Saturday, October 31, 2009

the shizz

I'm at a bar, drinking Bud light (in texture), watching the cavaliers NBL basketball team beat Charlotte. I'm so America, I make myself sick.

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Combining my 2 favourite things

Becks and the celebration of beer. This is a holiday release- the Becks Oktoberfest brew. There are so many beers here, another tick in the box.

Oh, and I survived driving on the right. More about that later.


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I saw the Black Eyed Peas


I am pretty sure it is them in the picture, Fergie and will-i-am settling down to a hearty dinner.

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Want more fat in a twix?

Add peanut butter



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Friday, October 30, 2009

The Old Castle In Germany Travel World

travel world

The Old Castle In Germany Travel World

Stay off the sidewalk

Oh, and I have hired a car for the weekend so ill be opting for the extra insurance.


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Black and gold

So apparently the American way is not to drink on friday afternoon. I dragged a yank kicking and screaming. This is a stout and lager. I'm so worldly.



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CONGRATULATIONS SKYE


Well done Skye on passing her final CA subject. A big achievement worth celebrating.

I have decided to celebrate by dressing up as Darth Vader and asking random people for candy. Apparently it is the thing to do this weekend.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Twitter style


Hi all - just came back from dinner with a bunch of aliens (that is what we are referred to by the US Gov). I will tell you more about it tomorrow.

Above is the Indians' baseball stadium. It is reasonably new and very impressive. It is one of the few to be designed like an old fashion baseball stadium. They are more proud of the stadium than the team apparently.

Man bags are in

I have found my people.


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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Everything is bigger in the US


So we left off after my first American coffee and bagel. Let’s fast forward through the work day. Not because it was not good (the people were great and I really enjoyed it), but there are more everyday American experiences to talk about.

I will say, there are some photos that I need to take of the office block from the outside and inside. Apparently we are in the oldest building in Cleveland and it is spectacular. It has more history than Kym and I.

So I worked through the morning, but needed to get to the shops to get supplies. Also, I was getting tired after all of the travel so did not want to leave it too late. Luckily, I am working for someone who is very understanding and I was able to slip out at 2.

I went home and changed. The sun was out and it was 60 degrees (15C for the Australians out there). It was great weather for shopping. I decided to walk the streets of downtown for a cab (from what I can tell there is no uptown so downtown is all of the city centre). A couple of blocks down and to the left, I found an idle cab. I would love to be able tell you it was a yellow cab with black and white chequered stripes, but alas, it was a minivan. Not sexy, but what I needed at the time.

The cabbie was “interesting”. After being the second person today to ask me if I was British (are my teeth that bad?), he went on to tell me about his book he was writing about the subconscious and also that he dreamt he was going to open a fine arts museum, so that was his next life move. Good luck to him I say – but if he could keep the cab for the next 7 weeks that would be great as I have not need another one so far since being here.

I was off to Steelyard Commons, the place I was recommended to get all my stuff. It was only $12 bucks by cab (plus tip of course). In the cab, I asked to be taken there and also enquired if it was a good place to go for me to stock up. He said it was a standard strip mall. So, I found out a strip mall does not involve nudity or pole dancing, but a line of shops in a row, or strip. Now, I suggest to you all, that if you go to a strip mall, be strategic in your shopping decisions. If you do no plan it properly, you will end up walking the strip 4 times, at 400m each time, a k and a half. It is all a learning experience.

So I went into the Verison store to get a US sim card so I could use my precious google on the go. They were unable to provide a prepaid option that would run a blackberry. Although the sales person could not help me, she jumped on the net and found a provider who could which was so nice of her. She even told me how to get to the closest store. I was able to get sim and I was whole again (I used google maps today, more about that tomorrow).

From there, the call of Costco was too much. It was beckoning me from across the car park, and was bigger than the whole rest of the shopping centre. Costco is an American Campbells, Big W and Woolworths combined, but to me at the time, it was a warehouse of all products that were ever made, ever. It was perfect for me as I was tired and needed quite a few things which I was not expecting to get in one place, until I experienced the glory of Costco. Kudos to you Costco, kudos.

I walked out with a new toothbrush (sorry Caz, it was good for the plane but I needed more grunt for day to day), clippers for the beard (although length would be good in this weather), Tupperware, and groceries (food and general stuff like soap etc). It took me a while again due to lack of strategic shopping planning but mostly, I was lost in a store which is bigger than the whole of Pacific Fair.

So this is where the US gets big. Apparently, the idea in this place is you buy for the whole year. Everything was giant size. The smallest glad wrap I could get was 90 metres. I expect to use 10 meters while I am here, I will use the rest to make a giant weather balloon to set off a huge international hoax.

Then there was the cheese, oh the cheese. I was too in awe to get a photo but let’s just say I got puffed walking the length of the cheeses. There were cheese types which have not been invented yet in the cheese fridge. There were a group of monks praying to the cheese it is so revered in this country. I don’t disagree with this on principle, we all love a bit of cheese. Seeing it made me very disappointed in subway with only 3 cheese choices. They need to reach out to their heritage.

While I was there, I noted a few other peculiarities. You know when you buy bacon there is the long bit which is mostly fat, and there is the big, round bit that has all the meat. You will use the round but, and if you can be bothered, you will cut the fat off the long bit and use it as well. In Costco (and apparently this is the norm in the US), the only bacon they have is the long bit. I can only assume that is why Australia’s current account deficit is so low, we are collecting all of the left over fatty bacon strips we don’t use and sell it to the US. Good scam if you ask me. I am going to start my bottle return style bacon strip return when I get back and clean up.

This is of course if I ever come back. While I was there ambling from isle to isle, I found the BEER ISLE. I feel to my knees and forgave god for forsaking me after the shirts and Starbucks incidents. We have agreed we are square now. I was disappointed as with all of the stuff I had bought, I was not able to take any beer. Not beaten (I’m actually Beaton), when I got home, I walked over to the corner store and picked up half carton of Budweiser for $10. I may overstay my visa on this point alone.

So I picked up all of the essentials including fruit and veg, bread, salt, pepper etc. I was as strong as I have ever been and did not grab any American sweet streets, or so I thought. It turns out the bread is laced with high fructose corn syrup. This is the crack of sugar and basically stops your pancreas, and makes you WANT MORE. The bread will be interesting with vegemite – I assume it will be like spreading it on pop tarts. I cannot test this yet because If forget to get butter. I will be on the insulin in no time.

So I made my way through one of the 50 checkouts (I did not count them but there was 4 times as many as any Woolworths I have been to) and made my way out. I called my new taxi driver friend / spiritual advisor and made my way home. This trip was about his 3 ex-wives and more about his fine arts gallery. I think there is a chance he will have to get rid of the deadlocks before the grand opening.

So day one in the US was eventful with my first breakfast and coffee, meeting my new workmates and having an adventurous shopping experience. In the immortal words of Yaxx, the only way is up.

Peach out.

PS that is my apartment in the pic above. How cool does it look!!!

Chanukah in Israel with The Holiday of Holidays Festival

Chanukah is just around the corner and this is the time to book a cheap flight to Israel, and enjoy the annual Holiday of Holidays Festival in Haifa. The Festival which takes place in the neighborhood of Vadi Nisnas is more than just a Hanuka festival. This is a major event that celebrates the both Chanukah and Christmas, but most of all it celebrates the co-existence in the Jewish-Arab city.


The Holiday of Holidays Festival promotes peace and neighborly values through art, music and celebration, during which you can enjoy all of the city’s delights.

Authors and poets from both sides join hands for special readings. Artists show their studios and exhibit their work on the streets. Churches and synagogues open their gates to classical music concerts and children enjoy numerous arts and crafts workshops.

There is also an antique fair and fashion fair and guided tours around the streets of Haifa and while you’re visiting this Northern city, don’t forget to check out the beautiful Bahai temple and its mesmerizing gardens.

Sounds good? Then visit our website at www.doalltravel.com or give us a call at 718-972-6000 and find out about our amazing prices, cheap flights to Israel and don't forget your passport!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The little things (don't read anything into this ladies)


Although it is Tuesday night here, I have to tell you about my first day. So I set the alarm for 6.30am Monday, the morning after arriving. I will say, when it went off, it was one of the least enjoyable sounds I have ever heard (and I have been to a Kate Bush concert). Running through my head was "it cannot be time to get up, it is black outside". Logic did not prevail and it was indeed time to get ready for day 1.

