Time for change

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Mike Wootton

Mike Wootton

Even here in the Philippines you just cannot disdain the feelings and sentiment of the people forever. It has been going on for a long time this disdainful treatment, and Filipinos being Filipinos just put up with it. What is different now is that on the one hand those whose job it is to represent the people are seen to be stealing money which should have been used to improve the lives of everybody, and on the other the oligarchs who have a license to make unconstrained profit are lining their own pockets without any real social consciousness whatsoever. A middle class does not exist in sufficient size to be a truly stabilizing force but they are trying hard and they will probably eventually take the masa with them to protest inequality against the politicians and oligarchs, those without versus those with.

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The situation now is not like the People Power revolution of 1986 targeted at the excesses of the Marcos regime, it is now more fundamental, poor against rich, it is an anger generated by the structure of society and the distribution of wealth which is now clearly shown to be so unfairly skewed and rampantly corrupt due to simple dishonesty by those in the case of politicians at least whose role it is to be trusted.

The social structure of the Philippines needs radical change there can be no doubt about that regardless of the recent exposes of total lack of control and complicity by government in the theft of the nation’s and the people’s money. If those in power are insensitive to or heedless of this pressing need for radical change then what option is there other than the people demanding change in the only way they can which is by mass demonstration initially, and then what next . . . ?

I attended an event in Palawan on Saturday morning at which Arsenio Balicasan the head of NEDA was the guest speaker. The speech and the Q and A sessions were predictable enough but there was a notable exception to the predictability over the matter of electricity provision in the province. Many of the questions from the audience [of which there were about 200]contained an element of commentary about the local electricity cooperative contracting for expensive coal fired power at a considerably higher cost than proven available hydroelectric power. Needless to say Dr. Balicasan couldn’t comment too much on these matters. It is however a fact that the Paleco franchise area suffers many long brown outs, it is also a fact that they have contracted for much more generation capacity than they will ever need for the next 15 to 20 years and it is also a fact that they have many times been offered and refused to consider the use of hydroelectric power at considerably lower cost that the fossil fuelled power which they continue remorselessly to contract. Not so long ago nobody would have bothered to look behind the veil of secrecy under which Paleco do their business, but times have changed and people, at least some of the people are making it their business to try to lift the veil and ask pertinent questions about why Paleco do their business in a way that costs more than it should and still fails to deliver a reliable service. The questions from the people to Paleco are valid but answers are not given because Paleco obviously do not feel that they are accountable to their consumers—they treat them with disdain and repel them with either silence or the letter of whatever particular law or regulation happens to suit their purpose, in just the same way as the politicians who have been using development monies for themselves or the oligarchs who fly above it all in their helicopters would if they were available to be asked.

It is the job of the executive branch of government to resolve the unreliable and apparently socially unacceptable provision of electricity in Palawan but it would appear that they have not taken adequate timely and material action otherwise there would not be so much noise from consumers over the situation. So how are the people of Palawan to actually get what they consider to be an acceptable electricity service? The “service” provider disdains them and government does little or nothing.

Government it appears does not function as it should, it fails in its fundamental role to protect the people from each other. It does not stop the legislative branch stealing the people’s money, it does not enforce a rule of law, it does not effectively control consumer prices and it cannot even ensure that those who run a local electricity cooperative account to or even less provide their member consumers with an acceptable electricity service.

It is time for the people to be heard. They have had enough, their lives get worse while the lives of others who are supposed to be ensuring their protection [and fail to do so]are so full of unnecessary wealth that they really don’t need to care about anything much. Perhaps this is the start of the Philippines Arab Spring . . . ? Time to do something and take governing the Philippines a bit more seriously before the situation gets totally out of hand.

Mike can be contacted at mawootton@gmail.com

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