A Review of Rice Tariffication in the Time of COVID-19: Rationale and Road to Rice Self-Sufficiency in the Philippines (preprint of an upcoming journal article)

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Note: The author is making this file publicly available – albeit not downloadable – as the final version of this paper is set to be published in the December 2021 issue of a Philippine journal. I have decided to publicly release this file as a viewable document, in view of President Duterte’s signing of Executive Order (EO) No. 135, series of 2021 which unfortunately reduced tariff rates for imported rice from 40% to 35%. This EO will certainly further ensure that rice imports will continue to flood Philippine markets, to the detriment of the local rice industry and the livelihood of Filipino peasants. Like Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), EO No. 135 must be opposed and reversed.  

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Quick Literature Preview on COVID-19 Mass Testing and Contact Tracing: Lessons for Philippine Policymakers

Experts are united in emphasizing that the most basic weapons to help control (if not eradicate) the pandemic include mass testing and contact tracing.

Experts are also united in pointing out that the Philippines is far from achieving ideal mass testing goals and lacks an effective and unified contact tracing system.

Vaccination is important but no panacea for the pandemic. Even if all Filipinos were to be vaccinated in the next few months, mass testing and contact tracing would have to be maintained.

Hence, this quick literature preview (rather than review; as this note features mostly direct quotes from researches) is aimed at providing a summary of practical insights and/or recommendations culled from mostly peer-reviewed literature on mass testing and contact tracing – to help our policymakers “science the shit out of this” so to speak. All emphases are supplied.

“Bidirectional contact tracing could dramatically improve COVID-19 control” (Bradshaw et al., 2021)

  1. “…‘bidirectional” tracing to identify infector individuals and their other infectees robustly improves outbreak control…”
  2. The greatest gains are realised by expanding the manual tracing window from 2 to 6 days pre-symptom-onset or, alternatively, by implementing high-uptake smartphone-based exposure notification… 
  3. Hybridizing manual tracing with digital may offer an alternative path to high performance. In practice, almost no jurisdiction is proposing to exclusively control COVID-19 through digital exposure notification, but rather to supplement traditional manual tracing with digital tools. The two methods have complementary strengths and weaknesses: digital tracing is fast, scalable, and could be easily adapted to trace bidirectionally, but is highly fragile to network fragmentation; manual tracing is slower and more labor-intensive, but more robust. A hybrid of the two approaches might thus outperform either approach used in isolation.”

“Impact of delays on effectiveness of contact tracing strategies for COVID-19: a modelling study” (Kretzschmar et al., 2020)

  1. “…a contact tracing strategy will only contribute to containment of COVID-19 if it can be organised such that delays in the process from symptom onset to isolation of the index case and their contacts are very short…Reducing delay in testing individuals for SARS-CoV-2 should be a key objective of a contact tracing strategy…
  2. “For example, walk-in or drive-in testing facilities could be set up on a large scale and test results immediately communicated via the tracing app.”

“Modelling the impact of testing, contact tracing and household quarantine on second waves of COVID-19” (Aleta et al., 2021)

  1. “a period of strict social distancing followed by a robust level of testing, contact-tracing and household quarantine could keep the disease within the capacity of the healthcare system while enabling the reopening of economic activities. Our results show that a response system based on enhanced testing and contact tracing can have a major role in relaxing social-distancing interventions in the absence of herd immunity against SARS-CoV-2.”

“Why Contact Tracing Efforts Have Failed to Curb Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Transmission in Much of the United States” (Clark et al., 2020)

  1. Reasons “why contact tracing efforts have failed to curb” the pandemic in “much of the United States” include: “A LACK OF NATIONAL COORDINATION” and “INADEQUATE TESTING SUPPLY”
  2. “Larger numbers of staff may be necessary as social distancing measures are loosened (or public adherence decreases) and case counts increase, or if technologic tools are not used for augmentation. Smaller numbers of staff would likely be necessary if local, state, and national public health agencies were able to communicate and coordinate effectively. Creation of a national contact tracing system could eliminate geographic restrictions for hiring and would increase procedural standardization.”

