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COVID-19 too shall pass (118 Days of lockdown)

The COVID-19 Action Network (CAN) is a network of organizations and individuals working to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the Philippines. It was organized in the first quarter of this year to harmonize primarily the efforts of the civil society and the private sector in responding to the coronavirus pandemic and provide the Philippine Government and local government units (LGUs) with evidence-based and sound recommendations.

Is the tax cut a good stimulus?

The CREATE bill (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act) has drawn sharp criticism from some economists. A major if not principal criticism is about the accelerated reduction of the corporate income tax (CIT) from 30% to 25% in the very first year of the law’s implementation, if passed.

War and co-existence

That we are fighting a global war is often used as a way to describe the fight against COVID-19.

On the new Anti-Terrorism Bill

These are initial notes relevant to, not a comprehensive assessment of, the new Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB, Senate Bill No. 1083/ House Bill No. 6875) poised to be passed as “The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020” (ATA) which would repeal R.A. No. 9372, the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA).

Powering the Philippine recovery: The Duterte Administration’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan

On May 14, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) unveiled PH-Progreso or the proposed economic recovery program of the Rodrigo Duterte administration. Building on earlier stages of the government’s four-pillar socioeconomic strategy against COVID-19, PH-Progreso entails a mix of supply-side, demand-side, and tax reform measures that are aimed at supporting a rapid or “V-shaped” recovery for the Philippine economy following the widespread disruption posed by the pandemic in the country.


Current economic policy is focused on fighting the pandemic. The Central Bank has loosened monetary policy, and the national government has hiked its expenditures by allowing a higher deficit.

Trust and credibility to win the war against COVID-19

Imposing and extending the lockdown or the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is a difficult choice to make. The biggest casualty is the economy. That the Philippine economy (and for the rest of the world) shrunk in the first quarter of 2020 was expected. Only upon the containment of the pandemic -- and we do not know when this will happen -- can the economic slump be turned around.

Roberto (Obet) Verzola: The known and the unknown

Many of Obet’s friends and colleagues have written fine, glowing tributes about his life. But there’s more to know about him, considering that he shied away from publicity and preferred to work in the background. For Obet, what mattered was the spread of a powerful idea, not the projection of his persona.

Expertise in the Time of COVID-19

Fellow BusinessWorld columnist Diwa Guinigundo had recently written a column, but for another newspaper, titled “My perspective on some lockdown perspectives” (see Manila Bulletin, April 30). In this column, Diwa criticizes two World Bank papers that emphasize the economic costs arising from lockdowns.

Comparing the Philippine economic package to fight COVID-19 to the response...

The COVID-19 pandemic has crippled economies all over the world, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicting the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression nearly a century ago. Governments are now scrambling to come up with policies and programs to mitigate the damage caused by the sudden downturn. Specifically, countries have been forced to set up stimulus packages to support areas and groups that have been hit hardest by the halt in economic activity.

Bringing the COVID-19 fight to where it lives

Exactly a month ago, former Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia (then the concurrent chair of the Commission on Population and Development or POPCOM, where I work as Executive Director) sent me a text.

COVID-19 social amelioration issues

Flattening the COVID-19 curve requires having a lockdown. In the Philippines, the lockdown is euphemistically called enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). The ECQ buys time until our system has conducted massive testing of all people with symptoms; done intensive contact tracing; and expanded health facilities and recruited health workers to accommodate and treat patients.

Luzon-wide transport ban hurts the poor, subverts public health

Kailangan ng taong pumunta sa palengke para bumili ng pagkain, sa botika para bumili ng gamot, at sa ospital para magpa-check-up o magpa-opera. Paano makararating sa ospital ang buntis para manganak at si lola para magpa-dialysis kung walang pampublikong transportasyon? (People need to go to the market to buy food, to the drugstore to buy medicine, to the hospital for a check-up or an operation. How can the pregnant women get to the hospital to give birth or the grandmother for her dialysis if there is no public transportation?)

How prepared are we to fight Covid-19? What has to be...

That all countries failing the test of beating COVID-19 is not an imagined fear. What we are seeing now is severe stress to the point of failure in all country health systems, regardless of preparedness.

COVID-19 and collective action

The Lancet, the most accessible peer-reviewed medical journal, discusses the COVID-19 crisis in stark terms. Read Roy Anderson et al., “How will country-based mitigation measures influence the course of the COVID-19 epidemic?” (March 9, 2020). The authors state that “we calculate that approximately 60% of the population would become infected.”

