Friday, May 30, 2008

How do we Care for Children

The children are the continuity of life. Without them we have nothing to speak of human, no purpose of living, and nothing to go beyond. But how do others regard the children? How much they care for their pets as how they care for orphaned children? How do we care for polar bear as much as we care for street children? What is the use of your sacrifices when no one will tell and benefit the fruit of your greatness?

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Company Inefficiencies Being Charged To Customers

System’s loss, the distribution utilities like Meralco is charging the consumers, is the much-hated issue of the day. The consumers are so furious when they came to know and understand what system’s losses are. Granting that the loss is contributed by the dissipation of electrical energy through the transmission line due to heating, it is irrational to make the consumers responsible to recover such losses. And compounding such inefficiencies are the losses through pilferages of electricity and thief of transmission line materials and accessories. All these are being charged to the consumers which they do not understand why. What is the reason behind this irregularity?


Where does the proponent of this system get the wisdom, reason, and justifications to have the recovery of these items be shouldered by the customers? It is quite unthinkable how this oppressive scheme was legalized. Why should the cost of inefficiency of a company be charged to unsuspecting clients? The losses are not the fault of the consumers. It is irrational that consumers should suffer the penalties for the wrong-doings of another. It is the responsibility of the company to secure its products and make the necessary steps that punishment is served to the erring party. People go to utility company offices with so many questions but they got few answers. Sometimes they are avoided or rebuffed when the topic of complaint is on this issue. Company personnel always made reference of the law that provides them the right to bill their clients of the system losses.


Republic Act No. 1732, otherwise known as the anti-pilferage law, was intended to give punishment to the pilferer and to identify the penalty due the erring individual or party. The consent to charge the consumers of the system’s loss was a rider provision and not the immediate intent of the law. They connived with one another –the distribution utilities, the Energy Regulatory Board, and Congress- and attached this system’s loss provision so they have sure source of funding unknown to the consumers. Why would the consumers allow it to happen if they are aware of the consequences which are detrimental on their part?


Under the new Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA Law) the same rider provision of system’s loss was inserted in Section 43, Item (f), “Functions of ERC” and where the Transmission Line Department of the National Power Corporation, a government-owned entity, was being privatized to form a Transmission Line Company (TRANSCO). It was again hidden in these lengthy paragraphs which involve the privatization of TRANSCO and with a mollifying clause that ERC should find ways to “ensure the complete removal of cross subsidies, the cap on the recoverable rate of system losses ...” and relieve the burden on the consumers.


If the purpose of the law is to appease the consumers, EPIRA law should be amended. System’s loss provision should be removed from the liabilities of the consumers. It should be clearly identified, prominently displayed, and included in the summary of content of the amended law. Loopholes should be plugged and catchy provisions be discarded to avoid contentious issue.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Mars...Here We Are!

Phoenix mission spacecraft made a successful landing on Mars, last Sunday, May 25, 2008. This ended the 32 years of silent activities of NASA-JPL mission team after the Viking 2 in 1976.


It was a thrilling touch-down on the red planet as shown at CNN News. The breath-taking 7-minute difficult entry and final descent in the Mars atmosphere kept the mission team at NASA-JPL, Pasadena, California, speechless and finally burst into cheers after the landing confirmation made by Mars Odyssey. The Phoenix survived the touch-down ambiguity without using the airbag as was done with other Viking’s Mission. One cannot imagine the sentiments of the mission members realizing the fruit of their hardship from the conception to the conclusion of the most difficult portion of the project – the Phoenix touch-down. Michael Griffin, head of NASA, said: “I couldn’t be happier to be here to witness this incredible achievement. For the first time in 32 years, and only the third time in history, a JPL team has carried out a soft landing on Mars.” Peter Smith of the University of Arizona and the Phoenix mission principal investigator, also said: “I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. The first landed images of the Martian polar terrain will set the state for our mission.”


