Ain’t No Golds In The Pyramids

During one of my college days, I was contacted by someone who identified herself as a businesswoman and offers me to join a seminar regarding a new business opportunity that I might interest me.i didn’t know how that woman got my number, and suspicion was pushed aside by excitement. Eager to earn money and naivety attributes, I agreed to attend – at least just to see what was going on. I was psyched and excited because for the first time I get to become part (I thought) of something big, and eager more to be called a businessman myself.

The “business meeting” was held in a building in Makati’s financial district, and at an unusual schedule – it started 8 in the evening and it went painfully long that night. A man in a sleek suit came in front of his audience and began boasting his accumulation of wealth so short a time during his service with the business organization. He definitely talks a lot, but little did he explain much about the nature of the products they offer and their organizational structure is not clear. All he talked about, all his keywords, is just “make big money fast”.

Here are some of his keywords and catchphrases:

  • “Make money fast”
  • “I was able to buy my own car in a period of six months…”
  • “Your money’s growth is proportional to the numbers of people you can persuade to join us…”
  • “Admit to yourself that you are greedy…”
  • “Live in luxury while your money works for you…”
  • “Invest… just invest…”

All I have to do, they said, is to invest and create a vast portfolio of contacts and sure as hell my money that time will multiply ten folds in just six months. Amazed, I asked further about the product I am to offer if ever, indeed, I invest. It was a “machine” with that laser or something that was “the answer to all sickness”. All there was to do, they say, was simply to place the patient’s palm in front of the laser beam and the illness will be identified and given medication recommendations in an instant.

Well, I’m not a science geek, and my understanding in science and technology, particularly in particle physics, is not very deep. But I’m not stupid enough to believe that there are such machines like they are offering. Dismayed and a little bit dumbfounded, I politely turned down all their offer and refused to give them any contact information of my friends.

Welcome, my friend, to world of pyramiding scams! A place filled with empty promises and guaranteed risks.

If I was not wise enough and gave in to what they’re saying, I would have shelled out my life’s saving in hopes to gain big time only to learn later that it was a sham, and probably dragged someone else to my own fate.

They will promise you great returns but at the same time not telling you much about their line of trade and focused only on accumulating wealth. Plus, many other people would attend the so-called meeting. But the truth is, many of them are accomplices acting to be participants. And they are rehearsed to applause everything the speaker would say. And they will depict themselves to be in total agreement to the speaker. In short their job is to create an atmosphere of exaggerated optimism. And it is funny because they are strategically placed between the innocent prospective investors. They are playing with your psychology as well.

The best thing when you encounter something like this is to be wise. Never let your guards down. Watch out for red flags that would indicate their falseness. It just takes a common sense to do so. Make quick mental calculations: to multiply your current investment in such an overstated rate is out of this world. It’s far from reality as real investments take time and industrious undertakings. Even if you could have a good portfolio in the stock market, it still takes time before you could enjoy big earnings. And do not let yourself be taken by those “wonder machines” produces miracles as their main products. Teach yourself to be intelligent. If you really want to go into a business, make one that is in line with interests and skills.

A great day to all the Filipinos around the globe! Stay sharp always!

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KUWENTONG MASALIMUOT

A laborer by the Sunset. Photo by Christopher Barja
A laborer by the Sunset. Photo by Christopher Barja

KUWENTONG MASALIMUOT

Akda ni Christopher Barja

 

Heto na naman si Boy Kulot

Katinuan ng pag-iisip sa kanya’y pinagdamot

Pinandidirihan, madungis at mabantot

Walang habas kung siya’y umutot

 

Pagkakamaling bunga ng harot

Sa mata ng ama’y siya’y ‘sang salot

Sa kanyang amang puno ng puot

Dulot sa kanya’y bugbog at takot

 

Sa isang matinding sigalot

Sa kanyang kamay kutsilyo’y naabot

Sa isang kumpas, kamatayan ang dulot

Sa ospital, kanyang ama’y ‘di na umabot

 

Dala marahil ng matinding lungkot

Sarili’y pilit ibinaon sa limot

Mundong malupit at masalimuot

Para sa kanya’y tumigil sa pag-ikot

 

Naging palaboy sa kalyeng pasikot-sikot

Pag-asa’t pangarap sa kanya’y nasimhot

Sa problema niya’y solvent ang naging sagot

Ngunit sa realidad siya’y walang lusot

 

Tadhana sa kanya’y naging maramot

Laman ng tiyan ay basura dinadampot

Matinong damit ay walang maisuot

Sa malubhang karamdama’y  walang gamot

 

Isang araw, si Boy Kulot

Sa bangketa’y nakabaluktot

Sa dyaryo siya’y nakabalot

Miserableng buhay ay maagang naudlot.