At this point, I was not aware the apartment had heating. So I got up, had a shower and proof that god hates me, all my shirts were crushed in the travel, so I had to iron. Thanks for all the training Mum and where were you Damien to say “nah, looks fine”?

All I had to eat for breakfast was fish oil tablets and shampoo, not the heartiest of meals (and not deep fried which is one of the 5 food groups here, along with cheese, bacon, sugar and candy bars). So I was ready early and went for a walk around downtown Cleveland (downtown means city centre- we’re all learning together).

So, getting off the plane last night, I remembered thinking it was no way as cold as I was expecting so I walked out with a shock when I left the apartment block - it was indeed cold that morning. I picked up the pace to warm my ill equipped extremities.

I was searching for a coffee shop which served anything which was not filtered coffee and doughnuts. It was not easy as the first street resulted in a bakery with filtered coffee and doughnuts (and other baked goods). I crossed the street and did a U-turn. To my relief and disgust, I was happy to see a Starbucks. Starbucks are as good at making coffee as they are at brokering a peace deal between Israel and Palestine, but at least it was not filtered coffee. But, again, the higher power had his way and it was closed. They were at least smart enough to stay at home in this weather.

Feeling helpless, I moved on and turned another corner. In the distance, like the call of the sirens, I saw “Phoenix Coffee”, all bright and inviting. I was heartened with all the promise of this sign. So I walked in and went from freezing cold to uncomfortably hot (heating, I must look into that in the apartment).

So I made it to the front of the line, and ordered a takeaway cappuccino. The waitress looked at me like I had spoken Swahili. I repeated and she looked befuddled and started to write it down. She turned to the barista and said “I don’t know what he wants”. He astutely said, “He is after a coffee to go”. Such a small difference between understanding and utter confusion. I decided I needed to learn the language, giving up the notion we all spoke English.

I then ordered a bagel but needed to provide a written purchase order (approved of course) this time. I will say they all found the whole event most amusing (as did I to be honest). This was my second US$ transaction and I was excited (as strange as it sounds), although I was still too timid to use the coin (I was not that advanced).

While I was waiting, one of the café staff asked me if I was English, not the last time I would be asked this today.

So I got to sit down and enjoy my bagel (toasted raisin with butter for those who care). I just sat there, enjoying my first American bagel and coffee. I was pleased to find the coffee not bad (although for all of their excesses in food and drinks, there was not a whiff of chocolate powder to be found to top it off – go figure).

It was a great start to my first day and I am sure there are even better to come.

Check out the new La Contadina website!

Giuliana, the founder/owner of La Contadina Travel and Tours, has just launched her newly-updated website, www.lacontadina.com. It contains more itineraries, more photos, and updated/revised information all in a user-friendly webpage format. We hope you like the new site!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sleep is for the weak


The last 36 hours have been a bit of a muddle for me. So much has happened that my jetlagged little brain cannot cope. I travelled for a looooong time, entered a new country, had to learn a new language (or so it seems - I will chat about that later), moved into a new place and started a new job. Phew - I need a holiday.

It was nearly not possible as my ride to the airport decided alarms were for the weak and opted on the honor system of waking up where she trusted herself sub-consciousness for the job. Unfortunately, she has a less than reliable sub-consciousness and there was a slight hiccup (I woke her up with a phone call at the time she was to be picking me up). We made it with time to spare in the end and thanks for the ride - much appreciated (really).

So, the plane ride was a monotony of working, reading, watching movies and walking around the plane. We left at 11am Qld time and flew east towards the evening. The plane was thrown into a slumber after lunch was served and everyone decided to go to bed. I have thought about this, and the more likely story is they were all in a conspiracy to mock me because I was unable to sleep. The other 200 passengers would close their eyes each time I looked at them. What was worse is their feigned sleep made me feel like wanting a beer made me an alcoholic so I was sober on landing.

I got to LA and I will say I was a little excited. I followed the herd through the tunnel to customs and waited dutifully with everyone else. We were lucky as there were a couple of planes which landed soon after us so the wait at customs for me was not bad. Overall, the experience between landing and getting out in the real world (great song) was not bad at all. I was geared up for long waits, delving questions and invasive body searches but got a quick process, a pleasant immigration officer and no inappropriate touching (no infringement there).

I moved through the arrivals door in the airport, through the people waiting for loved ones (Love Actually style), and handed in my bags to the American Airlines transfer desk. I then headed to terminal 2 as was required by my itinerary. Soon after walking the length of terminal 2 (and it is well endowed), I noted no American Airlines kiosk. In my sleep deprived stupor, on my itinerary I was reading the Chicago terminal reference, not LA. I turned around and did find the right terminal. The up side of this detour was I saw an LAPD patrol car, LAPD motor bike and fire hydrant. Not exciting to a local but I was impressed.

So it was through security and on to Chicago. This was a 4 hour flight on a smaller seat, next to a smellier person (I knew my luck could not last). I nearly missed this one as in my dazed and confused state, I had no concept of time (actual or relative time) and did not hear the call to this flight until it was “last call”. I was the final passenger to board, but did get there (double phew).

We arrived in Chicago and I had 3 hours to kill. This transfer was much easier than LA as there was no customs and the airport was much better with more shops and places to walk. I took the time to get some food, and spend some US$ for the first time. I was more excited about using US dollar than the possibility of running into Dr Mark Green, and just as nervous. What if I gave the wrong note, did not add the tax, fainted? Luckily, it was like any other transaction involving goods and a currency and no one died (triple phew).

From there, I had a pit stop at the little boys’ room which required me to read the instructions to the toilet it was so complicated- seriously (and the biggest toilet seat in the history of man, I kid you not). Whilst in there, I noticed a vending machine of a curious nature (curious vending machines are going to be a theme of this blog I think). The yanks have defiled a symbol of our beloved nation and sell Koala branded diapers. I am not sure of the relevance of Koala’s to this and I am getting K Rudd to raise it at the next meeting of the UN as a human rights violation. He does love a cause so let’s see where this goes. They can change it to rattlesnake diapers.

So I had a couple of hours to spare, and I plucked up the courage to sit at the bar at the Chicago Bar & Grill in the airport. I spent an hour watching Gridiron and drinking beer. With all of my adventure drinking at the bar, I ended up ordering Becks. I should have had Budweiser, but at the time, I was already overwrought with the adventure so needed some home comfort (not that I am from Germany but is my home beer of choice). I spent the rest of the time at the bar stressing tipping – how much and how to do it if I was paying by card. It was the most stressful beer I have ever had.

I then boarded American Eagle flight 2344 to Chicago. It was a little one and I got confused on boarding (I was at 27 hours without sleep at this point so give me a break). There was a bag rack on the walk to boarding that I thought was for hand luggage at the plane was too small. I had to make a quick decision so I put my bag on there and boarded (in my defense, the 2 people in front of me did it as well). So I took my seat and watched the rest of the plane get on with their hand luggage.

We took off and I started to think about the fact that the hand luggage I stowed in the port rack outside the plane had my passport, baggage receipt (for my officially checked in baggage), and pretty much everything that was important. You can understand, this increased the stress levels. Like a Shaolin monk, I moved past it and spend the 45min trip hooking into the latest Dan Brown adventure which matched the drama of my travels so far.

On the decent to Cleveland, the stewardess gave the standard speech about tray tables, electronic equipment, and also the red tickets we had for the oversized hand luggage we deposited on entry to the plane. So the fact that I had no red ticket cause me some concern.

It turned out this was all wasted worry as all of my bags showed up in quick succession on the baggage carousel and I was able to get out of their quickly (quadruple phew). I was picked up at the airport by a car service and whisked off to my new home. So I can hear you saying “thank goodness this is all over and he has made it to his hotel room”. Don’t think too soon.

I approached reception to the hotel and asked to check in. She handed me a sign in sheet and was confused when I asked for a key. At this point, it was clear she could not understand a word I was saying and she had no idea who I was or how to check someone into the apartment block (the sign in sheet she made me sing was the visitor sign in sheet). At this point, I was 30 hours without sleep and not really looking forward to sleeping the foyer. I grabbed my phone and called my US boss (in $4 a minute Telstra global roaming style). Before she could answer, the receptionist said “are you Ian Beaton?”. I could have both kissed her and slapped her at this point. Apparently this is not the kind of place where people “check in” and, to be honest, I was not even convinced she knew where she was.

