Ernesto Hilario

187 posts

Pragmatic approach is what’s needed

It escapes me now as to who originally came up with the term “principled pragmatism” to refer to the how one’s approach to complex issues should be made with practical solutions in mind while strictly adhering to one’s principles. The objective, quite simply, is to deliver results.

Can DOT chief clean up her agency?

Newly installed Tourism Secretary Bernadette Fatima Romulo Puyat needs all the help she can get from the Duterte administration—and the people under her—in the gargantuan task of eliminating the contagion of graft and corruption in her own turf.

Dangerous proposal

Why is it that everytime there’s a spike in cases of violence against journalists, lawyers, judges and, of late, priests, the usual knee-jerk reaction is to call on the government to allow them to carry guns so they can defend themselves?

Joint oil exploration in West Philippine Sea is legal

When President Duterte traveled to Hainan, China, in April to attend the Boao for Asia Forum, he and President Xi Jinping agreed during a bilateral meeting to pursue cooperation in offshore oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea. This agreement in Hainan followed an earlier meeting between Filipino and Chinese officials in Manila, where they agreed to pursue confidence-building measures, such as joint initiatives in the disputed waters, including oil and gas exploration and marine scientific research.

Imperiled airport project

THE modernization of Naga Airport in the town of Pili, Camarines Sur, is among the infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration’s centerpiece “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program. But the unexpected strong opposition of Rep. Rolando G. Andaya Jr. of the First District of Camarines Sur to the project dashed the hopes of CamSur folk and the business sector in the Bicol region, who expected their airport to get a much-needed upgrade. Andaya is a stalwart of the administration party, PDP-Laban, in Bicolandia and former budget secretary under the Arroyo administration. 

A stab in the back of Philippine democracy

The recent ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno by eight members of the Supreme Court (SC), six of whom should have inhibited themselves from the quo warranto proceedings but chose to act as witness, prosecutor, judge and virtual executioner all rolled into one out of seemingly personal spite, is an act of treachery that should not go unredressed.

Another step closer to dictatorship

IT may not be entirely accurate to describe it as sounding the death knell for Philippine democracy, but the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno by the Supreme Court through a quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, instead of through an impeachment trial, in the Senate shows very clearly that we’re lurching dangerously close to authoritarianism.

China’s economy keeps growth path

IN his latest visit to China to take part in the Boao Forum for Asia last month, President Duterte had the chance to meet again with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who pointed out: “China-Philippines relations have experienced ‘turnaround’ to ‘consolidation’ in the past two years, ascending two steps in succession. The task of this year should be ‘improvement’ of the relationship.”

Are critics telling the truth about Teo?

Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo recently found herself at the receiving end of a broadside from critics apparently unhappy with her success in pushing the closure and rehabilitation of Boracay Island and the continued increase in tourist arrivals in the Philippines.

When the janitor didn’t show up, this official did the unthinkable

An Ilocos Norte politico wanted to give the incumbent governor a shaming in what he considers as his turf, the House of Representatives. He even went to the extent of incarcerating six Ilocos Norte government workers in a futile try at crucifying Gov. Imee R. Marcos for using the so-called tobacco funds for procurement of needed equipment and vehicles for tobacco producers.

We must uphold the rule of law

We’re glad that last week, the Supreme Court ordered Solicitor General Jose C. Calida to deliver on his promise to submit the Philippine National Police (PNP) investigation reports on the killing of more than 4,000 drug suspects in President Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.

Federalism is a system of government

IN the ongoing debate on what type of government is better suited for the country, many people interchangeably use the terms “federal form of government” and “federal system of government” to refer to what should be the alternative to the current unitary system.

Back to PPP?

The Duterte administration pushed for the prompt passage of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill last year to raise more revenues to fund infrastructure and other vital programs.

The fall of two casino moguls

Once upon a time, casino moguls Kazuo Okada and Steve Wynn were formidable business partners. It was Kazuo Okada who saved Steve Wynn when he invested $260 million to build the foundation of the current Wynn Resorts in the year 2000, after Wynn was ousted from Mirage Resorts Inc. in a hostile takeover.

Gordon should unmask big pharma lackey in FDA

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Sen. Richard J. Gordon should take a close look at reports that the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) may have caught the “mole” within the agency being used by big pharmaceutical interests to advance their agenda and short-circuit the regulatory process.

