Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010

Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010
Finalist for society, politics, history blogs



Sunday, October 27, 2013



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good day to you, global citizens!

For the good news coming from Asia: the Philippines’ Campos group, majority owner of NutriAsia, just bought the Del Monte Pacific Ltd., a US-based company that has been operating a large subsidiary in the Philippines. This is a milestone event for Filipino business investments in the USA, which could be followed up by other Philippine-based conglomerates buying into other American-owned big businesses inside the USA.

This experience isn’t exactly precedent setting. Couples of years ago, the San Miguel Corporation, PH’s largest Food & Beverage conglomerate, bought the NatFood of Australia. NatFood is Australia’s biggest F&B firm by the way, so that negotiation marks a precedence to show the maturity and advanced systems of economic enterprises constituted in the Philippines.

Though it isn’t precedent-setting on a regional-global setting, it is milestone for U.S. engagements by Filipino businessmen & entrepreneurs. Since F&B companies in the Philippines have attained a maturity and advanced development, expect the purchase by other Filipino F&B giants, such as Jollibee Group, of large F&B companies owned by American business tycoons.

It may not be long when the big realty mall-makers of the Philippines will set foot in the USA. SM Group, Gokongwei Group, and Ayala Group are the top players so far, besides being recognized as among Asia’s topguns in the terrain of mall-making. Not only do these conglomerates make big malls, they also produce architectural marvels that are among the world’s top mall architectural wonders.

I would credit the maturation of the Filipino companies to good measures of corporate governance, update organizational culture, and best practices put into place across the decades. Re-engineered to pass the test of time and resilience, the same Filipino firms have become global and have invested in other regions and continents as well.

It is merely the ‘planting season’ for Filipino investments overseas as of the moment. At a certain juncture in the foreseeable future, when the pattern attains maturity, the repatriation of profits from such business concerns to the Philippines will exceed those of remittances from overseas workers. I’ve been forecasting this trend since the start of the new millennium yet, and I’m optimistic of its coming to fruition timed with the maturation of the Philippine economy to a 1st world rich economy by the latter part of next decade.

[Manila, 19 October 2013]

Campos firm buys Del Monte US for $1.7 B

 (The Philippine Star) |
 0  6 googleplus0  0
MANILA, Philippines - Del Monte Pacific Ltd. (DMPL), majority owned by the NutriAsia Group of Campos family, is buying the consumer food business of US-based Del Monte Foods (DMF) for nearly $1.7 billion.
The move will give DMPL access to the profitable US and South American markets while boosting its net sales by around $1.8 billion, the company said in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange.
The Singapore and Philippine-listed DMPL said it entered into a definitive agreement for subsidiary Del Monte Foods Consumer Products Inc. to acquire privately-owned DMF for $1.675 billion.
“This landmark transaction offers DMPL greater access to a well-established, attractive and profitable branded consumer food business in the world’s biggest market,” said DMPL chairman Rolando Gapud.
“Prior to this acquisition, the US was one of few key markets where our company did not have a direct presence nor have its own brands,” Gapud said.
Shares of DMPL in the local bourse surged to as much as P39.50 yesterday before closing 11.11 percent higher at P30 apiece from P27 on Thursday.
Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
DMF owns the Del Monte brand rights for processed food products in the US and South America. Its consumer business has a strong portfolio of leading brands, with seasoned employees, healthy cash flows and $1.8 billion in sales in the fiscal year that ended last April.
DMF owns the iconic Del Monte brand, along with Contadina, S&W and College Inn brands. The company claims to  be number one in major canned fruit and vegetable categories in th US and top two in canned tomato and broth categories.
“This leading branded market position in the canned fruit and vegetable segments provides DMPL with significant scale and reach and, the company believes, an opportunity to unlock meaningful potential synergies,” the firm said.
Under the agreement, DMPL will buy the brands and certain assets and liabilities of DMF, including equity interests in certain South American subsidiaries.
DMPL said it will finance the acquisition through a combination of $745 million of equity in the new acquisition subsidiary as well as $390 million in long-term debt financing from BDO Capital and Investment Corp. and Bank of the Philippine Islands.
“As part of the equity financing, the company plans to issue common and preferred shares in the market,” DMPL said, adding that the acquisition will be finalized not later than the first quarter next year.
Moving forward, DMPL plans to launch new product offerings to the US catering to the growing Hispanic and AsianAmerican markets.
“The company expects to generate significant value creation opportunities in the US market through the expansion of DMF’s current product offering to include beverage and culinary products,” Gapud said. 
DMF’s consumer food business is also an attractive platform to offer certain products appealing to the large Hispanic and Asian American population in the US, he added.
DMPL’s 23,000-hectare plantation in Mindanao is the world’s largest fully integrated pineapple operation with a 750,000-metric ton processing capacity. It was set up in 1926 by the US government because of the widespread pineapple disease in Hawaii.
DMPL produces, markets and distributes food, beverages and related products in the Asia-Pacific region and the Indian subcontinent, and has supply deals with Del Monte Pacific trademark owners and licensees around the world.
In the first half, DMPL’s sales gained 14 percent to $208.4 million while net income inched up two percent to $10.6 million.
DMPL’s principal shareholder NutriAsia leads the Philippine market for condiments (Datu Puti and UFC), specialty sauces (Jufran and Mang Tomas) and cooking oil (Golden Fiesta).