I was just thankful that I had a warm bed for the night and was looking forward to settling into a horizontal position for a change.

I walked into my unit in my sleep deprived state and just felt wholly homesick. At ttwhat point, if someone offered me a free ticket home, I would have taken it. It was a combination of my exhaustion, confusion and the state of the apartment. Don’t get me wrong, 24 hours later looking at the apartment, I actually like it but it was clearly refurbished 15 years ago and I am used to my Southport Central glory. I slept it off and now really like it.

That night was one of my better sleeps – 8 hours of uninterrupted zzz. I went to bed watching episodes of Friends for some familiarity (ironic I know).

Tune in tomorrow for my first breakfast in Cleveland (yes Carla, the bagel makes an appearance) and more instances of Americans thinking I speak an undiscovered language.

A little somethin, somethin for Caroline




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PRIEST HIT BY A BULLET


A priest was hit by a bullet on the left of his back as the owner-type vehicle he was riding on with two companions passed through an unpopulated area in barangay Balaring in Boac. The incident happened last Friday, Oct 23 at around 11:00 pm.

Rev. Father Sherwin Apostol, parish priest of Balanacan and a native of Dampulan, Torrijos was immediately rushed to the provincial hospital by other priest companions who shortly found the parked vehicle with the wounded victim. The priests, including Apostol, were also on their way home from a regional basketball tournament, “Soltare Cup”* hosted by the Diocese of Boac.

Police Senior Superintendent Danilo Estapon, Marinduque Provincial Director, today belied initial reports that the incident was a case of “ambush by several armed men” as reported yesterday by a Manila-based newspaper. Estapon said a small bullet, the size of a .22 caliber bullet was still embedded in the priest’s back.

The victim who remained conscious throughout the incident has been transferred to Mt. Carmel Hospital in Lucena City where he is undergoing further treatment. Apostol has been declared out of danger.

Meanwhile, provincial administrator Atty. Allan Velasco requested the National Bureau of Investigation through NBI director Nestor M. Mantaring to immediately conduct a thorough investigation on the incident.


(*a member of the laity clarified that the "Soltare Cup" ended on Oct. 22 and that the basketball tournament participated in by the priests in Cawit on the day of the incident, Oct 23, was related to the Barangay Fiesta of Cawit with parish priests playing against a barangay-based basketball team.) eo/10.27.09)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

MARINDUQUE POWER OUTAGES - PART 5

"SHOWING THE MAGIC TRICKS"

Now we know that the name of 3i Powergen. Inc. as contracting party appeared to have manifested from thin air on Sept. 27, 2005, with nobody, nobody raising any audible cry nor whimper about its origin - particularly the Marelco people and the so-called witnesses.

“... ang kontrata ay nakita na lamang niya (Bueno) bilang general manager ay ng aprobado na at hindi lumabas ang kanilang naging rekomendasyon.” (Minutes, Aug. 11, 2008, SP)

We also now know that 3i Powergen failed to meet the effective date of the PSA:
Bueno: “Dapat March 2007, ay 3i na ang naga-generate ng power sa Marinduque subalit mayroon pang intervening factor katulad ng ECC at iba pang government consent. Humingi ang 3i ng extension na natapos noong June 2007”. (Aug. 11, 2008, SP)

So even the ECC (Environmental Clearance Certificate), requirement was also apparently problematic. BM Allan Nepomuceno asks why Marelco allowed extension of the contract.

Bueno. “... walang extension na nangyayari at walang dokumento na nagsasabi na pinalawig ng Marelco ang kontrata nito sa 3i Powergen” (Minutes, Aug. 11, 2008, SP)

Probably missing the glaring double-talk said in the same sitting, nobody in the SP appeared to have winked an eye.

We also know that “nagsimula ang problema sa pera ng iniwan sila ng IFC (International Financial Center)” ng nagsisimula na ang 3i”. (Bueno, Aug. 11, 2008).

Now, that’s IFC, the World Bank's private sector investment arm abandoning 3i Powergen. Was that a surprise? As the transaction advisor engaged by government, particularly Napocor, for the introduction of private participation in power generation in missionary areas by way of divestitures of Power Supply Agreements (PSAs) between SPUG and Electricity Cooperatives (ECs), in favor of new power providers (NPPs), IFC’s departure early in the game from the 3i transaction was also apparently missed.

RESCISSION ISSUE

Nevertheless, we find the issue of rescission of contract being raised, to which Marelco’s position smells of the carotene of a performance bond:

“may mga safeguards naman nakapaloob sa kasunduan, katulad ng performance bond, ito ang patuloy pang pinag-aaralan ng kooperatiba.

“Sa ngayon ay komukunsulta ang Marelco sa abogado upang magbigay ng payo kung ano pang legal na hakbang ang puwede pa nilang gamitin, ayon kay G. Bueno”. (Minutes, Aug. 11, 2008, SP).


Eleven months later the same question on rescission was tossed again by the Sanggunian members but Marelco raises defenses:

Bueno’s defense: “... nagiging maingat ang pamunuan ng Marelco bago gumawa ng severe action tungkol diyan baka po mawala iyong hinahabol na mga damages.

“Iyan ay naka elevate na sa Junta Direktiva (board of directors), pinag-uusapan iyan ngayon dahil napakahirap po naman kung magiging hasty ang kanilang mga action ay baka iyong hinahabol na mga damages na naaayon sa kontrata ay mawala na lamang ng parang walang nangyari.” (Committee Hearing, July 9, 2009)


Director Garcia: “... meron doong provision for performance bond so sa akin pong pagkakaunawa baka kapag outrightly i-terminate natin iyon mawalan tayo ng personality to claim for that performance bond and alternatively seek for actual damages na baka ibalik sa amin ng 3i Powergen, (at sabihin) na since you have already terminated the contract between us ay hindi na puwedeng habulin ang performance bond, mag-claim na lang kayo ng damages (sic)”.

Performance bond definition: surety bond (a bond given to protect the recipient against loss in case the terms of a contract are not filled; a surety company assumes liability for nonperformance); a financial guarantee that a service will be provided or a contract will be satisfactorily completed.

PERFORMANCE BOND AFLOAT ALL AROUND

The performance bond in question purportedly involved the amount of P. 26-Million as surety or guarantee required to be posted by 3i Powergen, copy of which should be furnished Marelco on terms and conditions acceptable to the latter with effect from the ‘effective date’ to the end of term of the SPA.

Director Garcia: “...ayaw din naman namin na kung sakaling mag-desisyon kami (to rescind) ay masisi din kami, kasi baka ma-let go namin ang P26M na performance bond na aming gustong habulin doon sa 3I, sapagkat ang aming priority ngayon kung mahahabol namin sila doon sa performance bond makuha man lang iyon, mapangbayad sa NAPOCOR sa pagkakautang, gagawin namin iyon.”

Not satisfied with that reasoning, Garcia further warns of the difficulty in finding a new IPP: “Madali pong mag-rescind kahit hindi na natin habulin ang performance bond kung iyan po ang kagustuhan ng ating minamahal na Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Ang problema po ang paghahanap na naman po ng panibagong IPP magkakaroon na naman ng panibagong bidding process at kasama diyan ang NAPOCOR, ERC para makahanap ng panibagong IPP.” (July 9, 2008).


3i Powergen’s Lagundi assured that the performance bond was “renewed, intact and in place”, but cautiously added that any other legal questions related thereto would be answered by him in a legal forum. (Lagundi, August 11, 2009)

Mention of the performance bond as a safeguard being studied was first divulged by GM Bueno on Aug. 8, 2008. SP board member Querubin asked him again about a year later, on July 9, 2009 on the validity of the performance bond but Bueno responded cryptically, thus: “Iyon po ang na-determine actually kaya nga kumuha ng abogado ang Marelco para habulin iyon.”

Querubin raised the same question again during the Energy Summit on Oct. 9, 2009, about the possibility of Marelco running after “an empty bag”. No one stood to respond to him with a specific answer.