Per NASA report, “Phoenix uses hardware from a spacecraft built for a 2001 launch that was canceled in response to the loss of a similar Mars spacecraft during a 1999 landing attempt. Researchers who proposed the Phoenix mission in 2002 saw the unused spacecraft as a resource for pursuing a new science opportunity.” With these uncertainties and the tight budget allotted in the project compounded by the worries of the 50 per cent rate of failure of the launching attempt on Mars since 1960 by the Soviet Union, the team members did not lost the eagerness and the high spirit of achieving the incredible tasks. Phoenix uses solar energy derived from the sun in its supply of electricity in negotiating the “422-million-mile” distance from Earth to Mars covering a nine-month journey. The “Lander,” dressed with the solar arrays –resembling a ready-to-fly-beetle as it landed on Mars’ target site-, the robotic arm, camera, and other accessories will now be ready to explore the hidden mystery of the Red Planet. It was earlier discovered by orbiting Mars Odyssey that “plentiful water ice lies just beneath the surface throughout much of high-latitude Mars.” It will not be too long that Phoenix will reveal that somewhere, somehow, Mars might have a habitable climate capable of supporting life.


We will be looking forward on the untiring effort of the Phoenix Mission Members in the pursuit of their scientific objectives. Theirs are worthy of emulation in spite of insurmountable difficulties, men always learn to overcome.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Nothing...But A Croaking Frog

One night we were disturbed by noisy people down the road. The exodus of young and old as they went up to the mountain hurriedly and frightfully were difficult to understand. The widespread rain-shower prevented us from inquiring as to what was really happening. The unfolding event sent us scampering for safety.


I was in the province undertaking a building project in our town. That was in the month of August that rainy days and typhoons were prevalent. Our house was in a remote area, some five kilometers from the town proper, near the river and Salagan Bridge, just along the highway leading to the elevated and mountainous area. It was eight in the evening and we were preparing to go to bed. There was no electric supply as the recent typhoon knocked-out many towers and transmission lines. It was all dark and we have no outside source of communication, cell sites were toppled as well as the cable for television entertainment. The night was dull and you can hear only the croaking frogs and murmuring lizards.


Suddenly, we heard from the roadside, not too far from our house, a shout presumably from our relative: “Arise, get up, and move to a higher ground ….tsunamis are coming!” She kept on repeating the message as her voice faded away in the dark.


We hastily prepared to evacuate, brought some food stuffs and started the van on the road. Whitie, our dog was left behind and seemed to be not disturbed by the impending danger about to happen. All the members of the household were in and we speeded going up the hill. There were people on the road who managed to get a ride. The rain became denser, blurring the way. Only the painted white line on the shoulder kept me on track. I was shocked but able to evade a hiker on the road a few meters in front wearing dimmed coat. Rain water flooded the way and driving became too difficult.


We were able to pass the low level area and started the uphill climb. The rain had stopped as we ascended slowly. The moon begun to shed its faint light from behind the waning clouds. Fireflies were everywhere but there were flashlight and torch of people trekking up. We noticed their number was increasing as we reached the half-way uphill. We slowed as people crowded the road. Others were already setting and some have made a makeshift tent and were taking rest. We parked on the peak of what they called “Cuarenta”. There were other evacuees on the other side of the mountain apparently came from the other community. We converge and met on this summit where there were also settlers who offered us some foods and hot coffee. They were stunned as to why the people gathered there. There was one, Mang Pepe narrated: “Before we came here, we crossed the Dayap River and we noticed the unusual ebbing of the tide. The water receded and too shallow we’ve never seen before. There was rumbling from the nearby seashore and we hurriedly gone up here!” He disappeared in the crowd and we overheard from someone: “It is from him we got the message of tsunamis, he showed us the text messages.”


We waited for quite a time. Some kept an eye down the road. There were those who were clapping and slapping their arms as mosquitoes were pestering our ears. “This is the fruit of ignorance and nervous reaction,” I mumbled with myself.


As the night was getting deeper without being dug, the aura gradually changed. The terrified faces of people we cannot imagine before was substituted by the sigh of relief. Some were smiling, others were laughing aloud! The tense and horrifying situation became a mountain-summit- bonfire assembly. It was an environment of fun and merrymaking.


“Ah, what have they done? Where was the message originated? We got the words of the croaking frog. There’s no tsunami, no unusual happening!”…. everyone cried out loud.