Monday, October 21, 2013



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Globalization has traversed a historic track that is considerably long and expansive in impact at this juncture. Curiously, certain forces are working hard to de-globalize the world, so let me raise the question: is deglobalization possible?

Before anything else, a reflection on the meaning of the ‘globalization’ term. Globalization is delimited to the integration of national economies into a seamless planet-wide borderless economy, as this was the original meaning of the term.

There are so many insurgent voices around the globe today that are agitated by their own painful experiences in the aftermath of the official effectuation of the 1994-signed treaty called the GATT-UR. That fiat was largely binding on the states that forged and signed it, binding thereof on the economic life of member nations of the World Trade Organization that the treaty created.

The core principle behind globalization is free trade which in turn is based on laissez faire doctrine. Already rotting in the dustbins of archives for some time, as an obsolete stinking doctrine, laissez faire was suddenly revived and revved up globally to forge free trade. Largely British in origin (recall the Scottish physiocrats), free trade soon caught the obsessive attention of predatory financiers and technocratic subalterns who then transformed it into a global phenomenon.

Japanese technocrats then picked up the free trade resonance and concocted the term globalization. Kenichi Ohmae is the topgun Japanese thinker of globalization, which was then copycat by other Japanese thinkers. By the 1980s, the Japanese economic diplomacy corps then convinced their Americans and Western counterparts to accept the term and build up on the core principles of global free trade in order to forge a seamless, borderless planetary economy.

I’ve writ too many articles already about the subject, and spoke in many occasions about globalization and free trade from the 1990s to the past decade. I was among the insurgent voices then, being among nationalist ideological blocs in Manila that opposed the PH Senate’s signing of the GATT-Uruguay Rounds. I kept on drumming up the threat side of globalization till last decade.

Beginning this decade though, I shifted mode to a silent observer. I witnessed the win/win impact of globalization on developing economies. Fact is, the very world powers that arm-twisted small countries to sign open up their economic borders to free trade, and later to arm-twist small nations to sign the globalization treaty, were hit so badly by depression (i.e. Great Recession), which I did forecast to happen using a long-wave Kondratieff model.

Now my very own country, the “sick man of Asia” in the years ’83 through ’86, is the ‘economic wellness’ model of Asia today. Should I still care to yield to the herd trend of insurgent voices and declare “down with globalization?”… Philippine economy had developed a ‘firewall’ against globalization’s harsh effects, and so had our neighbors in Asia, amazing grace! See how we in Ph swim along the globalization ocean?

