February 2018
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A comfortable life

Comfortable anywhere (372543421)is what President Duterte promised in his first SONA (link). I would not want a comfortable life. I like the way my life is now – with its efforts and its rewards, but not comfortable. Someone who is comfortable is in my book depending too much on others, either as patrons or as servants. Getting comfortable means getting complacent. In the same article, Duterte says: “My administration is working to ensure that basic human services are available to all; food and health needs; water and sanitation; shelter; public safety; education; and economic opportunities”. Sure.

Just a few sentences after, the real emphasis becomes clear: “In his speech, Duterte cited Davao City during his term as mayor, wherein he became well-known for bringing peace and order to his hometown.”. This sounds like putting the cart before the horse. Give people a chance to make a decent living thru work and you have a lot less unrest. How is the situation when it comes to water and sanitation in Metro Manila and other big cities, especially the poor areas where there are many addicts? I might take at least a shot of gin myself – not drugs – if I had to endure living there.

How about education and economic opportunities? It could start with small scale industries, there are programs like K-12 Plus (link) which happens to be German-sponsored and combines both education and economic opportunities by training poor people on the job. I doubt that the kids learning metalworking in the San Pedro Relocation Center National High School take drugs. They have a chance in life and most people are not so foolish to waste real chances. As for shelter – if Leni allegedly did not do enough, what is her successor now doing in terms of social housing.

The right mix in social housing – with community centres especially for the youth to prevent disorientation, mixing different income groups to prevent the hopelessness of ghettos, putting people near factories or place where there is work – has proven crucial to defusing social tensions in modern countries. Where is the comprehensive program for this – or even just the first baby steps?

Food needs. Microfinance (link) and rural banks are crucial, not just ranting against moneylenders. Storage and distribution as well. Prosperity is not just comfort. What is being done for prosperity?

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 18. February 2017

33 comments to A comfortable life


    MANILA – The depreciation of the peso against the dollar caused the national government’s debt to rise further in June, data from the Bureau of Treasury showed Wednesday.

    The Philippines’ foreign obligations jumped by 5.2 percent in June to P2.231 trillion from P2.119 trillion in the same month in 2016.

    “The increment was largely due to the impact of peso depreciation against the US dollar,” the bureau said in a statement.

    Meanwhile, domestic debt also rose 9.3 percent to P4.186 trillion amid net issuance of government securities, and as the peso’s depreciation increased the value of onshore dollar bonds.

    The national government’s total debt stood at P6.417 trillion as of June 2017..

  • karlgarcia

    For comfortable living do not allow cell sites in your subdivision.(sarcasm)

    Recently our neighbor protested building of a cell site near us.
    Before, I commented on nimbyism as blocking progress, but when it was close to home( literally), suddenly I forgot all my rants against nimbyism and now we are thinking if we will withdraw our signature of consent for installing the tower near us.

    • Democracy is about finding ways to distribute the load everybody has to carry. Of course if there is no functioning mechanism it is indeed everyone for himself.

      Nimbyism in German is the St.-Florians-Principle: “St. Florian, (patron saint of fire) burn my neighbors house, please spare mine”.

  • karlgarcia

    “Food needs. Microfinance (link) and rural banks are crucial, not just ranting against moneylenders. Storage and distribution as well. Prosperity is not just comfort. What is being done for prosperity”

    “Government ought not to mistake symptoms for our problems. We won’t achieve 100% financial inclusion just because we arrest and deport all 5-6 lenders.

    In his latest effort to fulfill his campaign promises, President Rody Duterte recently ordered a crackdown on people involved in so-called “5-6” moneylending.

    5-6 involves lenders – many of them Indian nationals – issuing small loans at a 20% interest rate or so. Payments are typically collected on a daily or weekly basis.
    In last Monday’s (January 9) Cabinet meeting, Duterte ordered the arrest and deportation of such 5-6 lenders. Although their high interest rates are not illegal per se, they were deemed by the President “usurious” and “burdensome” to the people.
    This directive has resulted in a flurry of government actions. For instance, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre claimed that such arrests could, in fact, be executed without warrants. Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr has already discussed the matter with the top Indian diplomat.
    In this article we put the 5-6 lending scheme in context by situating it in the country’s broader financial system. We show that its enduring popularity stems from its ability to address certain limitations of our formal credit markets. In other words, 5-6 is but a symptom of a larger problem at play.
    Overview of lending in the PH
    First, let’s review some facts about Filipinos’ ability to access credit. Data from the Bangko Sentral show that as of 2015 around 47% (or nearly half) of all Filipino adults had an outstanding loan.
    But a vast majority of them did not borrow from formal sources like banks or cooperatives (see Figure 1). Instead, they borrowed more from informal sources: 62% borrowed from family members, relatives, and friends, while 10% borrowed from informal lenders like loan sharks and 5-6 lenders.