The moon was already overhead and the stars were mushrooming and contributing to the brightness of the surroundings. As if it was a day time eclipse, you can recognize the people from a distance. No more fear on their faces.


Still, we have no contact from our relatives from the city although we were positioned on a higher ground and in spite of the countless attempt of dialing and a reply of “message sending failed.”


It was already dawn and longing to get home for a much needed rest. Since we encountered no strange and alarming event that might warrant our continued stay in the mountain top, we entertained the idea of going down. We have heard all sorts of catastrophic stories and a thirty-meter high tidal waves and tsunamis. We have pitied with the story of a funeral wake in which the remains was being carried by the evacuating mourners. And we have laughed with the story of a newly-wed couple who refused to be awakened in spite of the commotion and shouting of their neighbors.


We were the one who started to fall out of the group in a story telling sessions and decided to return home. Others refused to budge and the fear was still in their minds. We slowly rolled down and have our senses activated, ready for any eventualities.


The roads were already dry. The sun rays were creeping behind the thick leaves of unmolested trees. Down the highway, the herons and other bird species were already feeding on the greening and irrigated rice field. Ducks were wading, bubbling up and down, on the murky streams. We approached our farm gate. Whitie came waggling her tail, unmindful of the frog croaking … the tsunami message joke.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Earthquake Is Not A Joke

(Republished herewith is my previously writen article in view of the earthquake and deadly tsunami that hit Japan recently.)
With the proliferation of cell phone not only in urban places but in the countryside and remote areas; news, updates, gossips, and all forms of communications can now easily disseminated. A message of good events are very well appreciated, but when this gadget is used to spread anomalous and false occurrence, one cannot imagine the miseries it will cause to the alarmed public.
Just recently, text messages circulated throughout the Philippines predicting that an earthquake of great magnitude will jolt the country and citing a foreign source. The populace, without an understanding of how earthquake manifests, reacted with too much fear. Being aware of what happened before, the experience of devastated Sichuan province of China, the calamities that sent havocs to Myanmar, and the December 2004 earthquake-caused tsunami off Sumatra Island crashing the shores of many nations causing 230,000 fatalities; such situations were more than enough to sow nightmares and nervousness to frightened community.
Earthquake, unlike other forms of upheavals, is unpredictable. Hurricane, tornado, or cyclones can be seen and its course can be plotted. Experts can predict its direction and anything on its path can be forewarned. Earthquake, on the other hand, strikes suddenly and in just a short period of time. Its effect is least in a flat ground. But in the crowded areas, as in the cities where high rise structures are prominent, its results are so terrifying and horrendous. Traces of its routes are nowhere to be found by layman’s knowhow. Observatory and satellite stations are useless detection posts for hunting earthquakes.
Earthquake is a result of sudden movement of earth plates brought about by the release of energy from the earth’s crust due to slippage of two tectonic plates in the subduction zone and along the large fault plane. As in a cranking gears, imagine a two enormous plate; one plate as big as the continent of America and the other is as big as the continent of Africa. If these two plates come in contact on a certain curve or asperity points, each boundaries will form a stick-slip behaviour. The sticking and sliding with its other will create frictional heating and the cracking of the rocks on the fault line will send a seismic wave causing an earthquake. And considering the vastness of these two continent plates- be it a strike-slip, normal, or thrust fault type- the resulting quake magnitude will be extremely large and unimaginable. The awesome heat energy that will be generated in a form of molten rocks or magma will flow and escape through the soft spot as a volcanic eruption.
And this is what happened in the Philippines. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, which was felt all over world, was preceded by a magnitude of 7.8 earthquake that devastated Central Luzon in 1990. The Luzon Earthquake is comparable to the San Francisco earthquake of l906 and the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. Its epicentre was in Cabanatuan City, some 100 kilometers northeast of Mount Pinatubo. This eruption brought out to the surface billions of tons of magma, sulphur, and other mineral deposits. With this relationship, volcanic eruption in the vicinity of China may now be in the offing as a result of the 7.9 magnitude of earthquake in Sichuan Province.
The Philippines, being in the area of the Pacific Ring of Fire, is susceptible to earthquake and volcanic eruptions. And having had experienced the catastrophic effect of these calamities, the false alarm generated by cell phone messages hoax is of great annoying and pestering joke. Read more on this article...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Losses Meralco Never Lost

Energy productions and distributions are a lucrative business. It is a basic necessity of urban living. The goods and services being produced are not only encouraged but supported by the government and the well as the losses.


