Zoned Out On SONA 2013: Four Things I Might’ve Missed Hearing

To say that nothing positive ever happened during the Aquino administration would be unfair both to the administration and even more so the Filipino citizen who has resiliently, despite odds continue to press forward towards personal and national progress. With this I’d like to congratulate the tax paying and remitting citizens, who by the sweat of their brow continue to bear the weights of society and its economy on their backs through production and consumption, locally and internationally; indeed this is our SONA.

constructionIt has to be expected that SONA in the fashion of any president, would be more of an accomplishment report rather than the true state of our nation. It is a political exercise and unfitting for any kind of real progressive national planning or strategy formation. My confession is that I indulged in listening to the SONA in its entirety in what seemed to be more than two hours of what usually would be productive time. Admittedly, I was really expecting a real debate with the screen as I expected to be infuriated at the onset with the usual witch-hunts, blame-games and brazen tirades that have characterized much of his national reporting. Admittedly, I was pleasantly surprised. That was until I got towards the end.

It was certainly inspiring with talks of a semblance of hope in our Food Security, Common sensibilities applied in governance and the championing of the common Filipino just doing his job. There’s a hero in every Filipino and then again, there are the bad guys! Let’s all lash out at the corrupt thieves and point out the incompetents! Lets publicly judge them and shame them on national media! Let’s once again highlight the evils of the past administration and even point out the incompetence of those appointed to posts which have the slightest chance for success. Let’s destroy their careers once and for all! Lets not give due course to justice through due process! This always makes for a dramatic and entertaining SONA while nobody seems be counting the cost.

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I would like to cite the case of the Commissioner who was appointed by the administration to lead a herculean task of reforming the BOC. In a sweeping judgment about the BOC officials is the Commissioner specifically one of the shameless bad guys? Is this not a failure of the administration itself? If incompetence is cited, then incompetence should be traced to the highest position. What is alarming to me is when a leader would appoint someone to an assignment that has the greatest possibility for failure and when he does fail, leave him out to dry. Even more, suffer the public shame at the hands of the one who put him there. I do not find that too entertaining.

Beyond the drama, the truth is that we have made great strides. We have one of the highest growth rates in the region. Our credit ratings have been rising steadily and our dependency on imported rice seem to be improving, but what’s next? How can we make our progress inclusive?

Everyone loves an underdog and who wouldn’t be inspired by the stories of perhaps the greatest dole out in our country’s history: the Pantawid Pamilya or the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme. While I am in agreement that we have to take aggressive strides towards the eradication of extreme poverty and that we have to keep children in school and in proper health, what’s next? Was this even your brainchild? Wasn’t this conceived before your term? How can we sustain this? How long are we going to do this without the tax-paying middle class not counting the cost? How can we create decent and sustainable employment for all? When can we finally feel the touted economic progress in the quality of our daily lives?

Beyond the questions I am not sure whether I missed out on the following points:

1.    Incentive Rationalization: While incentives must be rationalized, I hope that this does not come at the cost of repealing existing ones in industries that require long-term capital infusion and development. Doing so only destabilizes an existing policy environment that is already unattractive to foreign investment as it stands. Furthermore without creative strategic positioning, how could we make ourselves feasible for any long-term industrialization with the fact that we have some of the most expensive energy and labor rates in the region? Our country needs a stronger production base. We cannot rely solely on consumption. We need to create decent jobs from the lower end of the pyramid to sustain our growth. Did I miss the part in the SONA where the president discussed its long-term economic development strategy that would result in employment generation?

2.    Renewable Energy: According to the President,Renewable energy is more expensive and could not produce suitable base-loads”. Really? Perhaps the global tide towards renewables is wrong and he is right. Let’s examine the argument between using a depleting base stock over something renewable and natural. While conversion to renewable may entail some heavy upfront costs, I would believe that they would run cheaper in the long run. Add on to that the potential cost mitigation to environmental impact and health. Did I miss out on the bigger picture? The cost of energy weighs heavily upon the backs of every Filipino and yet it is almost suggested that we continue do so at an equally heavy carbon footprint.

