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Lux in Domino? II

“Lux in Domino?” (BusinessWorld, 14, April 2019, online version), I am happy to note, has stimulated a vigorous discussion, if not an earnest discussion.

Lux in Domino?

Irene Marcos-Araneta’s presence at the launch of the Areté Outdoor Installation Program on the Ateneo de Manila campus has created a tempest that will not pass calmly.

Will the proposed reforms address the decline of political parties?

My main message in “The Decline of Political Parties” (BusinessWorld, 1 April 2019) is that path dependence can explain how Philippine political parties have been emasculated. That is, our colonial history has determined the path of our political parties, and it will be difficult to reverse this.

The decline of Philippine political parties

What has happened to Philippine political parties?

The march for Women’s Health

“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women,” according to Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General.

Realizing universal health care through sin taxes

As May elections draw near, legislators are faced with the daunting task of reflecting upon -- and marketing -- their legacies. Two candidates of note are Senator Sonny Angara and Senator JV Ejercito, both of whom authored bills instituting universal health care in the Philippines. President Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11223, the Universal Health Care Act, in late February 2019.

Why everyone should vote for Chel Diokno

I make a case for the candidacy of Jose Manuel I. Diokno, known as Chel to his friends. Chel is running for senator, but because he is unknown in Philippine politics, his awareness rating is low.

What the Philippine Coast Guard now needs

The role of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in development has not been fully articulated. This essay attempts to show why it is necessary to provide budgetary support for the PCG, but it is equally important to determine where the priorities should be.

Justice for all

Growing old, we like to meet old friends. We “junior senior citizens” (a term coined by Nenette, a college friend of my late wife Mae) enjoy the luxury of time to get together for coffee or dinner. But in the case of Fides (our friendship dating back to almost half a century ago), we had our last couple of appointments at the Manila regional trial court.

UHC-Tobacco Tax, an #AlagangAngara Legacy?

The bill to substantially increase the tobacco tax has gained momentum. President Rodrigo Duterte and the Cabinet have certified as urgent Senate Bill 1599, sponsored by Senator Manny Pacquiao, which will increase the current rate of tobacco tax from P35 to P60. Senators JV Ejercito and Wyn Gatchalian have filed separate bills that have higher tobacco tax rates than the Pacquiao bill.

Senator Gordon: No reason, no heart

The Philippine Senate has two remaining session days before it adjourns this week, to give way to the election period. It resumes session after the May elections, and from there, has nine session days to wrap up its work. In short, the window for legislation is narrow.

Cancer and Tobacco Tax

In January 1975, the Department of Health (DoH) and the Philippine Cancer Society (PCS) launched the first ever National Cancer Consciousness Week. The week-long campaign held every third week of January was instituted as a means to educate Filipinos on the dangers of cancer and raise awareness on the treatment and prevention of the disease.

UHC at risk without new sin taxes

Last Jan. 18, leaders of 30 Philippine medical societies gathered to call for the Senate passage of a bill increasing the excise tax on cigarettes to at least P60 per pack. “The increase will provide crucial funding for the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act that will benefit the current and future generations of all Filipinos from womb to tomb,” went their manifesto.

Tobacco Tax: Good for the tobacco farmers, too

A focus group discussion (FGD) with 23 farmer leaders from Candon and Cabigao, Ilocos Sur last Dec. 17, 2018 should be of interest to the politicians who are now deliberating the passage of the tobacco tax.

Will Senator Angara play Big Tobacco’s game?

In 1994, the CEOs of seven major tobacco manufacturers testified before the United States Congress regarding the health impact of tobacco consumption.

Team spirit and service: Ateneo, UP and Joey Pengson

One of the top Philippine stories of 2018 -- not only in sports but also in national affairs -- is the magical run of the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons. For a few weeks, the Maroons became headline news as the team clawed its way back from elimination and upset heavy contenders toward reaching the championship series.

The Reproductive Health Story

One of the most difficult pieces of legislation that the Philippine Congress has tackled is Reproductive Health (RH). The book titled The RH Bill Story: Contentions and Compromises, authored by Marilen J. Dañguilan (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2018) narrates and explains how it is so. And more importantly, the book shows how to overcome such adversity in making the RH Bill a law.

Rol Peña: an unnecessary death but a death not in vain

A sweet gentleman, a gentle soul, a kind and humble man, a dedicated revolutionary. These are but a few of the beautiful words to describe Rol.

Upsilon’s progressive legacy (or why Upsilon should not be associated with...

The University of the Philippines (UP) is again in the news.

Watching out for UHC

The Universal Health Care (UHC) bill is at its final stages. After a couple of preparatory meetings during the Congress break last October, the Bicameral Conference Committee is officially meeting tomorrow to reconcile the differences of the Senate and the House versions. At this rate, we can expect that the UHC bill will be signed into law before the year ends.

The fight to raise tobacco taxes is a fight against breast...