Not only that, my very own country’s domestic economy had forged a ‘firewall’ against the damaging effects of political crises and fall-outs. I remember well, in my studies on international political economy, that Italy was among the first to build such a firewall, if my analysis serves me right, whereby its economy kept on running amidst the perpetual political squabbles in the legislature and constant changes of prime minister and cabinet composition. So the Philippines has become the “Italy of Asia” (smile!).

Well, folks out there, I am not going to advance my own answers to the ‘deglobalization thesis’ or challenge. What I can say is this: I am getting more at home with globalization today. It had even spread to other areas of life: culture, society, civil society, and so on, such as the ‘globalization of Christmas’ which I find as a very positive event.

[Manila, 14 October 2013]  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

“In the long run, we shall all be dead!” – John Maynard Keynes

Good day to you fellow global citizens!

By the year 2050, the world’s present human population will breach the 10 billion mark. That’s what the forecasts are saying so far, although it is always possible that assumptions done in the forecast may not work in the future.

At any rate, yielding a population figure that is based on zero population growth or ZPG is all wishful thinking. World population is now growing at 80 millions annually, and there is no indicating a reversal or decline of the number of babies born and survived annually (less the numbers of death).

There just aren’t enough land to treat as frontier lands anymore, sufficient to yield greater harvests. Human food production is still based largely on land cultivation, though hydroponics was already perfected in the late 1980s yet, which can considerably shift production stress away from land. So we will still be stuck up with land-based cultivation + land- based fish farming + land-based livestock production.

As studies show, the sub-Saharan (desert largely) has the potential for feeding an additional 4 billions of warm bodies. This is quite some good news so far, though it only is a palliative. Unless that population growth will taper down slowly across the coming decades, till it possibly gets nearer ZPG, the feeding problem will be a headache for humanity in the long run.

Below is a very interesting report about the feeding forecasts and problems anticipated in food production in the long run.

[Manila, 10 October 2013]

Focus on Poverty: How can we feed ten billion people?

Speed read

·         Demand for food is set to outstrip supply and there is little spare land for crops
·         But Sub-Saharan Africa has great potential to increase production
·         As well as science, inequality and consumption patterns must be considered
It will be even harder to feed the world in 2050, but African farmers could be key, says Roger Williamson.

An alarming study has found that major crop yields are increasing too slowly to meet future food demands. With the latest UN projections suggesting a world population of 9.6 billion by 2050 [1] and the population rising by more than 80 million a year — with the fastest rates in some of the most populous African countries — how will the human race feed itself?

In future, will we be talking about three to four billion people in extreme poverty rather than the current 'bottom billion'?

A recent, timely book, 10 Billion by Stephen Emmott [2], paints a bleak picture. Emmott examines technological fixes or changes in behaviour or political will as potential solutions, but says  these are likely to fail.

This conclusion must be taken seriously. A key part of his narrative is that there is simply not enough land to feed the growing population — more importantly, one with growing food needs. What's left are cities, where you buy food (not grow it); oceans, which are largely being overfished; forests; and desert. Thus there are only two real possibilities: somehow finding more land to cultivate or improving yields from existing cropland.

A video posted online earlier this month by the ReCom programme — which aims to research and communicate what works in foreign aid — of the UN University-World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER), based in Finland, provides a more hopeful scenario for Africa.

In it, Ephraim Nkonya, a Tanzanian land management specialist at the International Food Policy Research Institute, makes the surprising statement that Africa could become the world's breadbasket.

His argument hinges around two interlinked opportunities — that the yield gap for current and maximum potential production for crops is greatest in Sub-Saharan Africa, and that there is potential for radically expanding food production through increasing the area of land under production. According to Nkonya, 90 per cent of all land that could be brought under cultivation is in Africa or Latin America.