3.   Territorial Defense: I do agree that we should not attempt to match the arsenals of our neighbors. We should not buy a squadron of fighter planes or even a fleet of ships. Instead, why don’t we develop a network of inexpensive ground-air, ground-sea missiles along our coasts and use our natural and geographic advantage. Instead of more ships and fighter squadrons, why not a network of short runways and turboprop planes that could cover more area efficiently and report incursions. Why do we have a mindset of taking the war to them instead of being an impenetrable archipelago? Isn’t our sovereignty important enough?

4.    Pork Barrel, Anyone?? Eh?… 

Did I miss anything, or was I just too zoned out on this SONA?


31 Replies to “Zoned Out On SONA 2013: Four Things I Might’ve Missed Hearing”

  1. From November 2012 to end of January 2013 Spain produced more electricity from wind them any other source for the first time in history. Wind energy exceeded the output of both nuclear and coal fired power stations. Providing more than a quarter of Spain’s power generation.

      1. Technically the president was correct. Alternative energy systems are more expensive. Mainly because they are less efficient than existing fossil fuel based technologies at producing power.

        Solar energy power generation, for example, the most mature form of alternative energy can only manage an efficiency of 10 percent to 20 percent. Current solar cells only have a maximum THEORETICAL efficiency of solar 31 percent. Some experimental technologies have achieved 40 percent efficiency. Given their manufacturing and infrastructure costs, solar would produce electricity at 3 to 6 times HIGHER than current prices.

      2. With regards to wind — wind energy itself is effectively free, but the cost to manufacture and install wind farms isn’t cheap and the upfront costs can be prohibitive. However, once a wind farm is developed, most modern turbines are estimated to have a 20-year lifespan without much maintenance required.

        The critical thing that needs consideration here is the reliability of a wind based system to produce the power required by the grid. It is acknowledged that a wind turbine will run, i.e. produce electricity, 75 to 85 percent of the time. That suggests it can be an economical alternative to fossil fuels. But because the system depends on wind speed, it will not be operating at full capacity all the time. On the average wind turbines will generate up to 30 percent of the theoretical maximum output of the system. Compare that with conventional power stations that produce anywhere between 50 to 80 percent output depending on the fuel used and other factors such as maintenance and breakdowns.

        1. You are right that the initial investment for these so called green energy. That cannot be helped if ever we intend to put up this green energy sources and contract foreign names with it. But the thing is, we can do all these in house, no more GE, Westinghouse, etc. Just us, the Filipinos and that will be the time you can shout to the world, Filipino pride!!!. We have the capacity to these. We have competent engineers. All we need are able leaders to see the vision through, which, I’m afraid, we will not be having as long as the idiots vote for idiots.

        2. joeld,

          There’s NO question we have the capability to design alternative energy systems locally. That isn’t even the issue. The greater concern is that the “green energy” output isn’t going to be adequate for our growing power requirements. For this reason, the fossil fuel based solutions are still the most appropriate ones for us to be able to immediately alleviate the shortage in Mindanao and the projected outages in Luzon.

      3. To approach this issue as “us versus them” or “alternative energy versus fossil fuels” is a mistake. In fact, it is probably a moot point.

        The debate shouldn’t be about the type of fuel. The question we should be asking at this point is: How do we address the power situation in Mindanao? Another is: How do we prevent the looming power outages in Luzon in the coming two years?

        We have to face the stark reality that our energy problem is more serious than deciding whether or not to buy that next generation Prius coming out next year. We haven’t formulated an energy plan since the Marcos administration. That’s the mess we need to fix first. This is the reason we have been having the blackouts going back to the Cory presidency.

        1. There is no argument here on technical efficiencies Fossil vs. Solar, Fossil vs. Wind etc. However I do believe that we should curb or eliminate our dependence on imported feedstock. Also energy production mix could not be deduced to a this or that argument which the SONA might’ve suggested. Even with the choice argument, we haven’t included Hydro, Geothermal and even Nuclear. All of which might have different rates of efficiency. But clearly a plan needs to be put into place rather than trying to project that one choice is better than the other. Furthermore, the problem of outages could not be traced solely on the production side when clearly some problems are present further down the value chain (cooperative distribution insolvency cited). Ultimately, I agree that the energy argument should be a big part of a National Economic Development strategy.