SMOKING DOCUMENT

We'd have to go back to an earlier mentioned document, “Joint Declaration of Realization of the Effective Date of the Power Supply Agreement between 3i Powergen, Inc. and Marinduque Electric Cooperative (Marelco)” which stated as follows:

“Pursuant to the Power Supply Agreement (PSA) executed on 27 September 2005 between 3i Powergen, Inc. and Marinduque Electric Cooperative (collectively referred to as the “Parties”), the Parties hereby declare:

“1. That the Conditions Precedent as enumerated in Section 3.2 of the PSA have been achieved or the deadline otherwise waived as provided in the 1st Supplemental Agreement to the Power Supply Agreement and Subsidy Agreement executed on 2 March 2006.

“2. That the Effective Date as defined in Section 3.2 of the PSA is hereby attained.

“In witness whereof, each of the Parties has caused this Declaration to be executed in more than one copy each of which shall be deemed to be an original as of the date of this Declaration.

“Marinduque Electric Cooperative
By: (Signed)
Augusto Leo M. Livelo, President

3i Powergen, Inc.
By: (Signed)
Manuel T. Castro, President

“Signed in the presence of:
(Signature of Witnesses)”




Now, “Conditions precedent” referred to above specifies that “Effective Date shall be the first business day immediately following the day on which all of the following shall have occurred”:

Corporate approvals (parties have furnished each other with copies of the resolutions adopted by its respective board of directors authorizing the execution, delivery and performance by it of the PSA, certified by its corporate secretary);

Government Consents (Parties have obtained government consents as applicable and indicated in Schedule D, and furnished each other with certified true copies of each consent, permit, approval or license. Now, “Schedule D” specifies BIR certificate of registration and registration of books and accounts; DOE accreditation of supplier as a private sector generation facility; SEC incorporation documents and SEC certificate approving the articles of incorporation; DENR environmental compliance certificate; Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board locational clearances; National Water Resources Board water use facilities; SSS registration as employer and registration of employees).

Legal Opinions (legal opinions of its general counsel certifying to each Party’s corporate standing as well as the due execution, validity and binding effect of the PSA on such party); Subsidy Agreement (execution of Subsidy Agreement between 3i Powergen, Marelco and NPC-SPUG); Possession and Operational Control of Subtransmission System (if Offtaker has opted to operate the Subtransmission System);

Performance Bond (Supplier shall have furnished Offtaker with a copy of a Performance Bond on terms and conditions acceptable to Offtaker in the amount of Php 26-Million that shall be in effect from Effective Date to the end of this PSA).

Phase In-Phase Out Arrangement (Supplier, Offtaker and NPC-SPUG have agreed on mutually acceptable terms); Project IRR (Supplier has furnished Offtaker with the Project Internal Rate of Return after financial close).

It has been earlier established that Marelco has not seen to-date 3i Powergen’s SEC registration papers. There’s one letter dated July 30, 2007, from NPC-SPUG to 3i Powergen stating that “3i should also be responsible in securing the required ECC from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other regulatory agencies for its operation”, and as late as Aug 11, 2008, Bueno mentioned ECC issuance as an “intervening factor” (SP Minutes).

With respect to performance bond that is specified as a condition precedent, a copy of which Marelco should have been furnished with as its terms and conditions should be acceptable to Marelco”, why is it that two years have passed since its “elevation” to their Junta Direktiva” and referred to lawyers yet, Marelco still appears uncertain about its details?

SP board member Querubin talks of conspiracy and economic sabotage: “...maaring may sabwatan sa pagitan ng Marelco at 3i Powergen dahil sa kabila ng katotohanan na walang kapasidad ang huli na magsuplay ng kuryente patuloy pa rin ang kontrata... kaya maituturing na economic sabotage ang ginagawa ng Marelco at 3i Powergen dahil apektado ang ekonomiya ng lalawigan”. (Sept. 30,2009)

But what if the requirement for a performance bond, as in the case of one or possibly all of the government consents needed that was remedied through a one page sweep, was never fulfilled? We may seek endlessly but not a crisp performance bond find.

(to be continued)

I'm alive

Just another quick post to say I have arrived in Cleveland without any major dramas.

I am a little tired as I have not been able to sleep so have been up for 30 hours now. Here's hoping I can sleep tonight!!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Update

An empty seat between me and the next passenger and no smelly, fat men within range. Good start.



Sent via BlackBerry® from Telstra

Behind the line

I have made it to the airport and through customs, to a utopia of duty free electronics and morning drinking. Obviously morning drinking is allowed past customs as you are in a no man zone where there is no concept of time as we know it. In this place, you don't consider a point in time, you think of it in reference to your departure time. So it is not 10.30am, it is 30 minutes until boarding. The 10.30 concept is irrelevant as that will not be the time of your destination. I think that is a logical justification for 10.30 stubby. Appears reasonable, no further justification performed.



I am boarding now, so my next update will have a subtle, but noticeable American accent.



Peace out





Sent via BlackBerry® from Telstra

Friday, October 23, 2009

And the journey begins (figuratively speaking)


I did promise a blog on my US adventures but have to confess, this opening post is from Australia (sorry if I have disappointed). I have been very productive today (when measured against my standards). I have:
• got the car serviced,
• had my dry cleaning done (so I smell good in Cleveland),
• Bought a US mains socket adaptor,
• Helped catch a rat,
• Updated my iPod music (I don’t want to be listening to bad tunes for the 19 hours of flying). I was lucky my sister has let me take her iPod to America,
• Finalised some work,
• Dropped my car and motorbike into safe hands (safer than mine),
• And I am sure there is more stuff to list but we are all getting bored with this topic.

A big thanks goes out to those who organised me in the lead up (Caz, Loren, Tori, Emma, Skye, and a special mention to Carla for the consultation on plane seating). If it was not for the brains trust, I would have ended up in the wrong country, had no money and been found curled up in a ball, rocking from side to side.

So tonight is the packing exercise. This should not be too hard because, although I am not much of a beach goer, my wardrobe matches the snowy Cleveland climate about as well as Tori sets a rat trap. This means some serious shopping when I get there. This will involve RUNNING between stores as my flimsy cotton clothing provides me little protection. I’m not sure what epitomises Ohio style, but I will be it soon enough. Let’s hope its loose fitting, as the combination of large US serving sizes and my lack of willpower is a bad combination for my waistline.

Well, it is time for me to make the most of my last night in my apartment and really start the packing process.

Boomshanka

PS I am turning off all major appliances in my unit. If anyone wants the leftover Indian takeaway or the half bag of baby rocket in my fridge, let me know. No need for it to go to waste in these troubling economic times.

Ghosts of NY in the Annual Village Halloween Parade


Halloween is coming up with its frights, terrors, ghosts, costumes and candies. We hope your costume is already made up and you better hurry if you’re still looking for ideas.

Halloween is truly special and if you had enough of tricks and treats and you’re looking for something extra special this year, why won’t you come down to New York City, the greatest city in the world, for a weekend of fun, scares and endless shopping.

Of course that you don’t want to miss the major Halloween event here in the Manhattan. It’s the 36th annual Village Halloween Parade and it’s the nation’s largest Halloween celebration and truly one of the great festivals of the world (it’s actually listed as one of the 100 Things to do Before You Die book).


2 million people attend the parade every year and another million join the fun on the TV. The parade is known for its giant puppets and lively audience. 50,000 parade participants from anywhere in the Northeast, work all year round in order to create the amazing giant puppets and bring them in the city for Halloween.

The parade starts at 7pm on Saturday, October 31 and runs straight up 6th Ave. from Spring Street to 21st Street. You might consider getting there early because the streets get pretty crowded and you also might consider to book a cheap flight with Do All Travel!

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Petit France Village at Gyeonggi do

Petite France is situated in Gyeonggi-do Gapyeong-gun Cheongpyeong-myeon Goseong-ri 616. Yes, in the Gapyeong County (provinve of Gyeonggi-do), at about two hours from Seoul, there is a “Little France” in Korea.

Gyeonggi-do (경기도 - 京畿道) is the Korean province immediately surrounding the capital, Seoul, along with Suwon and Incheon.

Petite France, a French cultural village set in the Korean countryside! Petite France serves as both a French cultural village and a youth training facility (Goseong Youth Training Center), and consists of 16 French-style buildings where visitors can lodge and experience French food, clothing, and household culture.

‘Petit’ means ‘small and pretty’ in French, and this village is located on the hilltop overlooking the beautiful mountain scenery of Homyeongsan (Mt.) and the clear surroundings of Cheongpyeongho (Lake). Building heights were adjusted using natural hills, and every house in the village were arranged to overlook the lake. Such structure disposition and internal decoration of construction materials, rooftop, windows and floor are all French.

