with by the Security Council and similarly notify the General Assembly, or the Members of the United Nations if the General Assembly is not in session, immediately the Security Council ceases to deal with such matters.
Article 13
1. The General Assembly shall initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose of:
a. promoting international co-operation in the political field and encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification;
b. promoting international co-operation in the economic, social, cultural, educational, and health fields, an assisting in the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.
2. The further responsibilities, functions and powers of the General with respect to matters mentioned in paragraph ) above are set forth in Chapters IX and X.
Article 14
Subject to the provisions of Article 12, the General Assembly may recommend measures for the peaceful adjustment of any situation, regardless of origin, which it deems likely to impair the general welfare or friendly relations among nations, including situations resulting from a violation of the provisions of the present Charter setting forth the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations.
Article 15
1. The General Assembly shall receive and consider annual and special reports from the Security Council; these reports shall include an account of the measures that the Security Council has decided upon or taken to main- tain international peace and security.
2. The General Assembly shall receive and consider reports from the other organs of the United Nations.
Article 16
The General Assembly shall perform such functions with respect to the international trusteeship system as are assigned to it under Chapters XII and XIII, including the approval of the trusteeship agreements for areas not designated as strategic.
Article 17
1. The Genera Assembly shall consider and approve the budget of the Organization.
2. The expenses of the Organization shall be borne by the Members as apportioned by the General Assembly.
3. The Assembly shall consider and approve any financial and budgetary arrangements with specialize agencies referred to in Article 57 and shall examine the administrative budgets of such specialized agencies with a view to making recommendations to the agencies concerned.
Article 18
1. Each member of the General Assembly shall have one vote.
2. Decisions of the General Assembly on important questions shall be made by a two- thirds majority of the members present and voting. These questions shall include: recommendations with respect to the maintenance of international peace and security, the election of the non-permanent members of the Security Council, the election of the members of the Economic and Social Council, the election of members of the Trusteeship Council in accordance with paragraph 1 of Article 86, the admission of new Members to the United Nations, the suspension of the rights and privileges of membership, the expulsion of Members, questions relating to the operation of the trusteeship system, and budgetary questions.
3. Decisions on other questions, including the determination of additional categories of questions to be decided by a two-thirds majority, shall be made by a majority of the members present and voting.
Article 19
A Member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years. The General Assembly may, nevertheless, permit such a Member to vote if it is satisfied that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the of the Member.
Article 20
The General Assembly shall meet in regular annual sessions and in such special sessions as occasion may require. Special sessions shall be convoked by the Secretary-General at the request of the Security Council or of a majority of the Members of the United Nations.
Article 21
The General Assembly shall adopt its own rules of procedure. It shall elect its President for each session.
Article 22
The General Assembly may establish such subsidiary organs as it deems necessary for the performance of its functions.