        2. Outside the United States the Philippines ranks second in the world in producing geothermal energy. Currently, geothermal capacity is around 2000 megawatts. (In contrast, the US has a capacity of some 3100 megawatts of geothermal power.) This represents 17 percent of the Philippines’ total power generation mix.

          That would seem to be a good argument for geothermal power as a replacement for fossil fuels. However, according to our own experts, we’re pretty much tapped out when it comes to geothermal. Most of the sites available for large scale commercial development are already being used. There may theoretically be an equivalent amount still untapped, but these may not be as significant or as suitable for production for various reasons. This is the reason the Philippines hasn’t increased beyond 16-17 percent power generation from geothermal sources since 1977 when commercial production began.

      4. BenK is right that Spain is going bankrupt from the green movement. Germany and UK have also either scaled back or abandoned green energy. The wind mill maintenance is for land based mills and not ones by sea water. Sea water is highly corrosive and requires much more maintenance. Wind mill also can produce noise pollution at up to 100+ decibels and also give off very low frequency sound that some living near them cause sleeplessness. Wind mills are also bird killers, they kill thousands a year around the USA and UK. I think that nuke is the way to go with the new light water reactor and even the breeder reactors there is little or no waste plus they have a fuel span of 20+ years. Just place a few on the major islands away from the cities in the provinces. Solar has a problem called night time but is the best green power out there but it is still decades from making in roads on fossil. It is not as hard as you think to build NG power stations. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s California hard a huge power problem. They solved it by building peak power stations (60 megawatt) that ran on NG and could build these stations in 90 to 120 days. So with the right motivation it can be done. My thinking is that they should only pursue solar as a back up or peak producer. All the other green I would wait until it matures to use it.

        1. Anyway, has someone though of ways of storing excess electricity in the grid? This is similar with how the body fat works in the body, when in abundance it grows, then on sarcity, stored energy in fats is used.

        2. Grid systems in the United States can actually draw power from solar systems run by independent producers and/or private homeowners. If you are producing excess power from your solar cells in your home in, say, Arizona, this can be added back to the grid and credits paid back to you.

      5. Like it or not, coal is our immediate answer if we want to avoid the blackouts specially at the Luzon Grid. But environmentalists (like Greenpeace) are never going to be convinced government has the capability to make sure our air standards are not violated by coal plants. Worse, they have no real alternative solutions to this problem.

        1. Johnny I agree that coal is a solution but NG plants are easier to build and maintain. Remember that coal has to be stored in outside piles and the waste too. While NG has neither and is also very cheap, but transportation may be an issue. You can build peak plants instead of huge 1200 mega watt ones. But you still need the power infrastructure (i.e. line and transformers) to handle the load. New coal plants are clean as long as they don’t cut corners (a PI stable). Greenpeace is an anti development group that wants to keep poor countries poor by making them live more down to earth (a solar panel and a light bulb).

        2. Jim,

          I’m not any more fond of coal than you are. However, I believe we have to look at the realities of the situation in the Philippines. Natural gas, while it is a viable solution, isn’t readily available. Pilipinas Shell, the country’s principal supplier doesn’t have the infrastructure to deliver their gas in the amount needed for commercial applications. Despite what they claim as being invested in our “energy future.”

    1. And driving Spain to the point of bankruptcy. Renewable energy has its place, but it’s proving to be uneconomical, at this point, for primary power to the national grid, mainly because it’s inefficient. It will get better as time goes by, and it’s important that it be used so that improvement will be encouraged. The only real takeaway from what BS said about renewable energy is that his Administration doesn’t actually understand energy, nor has a policy for it. Whatever he was actually saying can be dismissed as aphasic ramblings of someone who doesn’t know the difference between delivering a speech and simply opening his mouth to let random thoughts fall out.

  2. John,

    I disagree with your view on renewable (green) energy. Coal, NG and nukes are much cheaper and reliable than any current green component. Greens are much more expensive and should be used for basic home backup source. You can’t run a steel mill or any heavy industry on a solar panel or wind mill. Solar is the only source that has any future but is still too expensive and inefficient. It will take decades before it may become competitive. As for electric cars in 1920 electric cars go about 100 miles today ‘s cars go about 100 miles so no difference in 100 years. The reason green energy is being pushed is purely political and not market driven. In countries like the Philippines it is meant by the anti-development groups to keep poor countries poor by making them use expensive unreliable energy sources that can not compete with fossil or nuke sources. The Philippines needs a strong electrical systems based on fossil or nuke power, but also needs a reliable infrastructure to distribute it. They need to privatize and open it up to foreign companies to make it cheap.