 

Nuclearizing Philippines – The State’s Pursuit of Atomic Prowess

Mothballed. The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was left to rot.
Mothballed. The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was left to rot.

(Revised and updated, first published in November 2007)

In response with the looming nationwide energy crisis, the Philippine Government, under the Benigno Aquino III’s administration, is once again considering the idea of constructing another nuclear power plant somewhere in the country. Aside from the reason of securing adequate supply of energy, it is also due to provide cheaper alternative source of power compared to the conventional, fossil-fuel-burning source.

Why should we be concerned?

During the 2004 national election, re-election candidate Senator Juan Ponce Enrile stressed out that electric consumers are paying extra charges for the produced surplus power and even for non-operating independent power producers (indicated in the Meralco bill then as “Power Purchase Adjustments”). It was discovered that many privately owned power plants were generating but continuously earning from “energy sales”. The excess of power producers over the needed output was a result of former President Fidel V. Ramos’s measures to secure adequate energy supply.

The research and construction for another nuclear power plant would cost billions worth of taxes collected from every Filipino citizen. It is therefore imperative that people know how public funds would be used for such project; or better still if it is worth the investment. This nuclear ambition might lessen our oil dependency and might cheapen the energy. Or might do the otherwise.

Looking back in 1974, late president Ferdinand Marcos decided to push the go signal to construct a nuclear power plant in Bataan. The move was an attempt to reduce heavy oil dependency on power generation as by then the oil price started soaring high, and to resort to much cheaper alternative. Contracting the company Westinghouse for the construction of the plant, the Government of the Philippines incurred debt of a staggering contract price of US$2.3 billion.

Upon the completion of its construction, after being discovered it has numerous defects and was welcomed by massive pro-environmental protests, the Bataan Nuclear Power plant was mothballed. Aside from this, Westinghouse was investigated for alleged overpricing and bribing government officials to win the bid for the project. However, the company never got it into court. Westinghouse got the guarantees of being paid and worse, the Bataan NPP never produced a single watt for public consumption. For thirty years, the Filipino people paid paid for something of no benefit for them. The debt plus interest was paid off completely in April of 2007.

Also, factors regarding environment and health hazards have prevented the plant’s operation. The fact that the Philippines lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire makes the country prone to earthquakes. A nuclear power plant needs to situated on a very stable area. Tremors on the ground might otherwise compromise the concrete pressure vessel that houses the reactor, thus releasing radioactive contaminants into the air.

Advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power

As mentioned, nuclear energy is relatively cheap compared to that derived from conventional oil or coal-fired plants. Uranium, a nuclear fuel, can yield power several million times higher as of those of conventional sources. It was also once dubbed as an “infinite artificial energy source”. A single reactor could produce several hundreds of megawatts of power. Nuclear fuels, unlike fossil fuels, don’t get easily depleted, though rare by contrast. And unlike other energy sources, e.g. geothermal, hydroelectric dams, and wind, nuclear fuels are more mobile and controllable. At 100% efficiency, though it is unlikely to achieve this rate, a single kilogram of uranium fuel can produce as much electricity as almost 20 tons of coal fuel could.

However, environmentalists are raising questions over the use of nuclear power. Although a nuclear power plant releases far less greenhouse gases, radioactive by-products are created and emitted by fission reaction. Another issue is on how to dispose radioactive wastes derived from materials used in the reactor. In fact, some countries in Europe such as Germany are already seriously considering phasing out nuclear energy as power source in the not-so-distant future, and to resort to other safer alternatives. And it was even rumored that aside from Zambales, the Americans were secretly dumping their nuclear wastes in the Philippine Deep during the time they still has their naval base in Subic.

Safety is another issue to be considered. With the memories of Chernobyl accident in April 26, 1986, in Ukraine, where its reactor exploded, causing radioactive fallout in wide area, and then yet again the incident of almost meltdown of Fukushima nuclear power plant, one can easily sympathize most people’s condemnation against the use of nuclear energy for commercial purposes.

Renewable alternatives

Solar Power. There is a real infinite source of power where a nuclear reaction naturally and constantly takes place – our own Sun, that is. Solar radiation can be captured and magnified by concave mirrors to produce steam to turn turbines for electricity production. Or solar radiation can be chemically turned into electric current by means of photovoltaic or solar cells. However, a plant of this type could be very costly.

Wind Farm In Bangui, Ilocos Norte. Photo courtesy of certifiedgala.tumblr.com.
Wind Farm In Bangui, Ilocos Norte. Photo courtesy of certifiedgala.tumblr.com.