    Why is informal borrowing so popular? Although 84% of adults acknowledged the importance of loans in their daily lives, only 56% said they wanted to borrow from formal lenders.
    One key reason for this is that borrowing from formal lenders remains to be costly and inconvenient. Among those who said they had difficulties obtaining credit from formal lenders, 28% cited high collateral requirements as their main problem, while 20% cited the numerous documentary requirements.
    Credit market failures
    Filipino entrepreneurs have an especially difficult time obtaining loans from formal lenders to start or expand their businesses.
    Today around 99.6% or nearly all business establishments in the Philippines are classified as “micro/small/medium enterprises” (MSMEs). These are firms with less than 200 employees or assets less than P100 million. Of these, 90.3% are “micro enterprises”, or those with less than 10 employees or assets less than P3 million.
    The small scale of these businesses hinders entrepreneurs from easily accessing credit from formal lenders. One studyfound that, indeed, high collateral requirements have become a “major impediment” for the development of MSMEs. Many MSMEs are also unable to satisfy other requirements, such as business plans and proofs of financial recordkeeping capabilities.
    For their part, lenders are also reluctant to issue loans due to inadequate information about borrowers’ credit history and creditworthiness. As long as lenders and borrowers cannot be brought to the same page (and trust between them is hard to establish), then lending will become near-impossible and formal credit markets may fail altogether.
    Enter informal lending
    These difficulties give rise to informal lending mechanisms, which have their own pros and cons.
    One advantage is that informal lenders accept non-traditional forms of collateral (such as retail goods or labor services) or even no collateral at all (as in the case of 5-6).
    A second advantage is that trust is easier to establish between informal lenders and borrowers. For instance, in rural settings loans are often tied to existing economic relations, such as those between sari-sari owners and their suki (patrons), landlords and their tenants, and traders and farmers. When borrowers fail to repay their loans, they jeopardize their other important economic ties.
    But to compensate for the larger risk they are taking, informal lenders usually impose higher interest rates and monitor payments more frequently. Most people are familiar with the 20% interest rate in 5-6 arrangements. But in Nueva Ecija, for instance, informal interest rates as high as 60% are not unheard of.
    It is therefore no wonder that informal lending schemes are often accused of causing further financial distress to the poor who rely on them the most.
    Microfinance revolution
    In the presence of credit market failures, the government has taken several steps to help increase people’s reliance on formal credit.
    For example, in 2007, Congress passed the “Magna Carta for MSMEs” which required banks to allocate at least 8% of their loan portfolio to micro and small enterprises, and 2% to medium enterprises.
    However, Figure 2 shows that compliance with this law has been mixed: banks have underprovided loans to micro and small enterprises, but at the same time have overprovidedloans to medium enterprises. This attests to the continuing difficulties in bridging the information gaps between banks and small borrowers.

    Another way to improve access to formal credit is by promoting the growth of community-based microfinance institutions (MFIs). By making use of existing community relations, MFIs can afford to lend with minimal requirements. This model, pioneered by the Nobel Prize-winning Grameen Bank, has been particularly successful in South Asia.
    President Duterte’s support for this type of microfinance – through the DTI’s new program called P3 or “Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso” – is a welcome development. However, such programs will work best when complemented with comprehensive financial literacy programs.
    Finally, new technologies can improve the growth of microfinance. Latest innovations include “credit scoring” (which helps lenders distinguish between good and bad risks) and “digital microlending” (which makes use of SMS messaging and social networks to expand the reach of formal credit).
    Conclusion: Let’s not mistake the symptom for the problem
    5-6 lending is but a small part of the country’s informal credit system, which is essentially a reaction to the difficulty of accessing loans from banks and other formal credit institutions.
    Worldwide, the role of informal credit generally diminishes as countries progress. With the continued growth of microfinance in the Philippines, our people will come to rely less and less on informal schemes like 5-6. In fact, the Philippines is already making impressive strides in the pursuit of greater financial inclusion.
    But moving forward, the government ought not to mistake symptoms for our problems. In the same way that a cold won’t go away instantly just by sweating it out, we won’t achieve 100% financial inclusion just because we arrest and deport all 5-6 lenders.
    As in many other aspects of development, shortcuts and magic formulas are often a poor substitute to careful thought and hard work. –”

  • karlgarcia

    Housing for a comfortable life.