“Successful find-test-trace-isolate-support systems: how to win at snakes and ladders” (Rajan et al., 2020)

  1. Isolation is arguably the most important part of the test, trace, isolate process according to recent evidence. A team of community volunteer contact tracers in the UK published data  from a pilot in which it took approximately 80 minutes to manage each case, with many contacts were unwilling to isolate…Measures to support isolation are therefore an important ladder and in Denmark, Finland and Lithuania, people who cannot isolate are accommodated elsewhere… The same approach has also been used successfully to prevent outbreaks in care homes in South Korea. Without facilities to support vulnerable individuals to isolate, and especially to minimise any loss of income, it is likely that transmission will rise, another snake that could set back the entire process.”

“An Empirical Argument for Mass Testing: Crude Estimates of Unreported COVID19 Cases in the Philippines vis-à-vis Others in the ASEAN-5” (Cruz, 2020)

  1. …the empirical estimates buttress the argument that the mere extension of the lockdown without complementary mass testing is impractical…the inevitable policy direction for the Philippines is to aggressively implement the WHO recommendation of “test, trace, and isolate” to avoid long-term health and economic distress.

Other Commonsensical Ideas Worth Trying:

  1. Offer full wage/salary subsidy – from diagnosis until full recovery – to workers who will test positive to encourage people to undergo testing.
  2. In the duration of the ECQ, offer full wage/salary subsidy for workers in the NCR Plus areas to encourage those in industries allowed to operate with skeletal workforces to take a break and stay at home.
  3. In the duration of the ECQ, offer living income subsidy for informal economy workers (especially ambulant vendors and the like) to encourage them to stay at home.  
  4. Swiftly build makeshift hospitals for COVID-19 patients in NCR Plus areas and other areas where hospital occupancy rates are nearing 90%
  5. To expand health care workforce, train auxiliary health workers and offer all public health workers double pay at least during the pandemic.
  6. In the duration of the ECQ (and even better, beyond the ECQ), ban all international and domestic air travel – except for essential workers (nurses, doctors etc.) and offer full wage subsidy for affected workers

P.S. Yes, these are costly measures but we have the money (pandemic loans) and the alternative is worse: permanent pandemic and economic crisis.   


  1. Phrase “science the shit out of this” is from the movie “The Martian.”   
  2. Bradshaw et al., 2021: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-20325-7
  3. Kretzschmar et al., 2020: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468266720301572
  4. Aleta et al., 2020: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-020-0931-9
  5. Clark et al., 2020: https://academic.oup.com/cid/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciaa1155/5881818?login=true
  6. Rajan et al., 2020: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/336292/Eurohealth-26-2-34-39-eng.pdf
  7. Cruz, 2020: http://ateneo.edu/sites/default/files/downloadable-files/ADMU%20WP%202020-14.pdf
science the shit out of this - Google Search | Science, Calm, Calm artwork

What 1Sambayan Needs: Broader Representation, Concrete Electoral Agenda (5Ks: Kabuhayan, Karapatan, Kalayaan, Kapayapaan, at Katarungan)

This short note is a reflection on my participation via Zoom in 1Sambayan’s public launch.

1Sambayan’s mention of good governance, human rights, and poverty alleviation as cornerstones of what candidacies should campaign for, is a positive start, but much needs to be done. This short note intends to contribute something towards that goal.

It is suggested that before any talk of choosing candidates or forming a unified/unity slate, 1Sambayan’s broad array of democratic forces should start building consensus on the minimum electoral agenda/platform/program that will be used as a standard in choosing candidates or forming a slate. In other words, platforms BEFORE personalities, and even after that, platforms OVER personalities. We have to accept the fact that personality-based politics is one of the actual hindrances to the implementation of meaningful reforms. We have had centuries of a politics of failed personalities. It’s time to really focus on platforms.

A catchy summation of minimum platforms would be desirable. I propose 5Ks: Kabuhayan, Karapatan, Kalayaan, Kapayapaan, at Katarungan.

KABUHAYAN: immediate economic relief for the poor and the middle class (national minimum wage closely approximating the family living wage – around 1,000 pesos daily; income tax reduction, preferably capping the maximum personal income tax rate at 20% as compared with Singapore’s 22%; abolition of Value-Added Tax/VAT on all medicines, food, basic commodities, electricity, water, internet, house rents etc.; government payment of housing deposit/downpayment for every citizen who wants to purchase his/her first home/house and regulating all housing loan rates offered by commercial banks to ensure that they go as low as or even lower than Pag-ibig Fund rates; reversal of rice tariffication in favor of strengthening local production; genuine universal health care, where all services are 100% free of charge at point of use, with no co-payments whatsoever).

