There seems to be no end to the debates over the proposed merger of the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines, with officers and personnel of the DBP also continuing their protests.
The DBP believes that with the merger, and with LBP as the surviving bank, it will be the DBP that will suffer retrenchment.
I have written the pros and cons of the proposed merger with the proposed merger having more cons, since it will create a huge retrenchment at the expense of the DBP.
Another con is the proposed merger will create such a behemoth financial institution for the government that could well impact against the private sector banking system with thousands of branches at almost every nook and corner of the country as a result of the merger.
Santa Banana, I also believe there’s some kind of conflict of interest on the part of Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno who is the main proponent of the merger since Diokno is the ex-officio chairman of the LBP.
Let’s rewind a bit and note that the law that created LBP mandated it to provide assistance to the agriculture sector.
On the other hand, my gulay, the law that created the DBP mandated it to provide assistance to the industrial sector.
Recall that the DBP used to be the Rehabilitation Financing Corp., created after the war to provide assistance for the rehabilitation of the Philippines.
With the merger, Santa Banana, what government bank will provide assistance to the industries?
With the creation of a behemoth financial institution with the merger of the LBP and DBP, I see no benefit at all for the government.
That, to me, is the strongest argument against the merger.
This and aside from the fact that since both the LBP and the DBP were created by separate laws by Congress, the proposed merger simply cannot be done by an executive order.
From my point of view, this is where the danger lies, Santa Banana, on the proposed merger simply by an executive order.
I can almost predict that some legislators will oppose the merger by President Marcos Jr. merely issuing an executive order.
Diokno predicts that the merger will be finished by the end of the year. I doubt it.
Malampaya contract extended 15 years
The extension of 15 years by President Marcos Jr. of Service Contract 38 to a new consortium replacing Shell and Caltex in the exploration of gas to power at Malampaya off Palawan is expected to guarantee energy to the Philippines, especially Luzon – a step in the right direction.
The new consortium given the 15-year extension are Ricky Razon’s Prime Energy Resources Development B.V, UC38 LLC of the Udenna Group of Dennis Uy of Davao City, and the state-run Philippine National Oil-Exploration Corp (PNOC).
The Malampaya project is a deep well gas power plant providing 20 percent of Luzon’s energy needs.
Through the project, the government was able to generate P374 billion revenue, P26 billion of which was earned in 2022 alone.
Records show the past consortium of Shell, Caltex and the PNOC has been remitting 60 percent of the proceeds from petroleum operations to the government.
The consortium has remitted more than US$13.14 billion to the government from October 2001 to December 2022.
It is now all up to the Department of Energy how the new consortium will perform.
In a statement, the DOE said under Service Contact 38 the consortium is required to continue production operations, as well as to conduct a minimum work program consisting of geological and geophysical studies and the drilling of at least two deep water wells during the sub-phase 1 from 2024 to 2029.
The problem, however, is, how far can the remaining gas system go since studies have shown the remaining deep water-gas reserve may not be enough to last 15 years.
And that’s for the DOE to study and confirm.
BBM would not have extended the project for another 15 years if he had not been advised by the DOE that the remaining gas reserves are adequate.
But, what is disturbing is the latest word from DOE Secretary Raphael Lotilla that the remaining gas reserves may not last long.
If that is true, BBM could fire the energy secretary, which in effect could make Marcos Jr. a big liar.
Return to masking
With some local government units (LGUs) reimposing the mask mandate following the surge of COVID-19 cases brought about by the Omicron sub variant XBB.1.16 Arcturus, a subvariant which is highly transmissible, health experts say there’s need for the Department of Health to reimpose a nationwide mask mandate.
The Mayor of Manila Honey Lacuna had required the masking mandate at the Manila City Hall, and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong had all Baguio City residents and visitors also wearing masks indoors and outdoors.
There had been reports that the uptick of COVID-19 cases had occurred in many provinces and cities, particularly in the National Capital Region and in Metro Manila.
The positivity rate in fact hit more than 25 percent requiring hospitals to reopen their COVID-19 wards.
While the DOH and health experts said the surge of COVID-19 cases may not be as alarming as it was in the past.
But it would do well for the DOH to warn LGUs that there is need for caution, and there’s need for the elderly and those with illnesses to be cautioned.
My wife and I, since we are very elderly and susceptible to the COVID-19 transmission, always wear masks when out of our house, both. indoors and outdoors.
Somebody asked me if there’s a need for all these precautions, after the World Health Organization lifted its Public Health Emergency of International Concern for COVID-19.
As I have been saying all along, experts say while the WHO ended the global emergency status for COVID-19, in the Philippines the DOH should warn the public that COVID-19 is here to stay, like the flu, pneumonia, TB, cholera, dengue and other known illness.
It’s always best for the people to be cautious.
The surge and uptick of COVID-19 cases may not be alarming as in the past, but caution is needed.
It would do well for Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco to realize that the success of any tourism plan or program does not depend entirely on slogans or high-sounding plans.
Any tourism secretary must realize that marketing is first and foremost in any tourism program, and marketing can only succeed in the ability of the tourism department to sell the country.
Marketing includes advertising the Philippines all over the world, particularly over television, like CNN.
Advertising is one, selling the country abroad is another, which requires the tourism secretary to go abroad to sell the country and this needs funding.
And that’s the reason why there must be separate funding of the tourism department just to sell the country abroad.
What I am saying is the tourism secretary must travel abroad and conduct sales blitzes. A tourism secretary must be a salesman and sell the country.
Secretary Frasco must also solicit the help of the foreign affairs department to help in advertising the tourist spots of the country , with brochures and posters to enable foreign tourists to realize where they must go when they travel abroad.
Most importantly, the DOT secretary herself must engage in missions abroad accompanied by the country’s beauty queens to advertise the Philippines as a country of beautiful women.
In other words, to attract foreign tourists, there is no substitute to “selling” the country to make foreign tourists see and experience what the Philippines is — a country not only with unparalleled hospitality but a “beautiful country.”