    Thousands of urban poor women led a movement to occupy vacant and idle housing units in several resettlement zones all over Bulacan early Wednesday in time for International Working Women’s Month.
    Militant group for urban poor Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) said that the move aims to assert the rights of not only women, but also the indigent to free and mass housing, which the Duterte administration has failed to do.
    “The Duterte government has failed poor Filipinos. Along with HUDCC (Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council ) chief Evasco, they have consistently neglected the plight and calls of the poor for mass housing in pursuit of a profit-oriented neo-liberal roadmap that favors treating housing like business,” Kadamay chairperson Gloria Arellano said in a statement.

    “Mas gugustuhin pa nilang singilin ang taumbayan sa pabahay kahit na lugmok na sa kahirapan. Ngayon, ang mga mahihirap naman ang maniningil,” she added.
    According to the group, almost 10,000 homes were occupied by renters, sharers and everyone without a home across relocation areas in Bulacan.
    The National Housing Authority (NHA) last year reported that there are 52,341 idle houses nationwide that were meant for the personnel of Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), but in this number, only 13 percent or 8,327 were occupied.
    “Poor Filipinos have a right to housing, especially since it is paid for by the Filipinos including the anomalous P50 billion Informal Settler Fund. Police and military personnel don’t even want to live in relocation sites, it is too far and they can afford in city homes,” Arellano said.
    She pointed out that this is visible in the huge number of vacant houses that were allotted for them, affirming that the said units “should be given freely to those without a home.”
    Kadamay called on the NHA to distribute the units immediately rather than leaving them to decay.  The group also urges the public to support and join what they called “Occupy Bulacan” movement, to support women and people in general to “reclaim what is rightfully theirs.”
    We know professional squatter syndicates abound, awardees not wanting to occupy houses awarded to them because of lack of services like Water and electricity and lack of public transport to go to their work places. Or the workplace is too far,etc.

    Another problem of having no land use law nationwide.
    How do you deal with those in danger zones like fault lines.

    You can talk to the poor,what about those with big properties.
    And that is only Makati, the fault line is from Marikina to Laguna, what will the other LGUs do?


      comment on the first article, by Joel Pablo Salud:

      I’m all for giving the homeless and displaced either by war, nature’s wrath, or poverty the needed houses. But for these people to turn these structures into homes, they must have at least the chance to work for a living in their new environment. I and my wife once visited the resettlement houses built in Calauag, Laguna. Roughly 48,000 people were resettled there at the time from various parts of Metro Manila. Sure, they were given houses. But the promised living conditions, as well as opportunities for work, were denied them. These famillies, hard up as they were to put food on their tables, were forced to pay for their electricity bills (which came by way of generators), fetch supplies of water from miles away, and steal from neighbors if only to get by. Children as young as 12 took to prostituting their young bodies for cups of noodles and coffee. Husbands were also forced to make that trip back to Metro Manila for work, leaving their wives and children to fend for themselves. Gangs began their felonious job of controlling the villages. The houses were dilapidated structures, without ceilings, walls barely holding up the roofs, looking good on the outside but crumbling in the inside and infested by termites. Saddest thing was that mothers and children left by the man of the house for weeks and months took to selling their bodies for food. Some men in the area took advantage of this by offering money and supplies in exchange for sex. Crime allegedly rose in that part of Laguna as incidents of poverty and violence spiked. Add to this the ignominy of not having a regular doctor in the area. The place was too far off the main road that it was difficult to find. Had it not been for the Don Bosco brothers who went out of their way to help these people, chances are they would not have survived this long. But whatever help these brothers extended fell desperately shy of what was really needed. The logistics alone required to sustain 100 families is staggering, money these religious order can scarcely boast of having. Government should not stop at giving houses. Promised living conditions as well as jobs should be fulfilled. Just saying.

  • karlgarcia

    As we have discussed we need a land use law.

    Sure subdivisions were made to escape agrarian reform, and all.
    You have written about gated communities and all of its cultural and social impacts.

    But as according to the articles above.
    If the land conversion ban is to proceed, the housing backlog would not be solved and all projects will be put to stop.

    Also, the economic development will also stop.

    Again shooting from the hip.
    Inventory all land, not all land could be agricultural.
    Singapore has little land, but made use of that little land to make it productive.
    Israel with all the war going on and little arable land has no problem with food security.

    I think we have a problem with balancing pros and cons of everything.
    We resort to populism, we think what exerts more pressure is more correct at the moment, bahala na, then we decide then change everything when some one has another way to pressure.

    • “I think we have a problem with balancing pros and cons of everything.” exactly.

      it comes to “leaving the car on the roadside and setting it on fire” – instead of regular maintenance. Most stuff done is not sustainable, one extreme or the other, no patience to balance.