Petite France was once a setting place for Munhwa broadcast TV drama Called "Beethoven Virus".

Petite France Facilities :

* Little Prince theme park
* Exhibitions – Saint-Exupery memorial hall; a pavilion to exhibit French household culture; gallery of the coq gaulois exhibition
* Shops – Bistro; herbal shop; Little Prince souvenir shop; orgel shop
* Other Attractions - Puppet theater; activity center; multi-purpose hall; outdoor performance site; observatory; a walking path (along which wild flowers bloom); Adventure Hill


Petite France Admission Fees

* Preschoolers (ages 3-7) 5,000 won (group admission of kindergarten 3,000 won)
* Youths 6,000 won (group 4,000 won)
* Adults 8,000 won (group 6,000 won)
Group - more 20 people
Free admission for overnight guests.


How To Access Petite France

* A bus runs between Seoul (East Seoul terminal) and Cheongpyeong departing every 20 to 30 minutes (06:15-22:05), and takes one hour
* A train runs between Seoul (Cheongnyangni station, Seongbuk station) and Cheongpyeong departing every 50 minutes (06:10-22:00), and the journey takes one hour Take a shuttle bus runs from Cheongnyangni station to Petite France six times on weekdays and eight times on weekends.

Petit France Official Website : http://www.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=815994

Some Photos and pictures of Petit France :


petit france entrace
Petite France is named after the famous novel “The Little Prince”. Petit France has made a formal license contract with the Saint Exupery Foundation at Lyonnais, France, a foundation of the author of to provide contents on .


petit france gyeonggi do
You can feel the serene sight of Southern Europe at Petit France, made up of houses with white walls and red terra-cotta rooftops.


fountain petit france
This plaza with its fountain and everything was perfect for having a cup of coffee and feeling like being in Europe for a while.


kang mae room petite france
Kang-Mae’s room. Everyone was making use of the opportunity to pretend to be him. There are lotsa props available for people to use, such as batons, scores, instruments etc.


saint exupery foundation petite france
As much as it is the official partner of the Saint-Exupéry Foundation, it contains a variety of things to see on the .


gyeonggi do mountains
Another view of the village in the middle of Gyeonggi-do mountains.



Watch Petit France Village at Korea Video here

"TALENTADONG PINOY" AUDITIONS

One television show that has managed to grab the attention of the local viewing public in the Philippines is "TALENTADONG PINOY". It is now the most popular talent show on TV and the number one show on Saturdays.

Hosted by RYAN AGONCILLO, and shown on TV5, (SATURDAYS, 7:30 PM TO 8:30 PM), "TALENTADONG PINOY" pits the talents of the common Filipino as they showcase their skills in the different fields of entertainment. Singers, dancers, magicians, acrobats, (solos or groups), to extreme talents such as fire-eaters and tightrope walkers have tried their luck to grab the show's weekly give-away prize of P 50,000.00.

Current champion for the last two weeks is "OMAR" from Mogpog, Marinduque, doing his "very FIlipino" ladder-balancing act with the help of his father.

"TALENTADONG PINOY" that has held auditions in SM Malls in Metro Manila, Baguio and other branches goes beyond the malls this time, for the first time.

In cooperation with the provincial government of Marinduque and the six municipalities "TALENTADONG PINOY" is coming to search for more Marinduque talents.

Auditions have been set on the following dates and venues:

THURSDAY, NOV. 5, 2009 - MOGPOG COVERED COURT 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

FRIDAY, NOV. 6, 2009 - TORRIJOS COVERED COURT 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm


No pre-screening. A team from "TALENTADONG PINOY" with executive producer Malou Escio-Gascon will conduct the search.

So chance mo na kaibigan!
Mag-audition na baya!

For further inquiries pls call the Office of the Governor, tel. (042) 332-1002 (Eli or Arlyn)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

MARINDUQUE POWER OUTAGES - PART 4

“3i POWER CONUNDRUMS”

So now we have Coastal Power Development Corporation and lts partner, Applied Research Technologies Philippines, referred to as a consortium, to supply power to Marinduque including the islands of Romblon and Tablas. A concession-type contract between the winning bidder and local electric cooperatives would be entered into; the framework of this concession did not require the private supplier to buy existing generation assets of the NPC; a hybrid diesel-wind energy solution for the power needs of these islands would be put into place; and the consortium is also referred to as Coastal Power Consortium or Coastal Consortium.

We note that the said bidders’ first envelopes (technical proposals) were opened on 25 August 2005 and the financial bids on 5 September 2005. Coastal Consortium emerged as the winning bidder having offered a lower electric generation service cost.

How did 3i Powergen, Inc. get into the picture then?

By the time the Power Supply Agreement (PSA) was scheduled for signing three weeks later, on Sept. 27, 2005, a new name has cropped up as “Supplier”: 3i Powergen, Inc.

The signed PSA is therefore now between 3i Powergen, Inc. and Marelco, Inc.

Marelco manager Bueno claimed to have opposed it by questioning the qualification of the new company: “Ilang beses na akong humarap at sinasabi ko na sa mga board members noon na iyan ang aming naging problema bakit na-qualify iyang 3i Powergen na iyan na pumasok dito. Hindi lang Marelco, ang kontrata ay para sa tatlong Isla, Marinduque, Romblon, Tablas. Iyan ay matagal ko ng kinokontra iyan na pag-aralang maigi.

“Ang chairman po ng bids and awards dito alam ko ay NAPOCOR. Two directors coming from each coop, dalawa sa Marinduque, dalawa sa Romblon, dalawa sa Tablas, chaired by NPC president.... Dahil iyong competitive selection process ng kung saan ay ginawa iyan ay hindi dito sa Marinduque, iyon po ay doon sa NAPOCOR na opisina sa main office.”


Marelco director Beethoven Arevalo: “Ang totoo po noon mga panahon na iyon hindi pa general manager si GM (Bueno) siya ay kinuha namin bilang consultant noong mga panahon na ginagawa ang competitive selection process o pagpipili ng mga bidders na sasali dito. At sa proseso po dahil ito ay programa ng DOE at alam natin na ang DOE ay gobyerno walang makakapigil dahil nga doon sa privatization ng NPC talagang walang makakapigil, kahit kami rin po ay ayaw namin noong mga panahon na iyan pero sinabi nila na wala ng choice kasi ang NPC privatized na, so ito po ay programa ng DOE. Kami naman sa first wave na sinasabi iyong 14 Island provinces, napasama ang Marinduque. So no choice po kami sumali sa programa ng gobyerno.”

Whichever way one may look at it, "bakit na-qualify yang 3i Powergen na pumasok dito“; “kinokontra ko yan na pag-aralang maigi”; then a Marelco director adds: “kahit kami rin po ay ayaw namin noong mga panahon na iyan pero sinabi nila na wala ng choice...” there was political pressure, clearly written all over the place, that explains why the PSA was signed. But what else are they not saying?

We then hear, as revealed by board member Jose Alvarez, during the Sept 30 public hearing about the presence during the historic signing, of the three Reyeses (former congressman Edmundo Reyes, former governor now congresswoman Carmencita Reyes and former provincial administrator Luisito Reyes), a milestone in Marinduque’s power solution.

Representing Marelco as signatory in 2005 was then coop president, Augusto Leo Livelo. Was he forced to sign the agreement then? Sources say he was. (A new coop president got elected in 2008, Joel Palatino, as Livelo ended his term of office).

We have previously stated that under the current system embraced by Marelco, it is “subject to the whims and caprices of any government agency” and this episode is merely a re-confirmation of the political pressures that Marelco is subjected to. No less than Cong. Mila Magsaysay had that much to say of electric cooperatives that do not register with the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), (Solon hits NEA, May 19, 2009; congress.gov.ph)

Back to 3i Powergen:

(Photo: The site in Balogo)

Probably too scared, none from Marelco, before signing the contract even bothered to check the legal personality of the company in question. Not one of the so-called government consents that refer to permits, licenses, agreements, orders, certificates, registrations, clearances, etc. from government authorities were asked for by Marelco as basic pre-requisite.

