Do you want present politicos to stay forever?

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Evil never stops. House leaders had just granted themselves illegal pork barrels when they passed a self-serving draft constitution. If ratified by fast break, for which Congress is notorious, Filipinos will forever be in the clutches of vulture politicos.

Aptly called the Arroyo cha-cha for its instigator, the draft sneakily rides on President Rody Duterte’s federalist plan. But its shift to federal government is mere lip service. Its true aim is to perpetuate the present political dynasties and their dirty old ways.

Members of Duterte’s constitutional committee are fuming at Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s mangling of their own draft. The transition to federal that they laid down to ensure success has been discarded. Supposedly it is too tedious. Instead, a proviso replaces entire articles to let Congress recognize any province or region that wants to be a federal state.

Worse, the Arroyo cha-cha discards sections that define degrees of relation that constitute dynasties, and prohibitions on simultaneous and successive elections to office. Gone too are the bans on political turncoats.

Terms of senators are shortened, and congressmen and local officials’ lengthened to four years – with no more reelection limits. “One-to-sawa,” as the Tagalog term goes for the insatiable. The perpetuation of the elite political class is complete.

Senators say they will never adopt the Arroyo cha-cha that has been transmitted to them as a proposed “joint” resolution. A headcount shows that Arroyo won’t get the required three-fourths of the Senate, or 18 of 24 members, to dance to her tune. But that is in case of separate voting. If by blitzkrieg the House is able to force a joint session – under vague terms of the present Constitution – the supermajority of lemmings can force through the Arroyo cha-cha.

There’s a Plan B. Enough Arroyo gofers will be placed in the Senate in the May 2019 election to tip the balance for a three-fourths capitulation. The House of Reps would be easier to handle. Its members mostly approve without thinking.

Under the Arroyo cha-cha past Presidents can run anew.

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Philippine National Oil Co. is marching the wrong way. President Rody Duterte has charted oil and gas exploration as economic direction. Often has he noted that the country fell behind the post-War boom due to dismal fuel finds. Indonesia has 17 and Thailand seven times more rigs than the Philippines. The latter’s sole productive gas field is Malampaya, 50 km off Palawan. And PNOC’s lazy solution to that is to not go on searching but just import liquefied natural gas (LNG).

PNOC seems deaf to its own parent Dept. of Energy. Only last week the DOE trumpeted a dual announcement by Shell Philippines president-CEO Cesar Romero. First, Malampaya gas is not to dry up by 2024, as often reported. It is good till 2026-2029 to fuel a third of national and nearly half Luzon’s electricity need. Second, there’s more gas nearby, and Shell is to invest in searches. A Depletion Compression Platform that Shell put in beside the old Shallow Water Platform three years ago prolonged the gas extraction and readied it for more explorations.

PNOC’s planned LNG supply hub sounds good for trade. But if it forces LNG imports – to consequent exclusion of exploration – then it will deepen dependence on overseas sources. Supplies would be iffy. Spikes in world oil prices and foreign exchange will buffet the economy. All the more Manila would be unable to forge an independent foreign policy but instead be held captive by cartels. Jobs would be lost, and support businesses to exploration-extraction would close shop. The government would forego extraction royalties (it earned P161 billion from Malampaya in 2001-2017 alone). National security would be compromised.

Short term, imported LNG for electricity would raise rates. Geothermal and hydro, which DOE encourages, would add only 228 MW in five years to the national grid. Domestic gas must be pushed too because sustainable. Imported LNG needs first to be compressed, then shipped across seas, liquefied at the terminal, and berthing and regulation fees added – for 37 percent more than domestic sourcing.

Recent food inflation due to uncontrollable fuel price surges should make PNOC realize it’s not in tune.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website https://www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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