    • karl garcia

      Thete are many cinflicting and overlapping laws like the Comprehensive Land Reform Law, Mining Law, Rights of the Indigenous and Ancestral land law,Housing laws, and what not.

      The land use act was a bill since the 90s even before sone overlopping laws were passed. (maybe that is one of the reasons, they chose to pass those conflicting and ovlappping laws instead of land use in favor of the stronger lobby)

      What do you do to recover the mountains, the agricultural lands, those structures built on fault lines, watersheds,etc.

      Do you demolish subdivisions, buildings. At least the mines are temporarily shut down for now.

      I still go for landfill mining and reclamation and incineration.
      But zero waste movenents wants everything to be reused, and wants to ban all forms of incineration and at the same time wants landfills closed.

      The recent earthquakes demand a need for building inspections, but alas! There are not enough men to inspect the buildings, and how can they remove all those built on fault lines and watersherds.

      You demolish in the morning they will comeback in the afternoon and thise not include the large structures on fault lines or watersheds like the SMs of the world.


      About burning your car when it breaks down, you are thnking of it and really wanted to do it and then a car stops, and you were glad because someone will help, but instead offers you a lighter,

      • The zero waste people are 100 percenters, especially in the Philippine context.

        No incineration because of clean air, when coal-fired power plants cause people’s eyes to hurt in Zambales? It would be better to have some sort of emissions standard for all that makes smoke.

        Then burning your car would be against the law, but I doubt if it would make the air much worse in Metro Manila. Even in the 1980s doctors said Manila air reduces life expectancy by about 10 years. Wonder what that means for Enrile, was his original life expectancy 110 or 120 years?

      • karlgarcia

        Plus of course the Lina law removes the flexibilty of evicting illegal settlers, and giving Before that was the PD by Marcos about urban land reform where you get to own the land if you squatted on it for ten years.
        (PD for urban land reform)

        And bills of near site relocations.

        • People seek opportunities in the city. It is the same thing as being a migrant abroad – or an OFW – except within the country. Because what your own province has to offer is not enough for now or for the future, or because one wants to improve one’s situation.

          German federalism has the important aspect of “equivalent living conditions” in the entire Federation, assisted by subsidies from richer to poorer states – uncontrolled urban migration, impossible in the time of the Kaiser due to work permit rules similar to what Russia and later China imitated, became an issue in the Weimar Republic including massive unrest. This was something the Federal Republic wanted to avoid, keeping people content close to home was the goal.

          Of course illegal settling is not the issue in colder countries, you need at least heating to survive the winter over here. There is always the tension between the rich people who tend to gentrify even areas where there is a settled urban population, and the push of people looking for opportunities. In Munich it is already hard for bus drivers, nurses etc. to find affordable places to stay – so for new developments a certain percentage always has to be subsidized social housing. To keep a certain mix of people from different income groups, preventing both rich and poor ghettos from developing – an approach especially seen in Munich and Vienna. There is also a consensus in most of Europe that gated communities are not a good development, so there hardly are any. Hardly any private roads of any sort, either.

  • karlgarcia

    In one of our chats ,you described your diverse community in Munich, how come with all the diversity here we could not maximize its potential?

    The idea if having leftists in the cabinet is only good on paper, what is happening is far from ideal..

    Now as to water in Metro Manila.
    In parañaque, comtinuous digging, then recementing after changing pipes.
    Their excuse of having to replace old pipes maybe valid, but to dig and dig every year.

    K12 still gets negative feed back even for those who can afford, maybe it needs more time for it to work,

    The Conditionsl cash transfer is to be scrapped, I rather them have an alternative solution…….

    Water going gone is the prime reason given by DENR secretary on closing mines.
    But iI think a compromise shpuld be done. So many tradeoffs like lost of livelihood, those can not be replaced by eco tourism alone. Somethings got to give.

    • “how come with all the diversity here we could not maximize its potential?” could be the 100percenter attitude that Joe mentioned. The discussion on mining is an example: almost all involved are 100percenters, black/white.

      So instead of kinetic energy going towards a common denominator, it neutralizes like two carabaos butting heads.

    • sonny

      I think land use and management should be a major responsibility at the regional/provincial level: an economic vision then a needs analysis/land utilization/demography study, then an inventory then a local plan then an invitation to both corporate and personal bidders for development with risk and hardship minimization incentives from both local and national governments. Neph, Irineo is this a pertinent paradigm? I’m sure our formal and informal think tanks have already thought and done these actions.

    • sonny

      Neph, boost my information, please, kung kulang.