As late as October 9, 2009, at the Marinduque Energy Summit during the open forum, this blogger asked the Marelco representatives if they ever possessed a copy of 3i Powergen’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration papers, inasmuch as it is normal business practice to establish identities of contracting parties.

“Inaamin ko pong wala kaming pinanghahawakang SEC Registration ng 3i Powergen”, replied director B. Arevalo.

This response of course, implies that four years into the confusion, even with all the widespread scepticism, Marelco still does not know until now, anything about the company’s identity, their reasons for existence, their incorporators, authorized capital stock, or if the company has even secured the necessary consents from government agencies concerned.

Contracts such as the Power Supply Agreement (PSA) in question do specify the need to obtain such documents, among others, and to furnish the other party with copies of the same to achieve “effective date” (first business day immediately following the day on which the required documents are submitted). Within a specified period from the date of the agreement, said agreement shall be “deemed terminated” if those requirements do not occur.

In this contract, “within four (4) months from the date of the Agreement” was specified as the deadline (January 27, 2006), for the effective date to occur, otherwise the PSA “shall be deemed terminated”.

Nothing occurred within that period, yet the contract was not deemed terminated. But in view of the above-stated contract provision that had lapsed, this was the singular time when the SPA itself was under threat of outright termination.


The SPA involved investments of P 677-million, or combined investments for the Marinduque-Romblon-Tablas project of P 1.448-billion. What sort of political pressure then, or threat, or persuasion, or consideration, or temptation, or a combination of any of these came into the picture?

A short cut, remedy or one might even call it ‘going around the law’ would be to simply declare, way past the deadline, that those conditions have been met, fulfilled or achieved, contrary to fact. One might suppose that it wouldn’t be hard to see the color and shade of money painted in the background.

BM Alvarez: “Kung merong kotongan (extortion) na nangyari, ay nangyari noong 2006...” (Sept. 30, SP)

On March 2, 2006, the parties concerned did issue such a joint declaration of realization of the effective date of the agreement. In effect, the new date for the commercial operations of 3i would be by July 2007,16 months (not 18), after the “effective date”.

Through the SEC website’s online transaction feature, this blogger’s find is that 3i Powergen, Inc. merely reserved use of its name but has not registered to-date, four years after the Agreement. (Reservation of proposed company name may remain valid up to 90 days, but may be renewed and does not mean registration). To me, the company cannot be considered “a company registered and existing under the laws of the Philippines” as stated in the SPA and the contracting parties cannot waive these requirements.

Five months after what Marelco called an “extension” of the contract, we find almost similar news articles in Malaya, Aug. 6, 2006; Manila Bulletin, Aug. 6, 2006; Manila Standard Today, Aug. 7, 2006:

“...3i Powergen is 100 percent owned by Filipinos...is a joint venture of Applied Research Technologies Philippines Inc., Coastal Power Development Corp., Five Star Bus Co. Inc. and businessman Cesar Hernandez.

“...The Board of Investments granted incentives to the three hybrid wind-diesel plants of 3i Powergen Inc. (in Marinduque and Romblon), with combined investments of P1.448 billion. ...

“...All three plants will start commercial operations by February 2007.”


Came July 2007, there was still no 3i-produced power in Marinduque. By this time a new administration under Gov. Carrion who won the election in May 2007, was running the capitol.

On 3i’s new failure, VP Lagundi reasoned out: “Ang nangyari.... ay ang pagkakaantala ng pagpapalabas ng loan mula sa mga imbestor dahil sa nararanasang global financial crisis. Humihingi na ang mga ito ng PSA na pinagtibay ng ERC na nakabinbin naman sa ERC dahil sa hindi pakikipagtulungan ng tatlong kooperatiba kasama ang Marelco...

GM Bueno rebuked: “...hindi na kailangan pang pagtibayin ng ERC ang PSA para lamang mag-umpisa ang konstruksyon... sa mga pagpupulong ng Marelco kaharap si Atty. Lagundi inamin nito na nagsimula ang problema sa pera ng iniwan sila ng IFC ng nagsisimula na ang 3i. Naging istrikto ito at ginawang kondisyon bago maipalabas ang loan ang approved PSA at approved TCGR subalit ito ay hindi kasama sa pinirmahang PSA”. (Regular Session, SP, August 11, 2008).

IFC abandoning 3i? That’s news!

(Photo: Plant site in Balogo)

By August 11, 2008, in another SP meeting, Lagundi said proudly of the new 3i composition: “Ang 3i Powergen sa kasalukuyan ay binubuo ng tatlong korporasyon: Coastal Power Development, Iljin Electric Company at Korean Western Power Co.”

About a year later, Bueno was saying: “Hindi naging makatotohanan ang 3I Powergen, hindi sila nakapag deliver. Iyang 12.48 na iyan kung saan itatayo ang power plant sa Balogo Sta. Cruz. Kung sino man po ang taga Sta. Cruz kung mapapasyal kayo doon makikita natin ay puro hukay. Hinukay nila noong October 2006. Hanggang ngayon po hindi ko alam ang kanilang natapos doon sa proyekto na iyon.” (Jul 6, 2009, SP)

BM Raza: “...noong pinatawag po natin ang (vice) president ng 3I Powergen si Atty. Domingo Lagundi... he admitted in the session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan that they are financially incapable to construct the facilities in compliance with the requirements of the obligation. In my view that would send a signal for Marelco’s board to finally decide to rescind or not to rescind the contract...” (July 6, 2009)

BM Alvarez: “...sinasabi na ni Atty. Lagundi na wala po talaga silang kakayahan at halos magmakaawa at umiyak dito. Actually ang nangyari po parang nag-speculate lang sila na may papasok. Iyon naman po ay practice na tinatanggap natin dahil meron naman silang kaugnayan sa ibat-iba pang mga negosyante subalit hindi katanggap-tanggap iyong katagalan ng proseso.” (July 6, 2009)

And this, dear Dave, is just the beginning...

Monday, October 19, 2009

AT LAST, SEAIR FLIES TO MARINDUQUE!


Finally! SEAIR flies to Marinduque!

South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR) has commenced flight on their newest route Manila – Marinduque – Manila last Saturday, October 17, 2009.

Flight frequency and schedules are as follows:

Tuesday, Saturday
Manila – Marinduque DG 385 ETD Manila: 0940H / ETA Marinduque: 1040H
Marinduque – Manila DG 386 ETD Marinduque: 1100H / ETA Manila: 1200H

Thursday
Manila – Marinduque DG 387 ETD Manila: 1100H / ETA Marinduque: 1200H
Marinduque – Manila DG 388 ETD Marinduque: 1220H / ETA Manila: 1320H

Sunday
Manila – Marinduque DG 389 ETD Manila: 1300H / ETA Marinduque: 1400H
Marinduque – Manila DG 340 ETD Marinduque: 1420H / ETA Manila: 1520H

As per SEAIR (www.flyseair.com) website , the LET410 Turbolet is a twin engined short-range transport aircraft manufactured by the Czech aircraft manufacturer LET, mostly used for passenger transport. With more than 1,100 produced, it is the most popular 19-seat plane in history.

It provides first class comfort, while simultaneously servicing and unpaved airstrips. In the 19-seater class, no plane is better suited for short-haul.

Manufacturer: LET A.S.
Powerplant: M601-E
Length: 14.42 m (47 ft 4 in)
Wingspan: 19.98 m (65 ft 5 in)
Height: 5.83 m 19 ft 2 in)
Seat Capacity: 19 + 2 crew
Number of planes: 6
Max. Take-off Weight: 6,600 kgs (15,520 lbs)
Speed: 175 knots

To book your flight to / from BELLAROCCA (Marinduque), contact the following numbers:

SEAIR CALL CENTER : +632 849.0100
Makati/Manila – Commercial; 2nd Floor La'O Centre, Arnaiz Ave. Makati City, Philippines 1200

Commercial FAX: +63 2 849.0219
Reservation FAX: +63 2 849.0239

Day by Day, "My Private Italy" tour itinerary

Day 0 - 1
Depart US/Fly overnight to Italy. Tour begins at Pisa airport, so you may fly either directly into Pisa, or fly to Rome and connect to Pisa by air or by train. At the Pisa airport, you will be met by "La Contadina" tour guide Marybeth (“Bettina” while in Italy) and by filmmaker Steve McCurdy. We will embark on our first adventure right from here by visiting the famed Leaning Tower of Pisa in the Piazza dei Miracoli, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.* From here, we will transfer to Lucca (greater Lucca area pop. 86,000; pop. within medieval walls 8,000) and our centrally-located, 4-star hotel. Time to settle in, stroll in the heart of this proud Etruscan city and enjoy a welcome dinner at one of Lucca’s finest restaurants. A mini language lesson for those interested.