    1. Going Green is obviously a political argument to which the Philippines has impending commitments. What is hard to contend with is the high cost of energy that everyone is paying for. I agree with economic liberalization but getting there usually takes satisfying the political agendas as well.

    2. in addition the geothermal energy is much more cheaper and it is abundant in the philippines… example that I dont understand, there are plans to build second geothermal plant in Negros Occidental, one concern is that it is located on mount kanlaon park….the deal is that they will replace a deforested forest twice the size of the area to be use by the plant. this is to compensate the loss of the reserve forest….the project did not push because of the greenpeace rally….im pissed of that rally imagine twice the size of the area (in some account the owner of that plant will continue to plant trees as long as the plant lives)….and the greenpeace group succeeded, at ngayon may rampant black out sa any parts of negros and panay can not cope up the needs of the electricity, ngayon etong greenpeace group panay reklamo…see the point this group can not even stop the illegal loggers in kanlaon park…..irony at its best….

  3. On the issue of renewable energy; I believe aquino is against it because it counters his family’s (Cojuanco) oil interests.
    And I agree with Johnny Saint that “it is not either or.” A combination of renewable and non-renewable is, I think, what is logical and feasible at this point. I believe wind farms and wave farms for power are perfect for the Philippine geography.

  4. Other omissions in 2013 sona

    Atimonan massacre & report ( i come to praise the police, and arm the thugs, and to bury bad news)
    Taiwanese killing & report ( lacierda – “let the ofw’s find a job in another country”!! – idiot)
    Ofw’s – 20% increase in last 2 years. ( so much for earlier sona pledge of jobs at home!)
    Ofw’s – ‘sex for flight’ report
    5.5 million child labourers – up 15% in past 3 years.
    Human trafficking – philippines the capital of sexploitation

  5. the most overused phrases from lowlife pnoy aquino are
    ‘ fair investigation’
    ‘ i vow justice’

    he has done nothing for victims of crime/ massacres/abuse/scams

    platitudes from a coward

  6. I agree to all yours points except the territorial defense….territorial defense needs an external defense interdiction forces like those in the NAVY (OPV, attack frigates, missile patrol boats)…..for the air force philippines need a interceptor fighter aircrafts or a MRF….for the army a long range surface to air missiles and AAA guns….the purpose is pound or cripple the enemy before landing to our shores….why need to fight inside our territory if we can defend it outside the territory…we may not win the battle of external defense but we can cripple them and have a counter attack once they touch the ground…one of the example is the battle of thermopylae…and yes it is expensive but the phl can acquire it slowly or develop like the aguinaldo class patrol boats…the aguinaldo class is supposed to be missile patrol class boats under the plannings of Marcos….2 was been finished but in a span of 12 years….and i blame it to the 87 constitution…

  7. a speech with no substantial message. Par for the course in the country.
    the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting screwed. it could be worse though, in developed countries the poor get PRISON.

  8. Just an update on the energy Discussion from a post I just read:

    “In a nation of over 7,000 islands with a population of 100 million, [28% of which are surviving below the poverty line] which imports 85% of its coal and over 90% of its oil and where the typical consumer tariff for electricity is Php 10.00 [US$ 0.244] /kWh electricity supply is a challenging task. Electricity is far too expensive, a situation exacerbated by the difficulties of supply to remote communities, it is too dependent on imports and the volatility of international fuel markets and suffers not only from poor governance but also the near fatal peculiarities of the Philippines political and business environment. The average Filipino household consumes about 2,540kWh/year or 211kWh/month of electricity – which is not a lot. About enough for a refrigerator, some light bulbs, a TV and a few electric fans – the outside air temperature is about 37c today. The 211kWh/month will cost them about Php 2,100 [US$ 51.22] which is 12% of the average household income of Php 206,000 [US$ 5,024]. In the USA and Europe the cost of electricity is about 2-3% of household income, and they have lots more appliances; electric waste disposal units, heating, air-conditioning etc. Clearly there is something amiss.” Michael Wootton.

    The rest of the article is here:

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