Water, transparency and mining concerns in the Philippines

The communities of Didipio, Nueva Visacaya have been up in arms against the operation of Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI). OGPI has been operating a copper-gold mine in Barangay Didipio in Kasibu, Province of Nueva Vizcaya. A Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) was awarded to OGPI in 1994, but the company only started its full operations in 2011. The first commercial production was reported in April 2013. Now, the FTAA has expired and is up for renewal.

CITIRA’s passage: Light at the end of the tunnel

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Senator Pia Cayetano has filed Senate Bill 1357, the Committee Report on the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act or CITIRA, and has sponsored it in the Senate’s plenary session. Nine of the 15 regular members and all three ex-officio members signed the committee report. Of the 12, one signed with reservation, three said they will interpellate, and six said they might introduce amendments. One of those who did not sign said he would interpellate. There are no disclosed reasons for the other five not signing, except that they were not physically present (truest for a controversially detained Senator) at the time.

Questioning road-widening as the main solution to traffic

Metro Manila is a bustling and bursting metropolis of over 24 million people. Among the mounting challenges faced by the metropolis, chief among them is moving people efficiently amid rising road congestion. Why are the streets of Metro Manila becoming more congested in the first place? Is there truly a way to decongest a city still steadily experiencing urban growth?

A reform long overdue

Much fuss has been raised about the proposed Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act or CITIRA (the erstwhile Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities or TRABAHO Bill), with claims that it affects the mood of investors who now choose to wait and see. What’s not emphasized enough is that much of the uncertainty results from the long-winded process the discussion on this reform takes. Proposals to rationalize fiscal incentives have been filed since the 10th Congress, mostly in the Lower House, with the Senate joining the fray starting in the 13th Congress. The push for the reform has been gaining momentum over time, getting much-deserved attention starting the 17th Congress. It has been more than two decades. The issue has clearly peaked, indicating that the reform is bound to happen. It will serve all sectors better the sooner the law is passed.

Taal: probing the judgment of scientists and the power of bureaucrats

My wife is Batangueño; some of her relatives are evacuees. So I have a personal interest in the human drama around the Taal volcano eruptions.

The UP Chancellorship

The University of the Philippines (UP), particularly Diliman, is abuzz. The process of selecting the next UP Diliman Chancellor has aroused the UP community, including the alumni.

Dina Abad’s lasting legacy

We gather with a purpose that is close to our hearts: the launching of the Dina Abad Emerging Leaders Fellowship program, and our celebration of her enduring legacy. What a fitting present for her birthday, which is eight days from today.

The Co-Chairperson’s Report

It is regrettable that the news and commentaries regarding the “Co-Chairperson’s Report” have focused on the finding that “the percentage of shabu seized is less than 1% of the total estimated consumption of shabu.”

The risk, despite the growth

The surveys show that the Filipino people are optimistic about the new year; that their lives will be better off in 2020.

Christmas 2019

Christmas is about love and peace. And hope.

The Class of ’69

The year 2019 marked the golden year of our grade school class. In 1969, we graduated from elementary school, perhaps unaware then that we would be caught up in the vortex of turbulence all around us.

Business and Human Rights

This week sees Human Rights Day, celebrated globally every 10th December to mark the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 61 years ago. The contribution of former Filipino general-turned-diplomat, Carlos P. Romulo, in drafting and negotiating that historic document remains well known at a time when human rights face severe challenges in the Philippines and around the world.

FOI Initiative is back

FOI Youth Initiative (FYI) is the youth arm of the Right to Know, Right Now! (R2KRN) Coalition. It has been advocating an accountable and transparent government by enabling youth participation in public affairs.

In memory of Ernest Leung

Those who knew Ernest from afar -- perhaps as a technocrat and a former Finance Secretary -- might ask: What on earth was he doing in Papua New Guinea where he contracted malaria, leading to his death?

On Education: Lessons from Finland and now, from Estonia

Can Philippine education learn from the experiences in Northern Europe? Conditions might be different, but basic lessons and insights can be found, considering that everyone follows some international standards or metrics.

‘Nothing is intolerable that is necessary’

That was my mantra when I rushed Dodong to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) via ambulance on that frightening morning of Dec. 29, 2014.

Grand slam for tax reforms

In baseball, a grand slam is a home run hit with all the bases loaded. That means that each base has a runner and that the single home run, the grand slam, scores four runs (points), in one fell swoop.

How I will remember Tio Nene

Tatay Nene is how his family and also his friends, colleagues, and ordinary people call the late Senate President Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.

What will influence the PET?