Wind Power. Instead of using thermal energy for power production, the force of the wind can turn the sails of the wind turbines for generation. An array of giant windmills along the shorelines of Bangui, Ilocos Norte, is already in operation. No greenhouse gas emissions and, at least for some, they are cute and quite a landmark to behold.

As catalyst

Having back commercial-scale nuclear technology can aide in providing higher degree of education for Filipinos.
Having back commercial-scale nuclear technology can aide in providing higher degree of education for Filipinos.

On the bright side, having back nuclear technology of this scale in the country could boost the morale of young Filipino minds to gain more interest in physical science.

 

Should The Philippines Back Off From The Scarborough Shoal Issue?

The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar. Photo courtesy of Inquirer.net.

The Republic of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China are once again locked in a standoff in the issue of a disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea.

It is true that the Philippines is not ready to enter into a full-blown armed conflict with another country – especially not against China.

The Philippines in definitely not in a proper economic stand-point to wage such a costly undertaking. Large amount of economic resources must be allocated to the would-be battlefield – men, ammunitions, fuels, food and medical supplies, etc.; we just don’t have such amount of resources.

The Philippine Air Foce has a handful of these aging F-5s. Photo courtesy of acig.com.

The Philippine military is also not in a proper shape to engage in to a head-on coalition against the military giant China. So to speak, our naval assets are absolutely outdated compared to the naval assets China might deploy.

Supposedly, the Philippine’s first line of defense is the very edge of our exclusive economic zones. Our country is an archipelago surrounded by waters. Our borderlines lie on the seas.

As a country surrounded by waters, it is also imperative that we have a sufficient air assets that will patrol our territorial waters, and if necessary, to protect our country from any threats that coming from outside our border.

To sum it up, we don’t have sufficient air defense to protect out territorial waters and airspace. At least just for deterrence purposes. Practically speaking, what can a handful of F-5s of the Philippine Air Force do against hundreds of China’s MiGs and Sukhois?

The Philippine Air Force Plans to Purchase one of these Swedish SAAB JAS-39.

Our military is just too ill-equipped to properly deal with military assets China might dish out. Too obsolete, too underpowered. We would be better off if we were wage guerilla warfare in case the Chinese forces conduct an amphibious assault on our mainland. But that would be very unlikely as it is already a far-fetched conclusion.

But if a major war were to break out in the West Philippine Sea, China will definitely try to cripple our air force and navy. And then again, we don’t have sufficient defenses to stop such action.

How many high-ranking government officials we have right now that served in the military before entering into civilian public service? We have Senators Gringo Honasan, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Antonio Trillanes III. Former president Fidel Ramos was once a general in the army.

The point is that the people of this Republic have elected government officials who are supposed to know more regarding this matter. But yet during their years in office very little have been done to build up our armed forces that are supposed to act as deterrence to against threats.

The Philippine Navy. How prepared are we for a war? Photo courtesy of philippinenews.com

And only now they are coming up with the idea of upgrading our military, just in time when the imminent threat is already on the move and closing in. Too late. Just too late.

Displeasing as it sounds to most of us Filipinos and this might trigger jubilations among the Chinese people. But I think Scarborough Shoal is less of a problem that what the real problem is.

The sad truth is that our own laws have failed us and that’s the reason there is a chance that we might lose Scarborough Shoal.

The Philippine Army may be an army of obsolete materielle. But their morale is high.

I think the most sensible solution to this Scarborough Shoal problem is that Philippines should back off and let go of that rock island. China wants that rock; they have all the means to take that. Let’s face it; there was no clear provision in our constitution stating our absolute ownership of the island. Our economy is too weak to support a war.

What the Philippines is holding on to is the United Nations’ Convention of Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS. There states a provision making the Philippines claim territories within the 200 nautical miles off its continental shelf as its exclusive economic zone. But as for a written down laws on the constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, there is none. And the UNCLOS provisions just do not fit in with that claims of China.

The best way for the Philippine Government to win Scarborough Shoal is through diplomatic means. Photo courtesy of france24.com

The point is that the Philippine Laws have a lot of flaws – grave ones. And that costs us what is supposedly rightfully ours. We should address these flaws so that these kinds of mistakes may not happen again. Our politicians have failed us.

For sure we still have chance of winning the Scarborough Shoal in the International Tribunal on Laws of the Seas. Our claims are, of course, also strong. I believe in the diplomatic power of our country. But, let’s face it; we Filipinos have made a terrible mistake. China saw that. And China is currently taking advantage of that.

We Filipinos should reflect on this one. It’s time to further strengthen our laws as it is too weak for now. This should be a lesson to us all.

But then, this is just me. I may be wrong.