Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bad Reporting on a Mechanical Fan Invention

Posted by Bayan Bangon at Alamin on Friday, 13 November 2015

Here's an example of news reporting that can make my blood boil. If you watch the report, you'll notice the slow humanization of our creative hero. It started with how to use the fan. But that's the deepest it would go with regards to the product. These sentences would follow:
"Ito ang Salfan, ang imbensyong bentilador ni Mang Ramon Salva mula Lucena City na sagot aniya sa mahal na singil sa kuryente. Hindi kasi ito gumagamit ng kuryente dahil sa mekanismo ng Salfan. (This is Salfan, a mechanical fan invented by Mr. Ramon Salva who hails from Lucena City. According to him, it is the answer to expensive electricity bills because it doesn't use electricity because of its mechanism.) "
So, it doesn't use electricity. Ok. But how effective is it? If I crank the mechanism, how long will the blades spin? If it can last a suitable amount of time, is it possible to enlarge the prototype? How long did it take for Mr. Salve to build his small machine? None of these questions were answered.

The report went on to share that Mr Salva has 10 kids.  He's still persevering as a watch repairman so that 2 of his kids could study. The report also shared that the family supports Mr. Salva in his endeavors. This is basically the entire report.

My question now is why would the report focus on something that has nothing to do with Mr. Salva's product? It's like the product of his creativity took a backseat to his current situation. Yes, Mr. Salva is like a lot of our countrymen who strive to make an honest living. But Mr. Salva is of the different breed. He potentially did something awesome. Why focus on how hard his life has been? Why focus on how his family supports him? Why not focus on his machine? It's like the report dismissed it.

I don't think Mr. Salva is some poor schmuck with a stupid child's play thing that the report portrayed. To me, Mr. Salva is a creative man who was able to translate the gears he repaired in watches into something that could be really helpful.

Hopefully Mr. Salva finds an investor. Or at least, he finds a proper avenue that would focus on his creation instead of how he his life has been.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Pharmaceutical Companies Should Not be Allowed to Advertise

I'm sure most of us here watch prime time soaps being offered up by the major networks. I myself have watched Dream Dad, Juan Dela Cruz and whatever ABS-CBN offers up after TV Patrol. What can I say. We have one communal TV and my mom's the boss. So while being forced to watch these shows, I can't help but notice the amount of promotions for medications. Although I don't mind seeing Anne Curtis flying around as she promotes Enervon, it's still not something I encourage having in our country.

Medical costs in the Philippines is pretty significant considering a citizen's purchasing power. Oscar Picazo wrote a detailed article about it for the Daily Inquirer. The significant cost of medication is compounded by the fact that many don't care for insurance. People tend to see insurance as something for the already weak and feeble and only go for it when it's too late.

Due to the high cost of medicine in the Philippines, the government has written laws and constructed policies to solve the issue. The Generics Drug Act and the hotly debated and  apparent watered-down version of the Cheaper Medicines Act come to mind. But even with these policies, a major flaw is being ignored within the economics of our pharmaceutical industry.

I don't claim to be an economist. But as a guy who loves to relax on his couch, I can't understand the use of promotion for drugs. As I mentioned, I don't mind seeing as the art form they are. It's just that they serve no purpose worth serving.

The purpose of advertisements is to inform. There are products out there that need persuasion to be consumed. For example, when choosing the best snack, we have tons of choices. We have Snacku, Mr. Chips, Chippy, Mang Juan and a whole host of other stuff. It's important for these manufacturers to invest in advertising because all of them have the same thing to offer which is the pleasure of eating they're product. The pleasure derived from consuming these products differ though from person to person. So having a famous face eating their product or a catchy theme song is important. These advertisements remind us that these products taste good because of the models' facial expressions in commercials or the lyrics of the theme song. I see no problem with these manufacturers trying to persuade us, regardless of how cheap their attempts are.

Now, as for medicine, pharmaceutical companies are adapting the same concept. The problem here is that unlike the pleasure we get from eating Snacku or Mr. Chips, the efficacy and the suitability of drugs is not up to us. We have doctors who should be the ones saying we need atapulgite or telmisartan.We should be spared from these cheesy commercials of Skelan or Xenical.

Now, aside from the fact we shouldn't be urged to take stuff without doctor's consent, there's still one more bad effect of pharmaceutical commercials I haven't tackled. This is actually the more economically sinful thing.

The biggest difference between medicine and snacks is this: the different brands for snacks differ in flavor which is where we derive it's effectiveness in benefiting us while the brands of medicine we have don't differ in curing illness. What I mean is, loperamide will always be loperamide whether it be labeled Imodium or Diatabs. As long as the dosage is the same, it will have the same effect. So now I ask, what's the point of advertising the products which in turn will drive the price up? What's the point of paying medical representatives P200,000/year to promote the brand to doctors? How does that help the consumer?

In the production of goods, every step needs to benefit both the producer and the consumer. The cost of the plant for snacks production is beneficial to both parties because without it, the producer can't earn and the consumer can't get his hands on some snacks. Advertising snacks is the same way. Advertising increases the demand, or for economic geeks moves the demand curve to the left, thus increasing profit for the producer and it also informs/reminds the consumer of the awesomeness of Snacku and its effectiveness in pleasuring our taste buds or, again for econ geeks, move the supply curve to the right. Sure, it drives the price up, but we don't need to eat Snacku. Unlike medicine which we need to take if the doctor says so.

So yeah, I am calling for the stoppage of the pharmaceutical ads like the Skelan and Enervon ads. But, wouldn't that make less receptive to seek medication? No, because what that will do is lower the price of medicine. Instead of buying Imodium or Diatabs outright, you can go to a pharmacy and they can sell you the cheapest loperamide or activated carbon which you wouldn't have known about because of the brand loyalty instilled by advertising Aside from that, Generika and other approved drugstores selling cheap medicine would only have to compete against other drugstores instead of the drug manufacturers. Drug manufacturers in turn will focus on increasing their productivity to increase profit. What will set them apart from other manufacturers will be the cost of producing the drug instead of the creativity of their commercials.