Akio Hosono, of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Research Institute, recently presented positive examples of the latter at a UNU-WIDER conference. He highlighted the use of Brazil's vast Cerrado region for soya production. [3] JICA and the Brazilians are exploring this model's applicability to Mozambique. [4]

However, increasing crop yields by expanding the area under cultivation often means deforestation. Intensification of yield is the key.

Forecasts of having three to four billion people living in absolute poverty, and strategies for eradicating this problem, are questions for science, but they are also more than that. Social and economic issues of extreme inequality (for example around access to land) and consumption patterns (for example ensuring that resources for food production are distributed equally) are also vital elements to the mix.

Roger Williamson is an independent consultant and visiting fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom. Previous positions include organising nearly 80 international policy conferences for the UK Foreign Office and being head of policy and campaigns at Christian Aid. 


[1] Worldwatch Institute Fertility Surprises Portend a More Populous Future (Worldwatch Institute, 10 July 2013)
[2] Emmott, S. 10 Billion (Penguin, 2013)
[3] Hosono, A. Industrial Strategy and Economic Transformation (ReCom, accessed 26 July 2013)
[4] Hosono, A. South-South/Triangular Cooperation and Capacity Development. In K. Hiroshi (ed) Scaling Up South-South and Triangular Cooperation (JICA Research Institute, November 2012)

Wednesday, October 09, 2013



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Magandang araw! Good day!

It seems that Brazilians have among them a new crop of superstitious punks whose noxious superstition discovered their enemy whom they need to stake to death in public: nanotechnology practitioners. By practitioners we mean those who practice the research & development of nanotech into usable byproducts.

The superstitious witch hunters have found allies among legislators who are proposing to ban nanotech items in food & beverage or F&B labels. If these Inquisitors have their way, they may end up heaping up public hysteria on the nanotech practitioners who may get lynched or stoned to death.

Fortunately, there are more sane minds than madmen among the legislators in the noblesse federal republic. Of course, it need not be stressed that the sane legislators struck down as impertinent and dismissed the inquisitional stone age superstitionists.

You can find the reportage about the rather ubiquitous inquisition below.

[Manila, 06 October 2013]

Brazil struggles to regulate emerging nanotechnology

Speed read

·         Congress has rejected a bill to label food and drugs containing nanotech
·         Yet a US$186 million nanotechnology initiative was launched last month
·         A new bill is pending, which may introduce what some see as badly needed regulation
[RIO DE JANEIRO] The Brazilian Congress has rejected a bill that aimed to introduce labelling on all food, drugs and cosmetics containing nanostructures, arguing that it was alarmist and that there was no scientific basis for warning people about nanotechnology in products.

The move is the latest rebuff to such regulation, even as the country spearheads multimillion-dollar nanotechnology programmes and experts argue that better oversight of this new technology could benefit both industry and consumers.

A Senate report on the rejected bill said that the proposed labelling could have been interpreted as a "warning" even on products improved by nanotechnology, potentially causing losses to companies that have invested in improving their products through this technology.

Consequently, there could be a fall in research and development investment in the sector, which would undermine national investment into nanotechnology such as the National Nanotechnology Programme, a multimillion-dollar initiative launched in 2005, and its extension the Brazilian Nanotechnology Initiative launched last month (19 August) that is worth 440 million reals (approximately US$186 million) by the end of 2014.

The bill's demise marks the second failure to regulate the fast-growing sector: in 2005, a more ambitious bill, with provisions for a national policy on nanotechnology, including labelling, risk assessment and other decisions, was evaluated by the industry, science, and finance committees  from Congress's Chamber of Deputies, which found the field to be at too early a stage for legislation.

The benefits of legislation

Meanwhile, some experts argue that regulation would make nanotechnology and its industrial applications more transparent, providing a good basis for advancing research and public support for it.

It would also help guide research and define, evaluate and minimise potential risks to human health and the environment, they say.