The recent resolution of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) requires the parties to the election protest of the loser, Bongbong Marcos, to comment on the PET’s recount of votes in the provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental. The outcome of the recount in these provinces even increased the lead of Vice-President Robredo by an additional 14,285 votes. Thus, Vice-President Robredo’s over-all lead is now equivalent to 278,566 votes.

The Rice Tariffication Law: amidst the sound and fury

As is typical when it comes to most laws, civil society groups have taken different positions with regard to the recently passed Republic Act 11203, otherwise known as the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL). In the midst of the continued decline in palay prices at the farmgate, some groups, led by Bantay Bigas, have launched a petition to have the law repealed. Meanwhile, Omi Royandoyan of Centro Saka and Alyansa Agrikultura wants a suspension of the law, but does not want to go back to quantitative restrictions. Rather, he wishes government to observe the rice market for six to eight cropping seasons (three to four years) and use flexible tariffs to protect the rice farmers. Other groups within the circle of the Rice Watch Action Network that are equally critical of the law have diverse positions, from outright repeal to amend, but they are united in saying that, definitely there is no more going back to quantitative restrictions. And then there’s the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF), led by Raul Montemayor, which does not see the need to repeal or even amend the law at this time. FFF points out that the Safeguard Measures Act can be invoked to protect the rice industry from the onslaught of imports which can be implemented alongside other measures.

Do fiscal incentives predict foreign direct investments?

The prolonged trade war between the US and China, the world’s two largest economies, is hurting both countries and it is thus seen as a threat to the global economy. Yet for developing countries, especially in Southeast Asia, the ugly trade war is an opportunity, for this economic war translates into a redirection of trade and investments. Indeed, having been affected by the trade war, many companies with global value chains based in China have moved out or are seriously considering their exit.

Social inclusion for ASEAN’s long term stability

Economic insecurity bred by inequitable distribution of wealth due to globalization and trade liberalization resulted in rising populist protectionism in many parts of the world. The failure of governments to promptly address the loss of opportunity and the rising inequality has created a political backlash, recently shown by the retreat to protectionism in the US and the Brexit.

For the Filipino people’s health, we say ‘Never Again’

September 21, 1972 was a day of infamy. It was the day that Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law and made himself a dictator. Thousands were jailed, tortured, or killed by Marcos and his military. He destroyed the Philippine’s political institutions, and he devastated the Philippine economy through massive corruption, profligacy, and unsound policies.

A message of thanks

A statement I often hear from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III is his recognition of the contribution of his predecessors and the previous administrations in providing the building blocks for the current comprehensive tax reform program. Recently, in a thanksgiving lunch he hosted for former finance secretaries, other former senior government officials, and reputable economists and technocrats from the private sector and civil society, including critics of the administration, he again emphasized that the current Department of Finance (DoF) has built on the good work that others have done.

Understanding rice tariffication

We are firm in defending and asserting the rice tariffication reform despite the current transitional problems that it faces in its implementation. The reform will benefit both Filipino rice farmers and Filipino consumers.

‘Life, death, and the best of us’

The title of this essay does not belong to me. It is Tony La Viña’s. It is the title of his Rappler essay (Jan. 6. 2016), which gave tribute to diverse people whose deaths gave meaning to him and others.

Higher alcohol taxes will improve population health and augment UHC funds

Noncommunicable diseases have become the leading cause of death and illness in the Philippines. Alcohol consumption is associated with more than 10% of noncommunicable disease burden worldwide, including liver disease and cancer. The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Compare published by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington revealed that in 2017 alone, there were 29,506 deaths attributable to alcohol use in the Philippines. The idea that moderate alcohol consumption (“one glass of wine a day”) is safe, has recently been denounced by the World Health Organization (WHO). Their report estimates that alcohol kills one person every 10 seconds. There is no safe dose for alcohol consumption.

Lex Talionis: in a time of a shooting war

President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to give the New People’s Army (NPA) tit for tat” is notable on several levels. It is perhaps the first time in the Philippines since American General Jacob Smith and Japanese Geneneral Masaharu Homma were here, that a commander-in-chief or a military commander has ordered “tit for tat,” “Do it to them also,” and “give them what they deserve” against the enemy. Whatever way this is interpreted and implemented by the military, and counter-attacked by the NPA, the result can only be an unfortunate further escalation of the armed conflict and (counter-)insurgency-related killings.

Lee Kuan Yew

August 9 is the National Day of Singapore. On this day, Singapore commemorates its independence from Malaysia.

The case for increasing alcohol taxes

In one of the rare moments of this year’s State of the Nation Address where President Rodrigo Duterte followed the speech written for him,...