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‘Close Ranks’ By Jun Ledesma

LETTERS FROM DAVAO: ‘Close Ranks’ By Jun Ledesma

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE has been shedding off the unwanted barnacles in his flagship. They have added to the heavy burden of the President who has been navigating our country away from the rough seas of corruption, ineptness and crime. We have finally anchored in solid grounds. It has been a rough sail with the ocean littered by sharks and crocodiles. Duterte never wavered but sadly some of his subalterns slept it through while others pick up pearls along the way.

I seldom indulge in metaphorical writing but how else can one describe what happened last week when one after the other changes took place in the Cabinet and other functionaries. Expect that as the second year of Duterte’s administration is about to end there will be more characters in the government that will be jettisoned.

Expect too that on account of the recent developments, there will be more crabs and crablets who will continue with their attempt to bring down this adminstration. Those who had passed the test and survived the rough seas should close ranks and be extra-vigilant with modern-day Machiavellians from in and out, mostly out, of the government. With the reforms being instituted by President Duterte we see the hands of the economic oligarchs with their marrionettes in the Church along with the vestigial elements of the past administration that are still very much around us actively using their wealth and influence to diminish the credibility of Duterte and busy demonising and destabilising the government.

Some very difficult decisions have to be made and these do not augur well to the interest of those who are in control of industries. They will not stop at impeding and delying plans and projects as these will impact on their economic interests.

Classic example here is in the area of power generation. Reviving the mothballed nuclear power plant has become imperative. The mega-projects of the Duterte administration will certainly be accomplished but these will never go full throttle without sufficient power. Questions had been raised why foreign investors skip the Philippines for other Asian countries. The answer is not only in the inadeaquacy of power supply but we also have the highest cost of energy in Asia. DOE Al Cusi I understand had been given the green signal by the President Duterte to revive Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. The business sector is rejoicing but some are not.

There will always be kibitzers who speak for vested interest who will warn about the political and environmental impact of the project. This despite the declaration of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology that the ground where the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is located is safe. Expect this opposition to happen because the reduction of power cost especially in Luzon and Metro Manila will impact on the present power suppliers. Unmasking the identity of the controlling owners of power producers would also tell us that majority of them belong to the cabal that oils the anti-Duterte campaign.

The business of power generation and management of government assets under DOE is of very sensitive importance I will not be surprised if Secretary Cusi and Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) President Ruben Lista are constantly subject to malicious and unkind attacks and a bevy of temptations. It is noteworthy however that these two are made of sterner stuff.

Lista for example had been harassed with corruption complaint filed by no other that the big boss of Petron Ramon Ang. The oil mogul maligned Lista by questioning where his money came from. The PNOC President who is a retired Admiral of the Philippine Coast Guard is definitely not a pushover. Reading through his credentials, he is definitely earned his keep. Unlike Ang, the anointed man of Danding Cojuangco, Lista’s family has been running lucrative businesses and being an Ilocano, the man is incorrigibly a penny-pincher whose only expensive predilection, I gathered from his intimate friends, is wine. Anyway, I found out that Lista wanted to renegotiate the terms and conditions of the rentals of PNOC properties and assets which are soon to lapse. The man simply wants to bring the levels of lease from an unconscionably low rate to what is reasonable in today’s terms and condition.  The poor guy merely wants the government to earn and raise more money for this government. Ang picked on the wrong men – Cusi and Lista.

The other crack in the Cabinet where interlopers are bound to hammer a wedge is in the National Food Authority. I still think that NFA should be under the watch of the Department of Agriculture. The delicate strategy of how to balance imports and local palay production can only be achieved when the decision maker knows the statistics of production output and the supply demand. NFA had been mongrelized in that within the agency one wise guy wants to upstage the other. Sec. Manny Pinol and Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco should close ranks. By now the DA has an informed estimate as to the total harvests in rain-fed and irrigated areas. If the DA’s field officers are up to their job, they should be able to provide Secretary Pinol an educated estimate on a 90-day period when palay is ripe for harvest. Sixty days from planting, DA field technicians should be able to come out with workable estimates. The data should be turned over to NFA as basis whether to import or not.

I reckon that NFA is waiting for the problem of insufficiency of rice to surface before it scrambles to buy. This will create a complicated problem. NFA will be forced to buy from the spot market and therefore will be more expensive and delivery of imports and distribution will be nightmarish.

NFA is losing its pertinence to the farmers and consumers. It has lost its palay purchasing and processing (milling) power and is more concerned with importing rice instead which is not its core mandate. They should construct more silos in their bodegas an exigency which both NFA and DA had thrown aside. Surely this is not the time to argue for this is a good time as any to help the Duterte government steer us to the “best of all possible worlds”. (Jun Ledesma)

 

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