INUTILE. That’s how I felt at my beautiful sister Mae’s bedside when she died in 1995, barely a year since arriving back home from her chemotherapy in Michigan. She had two daughters -- Ynna Belen and Angela Jed, just as beautiful as her. She had beautiful dreams ...

Driving TRAIN: Angara’s legacy

It is unfortunate that some quarters have criticized Senator Sonny Angara for his role in shepherding the tax reform legislation, known as TRAIN, in the Senate. These critics have even called on voters to reject Senator Angara, who is seeking reelection in 2019.

Soriano: Boy Wonder

In our primary and secondary school, some boys had surnames like Aquino, Araneta, Arroyo, Cojuangco, Laurel, Lopez, Roxas, Tañada, Tuazon, and the like. These...

Bring down electricity prices and the inflation rate will go down

A sure way to bring down prices in any market is to replace monopoly with open competition. And if that market supplies a good that almost everyone relies on, then the cascading impact of lower prices will surely pull the inflation rate down.

The conservative yet unconventional Governor

Nesting Espenilla is a low-key Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). He avoids the limelight, and that’s the way it should be for the head of an independent, non-political Central Bank.

TRABAHO: Setting free an urgent reform

The House of Representatives passed the Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities or TRABAHO Bill in early September. The first major component of TRABAHO is the reduction of the corporate income tax (CIT) rate to 20% over a period of nine years, starting 2021.

2022 elections will decide Philippine history’s heroes and villains

August and September usually mark the peak of the Marcos martial law debates.

Thoughts on Goyo

I had an opportunity to watch Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral over the past week. Blending history with some fictional elements, it is director Jerrold Tarog’s follow-up to 2015’s Heneral Luna and centers around the “Boy General,” Gregorio del Pilar, during the Philippine-American War. Being an outspoken millennial and the self-professed cinephile that I am, I’m taking this opportunity to share my thoughts about the film.

Reason, enlightenment and inflation

It is said that reason and enlightenment have taken a beating amid the rise of the Trumps, Erdogans and Dutertes. These belligerent strongmen have polarized society. The consequence of extreme polarization is the emergence of biases and blinders from all sides.

A lesson that Duterte must heed

He is a populist, and has endeared himself to the masses. He won the elections by a landslide, and till now, his political party is hard to beat.

The gift of life

I lost a new IPhone. Worse, I lost it on the day of my wife Mae’s third death anniversary.

Low-carbon path

A previous piece showed that our greenhouse gas reduction commitment to the Paris climate treaty meant a gradual 2.02% annual reduction in fossil-based electricity generation, for a total reduction of 23.3% by 2030 compared to 2017 levels. The annual reduction required by this low-carbon path is only half the 4% natural attrition rate of coal plants, if they are retired at the end of their 25-year useful life. This provides the country with some flexibility.

Reducing power plant carbon emissions by 70% is doable

My two previous pieces (BW, July 16 and July 23, 2018) discussed four flaws in the DoE’s current power development plan that led it to overestimate the country’s 2040 baseload requirements by more than 100%.

Advancing fiscal incentive reform

THE rationalization of fiscal incentives is a long-overdue reform. It is a necessary reform for several reasons.

Reform in the time of Duterte

“Are we in the midst of a crisis?”

The SONA: a ranking of preferences

Rodrigo Duterte’s 2018 State of the Nation Address (SONA) addressed a lot of issues. And depending on your values, beliefs and advocacy, one would either slam Duterte or begrudgingly recognize parts of his reform agenda.

More flaws in the DoE plan raise baseload bloat to 103%

A previous piece identified one serious flaw in the DoE’s Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) 2016-2040: the DoE still assumes that baseload plants will retain their 70% share in the electricity mix until 2040.

Flawed DoE assumption results in baseload bloat

Over the past four decades, solar photovoltaic (PV) prices have been dropping by an average of 9% per year. As a result, rooftop solar is the cheapest daytime source of electricity today in many countries.

The Peace Talks and the Communist Party’s Economic Program

A good friend of mine gave me a copy of the book from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) titled Draft Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (January 2018). This document is also known in its abbreviated form: CASER.


I object to Senator Leila de Lima’s description that President Duterte is the “pambansang tambay.” Here is the press statement of Senator de Lima.

Insights into the World Bank’s Insights

The World Bank has come out with a Philippine poverty assessment report titled Making Growth Work for the Poor (2018).

The tragic consequences of suspending the oil excise tax

Some quarters led by politicians (it doesn’t matter whether the politicians are pro-administration or anti-administration) have called for the suspension of the increase in the fuel excise tax brought about by the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN).

Low-cost housing for the rich

The Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) estimates that the country’s total housing backlog will accumulate to 3.6 million units by the end of 2018.

Cooly explaining inflation

Being the coordinator of Action for Economic Reforms (AER) or being an advocate, I have to cut a public persona. That means I write...

Keep the TRAIN on track

Policy reforms, and reform in general, are always difficult pills to swallow. Any doctor will tell you to complete the full course of antibiotics...