Meralco, whose acronym came from Manila Electric Railroad And Light Company, and later changed to Manila Electric Company, has been railroading its consumers to pay a high electricity bills. It had transmuted from the Lopez clan to NAPOCOR and back to the Lopez family after the EDZA Revolution. The Lopezes reacquired only the controlling ownership and its aging power generating plant such as Rockwell and Tegen power plant stations and substation facilities were retained to NAPOCOR. Other shares were owned by the government financial institution, particularly, GSIS which owned twenty-five percent. With the government partnership, Meralco became the sole distributor of electric energy and owns the franchise of supplying power to Metro Manila and the neighboring provinces of Mega Manila region. It has the priority to supply big commercial and industrial users. Being a monopoly of power distribution it can dictate the mode of its operation, charges, and collection to its hostage users. Even its losses due to pilferages, heating, and inefficiencies were being charged to the consumers.


The system losses of the company as well as the losses of the government side in the form of taxes are contained and compounded in a single billing statement. All these are being shouldered by the consumers and are at issue these days. The common question is: “ Why is the fault of Pedro being charged to Juan?” The company enjoys all the benefits from the government and with the assurance of profits, it is a sure fire undertakings. Failure or bankruptcy is very remote or impossible in their operations. This one sided treatment and unfair practices had been the perennial complaint of the consumers, but it is often neglected. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile once capitalized on this issue in campaigning for election and won as such but the adherence to fight for low electric bill gradually diminished. Cause-oriented groups hardly ever touch this issue fearing the lost of support from the Lopezes - who own the biggest media company- in their campaign to oust their hated regime. How can this country prosper when all its aspects for development involves politics?


Meralco electric rates are among the highest in the Asian region and consecutively raking profits in the past many years. Consequently, it contributed further to the hardship and poverty among Pinoys. With this unresponsiveness, no one can resolve this apathy except we, Pinoys. Have a time to be counted in our struggle for low electric energy cost.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Blogger Arrested in Malaysia

A popular blogger from Malaysia was charged of sedition. The freedom of speech, the world’s cherished rights being enjoyed by bloggers , is being threatened in an Asian country with a fragile democracy. The impunity of the pen is again subjected to the unpleasant consequences of politics.


The charge of sedition steamed from an article posted by a Malaysian blogger. According to AFP report on May 6, 2008, thru MSN News: “Raja Petra Kamaruddin, founder and editor of the popular Malaysia Today site, had posted an article which allegedly implicated Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, in the October 2006 murder."


Raja Petra’s post “Let’s send the Altantuya Murderers to Hell” published at his site,, cost him his freedom. He was sent to jail after refusing to post a bail at 5000 ringgits or $1600 and chose to remain until his trial on October 6, 2008. He has opened the real Pandora’s box and he was charged to send signal to others not to touch the untouchables. There are other bloggers and writers who suffered the same fate as Raja Petra’s by just posting a comment on his website.


The seditious content of the post was that Mr. Najib and his wife were implicated in a murder of a Mongolian interpreter, Altantuya Shaariibuu. It was alleged that she was killed by two police officer on the prodding of Abdul Razak Baginda. It was gather from the site that “ The prosecution contends that Mr Abdul Razak had the woman killed because she pestered him for money after he ended their affair.” Abdul Razak is a political analyst and close associate of Mr. Najib. The sedition charge is quite ambiguous as basing on the content of the article, there is no definitive acts of inciting to secede or rebellious action. Mr. Najib was only being “ implicated” and so another course of action should have been filed instead. The case has been dragging for almost a year and Mr. Najib is expected to assume the premiership from Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. It is quite clear that there is a political repercussions on the issue and it will take time before the truth will come out.