TRAIN leaks

No less than Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III has ordered the Internal Revenue (BIR) and Customs (BOC) bureaus as early as September last year to intensify the campaign against smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes in the wake of multibillion tax-evasion charges filed against a local industry player.

Martial-law extension

AS expected, opposition lawmakers led by Rep. Edcel C. Lagman of the First District of Albay have filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to nullify the one-year extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

Not so fast, please

While Congress strongly supports President Duterte’s socioeconomic program, it is also the same institution that could pave the way for the administration’s failure to deliver on its promises. This is clearly shown in the way the House of Representatives ratified the bicameral version of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) program.

Partisan politics could derail economic growth

The Philippine economy is doing well as its growth prospects for this year remain within target. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) sees a 6.6-percent GDP growth for 2017 based on what it said are continued robust domestic demand driven by investments and consumption, and fiscal policy supportive of growth. While the multilateral lender has lowered its 2018 growth projection for the Philippines to 6.7 percent, from 6.8 percent, it has emphasized that this still “remains one of the fastest growth rates in Asia.”

Something is rotten in the state of the fund

“Enterprising” officials of the pension agency for government workers have hatched a scheme to rake in a few millions of pesos in the purchase of an insurance treaty from a reputable international insurance or reinsurance provider. The practice is meant to safeguard and earn from the insurance treaty duties to the country and pensioners.

For some, ‘sweet tax’ leaves sour aftertaste

The Duterte administration has been pushing for the passage of its comprehensive tax reform package (CTRP) aimed at raising more revenues for its various infrastructure and social-development programs. But the CTRP also includes a provision raising taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), including soft drinks and powdered juices, that’s generating concern, not only from a broad range of people—sugarcane farmers, employees of food and beverage manufacturers, owners of sari-sari stores and small eateries and ordinary consumers—who all consider it insensitive, as it would hurt them the most. All in all, if passed, the bill would adversely affect an estimated more than 1 million Filipinos nationwide.

Pivot to Russia 

We basically kept our distance from the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War era from the 1950s up to its disintegration in 1991, as we focused on our “special relations” with the United States. From 1991 to 2016, we maintained nominal diplomatic and economic ties with Russia but, on the whole, we still cold-shouldered the Russians, fixated as we were with keeping our friendship with the Americans and their allies in Western Europe.

Warning to FDA chief

The new head of the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) should be advised by the people around her to exercise greater prudence and caution. Otherwise, the number of her enemies may keep growing and take a toll on her and the FDA at some point in time.

Red-hot House

IF there are clear winners in the latest surveys by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia, says the ruling political party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP), they’re none other than their two top leaders: President Duterte, the party chairman; and Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III, party president, who both enjoy high trust and satisfaction ratings from the public.

FDA head’s baptism of fire

The new head of the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), Director General Nela Charade G. Puno, should be warned that she and her agency may be caught in the crossfire as warring business and political interests bring the fight to her territory.

Maynilad seeks water-rate adjustment

With the recent Quezon City Regional Trial Court’s (RTC) decision favoring the enforcement of the Singapore-based International Commercial Court’s (ICC)  award to Maynilad, the water concessionaire is hopeful that Malacañang would finally protect the Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) from the mistakes of the past administration and save it from the series of legal debacles simply by  honoring the court ruling.

Cruel CHR budget cut

I’m totally dismayed by the move of Congress to reduce the 2018 budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) from P623.38 million to a mere P1,000, thus practically abolishing this constitutional body tasked with protecting our civil and political rights.

History will be the final judge

PRESIDENT Duterte declared on Monday, September 11, as a holiday in Ilocos Norte to allow the province to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, despite howls of protest from those who said they suffered human-rights violations during the period of martial law.

Premixed cement cartel ready for delivery?

When the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) issued earlier this year an administrative order requiring pure-cement importers to obtain an Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) on top of the Product Safety mark but exempting the big cement manufacturers-cum-importers, they probably did not anticipate that this would kick up a firestorm of protests from the small importers, who are now fighting for their very survival, amid the dire prospect of being pushed out of the industry by the giants.

Let CHR do its job

IN a news conference after his second State of the Nation Address on June 24, President Duterte unleashed another tirade against the Commission on Human Rights (CHR): “Iyong CHR…you are better abolished. I will not allow my men to go there to be investigated.”