The most recently rejected bill was less ambitious than its predecessor, aiming primarily to introduce product labelling.

“Regulation ... would bring only benefits to industry, trade, scientists and society.”

Edson Duarte, former
member of the Chamber of Deputies

First presented to Congress's Senate in May 2010, the bill proposed changing existing laws to incorporate products made using nanotechnology, based on the argument that consumers have the right to know exactly what is in things they buy.

Just as genetically modified foods have to be labelled in some countries, the bill would have forced firms to label any foods, drugs and cosmetics containing nanotech.

But two of the Senate's commissions — for social affairs and for the environment and consumer protection — that reviewed the proposal said there was no scientific basis for imposing "warnings" over nanotechnology's use.

The senators added that the labels were not sufficient to inform consumers, who could be confused and then avoid what could actually be "improved products".

This "alarmism" would harm companies that have invested in nanotechnology and halt plans for the sector's development in the country, they said.

But the author of 2005 bill, which was rejected for similar reasons, says this reasoning is misguided.

"My bill was rejected on the grounds that it could inhibit research and development of new products. It is an absolutely misguided justification," says Edson Duarte, former member of the Chamber of Deputies. "Regulation would serve to establish a minimum level of control over the sector and would bring only benefits to industry, trade, scientists and society."

Further legislation

The Senate may soon have another stab at legislating on the issue: a new bill, proposing the creation of a labelling law for all nanotech products, including imports and exports, is pending in the Chamber of Deputies.

Instead of changing existing laws on foods and drugs to include the labelling of anything made using nanotechnology, as the recently rejected bill attempted, the new proposal would encompass labelling all products containing nanotech, without requiring other laws to change.

"We are confident that our proposal will be approved," says José Sarney Filho, the new bill's author and a representative in the Chamber.

In his view, the business sector is becoming more aware of growing consumer pressure for information and is less resistant to labelling regulations, both of which may help convince senators to approve the bill. The bill was favourably reviewed by the Committee for Economic Development, Industry and Trade, in the Chamber of Deputies, last month.

But Duarte says that a remaining obstacle for nanotech regulation in Brazil is opposition by free-market groups. "These are the ones who can hamper regulation and press [Congress] not to create laws for industry," he says.

Duarte is worried about nanotechnology advancing rapidly with no regulation.

Yet Oswaldo Luiz Alves, a nanotech expert at the State University of Campinas and a member of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation's Advisory Committee on Nanotechnology, says the time lag between big investment in a new technology and its regulation is not unique to the nanotech sector.

"This situation has been happening with many technologies. Even in developed countries, regulation came in second," he says.

Despite the setback of the bill's rejection, Alves believes the situation is now favourable to advancing nanotechnology regulation in Brazil, especially as the nation's new nanotechnology initiative gets under way.

"But we need to consistently move forward with the right steps and, above all, in harmony with the international context so that we do not create situations that prevent us from participating, as effective actors, in the trillion-dollar economic activity of nanotechnology," says Alves.

Link to the senators' report on the rejected bill (in Portuguese)

Link to the newly proposed labelling bill (in Portuguese)

Link to the 2005 rejected bill (in Portuguese) 

Friday, October 04, 2013



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

“God must be angry on Chilean peasants, He’s sending Monsanto here!” could be an apt idiom by angry Chileans over the passing of the Monsanto Bill in their legislature. I am very much in sync with the protesting farmers and concerned Chileans, as I know the dire implications of getting Monsanto to invade their country.

I was among the social activists in the Philippines who opposed the signing of the GATT-Uruguay Rounds in the mid-90s, and spoke in many venues to expose the social costs that the treaty would spawn. The rise of gigantic trusts or monopolies has been on the agenda plate of the global oligarchs in the the 90s when the treaty was signed, and, as an adroit observer of international political economy, I was among those who forecast the rise of such global monopolies that will control certain sectors of agriculture such as seed production.