Day 2
Breakfast and a quick morning stroll atop the ramparts to get our blood flowing before our drive to the ocean to visit the Cinque Terre, a string of 5 isolated, rugged villages clinging to the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. Let Steve show you some of his favorite spots he filmed for “My Private Italy,” as we search together for the best pesto, the most flavorful wine, lemon-flavored honey, local olive oil, and locally-made handicrafts in this UNESCO Natural World Heritage Park*. This is a day to admire the colorful architecture, breathe deeply of the sea air, and get some exercise as we climb and descend the often-steep and always-quaint village streets. Enjoy a little wine education courtesy of Bettina during dinner together on the coast before we return to our peaceful retreat in Lucca.

Day 3
Breakfast together and then off to Florence for the day! One could spend a whole week in Florence, or perhaps a lifetime, taking in the wonders of this world-famous city. It is not our intention to show you all of Florence but rather to expose you to the grandeur and magnificence of this cultural mecca, visiting some top spots along the way (incl. the Ponte Vecchio), to show you some hidden gems (good places to shop for leather, fun local trattoria for lunch together, best gelateria, etc.), and of course, to pose with the replica of Michelangelo’s David in the Piazza della Signoria. Dinner on your own tonight in Florence (we will happily make recommendations), and then we return to Lucca to pack our bags!

Day 4
This morning is our last breakfast in Lucca. We are going to get an early start so we can enjoy our drive through Tuscany and have time for a brief exploration of “San Gimignano delle belle Torri” (San Gimignano of the beautiful towers, pop. 7100), one of the best-preserved hill towns in all of Tuscany. In fact, San Gimignano has been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site* and still has 14 towers remaining from the 11th-13th centuries. We will wander the hilly streets and, for those up to the task, climb the 54-meter high Torre Grossa for an unparalleled view of the surrounding Tuscan countryside. Before taking off for Spoleto, Umbria, we will visit a famous gelateria (spring tour) and perhaps try the Crema di Santa Fina (orange cream gelato flavored with vanilla bean pods), or the famous Sorbetto alla Vernaccia, another specialty flavor found only here. You may want to pick up a bottle of local Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a lovely white wine made in this region since the Renaissance. We will then drive to Spoleto (pop. 36,000), check into our lovely centrally-located hotel, and call it a day – a great day!

Day 5
We get to sleep in a bit today! Breakfast at our hotel followed by an orientation to Spoleto and a free morning to do as you wish. You may cross the Ponte delle Torri (the Bridge of the Towers which began as a Roman aqueduct), or you may prefer to check out the Teatro Romano (Roman Theater) and the Casa Romana (Roman House). There are also plenty of shops in Spoleto selling lovely and affordable hand-painted ceramics, truffle oil, pasta, wine, and other souvenirs and gifts. Time for a nap in the early afternoon before we gather for our cooking class! Our renowned local chef will teach you to mix simple ingredients and create sophisticated dishes that will impress your friends and family. After our session in the kitchen we will relax and enjoy our scrumptious meal. We will stroll leisurely back to our hotel and enjoy sogni d’oro tonight (dreams of gold). Printed recipes will be emailed to you following the tour’s conclusion.

Day 6
For our last full day together, we will meet after breakfast for our day trip north to Bevagna (pop. 2,400) and Montefalco (pop. 5,500). These hilltop villages are lined with cobblestone streets and old shops. While in Bevagna we will visit a local winery for a wine tasting. On our way back, we will stop in Montefalco, and from the “Balcony of Umbria,” we will savor the panoramic views of the Umbrian hills and let the scenery gently revive our senses. After snacking on pizza we will shop for a wonderful local wine (Sagrantino di Montefalco or a Rosso di Montefalco) or other treasures. Back to Spoleto for our last dinner together and a night “passeggiata.”

Day 7
Arrivederci everyone! Transfer to Rome Fiumicino Airport and buon viaggio! For those of you extending your stay, you can ask to be transferred into the city from the airport. Thank you for traveling with us!

*UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. To learn more about UNESCO, please visit http://www.unesco.org/. Briefly (and taken from their website), UNESCO’s mission is “to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.” A sub-mission of UNESCO is “to preserve humanity’s irreplaceable riches: its diversity and shared heritage.” To accomplish this, UNESCO catalogues, names, and conserves sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity. In particular, a World Heritage Site is a place of either cultural or physical significance and must be of "outstanding universal value." On our “My Private Italy” tour, we will visit 4 such sites: the Piazza del Duomo in Pisa, the Cinque Terre, the historic center of Florence, and San Gimignano.

MARINDUQUE POWER OUTAGES - PART 3

(Photo: Upper tier of Bulusukan Falls, Buenavista)







TRACKING DOWN OUR POWER MISERY & MYSTERY

I have previously posted, that based on a “consultation meeting” with the Department of Energy and Napocor that transpired in 2004, (ref. NPC letter Sept. 4, 2009 to Marelco), the Marinduque Electric Cooperative, Inc (Marelco), OPTED to have its New Power Provider (NPP) in the promulgation of DOE Circular No. 2004-01-001.

The word “opted” was used in said NPC’s letter asking about the status of the privatization of power generation in Marinduque. This appears to suggest that the electric cooperative could have, instead, just opted to allow NPC to continue with its mandate to provide electricity in Marinduque, as provided for in the law.

What does the EPIRA Law (Electric Power Industry Reform Act) state exactly on the matter concerning missionary electrification areas where Marinduque falls under? After seven years of congressional debate and litigation, this Act came into force on June 26, 2001. The act has three main objectives: 1) to develop indigenous resources; 2) to cut the high cost of electric power in the Philippines; and 3) to encourage private and foreign investment. Passage of the Act set into motion the deregulation of the power industry and the breakup and eventual privatization of state-owned enterprises.

Section 70 of said EPIRA Law states the following under its provision for Missionary Electrification:

"SEC. 70. Missionary Electrification.Notwithstanding the divestment and/or privatization of NPC assets, IPP contracts and spun-off corporations, NPC shall remain as a National Government-owned and -controlled corporation to perform the missionary electrification function through the Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG) and shall be responsible for providing power generation and its associated power delivery systems in areas that are not connected to the transmission system. The missionary electrification function shall be funded from the revenues from sales in missionary areas and from the universal charge to be collected from all electricity end-users as determined by the ERC.

Marelco GM Eduardo Bueno during the July 6, 2009, public hearing held at the provincial capitol expressed, in response to a question about the status of the power supply agreement contract with 3i Powergen, in part: “.. base rin sa Epira Law na 70% ng assets ng National Power Corporation ay ibebenta na sa private sector, 70% except iyong mga areas under ng SPUG na mandated under Section 70 ng Epira Law, Missionary Electrification”

Could we then reconcile this with the DOE Circular No. DC 2004-01-001 (“SPUG Circular”)? Read on.

Said circular set the policy framework for private sector to takeover from NPC-SPUG the role of generating power in off-grid areas.

Under this Circular, gradual opening of all 74 SPUG areas are to be opened up to Private Sector Participation, with 14 as the First Wave Areas. Marinduque was No. 3 on this list. On 12 February 2004, the DOE issued Department Circular No. DC 2004-01-001:

Prescribing the Rules and Procedures for Private Sector Participation (PSP) in Existing NPC-SPUG Areas. The Circular is pursuant to Rule 13 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA-IRR) and is premised on the following:

1. Declared policy of the State to ensure and accelerate the total electrification of the country.
2. DOE’s mandate to issue specific guidelines to encourage the inflow of private capital through participation in missionary electrification.
3. NPC-SPUG’s mandate to periodically assess the prospect of bringing power facilities to commercial viability and encourage private sector participation thereat.
4. Reduction of the burden of UC-ME whose missionary electrification component is used to fund such function of NPC-SPUG.