Meanwhile, Raja Petra Kamaruddin is now languishing in jail. But being a blogger, he deserves to be supported by the international community of bloggers in our untiring efforts to strive for truth. Let the side of Raja Petra be known to the whole world. Let’s condemn the evil doers by flushing out the stinking mess out of their dens.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Car Engine Overheating

There is nothing more frustrating than having a trouble with a car on your way to school, to work, or meeting your commitment. I’ve been encountering this problem before in an old model car but I put into practice a regular inspection of car engine before I put myself on the wheel. Just lately, I evaded the possibility of overheating when I noticed a loose screw on the radiator hose fastening.


Car engine overheating is a common cause of engine malfunction. This can be avoided by a regular checking of the following:


1) Check the coolant or water level at coolant reservoir or at the radiator. Low level means you have to add the same type of coolant or water, whatever is available; 2) Check if there is any leak or white spot at the radiator, on its cap, hoses, drain plugs, or water trails in the engine. If you notice that when operating in a short period, the water level drops, you can be sure there is a leak in the system; and 3) Check at random the water pump belt and the electric cooling fans.


When you actually encounter engine overheating, the first sign is a loss of power. This is so, in spite of depressing the accelerator pedal, you will not increase the speed. You will hear a knocking or pinging sound and the temperature gage level will be raising from normal until it hit the red mark – the intolerable level. When this happen; pull off the road to safety, turn-on emergency light flashers, shift transmission to neutral, apply hand brake, and turn-off the air-con. When too much steam is coming out, don’t open the hood but stop the engine and wait a few minutes to cool-off before attempting to open. When heating subsides, have a piece of glove or rags as padding in opening the radiator cap – don’t try to open the cap when very hot, it may result to serious injuries and don’t add coolant when the engine is off at this instant, engine block may be damaged. You may add coolant or water at the reservoir while the engine is running and if it is not too hot, meaning no steam is escaping.


After visual checking when the engine has cooled, the water pump belt is in order, no leaks, and coolant has been added; you may start the engine.


When it works, release the pressure within you with deep breath, thank Him, and regain your composure...and have a pleasure driving!

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Driver and Tourist Guide

Summer time is raging in most Asian countries. This means holiday, fiesta festival, and travel. And when these activities dominate the mode of today, transportation services and car rental determine the outcome of your day.


I recalled during the last summer, I was hired by the local car rental company in Manila. I was advised to report at Westin Philippines Plaza Hotel (now Sofitel Philippines Plaza Hotel) for briefings and orientations. I was assigned to meet a foreign visitor –I just named him Robert- at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at about ten at night. It was already late in the afternoon and I was told to be back by 8:00 P.M. for pre-airport update.


I stayed in the hotel lobby for a few minutes: observed how the guests move; get acquainted with the surroundings; how the guests are treated upon alighting from the car; how are his baggages; the courtesy procedures; and parking requirements. I walked a little to the parking area, watched the sunset in the open space –the hotel is located in front of Manila Bay and the guest can have a clear view of the “sinking sun” without any obstruction on a bright noon sky- and have something for food in a driver's inn nearby.


I get back to the travel coordinator and was told to stay and wait. She got back at past nine and retorted: “There is no guide, here is the cell phone number of the guest and his itinerary, ... go!” I was obliged to follow and proceeded to NAIA.


There was no more clogging in the streets and I arrived early. Having enough time, I glanced at the itinerary ... searching if there was any picture of my guest. I found the flight number, by Singapore Airline, the estimated time of arrival, and hotel accommodation... no photo. I begun to worry on how I can meet my guest. I talked to other drivers in the car park and consulted how can I get my guest whom I’ve never met before? One suggested to write the bold name of Robert on a bond paper and show it to arriving passengers... which I did.