Small cement importers want level playing field

The scuttlebutt in business circles is that an undersecretary at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) now faces a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman filed by a subordinate over the issuance of a department administrative order (DAO) that’s seen to give undue advantage to the giant cement manufacturers-importers at the expense of small importers.

Port tariff hike faces stiff opposition

The recent approval by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA)  of a petition by Manila North Harbour Port Inc. (MNHPI) for a 24-percent increase in the cargo-handling tariff in the facility doesn’t sit well at all with shipping firms, as well as a coalition of consumers and commuters.

‘Frequency hoarding’

It was a move earlier described to possess surgical precision and haste. On May 30, 2016, or a month before President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office, the PLDT Group and Globe Telecom jointly announced they would acquire the telecommunications assets of food giant San Miguel Corp. (SMC) in a megadeal perceived to strengthen the duopoly of the two telecoms behemoths.

Customs storage scheme comes under fire

PORT stakeholders are up in arms over the plan of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to put up temporary storage facilities for “overstaying or abandoned” goods. This, they said, could provide fertile ground for corruption and result in higher prices of consumer goods in the long term.

China’s ‘New Silk Road’ up close

In August last year a top Chinese economist, Zhang Yuyan, director  of the Institute of World Economy and Politics of the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, delivered a lecture at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) in Makati City, during a forum on “The Role of  China in Global Economic Affairs”.

Where will mining trust fund go?

Environment Secretary-designate Regina Paz L. Lopez wants to take a direct hand in how mining companies will use their social development and management program (SDMP) funds, as she intends to make the industry benefit more people “far beyond their host communities”.

Up in arms

Earlier this month the urban-poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) deviated from its standard practice of organizing rallies in the usual sites—Mendiola, among others—and adopted a more daring protest tactic: occupying still-unfinished government housing projects, at first, in two towns in Bulacan and, lately, in Rodriguez, Rizal.

Coming soon: Faster travel to Central Luzon 

There’s good news for those who regularly use the North Luzon Expressway (Nlex) to get to destinations in Central and Northern Luzon. We’re talking about the plan of the Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC), the Nlex concessionaire, to build 64 new lanes in Bulacan and Pampanga.

Bridge to progress

The aggressive infrastructure program of the Duterte administration is off to another good start with last week’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEx).

Mining stalwart speaks up

AT the recent Saturday Forum@Annabel’s, we tackled the mining issue in the wake of the order of Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez to shut down 23 mining firms and suspend five others, and to cancel more than 70 mineral processing sharing agreements (MPSAs) for alleged violations of environmental laws.

Mining firm airs its side

Last week Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez announced that she had canceled 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) because these are located in watershed areas.

Breakdown in peace process

ernesto-m-hilarioI’m not surprised at all that the peace talks between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) has been terminated by President Duterte.

Power industry backs ERC reforms

ernesto-m-hilarioPower-industry insiders decry what they call a misperception now hounding their sector. The misperception, they pointed out, is that power-sector players are out to block the reforms being pushed by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) under the leadership of Chairman Jose Vicente B. Salazar.

Fake news

ernesto-m-hilarioWE reported the other week about the fake news that Smart Communications will have to stop operations in March this year because Congress will not extend its original 25-year franchise issued in 1992 for another 25 years, ostensibly because it failed to offer at least 30 percent of its shares of stock to the public, as required under the Public Telecommunications Policy Act of 1995 law and its own legislative franchise.

Crooked paths

ernesto-m-hilarioIf the Philippines has earned an unsavory reputation as the third- most corrupt country in the world, it is not undeserved. After all, corruption seems to be taking place everywhere—especially at the immigration, customs and internal revenue bureaus, even at the Land Transportation Office and Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board, two attached agencies of the Department of Transportation—that President Duterte has reiterated his policy of zero tolerance for monkey business in the bureaucracy.

Subic surges forward

ernesto-m-hilarioSUBIC Bay Freeport, the former American naval base facing the South China Sea, is poised to enhance its position as a vital hub of foreign investments in Central Luzon and as a viable alternative to the Port of Manila with a cluster of infrastructure projects up for implementation.