That monopolization is taking place in steel and mining. Ditto for agriculture, with Monsanto as the flagship trust. I am no professional basher of genetic modification of organisms, as I myself witnessed the great benefits brought forth by genetic engineering on many varieties of veggies, fruits, and grains in my backyard country. However, the likes of Monsanto gobbling up grains, which effectively prohibits small farmers to own seeds for re-cultivation later, is pure EVIL.

The Monsanto Bill had raised blood pressures in Chile that is rising fast as a developing country in South America. Details of the issues raised are reflected in the reportage below.

[Manila, 30 September 2013]

Farmers' rights 'at stake in Chile's Monsanto law bill'

Speed read

·         Campaigners say the bill suits big firms rather than ordinary farmers
·         But biotech companies deny claims that it would unfairly restrict seed use
·         Strong intellectual property rights could also aid agricultural exports, say the bill's supporters
[SANTIAGO] Campaigners who last month marched through more than a dozen Chilean cities against a bill dubbed the 'Monsanto law' after the giant US biotech firm, plan to protest again if the bill progresses through the country's Senate.

Meanwhile, the bill's supporters — mainly associations of large-scale farmers — are lobbying senators to back it.

At issue is the legal implementation in Chile of the latest version of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 91).

As a signatory to the 1978 version, Chile already protects plant breeders' rights, but campaigners claim that the new version of the convention suits commercial rather than conventional breeders.

"UPOV 91 extends the intellectual property rights of companies that produce seeds, thus increasing their monopoly over seed production and exchange," Iván Santandreu, co-founder of the NGO Chile without GMOs (genetically modified organisms), tells SciDev.Net.

"If UPOV 91 becomes law, it will become illegal for farmers to save and exchange seeds," he adds.

But Miguel Sánchez, executive director of ChileBIO, an association that represents agricultural biotechnology companies, says: "UPOV 91 allows a seed developer to charge a farmer for using any intellectually protected seed, even retroactively.

"But nobody forces this farmer to buy and use intellectually protected plant varieties. If he does, it is because he believes the protected seed will increase his yields."

Sánchez adds that campaigners' fears that UPOV 91 will not stop large firms from appropriating native vegetable species and varieties or their agricultural or medicinal uses are misplaced.

"A seed developer cannot claim intellectual property rights for a vegetable species such as maize. He can only do so if he has bred a maize variety that is new and distinct," Sánchez tells SciDev.Net.

“If UPOV 91 becomes law, it will become illegal for farmers to save and exchange seeds.”

Iván Santandreu,
without GMOs

Another of the campaigners' concerns is that the proposed law would introduce GMOs into the country through the backdoor by allowing companies to register GM seeds (GMOs are banned in Chile).

"This allegation is wrong: UPOV 91 does not mention GMOs," Patricio Parodi, scientific advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture of Chile, tells SciDev.Net.

"Campaigners are conflating it with the bill on genetically modified plants, which has been stagnating in the National Congress since 2006. Only this law would make way for the general use of GMOs in Chile," he adds.

Santandreu replies that, while UPOV 91 may not mention GMOs by name, it refers to genetic improvement and defines this process as ranging from hybridisation to genetic engineering.

But the politicians, large farm owners and agricultural companies backing the bill argue that an agricultural exporter such as Chile needs solid intellectual property rights.

"We cannot be seen as a country that practises intellectual property piracy. Chile has signed many free trade agreements, including with the US and Japan, on the basis of reciprocal intellectual property rights," says Parodi.

José Antonio Poblete, commercial manager of the Fruit Nurseries Association of Chile, told the Constitutional Court last year: "If Chile does not adhere to UPOV 91, there will be no reward for all the efforts made by 12 new, state-backed genetic programmes that are developing new fruit varieties".

But anti-GMO campaigners remain unconvinced.

"We are waiting for the next significant development in Congress before we march again," Santandreu says.

Link to International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants