Photos, launching of IPR-ASEAN report with Geneva Network

Late post, photos last September 24, 2019, when the report “The importance of IPR for growth: reform agenda for ASEAN countries” was officially launched in Manila at Holiday Inn Makati. The report is sponsored by the Geneva Network (GN, UK) plus five partner independent think tanks from the PH, MY, ID, TH and VN. Our keynote speaker was DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez.

Below, from left: Josephine Santiago, Atty. George Katigbak, Secretary Lopez, Philip Stevens, me and Jesus “Jess” Varela.


Atty. Santiago is the Director General of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), Atty. Katigbak is with the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) Property Rights Team and served as program MC that afternoon. Philip is the Founder and Executive Director of GN and is my friend since 2005 when he was still with the International Policy Network (IPN, UK). Jess is the Director of the IPR Committee, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

Below from left: Jess Varela, Atty Kristine Alcantara, Dir. Gen. Santiago, Atty. Katigbak, me and Philip.


Atty. Alcantara is with the Trade Lawyers firm and also an FEF Fellow. She, Jess and DG Santiago served as reactors to the report presented by Philip that afternoon.

Below, a b&w version of the photo posted by Kristine. Cool.


I made the opening remarks, I showed some of my columns in BusinessWorld about IPR.


Some of the audience and speakers that afternoon.


Thank you Philip, Sec Mon, DG Santiago, Jess, Kristine, George. Thanks also FEF staff who helped me invite other participants — Rhea Dealca, Mabel Almenteros, and Ranna Pintor. Thank you friends and participants who came that afternoon.

Reform agenda for IPR in the ASEAN

* This is my column in BusinessWorld on September 24, 2019.


Today, Sept. 24, a new report — “The importance of IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) in progress: reform agenda for ASEAN countries” — will be launched at Holiday Inn Makati. It will be jointly sponsored by the Geneva Network (GN, UK) and Minimal Government Thinkers (MGT). The keynote speech will be given by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, and the discussion of the report will be given by Philip Stevens, Executive Director of GN and yours truly as head of MGT.

Reactors will be Josephine R. Santiago, Director General of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), Jesus B. Varela, Director for Intellectual Property of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Kristine F. Alcantara, a Fellow of the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF). George Katigbak, also of FEF, will be the program MC.

The report is jointly published by GN plus five independent think tanks in the ASEAN: MGT (Philippines), the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Malaysia), Paramadina Public Policy Institute (Indonesia), the Siam Intelligence Unit (Thailand), and Vietnam Economic Policy Research Institute.

Our report noted among others, that ASEAN countries are well-placed to move up the value-chain and become more innovative, but they need to do more, to reform their IPR systems to high global standards.

According to international comparative indices on innovation, the IP framework in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines is still well below global standards.

Here are the global ranking and scores of selected countries on intellectual property (IP) indices from the Global IP Center’s (GIPC) IP Index (IPI) 2019 report, and the International Property Rights Index’s (IPRI) IPR component 2018 report. GIPC is a project of the US Chamber of Commerce while IPRI is a project of the Property Rights Alliance (PRA), both are based in Washington DC, USA.


Both domestic and foreign investors want stability and predictability in the protection of their private property and investments, both physical and intellectual. Strong IPR policies and enforcement will help them develop new goods and services, knowledge-based industries characterized by high initial investments (R&D, multiple clinical trials, etc.) but low marginal costs of production, then enter into cross-border business alliances and partnerships.

There is recognition in the Philippine government about this new reality, especially from the DTI and its attached agency IPOPHL — they exert extra efforts to remedy this deficiency and help attract more foreign direct investments and help start-up businesses.

But it seems the DTI and IPOPHL can only do so much. Other agencies in the government are less helpful, like law enforcers that seem to play along with large-scale counterfeiters of various consumer products.

In the health sector, life science patents are becoming more difficult to obtain and there are concerns that compulsory licensing (CL) of famous, patented drugs could become more widely used. CL is partly or largely driven by envy — some companies would not spend on very expensive and risky R&D (like patients under clinical trials may suffer serious side-effects) but when the new drug molecule is later proven to be safe and effective in killing or controlling certain diseases, the lobby to issue CL becomes louder. When CL becomes a norm, the likelihood that newly invented, more powerful medicines will be launched in the Philippines will grow thin, which will also undermine the availability of generic medicines of the same molecule someday.

To promote innovation in biologic medicines, agricultural chemicals and veterinary medicines, the key IP right is not patent but regulatory data protection. The most innovative countries in these sectors have legally binding rules to protect the data for several years: the US grants 12 years of protection, EU grants 10 years; Japan and Canada eight years. The Philippines currently allows very limited protection and should bring its rules in line with international best practice.

Copyright protection is particularly important, with the creative industries set to be major growth areas. Despite the prevalence of online copyright infringement, ASEAN countries tend to lack sufficient rules and capacity for online enforcement.

To protect trademarks vs. counterfeit goods, the police, customs agencies and the judiciary need more resources and technical capacity to enforce existing laws.

The Philippines has the potential to join the ranks of the world’s leading knowledge economies. A strengthening of IPR will be necessary to achieve this. In particular: Speed up the examination of patents; do not discriminate against specific technologies in the granting of patents; restrict the use of CL of patents to true emergencies; strengthen the enforcement of copyright, particularly online; enable courts and officials to act against goods that infringe trademarks including those in transit between countries; raise awareness of the importance of trade secret protection; and provide sufficient terms of regulatory data protection for medicines, veterinary medicines and agricultural biotechnology.

Universal healthcare via lower medicine taxes and tariffs

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last September 19, 2019.

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Among the ironies of government health policies regardless of administration is their cry for “cheaper medicines” — and then they impose various tariff and taxes on medicines that make these products more expensive.

I checked the tariff and duties for imported pharmaceutical products at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and I was surprised to see that zero tariff in medicines is imposed by a number of our neighbors in the region while the Philippines imposes a nearly 3% tariff, aside from 12% VAT on medicines (See Table 1).


Other countries have higher medicine tariffs: Nepal has 14%, Pakistan 11%, Laos 10%.

This coming Monday, Sept. 23, there will be a UN High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Their theme is “Universal Health Coverage: Moving Together to Build a Healthier World.”

The UN and WHO send this virtue signaling to member-country governments to further raise taxes, impose more prohibitions and restrictions on “unhealthy” products to achieve a “healthier world.” So that the Philippines’ Department of Health, Department of Finance, other agencies create new legislations and regulations to implement this signaling.

But people around the world have been living healthier and longer, even before UHC was coined and before various taxes or tax hikes on alcohol, tobacco, sugary drinks and food were imposed (See Table 2).


Related to this, a new report was released this week, “Accelerating access to medicines: Policy recommendations for achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goals.” It was produced and co-signed by 15 independent and non-government think tanks from 14 countries including the Geneva Network (UK), Minimal Government Thinkers (Philippines), and four others from Asia.

The report has noted that government itself is among the causes of expensive medicines and thus recommended three ways to reduce medicine costs: reduce taxes, abolish tariffs, and eradicate other trade barriers. In particular, it recommended that “Non-members should join the WTO Pharmaceutical Tariff Elimination Agreement (‘Zero for Zero’ initiative). If this is not possible, countries that still levy tariffs should unilaterally abolish them.” Yes, the Philippines should reduce its double talk by cutting its pharmaceutical tariffs of 2.8% to zero (See Table 1 again).

Regarding improving access to medicines, the report also noted that government itself creates regulations that in the process delay or limit access to medicines by the people. Thus, the report made four recommendations: Speed up patent examination, simplify the drug approval process, modernize government medicine reimbursement decision-making, and promote open trade in medicines.

Open trade in medicines means allowing more market competition via: (1) a stronger role for the WTO in enforcing existing laws vs. mandatory local content requirements; (2) instead of protectionism, developing country governments should make their economies more attractive to foreign investment by among others, investing in human capital and physical infrastructure; and, (3) public procurement of medicines should be transparent, ensure best interests of the taxpayers.

As this column has repeatedly argued, cheaper products like energy, rice, transportation, healthcare and medicines is possible if government steps back via less taxes and tariff, less mandates and prohibitions, have more competition among producers and sellers of these goods and services. Government should only ensure good quality commodities from competing players by heavily penalizing producers of fake, counterfeit, substandard, and unreliable products.

Copyright and trademark in the ASEAN

* My column in BusinessWorld on September 17, 2019.

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“A power ‘to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing, for a limited time, to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.’… The right to useful inventions seems with equal reason to belong to the inventors. The public good fully coincides in both cases with the claims of individuals.”

— James Madison,

The Federalist Papers, No. 43, 1788.

This argument by Madison would be among the basis for the enactment of the USA’ first copyright law in 1790. The US patent law was also enacted that year while its trademark law was made in 1881, revised and expanded in 1905.

The Philippines’ law on these are contained in the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines (RA 8293, 1997). A report in BusinessWorld, “Intellectual property applications climb 11% in first half” said:

“‘Society is now appreciating the IP (intellectual property) system more than ever,’ IPOPHL (Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines) Director-General Josephine R. Santiago said. Trademark filings rose by 11% year-on-year to 18,964 in the first half… Patent filings grew 4% to 1,991… Utility model filings grew 31% to 1,173… Industrial model filings rose 14% to 824… Copyright filings rose 53% to 990.”

These are good numbers. I checked the World Bank’s World Development Indicators (WDI) database, data on trademark application. Then, I also checked the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) 2018 report — Pillar No. 12 is Innovation capability, and among the sub-pillars are patent applications and trademark applications per million population.

So for the numbers in the table, trademark applications are in absolute amounts, both country residents and non-residents, while the index for patent and trademark applications refers to per capita applications. China and India lead in absolute amount while Singapore and the Philippines are the laggards as of 2017. But in patent applications ranking, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea were the world’s top three (See Table).


The good news for the Philippines then is that we are fast catching up on the use of intellectual property rights (IPR). Trademark applications have doubled from 2007 to 2017, and for copyright, IPO’s first half data for 2019 show a huge increase of more than 50%.

Recall also that the fastest-growing sub-sector in the Philippine economy over the past 5-1/2 years, 2014 to H1 2019, is intellectual property products, under Capital Formation (or private investments). It was growing at 28% per year, capital formation growing at 14%, and GDP at 6.3%.

Fast growth in IPR use also means fast growth in IPR infringement. This was tackled in the last panel of the BusinessWorld Industry Summit 4.0 last week, Sept. 9, at Shangri-La at The Fort at BGC. The last panel was about “Content and piracy” with speakers from the Coalition Against Piracy, the Optical Media Board, Globe Telecoms, and a film director.

So the role of the state in protecting private property, both physical and intellectual property, is reasserted by the current situation. And on this, two IPR-related events will be co-sponsored by our think tank, Minimal Government Thinkers (MGT).

The first is the launching of a new report, “The importance of IPR for progress: reform agenda for ASEAN countries,” in partnership with Geneva Network (UK), on the afternoon of Sept. 24 at the Holiday Inn Makati. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez will give the keynote speech and, since the DTI is the mother agency of the Intellectual Property Office, he has a good overview of the sector in relation to the overall trade and investment environment.

The second is the global launch of the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) 2019 by the Property Rights Alliance (PRA, Washington DC) on Oct. 16 at Fairmont Hotel Makati. MGT and the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) will be the local partners in launching this big event. The author of the report, Dr. Sary Levy-Carciente, and PRA Executive Director Lorenzo Montanari will come to Manila to present the report. Both events are by invitation only, but we will consider some interested individuals working on the sector who are not in our list. Send me an e-mail.

Private property is the cornerstone of economic freedom and free enterprise. Both physical property and intellectual property. Investors come if they are assured that their offices, investments, corporate brands/trademarks, patented and copyrighted inventions are respected and protected by the government against pirates and IPR thieves.

Expensive bureaucracy and WHO vs cheaper medicines

A new report was released this week that should help remind the UN and country leaders, WHO and health Ministers or Secretaries, and many other officials flying to NYC for a UN High Level Meeting (UNHLM) next week on health, climate, many other issues — that they themselves are part of the problem on expensive medicines and healthcare. Minimal Government Thinkers (MGT) is one of the many co-signatories of this report.

meds1See the report here,

How do governments become contributors to expensive medicines, less affordable and less efficient public healthcare?

Via many taxes, duties, tariffs, non-tariff barriers (NTBs) on imported medicines and medical devices; via long and bureaucratic approval of patents of newly-invented and revolutionary drugs, and so on. Take this chart from the report, ad valorem duties or tariffs on imported medicines.


Then the long approval process of newly-invented, patented drugs. Thailand and Brazil are the emerging economies’ topnotchers in such delays.

To help remedy these problems and issues, the report has recommended the following:

  1. Reduce unnecessary medicine costs by:

* Reducing taxes,

* Abolishing tariffs,

* Eradicating other trade barriers.

  1. Accelerate access to medicines by:

* Speeding up patent examination,

* Simplifying the drug approval process,

*  Modernising government medicine reimbursement decision-making, and

*  Promoting open trade in medicines.

I am happy to be part of this very useful and important report.
Thank you, Geneva Network for initiating this study.

FIRe, innovation and stealing of innovation

* This is my column in BusinessWorld last September 10, 2019.


“All creation is a mine, and every man, a miner… In the beginning, the mine was unopened, and the miner stood naked, and knowledgeless, upon it… Man is not the only animal who labors; but he is the only one who improves his workmanship. This improvement, he effects by Discoveries, and Inventions…”

— Abraham Lincoln,
“Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions” (1858)

The Protection of companies’ intellectual property rights (IPR) is very important to encourage more innovation and discoveries, as observed by Abraham Lincoln. And among the big issues in the ongoing US-China trade war are those related to IPR — forced technology transfer, if not outright stealing of the intellectual properties (trademark, patent, copyright, trade secrets) of US and other Western companies by Chinese companies including their state-owned enterprises.

I found this data on product counterfeiting, which reflects the smuggling of pirated commodities, from the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) report, “Measuring the Magnitude of Global Counterfeiting” (2016). China plus Hong Kong corner the bulk of such IPR infringement. Note that the Chamber is a private organization, not a US government body and, hence, more objective in its assessment of the degree of IPR stealing (See table).


At the BusinessWorld Industry Summit 4.0 held at Shangri-La at The Fort in BGC yesterday, IPR was not highlighted but it is among the assumed prerequisites, along with physical, financial property protection, for companies to engage in endless innovation and competition in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIRe).

Anthony Oundjian, Managing Director and Senior Partner of the Boston Consulting Group, emphasized the value of people and their creation — they comprise some 60% of total FIRe inputs, while processes comprise 30%, and technology, 10%.

Senator Grace Poe said that “innovations are unfolding at breakneck speed” while legislation takes years for important bills. She mentioned the 1936 law, the Public Service Act (PSA), which has restricted foreign investments and technology transfer in the country. The new bill amending the PSA will liberalize foreign investments in transportation (land, sea, air) and telecommunications, and limit “public utilities” — where foreign investments is limited — to only three sectors, namely, distribution and transmission of electricity, and water distribution. This bill should be among the priorities for legislation and enactment into new laws.

Dr. Jose Ramon Albert, Senior Research Fellow of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies discussed the potential labor displacement of robots, artificial intelligence, and other FIRe technologies, and what government and other stakeholders can do.

Looking at the list of major and minor sponsors of the BusinessWorld conference, they are just represented by their logo and one-word corporate name. The logo and brand say it all, both old and new companies from different sectors and industries. Which speaks of the underlying importance of IPR and brand protection.

Related to all this, two IPR-related reports will be launched in Makati over the next few weeks. On Sept. 24, the Geneva Network (UK) and Minimal Government Thinkers (MGT) will launch a new report, “The importance of IPR for progress: reform agenda for ASEAN countries.” Four other independent and market-oriented think tanks from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam are co-producers of this report. Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez will be the keynote speaker. Philip Stevens of the Geneva Network and yours truly will present the report. Reactors will be Jess Varela of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Kristine Alcantara of the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF).

And on Oct. 16, the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) 2019 Report will be launched by the Property Rights Alliance (PRA, Washington DC, USA) in partnership with FEF and MGT. The author of the report, Dr. Sary Levy-Carciente who is a Venezuelan economist, PRA Executive Director Lorenzo Montanari, and Chris Butler of the Americans for Tax Reforms will come to Manila to present the report.

Both events are by invitation only but we will consider some interested individuals outside the list — just send me an e-mail.

With FIRe technologies and, in the next few decades, the Fifth Industrial Revolution, even more modern, seemingly impossible inventions and creations will emerge. Companies and individual researchers will just keep producing those new inventions and processes. The role of government is to ensure protection of private property, their inventions and corporate identities and brand.

FIRe, Innovation and rising income

* This is my column in BusinessWorld last September 03, 2019.


Next week, on Sept. 9, the BusinessWorld Industry 4.0 Summit with the theme “Winning Together in the Fourth Industrial Revolution” (FIRe) will be held at the Shangri-La at The Fort, BGC, Taguig City. This big event is a partnership of BusinessWorld, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), and the Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators (PCTO).

The main speakers will be DICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan II, Senator Grace Poe, Anthony Oundjian of Boston Consulting Group, and Dr. Jose Ramon Albert of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies.

FIRe is the most recent of the technological revolutions that modern humans have invented. I searched for the approximate timeline, here is what I got. Others will have slightly different years but the period will not be far from what I have stated in Table 1.


Taking this timeline, I am curious how major economies and ASEAN countries have developed since the First Industrial Revolution, at least from 1800. I found data from the University of Groningen, Groningen and Growth Development Center (GGDC) – the Maddison Project Database, version 2018. Bolt, Jutta, Robert Inklaar, Herman de Jong and Jan Luiten van Zanden (2018), “Rebasing ‘Maddison’: new income comparisons and the shape of long-run economic development,” Maddison Project Working Paper, nr. 10, (See Table 2.)


Here are some important points to consider from the data in Table 2:

  • One, growth and income from the First to Second Industrial Revolutions was modest, per capita income of the United States of America and the United Kingdom expanded only two to three times after 100 years.
  • Two, incomes from the Second to Third Industrial Revolutions have expanded by 1.5 to 2.5 times after 50 years. Since ASEAN countries have no data in 1900 except for Singapore, we use 1913 as the region’s Second Industrial Revolution income baseline. For the region, there was a decline or a modest increase in income from 2013-1950, that is after World War II.
  • Three, the recurring belief that the “Philippines was the second strongest Asian economy after Japan after World War II” is a myth, not true. In the ASEAN alone, Malaysia and Singapore had per capita incomes nearly two times that of the Philippines.
  • Four, the Third Industrial Revolution ushered fast growth in wealth worldwide, with incomes expanding by 1.5 to four times (Singapore) and eight times (Japan) in just 30 years between 1950-1980.
  • Five, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIRe) was even more expansionary in terms of the material wealth and prosperity of people. Incomes have increased two to six times (Vietnam), and seven times (Singapore) from 1980 to 2016. The Filipinos’ incomes expanded only more than two times during that period. Marcos’ Martial Law’s repression of the economy, and huge natural disasters (the Pinatubo eruption in 1990, the big earthquake in 1991) contributed to this sad story.

We have entered the beginning of FIRe, where smart mobile phones have become affordable to billions of people and they have more access to internet, where drones take aerial photos and videos much better, where robots and modern machines are used more in manufacturing, commerce, and restaurants.

It is also in FIRe period where intellectual property rights (IPR) are becoming more and more prominent. Innovation is the keyword that is almost interchangeable with modern IR and innovation cannot happen fast if innovators’ patent and trade secrets of their inventions, trademarks and brands of their companies, copyrights to their compositions, are not respected and protected.

On Sept. 24, strong advocates of private property and market competition, the Geneva Network (UK) and the Minimal Government Thinkers (MGT, Manila) will launch a new report, “The importance of IPR for progress: A reform agenda for ASEAN countries” at the Holiday Inn Makati. Speakers will be DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, Philippine Chamber of Commerce’s IPR Committee Chair Jess Varela, Geneva Network Executive Director Philip Stevens, and yours truly for MGT.

IPR protection ensures more innovation, which fuels endless modernization and disruption under FIRe. Humanity’s material prosperity is further ensured. More people, rich and poor, will ride cars, motorcycles, e-bikes and they will ride horses and bicycles only for leisure and sports. This is the positive impact of continuing IR and innovation, enabled by private property protection and market competition.


MGT and FEF to co-sponsor IPRI 2019 launching

This coming October 16, 2019, Minimal Government Thinkers (MGT) and Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) will co-sponsor with the Property Rights Alliance (PRA) in the launching of International Property Rights Index (IPRI) 2019 Report,

IPRI 2015 to 2019 author Dr. Sary Levy-Carciente and PRA Executive Director Lorenzo Montanari will come to Manila to formally launch the report, also meet with some PH government officials, private sector and NGO players engaged in property rights protection, physical and intellectual property.

The index is composed of these three components and their respective sub-components, numbers are tallied and the overall scores determine the global ranking of countries and jurisdictions.

IPRI 2018 was co-sponsored by the following independent, non-government and market-oriented think tanks and research institutes.


The event is by invitation only but a few interested leaders and individuals outside the list may be accommodated. Send me a letter of interest,

FEF made the announcement too in their website,

IPR protection in the ASEAN

* This is my article in BusinessWorld on August 27, 2019.


The fastest-growing sub-sector in the Philippine economy over the past 5-1/2 years — 2014 to the first half of 2019 — is intellectual property products, under Capital Formation (or private investments). It was growing at 28% per year, with capital formation growing at 14% and GDP at 6.3%.

And this points to the need to further protect intellectual property rights (IPR) because they are easier to copy and counterfeit, unlike physical property.

The Philippines is not ranked high globally when it comes to innovation and IPR-related businesses. See this result from the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) annual report, the Global Innovation Index (GII).

In WIPO’s GII, “Knowledge creation” includes patents and industrial design by origin, and “Intangible assets” include trademarks and industrial design by origins.

In the overall innovation index, the Philippines ranked 54th out of 126 countries and jurisdictions, and lower in knowledge creation and intangible assets (See table 1).


Then in the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) International IP Index 2019 report, the Philippines ranked 37th out of 50 countries covered.

Low or poor IPR protection means there are more fakes, counterfeits, smuggled and illicit products passing around and sold.

True enough, in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Illicit Trade Environment Index (GITEI) 2018 Report, the Philippines ranked 64th out of 84 countries covered. GITEI measures how countries and economies enable (or inhibit) illicit trade through their policies to fight smuggling and illicit trade and the index is composed of four main categories or indicators, each of which have sub-indicators — government policy, supply and demand, transparency and trade, and the customs environment (See Table 2).


So the recent fast growth of IP products means there is some catching up going around in the Philippines, which is good.

In the new 18th Congress, House Bill 1597 by Congressmen Michael L. Romero and Enrico A. Pineda was filed, Amending RA 8293 (Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines), increasing penalties and sanctions, rationalizing its power and functions.

The authors say that their bill seeks to “streamline all administrative procedures of registering patents, trademarks and copyright, to liberalize the registration on the transfer of technology, and to enhance the enforcement of IPRs in the Philippines.” Good move then.

On Sept. 24, Geneva Network (UK) and Minimal Government Thinkers (MGT, Manila) will jointly launch a new report, “The Importance of IPR in the ASEAN.” The report will be jointly signed by five independent (non-government) free market think tanks from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, and will be launched in their respective capital cities. Geneva Network is coordinating the study.

And on Oct. 16, the Property Rights Alliance (Washington, DC) will launch the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) 2019 Report in Manila. MGT and the Foundation for Economic Freedom will be the local sponsors of this event. The IPRI annual report measures the degree of respect and protection of both physical and intellectual property of many countries and economies. The Philippines ranked 70th out of 125 countries in IPRI 2018 Report.

At both events, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez will be the keynote speaker. Mr. Lopez is a standout among Cabinet Secretaries of the Duterte administration because of his consistent advocacy for a competitive, innovative, non-bureaucratic economy and ease of doing business. Price control, IPR tweaking and weakening are far out from his work and department agenda.

Keeping the sanctity of private property, physical or intellectual property, is an important ingredient to attract and keep more private investments and job creators, both local and foreign.

Rule of law and property rights, Hong Kong vs China

* My column in BusinessWorld on August 15, 2019.


“… the rules must apply to those who lay them down and those who apply — that is, to the government as well as the governed — and that nobody has the power to grant exceptions.”

— Friedrich Hayek, Chapter 10, The Constitution of Liberty (1960)

This is the essence of the “rule of law” — that the law applies equally to unequal people, no one is exempted and no one can grant an exemption. Once exemptions are made, this automatically leads to the rule of men. The powerful and the mob are exempted from penalties for violating certain laws.

The nearly three months of protests and discontent in Hong Kong is centered over a subject related to the rule of law — the proposed Extradition bill, where suspected criminals and dissidents in Hong Kong can be extradited to China. And China, being a one-party communist government, is known for having little respect for the rule of law, little respect for the rights of suspects. It sends shivers down the spines of the people of Hong Kong to contemplate what would happen if some or many of them are extradited to China when Hong Kong has its own courts already.

There is proof behind the statement that China has little respect for the rule of law. In the World Justice Project’s annual “Rule of Law Index” (RoLI), countries and jurisdictions are scored and ranked based on their performance on eight factors and 44 sub-factors. The RoLI 2019 Report involved more than 120,000 household surveys and 3,800 expert surveys in 126 countries and jurisdictions.

China ranks low overall on RoLI, 82nd out of 126 countries; in contrast, Hong Kong ranked 16th. China scored particularly low on Factor 4: Fundamental Rights, like Freedom of opinion and expression, Freedom of belief and religion, Freedom of assembly and association, are effectively guaranteed. It is also low on Factor 8: Criminal Justice, like Criminal system is impartial, is free of improper government influence.

In property rights protection, both physical and intellectual property, again Hong Kong ranked high. We consider the annual study International Property Rights Index (IPRI) by the Property Rights Alliance (PRA), based in Washington, DC. The IPRI 2018 Report showed that Hong Kong ranked 17th while China ranked 52nd out of 126 countries and jurisdictions. In intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, the same pattern is observed (see Table).


The United Kingdom and its former colonies in Asia — Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia — rank high in both RoLI and IPRI. The great minds of British classical liberal thinking like John Locke, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill, successfully influenced the legal and economic philosophy and practice of these countries.

Communist China in contrast, is still reeling from the influence and heavy-handed dictatorship of its founder Mao Zedong. Its tolerance for citizens’ freedom of expression is very low. Extended in foreign relations, its tolerance for international rule of law like respect of international waters at the South China Sea/west Philippine Sea is also very low.

I have great respect and admiration for the brave people of Hong Kong, especially its youth. You are fighting the lackey of the biggest dictatorial government for a noble cause.

On a related note, the UK-based Geneva Network and Minimal Government Thinkers (MGT) will launch a report on the “Importance of IPR for ASEAN” in Manila on Sept. 24. This joint report will be co-signed by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs in Kuala Lumpur, Paramadina Public Policy Institute in Jakarta, Siam Intelligence Unit in Bangkok, MGT in Manila, and the Viet Nam Economic Policy Research Centre in Hanoi. The Geneva Network is coordinating the study.

The keynote speaker for the event will be Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez. Mr. Lopez is very explicit in his support for IPR protection being among the cornerstones of technological innovation and economic competitiveness for any country.

IPRI 2019 will also be launched in Manila later this year. MGT and the Foundation for Economic Freedom will be the local partners of PRA in launching this big event.