KARAPATAN: ensuring protection for human rights, labor rights, peasant land rights etc. (scrapping of the Terror Law; banning of retired military officials in Cabinet posts, except for the National Defense portfolio; end of oppressive and exploitative labor contractualization schemes; expansion and completion of rural land reform program; implementation of urban land reform)

KALAYAAN: fighting for our national sovereignty and securing our national patrimony

KAPAYAPAAN: resumption of social reform-oriented peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF (peace talks shall focus on socio-economic reforms that address the root causes of insurgency)

KATARUNGAN: justice, good governance, and accountability (swift prosecution of cases of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests etc.; full recovery of past regimes’ ill-gotten wealth; passage of an enabling law for the Constitution’s anti-dynasty provision to be finally implemented; minimum 6% of the GDP spending for education – as per UNESCO’s standards; scrapping of automatic debt appropriations and a general debt audit towards repudiation of onerous debts; reduction of maximum amount of allowances for all members of the House of Representatives and Senate, the Cabinet etc.; reduction of top-heavy bureaucracies in some government agencies; credentials-based screening for Cabinet nominees).  

Prioritizing agenda-setting and agenda-building is a must, because it is the only effective springboard towards uniting many blocs into one coherent coalition.

Choosing candidates will be easier once the electoral agenda/program has been deliberated upon, approved and accepted by the whole array of democratic forces. This will be our glue, something to bind us into, a new social contract towards a maginhawang buhay for all Filipinos. Furthermore, such program will be our lens, our microscope in scrutinizing whether or not a candidate is desirable or not. They will have to be bound with the people’s electoral agenda. Otherwise, they’ll be no different from the candidates of the other side. If the candidates’ selection process is prematurely jumpstarted without a clear and comprehensive electoral agenda/program, we run the risk of being unable to select the best candidates, and that means losing again in 2022.  

We must remember the lessons of the previous presidential elections. The only exhaustive exit polls in 2016 found out that “The higher the class, the more the appeal of Duterte: His lead over Roxas was 26 points in class ABC, compared to 17 points in class D, and only 7 points in class E.” It means that democratic forces will have to sway the middle classes (class C and D) too, rather than focus only on the poorest (class E).

What would ensure that classes C, D, and E would solidly unite and vote for the democratic forces’ candidates? Our candidates would have to be committed, very committed to URGENT ECONOMIC RELIEF FOR THE POOR AND THE MIDDLE CLASS. Usapang bigas/kanin at pera pa rin naman talaga ang eleksyon. People would always ask, bakit namin kayo dapat iboto? With an unbeatable electoral agenda/platform that takes good care of the Filipino people’s economic needs, our candidates will have bigger changes of winning. Without such an agenda/platform, any “winnable” candidate will in the end lose.

In sum, 1Sambayan is a good start, but it needs to broaden its representation and build the electoral agenda immediately. Broadening representation would necessarily entail activation of grassroots circles, groups, branches etc. But then again, without a clear and comprehensive platform/program, it will be difficult if not impossible. We have to have something that we can all swear to uphold, fight for, assert. An electoral manifesto, a program, whatever the label is.

If needed, I’m volunteering to help craft/write a more detailed document on the KABUHAYAN part of the proposed 5Ks, which, in my opinion, will be the major deciding factor of the 2022 elections.

May our collective efforts further draw their strength from the Filipino people’s dreams and aspirations.

References/Supplementary Materials:

IBON Foundation’s computation of a family living wage: https://www.ibon.org/the-family-living-wage-as-of-february-2020/

Current real minimum wage rates in the Philippines (halos wala nang value ang sahod ngayon): https://nwpc.dole.gov.ph/stats/current-real-minimum-wage-rates/

“ENDO” as word of the year (details on why contractualization is bad and must be abolished): https://www.academia.edu/8510399/ENDO_Mga_Salita_ng_Taon_2014_SAWIKAAN_

Singapore’s personal income tax rate: https://www.iras.gov.sg/irashome/Individuals/Locals/Working-Out-Your-Taxes/Income-Tax-Rates/#:~:text=Singapore’s%20personal%20income%20tax%20rates,income%20tax%20rate%20at%2022%25.