Robert was an Englishman and everytime a European-looking-passenger appeared from the exit door, I raised and waved my poster. At last, I met my guest. They were two, of medium built, and in their thirties. After a short introductions and handshakings, we proceeded to the car and moved. While on the way, I suggested that they maybe needing some foods. Or may want to have a midnight snack ... or coffee at Adriatico-Malate –a night life tourist destination. (I did this insinuation and with some intention of earning a commission from the establishment I actually promoting, hehe.) And they approvingly consented. But Robert’s companion chose to have a check-in first at the hotel and for safekeeping of their belongings ...and that we did. Then, they got back and we had coffee at Adriatico Cafe. Then after awhile and a short conversations, Robert told me: “You may go home, we’ll meet at the hotel tomorrow. I’ve been frequenting this place everytime I have a project here. We can manage.” Then he handed me a few dollar bills.


Hesitatingly dismayed, I retreated home, counted the bills and quite satisfied.


I reported early the next morning to the travel coordinator for further instruction as I was acting as the driver and the guide. I was informed that Robert was a member of the monitoring group of a cross-country contest. “ Contestant will be arriving today and travelling on their own.” The coordinator added. Their scheduled course was racing to a jeepney shop builder somewhere in Cavite. They will install the jeepney accessories then ride on the same jeepney to a rice land and a duck farm in Victoria, Laguna.


With these informations, I waited again for my guest ‘till they emerged from the hotel and called me through the cell phone. We speeded to Imus, Cavite, and by 11:00 A.M., contestants started to arrive by pair. They affixed all the required accessories of the jeepney and travelled with the same to the assigned destinations in Laguna.


At this juncture, me and Robert tried to catch-up with the jeepneys which run too fast. There times that Robert would urged me to overtake the jeepneys. He will open the car window, extended his body out and took a shot with his video camera the actuations of the participants in the jeepney. One must be extra careful in maneuvering his car in a two-lane highway speeding at 90 to 100 kms./hr. I used the emergency flasher light and headlights to warn vehicles on the opposite direction and we performed this as if we owned the road... dangerously!


We drove faster and be ahead of everyone to the contest area. Upon arrival, Robert advised those assigned at the site to get ready and cleared with unwanted obstacles.


After completing the two events, the competing fairs rode on a tricycle (side carriage attached to motor bike to carry passengers) going to the highway and took a bus bound to Manila.


We again hurried to Manila. We have to be ahead of any pair to reach the destination. They finished the amazing race stage at the Coconut Palace then to the Sofitel Hotel.


I finished my tourist guiding stint with the discussions, not the tourist spots, but of the shortcuts –the fastest way to reach a point.

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Organization of Rice Exporting Countries

With the rising prices of staple food, rice exporting countries are now exploring all avenues on how to seize the opportunity that would be more beneficial on their part. Majority of these countries are members of the Asian’s developing region and are longing on how to maximize development and self-sufficiency.


Thailand together with Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia are organizing a form of alliance that will establish a policy of producing and exporting rice similar to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. With the progress and success being experienced by the oil exporting countries as OPEC, they have now the OREC, the Organization of Rice Exporting Countries. The policy that may be instituted by the rice producing countries may also be patterned with OPEC and they may also be right as rice has a domino effect not only in rice importing countries but all the food consuming populace of the world. They can capitalize on their harvest as a bargaining option to win some concessions and gain access to the world’s wealth. They are themselves the witness on how Opec countries developed to be among those of the richest of the world and now is the time to duplicate the skills which are the tried and proven ways to riches.


Countries that will be directly affected by the rice cartel are the third world countries which are the largest importer of rice like the Philippines. However, it may result otherwise or a short term effect. It may serves as a “wake-up call for the Philippines” as what Palawan Representative Abraham Mitra have said and published at the Manila Bulletin. These Orec countries obtained rice technology through the Philippines and it will not take too long she will be joining them. Or it will be a means for other agricultural nations to exert more effort in further developing their techniques for food sufficiency. In countries which can not support rice production, it would be a hell. More food riot and starvation will be aggravated. Poverty and unrest will worsen and other untold discomfort will be the direct result.


Whichever ways, the option of these Mekong River countries maybe counter-productive. Smaller member maybe required to produce less to support the pressure to be exerted on the food prices. It will exacerbate the rice shortage problem the world is experiencing today. Whoever thought of such strategy, it is meant to be a self-serving maneuvers and will defeat the world food programme’s objectives of adequate food supply.

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