To move forward with the privatization of SPUG areas, the DOE, PSALM, and NPC engaged the International Finance Corporation (IFC) as transaction advisor to assist in the development of appropriate privatization program and selection of new power provider (NPP). The IFC supposedly have conducted pre-engagement surveys to the aforementioned areas. (EPIRA POWER TRACKER, Privatization of NPC-SPUG)

Pursuant to the said Circular, the IFC (International Finance Corporation), as designated Transaction Advisor would advise the Government on the introduction of private participation in power generation in missionary areas by way of divestitures of Power Supply Agreements (PSAs) between SPUG and Electricity Cooperatives (ECs), in favor of new power providers (NPPs).

IFC was to ensure a fair, transparent and competitive selection
process to attract private sector participation, to assist the Philippines to speed up implementation of its missionary electrification program.

Private Sector Participation in NPC-SPUG Areas

The SPUG areas below were opened for the Private Sector Participation (PSP) program of the DOE:

Romblon; Tablas; Marinduque; Catanduanes; Masbate; Mindoro; Palawan; Cebu; Bantayan; Siquijor; Camotes; Basilan; Sulu and Taw-Tawi.
Project Description:

Private Sector Participation (PSP) in Power Generation through Competitive Selection Process as envisioned by DOE would lead to:

Reduction in the total cost of generation; Major improvements in reliability of supply, with a 24/7 supply; Elimination of SPUG's contribution to NPC's deficit; Reduction in the total Missionary Electrification subsidy required.

Concession Structure:

New Private Providers (NPPs) will take over NPC-SPUG generation
functions through a 15-year Power Supply Agreements with Electric Cooperatives (ECs):

For the 1st pilot areas (Hybrid of Bunker and Wind)
- Marinduque – 12MW
- Romblon – 2MW
- Tablas – 6MW

We then track down a report from DOE’s Epira Power Tracker web stating thus: (Status Report No. 7 covering period May-October 2005):

“The provision of electric generation services in three major SPUG areas were recently offered to the private sector through a competitive bidding process. The bidding covered an aggregate rated capacity of 24 MW in the following areas:
• Marinduque
• Tablas
• Romblon

The bidding, which was supervised by the International Finance Corporation, drew two interested parties, namely: Coastal Consortium and MTR Power Corporation. The bidders’ first envelopes (technical proposals) were opened 25 August 2005 and the financial bids on 5 September 2005. Coastal Consortium offered a lower electric generation service cost and emerged as the winning bidder on the opening of the financial proposals.

(Photo: View of Mt. Malindig from Pulang Lupa Historical Site)

The rest of SPUG-served areas for private sector participation/with New Power Provider (NPP) are the following:


• Bantayan Island - Bantayan Island Power Corporation;
• Oriental Mindoro, mainland Palawan and Catanduanes – Power One Corporation;
• Marinduque, Tablas and Romblon Islands – Coastal Consortium;
• Occidental Mindoro, Camotes and Masbate – opted for SPUG to determine the NPP, but IFC will also handle their NPP selection;
• Siquijor – opted to select its own NPP;
• Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi – IFC will also handle the selection of their sole NPP (similar to Marinduquie, Tablas and Romblon)

Now, it’s COASTAL CONSORTIUM being identified by the DOE website as the “winning bidder on the opening of financial proposals”. Curious, we look again for answers elsewhere and find this report from IFC MEDIA HUB:

“Competitive Bid To Privatize Electricity Supply in Marinduque, Romblon and Tablas” In Manila by Karen Villalobos

“Manila, September 9, 2005 — The Philippine Department of Energy and the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, today announced that a consortium comprising of Coastal Power Development Corporation and Applied Research Technologies Philippines won a competitive bid to supply power to the Philippine islands of Marinduque, Romblon, and Tablas. The winning bidder proposed a hybrid diesel-wind energy solution that will improve standards and bring the generation into compliance with Philippines environmental standards.

”Private sector participation was structured through a concession-type contract between the winning bidder and local electric cooperatives that take the power on these islands. The framework of this concession does not require the private supplier to buy existing generation assets of the National Power Corporation, allowing those assets to be deployed to unserved areas in the Philippines.

”The winning bidder’s price will lead to a reduction of about 40% from the current cost (13.8 pesos per kilowatt hour) of generating power in the islands. The Coastal Power Consortium agreed to provide power without interruption all year long, compared with the current average interruption of 196 hours, or eight days, per month. The group bid to provide 25 megawatts of combined electric capacity to the three islands not connected to the national power grid.

”IFC was charged with developing the agreements and a regulatory framework to attract private sector capital and expertise to power generation in remote islands. IFC was retained in 2004 by the Philippine government through the Department of Energy, National Power Corporation, and the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation to act as transaction advisor.

”The Coastal Power consortium will take responsibility for power supply from the Small Power Utilities Group, which is part of the National Power Corporation. SPUG has maintained responsibility for supplying power to 74 remote off-grid islands. The annual subsidy requirement for all these islands amounts to 2.1 billion pesos. Only about 60 percent of that cost is covered by a universal service charge assessed to on-grid customers. The remaining 40 percent is passed on to the national deficit through NPC.

”The Private Investor will be able to supply electricity to the 3 islands at a lower cost than the current government-managed operation and thus reduce the annual subsidy for electricity from 458 million pesos to 168 million pesos.

“IFC strategy includes support for power sector reform in the Philippines through increased private sector participation that promotes competition. The interest in this transaction provides tangible results for the ongoing power reform agenda in the Philippines,” said IFC Country Manager Vipul Bhagat.

“This model public-private partnership structure, wherein the investor achieves full cost recovery and profits from the electric cooperatives and partially through government subsidy, can be replicated for other infrastructure transactions in the Philippines and elsewhere,” said IFC Director of Advisory Services Bernie Sheahan."



“POWER HOTLINE” The Official Weekly Publication of the Corporate Communication Division, National Power Corporation. Vol. 13 No. 38, October 3, 2005, then came up with the following headline story:

"COASTAL POWER TO SUPPLY POWER TO THREE OFF-GRID ISLANDS"

"The privatization of the operations of the National Power Corporation’s (NPC) Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG) has scored a breakthrough with the recent award to Coastal Power Development Corporation of the concession to supply electricity to Marinduque, Romblon and Tablas.

"Coastal Power and its partner, Applied Research Technologies, won the competitive selection process conducted last August by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the investment arm of the World Bank (WB). Last September 27, Coastal Power signed a Power Supply Agreement with the local electric cooperatives from the three island-provinces that are currently distributing power to the said areas.

"With the said development, Tablas, Romblon and Marinduque – which are among the 14 islands identified by NPC as priority or “first-wave” areas for privatization – are now assured of round-the-clock electricity supply. Based on its bid, the Coastal Power consortium will provide a combined 25 megawatts to the three islands at a cost of P. 7.17 per kilowatt-hour. The group had proposed to put up a hybrid diesel-wind energy facility that is scheduled for commissioning by end-2006.

"NPC President Cyril C. Del Callar hailed the entry of the private sector in missionary electrification, saying “This is part of a determined program of the Department of Energy and NPC to turn over to the private sector the generation of power in 14 islands.”

"At the same time, President del Callar noted that the said move will result in operating cost savings of P. 1.5 billion per year for NPC, which may be used for the electrification of an additional 7,500 barangays throughout the country over a five-year period.

"NPC has been producing power at an average of P12 per kWh in the SPUG areas but is selling this electricity aat a heavily-subsidized rate of P4.20 per kWh, resulting in losses of P7.80 per kWh. Under the privatized set up, the new power producers will sell electricity at an average of P7.00 per kWh, to approximate the true cost of power generation based on fuel.

"For her part, Energy Undersecretary Melinda Ocampo said the private-sector participation in missionary electrification would enable the government to deliver on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s commitment to continue bringing power and progress to more remote areas in the country without increasing the burden of the missionary electrification charge on electricity consumers nationwide.

"The entry of Coastal Power in the three first-wave islands is in compliance to DOE Circular No. 2004-01-001, which prescribes the guidelines for private sector participation in the missionary electrification areas being services by SPUG. Among other provisions, the DOE directive mandates the periodic assessment of the requirement and prospects of bringing power generation and associated power delivery systems to commercial viability on an area-by-area basis, including a program to encourage private-sector participation.

"Aside from Marinduque, Tablas and ROmblon, the other first-wave areas for privatization are Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, Catanduanes, Masbate, Bantayan Island, Siquijor, Camotes Island, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, and Jolo."


(to be continued)