Six months on, Duterte digs in

ernesto-m-hilarioTHE nearly six-month-old Duterte administration insists there is a covert attempt by opposition forces to destabilize it and oust it from office, using the recent Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and alleged human-rights violations in the ongoing war on drugs as a convenient platform to do so. The Liberal Party (LP) has denied it is behind any destabilization conspiracy. Nevertheless, Duterte supporters are circling the wagons to protect the administration from what they describe as “sinister plots”.

Peace process should be inclusive

ernesto-m-hilarioWhile in the thick of the political campaign for the May 2016 presidential elections, then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte clearly laid down his intention to pursue political negotiations with all the major rebel groups so that peace would reign throughout the country.

Dangerous fireworks  

ernesto-m-hilarioThe public is treated every January to a spectacular international fireworks festival held at the Mall of Asia Complex. For the whole competition, it is estimated that a single container is enough to bring in all the fireworks from abroad. But local fireworks manufacturers claim that around 150 40-footer container vans containing firecrackers have already entered the country. The Bureau of Customs should look into this because imported fireworks are said to be the same kind that leads to many injuries every New Year’s Eve celebration.

P600 million down the drain

ernesto-m-hilarioThe Supreme Court may not be aware of it, but the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued in August by its Second Division against contraceptive drugs and devices could render useless up to P600 million worth of these drugs and devices already purchased by the Department of Health.

SC ruling on RH law puts women at risk

ernesto-m-hilarioThe Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (Republic Act 10354), also known as the RH law, guarantees universal access to methods on contraception, fertility control, sex education and maternal care. It requires government health centers to provide condoms and birth-control pills for free, as well as for public-health workers to undergo family- planning training.

Can Misuari help in the Mindanao peace process?

ernesto-m-hilarioWE welcomed the comprehensive 1996 peace agreement between the Ramos administration and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), headed by Nur Misuari that eventually led to his taking the role of governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. But we know that this agreement did not lead to peace in Mindanao, as the MNLF’s breakaway group, the Moro Islamic Liberation  Front (MILF), continued to fight the government.

Tollway row should be resolved soon

ernesto-m-hilarioMOTORISTS taking the North Luzon Expressway (Nlex) and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) in the north and the Cavite Expressway (Cavitex) in the south experience smooth and comfortable rides as a result of regular maintenance work and road improvements done by the toll operators. They take these measures for granted and forget that the maintenance and upkeep of the expressways are done at big expense for the operators to ensure seamless travel on the road at all times.  

Feeble FOI is unacceptable

ernesto-m-hilarioTRUE to his campaign pledge to push the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill past the legislative mill, President Duterte even jumped the gun on lawmakers by issuing an executive order (EO) to this effect, but covering only the Executive branch of government. This was among his first official acts after assuming office on June 30.

Will the cease-fire hold?

ernesto-m-hilarioThe good news is that, for the first time in many years, there have been no reports of armed clashes between the military and communist rebels belonging to the New People’s Army (NPA), as the temporary cease-fire separately declared by the government and the National Democratic Front at the resumption of peace talks in late August appears to be holding.

Will telco deal now push through?

ernesto-m-hilarioWhen the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) announced a few months ago its approval of the P70-billion joint buyout of San Miguel Corp.’s (SMC) telecom assets, including the coveted 700-megahertz (MHz) band, by PLDT’s Smart Communications and Globe Telecom, Internet users and mobile-phone owners were overjoyed by the prospect of much faster Internet or broadband services coming their way soon.

New House Speaker hits the ground running

ernesto-m-hilarioEven before the 17th Congress had to officially convene and before President Duterte can deliver his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, Rep. Pantaleon D. Alvarez of Davao del Norte was chosen by his fellow lawmakers as the new speaker of the House of Representatives. In fact, Alvarez, who is said to enjoy the full trust and confidence of President Duterte, was already hard at work.

Higher electricity rates in the horizon?

ernesto-m-hilarioLike other electricity consumers, you don’t want to pay more than you should every month. But it appears that the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), the government agency mandated to encourage competition and more investments  in the power sector so that electricity consumers will enjoy lower rates, is doing just the opposite with its issuance of several controversial resolutions on Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA) in the electricity market.

Faster, cheaper Internet

ernesto-m-hilarioConsider the numbers: The Philippines has an average household download speed of 3.64 megabytes per second (Mbps), thus, putting it 176th among 202 countries in last year’s survey by the Internet metrics provider Ookla. This is eight times slower than the global average broadband download speed of 23.3 Mbps.