A European study that proves “Reducing VAT rates drives down prices and boosts demand”: https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/sites/taxation/files/resources/documents/taxation/vat/how_vat_works/rates/study_reduced_vat.pdf

On home ownership: 35.9% of Filipino families (1 out of 3) don’t own homes: https://psa.gov.ph/content/two-every-three-families-owned-house-and-lot-they-occupied-results-2019-annual-poverty

Number of homeless Filipinos at 4.5 million: https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/journey-homeless

One peace negotiations, it may not look like it, but’s it’s really true, NDF’s CASER is very much like a finetuned version of our 1987 Constitution: https://ndfp.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/FINAL-Jan-17-2018-NDFP-CASER-2017-Web-version-Ver2.0.pdf

UNESCO’s “Education 2030 Framework for Action proposed two benchmarks as ‘crucial reference points’: allocate at least 4% to 6% of GDP to education” (we have never reached that in the previous decades): https://gem-report-2016.unesco.org/en/chapter/target-4-8-finance/#:~:text=The%20Education%202030%20Framework%20for,of%20public%20expenditure%20to%20education.

Makabayan Bloc’s Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill/GARB: https://www.congress.gov.ph/legisdocs/basic_18/HB00239.pdf

Comparison of CARP and GARB: https://www.bulatlat.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/8-49-ap-garb-vs-carp-ok.pdf

Proposed Urban Land Reform Act: https://dmmsanjuan.com/2020/07/27/proposed-senate-bill-2020-1-urban-land-reform-act-homes-for-every-filipino-act-batas-sa-pabahay-para-sa-lahat/

Sen. Trillanes’ bill scrapping Marcosian automatic debt appropriations (this is also a left-wing advocacy since then and even now): http://legacy.senate.gov.ph/lisdata/59085266!.pdf

Ed Tadem’s article on debt audit: https://opinion.inquirer.net/101506/historic-audit-illegitimate-debts

Article on what a pro-people charter change could look like: https://dmmsanjuan.com/2021/03/17/pagtupad-sa-pangako-ng-edsa-makabayang-cha-cha-charter-change-makamasang-adyenda/

Mahar Mangahas’ article on 2016 exit polls: https://opinion.inquirer.net/94736/revelations-of-the-tv5-sws-exit-poll

Summary of AmBisyon Natin 2040, a NEDA document which summarizes the Filipino people’s aspirations (from FGDs): http://2040.neda.gov.ph/about-ambisyon-natin-2040/

120,000 pesos as the ideal family monthly income for the Filipino people’s definition of what maginhawang buhay is (as per AmBisyon Natin 2040): https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/06/29/1597748/family-4-needs-p120k-monthly

Photo from https://www.facebook.com/1Sambayan-108652564620342

Online Educational Resources

On June 20, 2020, our University made an online “Call for Voluntary Contribution to CHED Online Educational Resources Portal.” In response to that call, I am publishing a page in this academic blog containing links to freely accessible texts, video lectures etc., which I have authored/co-authored or produced/co-produced. Everyone is encouraged to access and share this link: https://dmmsanjuan.wordpress.com/online-educational-resources/

Thank you very much.

Economic Relief in the Time of COVID-19 (LINK TO FULL PAPER)

Economic Relief in the Time of COVID-19: Rationale, Mechanics, Costing, and Prospective Impact of Temporary Value-Added Tax (VAT) Suspension and Income Tax Waiver for the Poor and the Middle Class in the Philippines

David Michael M. San Juan

Professor, De La Salle University-Manila


Abstract: As a response to the economic crisis brought by COVID-19, the Philippine government has started to implement its Social Amelioration Program (SAP) which aims to provide a monthly cash aid worth 5,000 to 8,000 Philippine pesos (US$ 99.08 to 158.53 at the exchange rate of US$ 1 = 50.46 pesos) to each of the target households pegged at 18 million, for an initial period of two months. Beneficiaries complain that the amount will not be enough for all their needs, while non-beneficiaries and even local government officials clamor for a more broad-based aid scheme. To help provide a feasible solution, this paper will discuss the rationale, mechanics, costing, and prospective impact of temporary Value-Added Tax (VAT) suspension and income tax waiver for the poor and the middle class in the Philippines. The proposed VAT moratorium shall cover food, medicine, basic commodities, & utilities, while the proposed income tax waiver shall cover both public and private workers/employees, except those in the top-income bracket. International benchmarking and funding options for this supplementary economic relief will be also explored.

Keywords: COVID-19, poverty, Philippines, middle class, economic relief


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Thank you for your interest.