Medical advertising should no longer be part of the consumers' lives. Having brand loyalty for a medical brand will not benefit the consumer. Advertising of drugs should only be done if the drug is new. And it should be limited to the doctors.

A lot of us have clamored for universal healthcare. Philhealth and normal HMO's do not include medication in their benefits. With the price so needlessly bloated, I can't blame them.

Having to pay P70/tablet of Micardis is insane especially if both your parents are taking them. In the US, it's around $1.50/tablet which is roughly 20% of a minimum wage earner's hourly rate. Medicine is too expensive here. My suggestion may be drastic. But don't we need drastic results?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What's Up with the Laglag-Bala Issue?

The laglag-bala issue has been brewing for close to a couple of weeks now. People like me who haven't even experienced riding on an airplane have been fixated with the issue.Within the time-frame of the issue, news programs have failed to report on several topics. Lumad struggle... what's that? Otaza... who? Samal kidnapping... hmm? Duterte... meh... he's been quiet on his own anyway.

For the past few weeks, calls for the immediate resignation of the MIAA GM have been voiced. A full reshuffling of the security staff has also been voiced out in social media and by Win Gatchalian. Abaya, as usual, is in hot water. Everybody who has power to fix all of this has been antagonized. But is it fair to call for the resignation/dismissal of the head officials? Is it fair to uproot the lowly security teams and assign them to different locations?

Crimes within airports is not exclusive to our country. Johannesburg seems to be the most infamous judging by a browser search. But even one of the most paranoid nations in the world has experienced baggage breaches in their airports. From Miami all the way to Los Angeles, the United States has consistently been bugged by this problem. So this is nothing new internationally speaking.

That being said, the laglag-bala issue should not be swept under the rug. NAIA was known as the worst airport in the world a few years back. And even though the airport is still one of the worst, it was at least making small strides to better itself. But with the advent of the laglag-bala issue, we can safely assume that whatever minimal upgrades the airport has done lately will be overshadowed. There's something about the UN's distrust with the airport security that aids in making this assumption.

With the APEC summit approaching, this issue has been regarded as economic sabotage. Businessmen are growing wary and are not happy with what world leaders may perceive with the issue. With the airport being the gateway to our country, investors may be turned off by the rampant corruption that welcomes our balikbayans, tourists and guests. This is not something that potential investors, world leaders and industry think-tanks are willing to deal with considering the competition our neighbors pose.

With all this, 2016 candidates have attached themselves with the issue. Both Grace Poe and Miriam Santiago have filed resolution in the senate. Binay has called for the dismissal of the OTS personnel. Alan Peter Cayetano, NITAS and the VACC have filed administrative charges against Abaya and airport officials for neglecting their duty. Aside from this, all vice presidential candidates except for Trillanes who is out of the country have chimed in on the issue. The laglag-bala issue is being forced-fed to us by the media and everyone gunning for something in 2016 wants to be included in what's being fed.

Now, back to my question earlier, is it fair to call for the dismissal of MIAA GM Honrado as well as DOTC Sec. Jun Abaya?

Earlier today (Nov. 4,2015), Jun Abaya held a press briefing regarding the Laglag-bala issue. He laid down several statistics as well as rules and regulations that should be followed with regards to the issue. Summarizing what he said, bullets being found with passengers in our airports is a normal thing. That being said, they have had reports dating back as far as 2008 where security personnel were asking for money from passengers who had bullets with them. He also shared the number of passengers being caught with bullets, be they be live or amulets/anting-antings, within the past few years. By his calculations, only .004% of all passengers have caught the attention of security due to bullets. He also shared several instances were the passenger admitted that they brought the bullets knowingly like the Japanese tourist last October who brought a bullet as a souvenir from a shooting range. As for the rules, he cleared up that only live bullets would result in a charge being filed while bullet parts will only result in confiscation.

As for GM Honrado, GMA News TV was unable to catch up to him as he was hurriedly getting in an elevator. Apparently, he was being summoned by the president. MIAA spokesperson David de Castro did say that it would be best to go after those directly involved with the issue rather than the ones trying to solve it.

Abaya and Honrado are in a tough jam here. If you've read some of my earlier posts, you'd know I hate Jun Abaya's performance as DOTC secretary. But in this instance, he is not the problem. The problem here is the insistence of a government to trust its people who clearly are unable to do their job. I hate Abaya and he should have been fired a long time ago. But to let Honrado continue on as MIAA GM is crazy. He's been there since 2010 and he has been its GM through the "worst airport in the world" title. At least, Abaya has the cushion of antagonizing the MRT's private partners and the Arroyo gov't. Aside from that, Aquino has lauded Abaya for some maritime accomplishment during his last SONA. He has supporters willing to support him regardless of how useless and corrupt he may be. Honrado on the other hand, is just a name. His is a name synonymous to "the worst in the world". How he was not fired then is astounding. It's not like he's the grandson of Aguinaldo. The only reason not to fire him is if he has Aquino by the balls. Sure, he was Aquinos' security consultant in 2010 and Cory's aide-d-camp. But to keep him for these reasons is completely unethical and unprofessional.

The laglag-bala issue shouldn't have gotten this big. The crazy thing with this issue is that it is apparently continuing despite the constant media coverage. Is it because the perpetrators know they won't be caught? Or is it really sabotage being done by powerful people trying to undermine the government? Or hey, maybe Filipinos just plain forget whenever they have bullets in their bags. Who knows? Certainly the people trying to solve it don't know.