      I think land management/utilization is the major responsibility of our regional/provincial governments to their constituency and this also includes a specific responsibility by the national gov’t to the same constituency, e.g. infrastructure as part of the national nerve network for communications and national commerce.a This MUST include an economilc vision, then going to a needs analysis/land management/demography study, leading to an invitation to development by corporate and personal citizens accompanied by risk/hardship incentives from both local and national gov’ts. Neph, Irineo is this a reasonable land development/management paradigm? I’m sure the process has been visited by national expert think tanks. Your thoughts?

      • I have not the faintest idea of how it is administered over here in Germany.. but:

        1) the open-pit coal mining areas West of Cologne and East of Aachen included some of the largest excavators in the world and the planned destruction of entire towns. But also rebuild and relocate!

        2) the old coal mining areas of the Ruhr, where most of the steel industry used to be, still often have issues with sinkholes. It is pretty nasty if your house or your street is swallowed up.

        3) small-scale farming still thrives thanks to EU subsidies, but the profitability of small-scale farming remains low. Highly mechanized agriculture in East Germany is more competitive, on former land of plantation owners that was collectivized during Communism and later sold by the German state.

        4) If left to grow like Metro Manila, Munich would surely sprawl and rise in the same way, destroying every field still in farmer’s hands. Direct democracy has prevented some extremes – the first photobomb skyscraper in Munich led to a public veto on tall buildings. I voted against it but now I like the decision, feels good to have a place that changes less in a fast-changing crazy world. Conservatism also helped: Bavarian villages around Munich have subdivisions growing around them to absorb people with families who can’t buy houses in expensive Munich. But in one village I know, developers were made to allot half of the land to people who had live there for at least 10 years (“Einheimische” or natives, they may have wanted to define it more strictly I am sure but couldn’t do that legally, maybe) – which is also good for the stability of a place while not restricting growth..

        5) What I have gathered from talking with people that know about land is that there are very strict classifications of land in Germany: “Bauland” is land for building, then there is forest land which is very cheap (because conversion is nearly impossible) and there is farm land, also hard to convert. From what I have read about building and other projects, it is very hard to get things moving if there are legal obstacles or environmental concerns. Looking at it now, often a good thing. German federalism also plays a role, with local sense of home often superseding grand national projects..

        6) At federal level, when it comes to Federation-State relations, there is the imperative of “equivalent living conditions” in the entire country, which governs financial transfers between the federation and between states – effectively the Federation and rich states help the poor states.

      • karlgarcia

        Unc, all my frustrations on the stae of land use I posted in the above comments.

        Irineo already gave his take on Munich,
        Unc, your new home is Chicago and Chicago reminds me of the Burnham plan.

        I understand Unc that Burnham did the Plan for Chicago at the same time he did The plans for Manila and Baguio.

        I wonder how the plan for Manila and Baguio can still be implemented.

        With all these land use discussions, I am still glad that these infrastructure projects will push through during or after Duterte’s term.

        • sonny

          Neph, as one who actually saw and experienced Manila, Baguio in the 1950s and today, and has seen how the city of Chicago looks and feels, I am thankful that I can say a big YES to dream of Manila & Baguio as places/destinations to visit and stay at, comparable to the great places of the world. Daniel Burnham was brought to Manila and Baguio by Howard Taft; he immediately saw the potential of grace and beauty in those two places. Essentially what Burnham saw in our geography has not moved away. Like him Architect Palafox shares the same vision of those two cities. This vision and focus can easily be shown and argued favorably to the willing eyes and ears. Obviously, to realize the dream and vision is another story.

          • karlgarcia

            Unc, this is a suntok sa bwan for now.
            The Eastern Luzon Seaboard Strategic Scheme.
            To Develop Tugueguarao to Sorsogon.


          • karlgarcia

            The Visayas inter-island link is somethng to look forward to.


          • sonny

            Neph, thank you, thank you for finding those two links: envisioning developing our typhoon seaboard regions and creating unifying linkages among our archipelagic peoples and culture, (truly responses to the two permanent legacies (challenge & opportunity) of mother nature to our country of fire and water. These are the times for the Filipino – youthful, strong, fecund, dynamic, creative and mindful of their destiny. We will conquer our present realities as steel on steel and gain our future like our past could only imagine.

            To paraphrase the Good Book:

            How then shall they call on (something) in (which) they have not believed? Nor how shall they believe in (something) of which they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

          • The Dutch built strong national character in their fight against waves and water..

            The and show it.

            Like the Swiss became the masters of tunnel building:

          • sonny

            What bugs me many times is the seemingly obvious fact that our country is beset with many problems which on the one hand, many of our concerned citizenry are keenly aware of and yet, on the other hand our designated problem-solvers in national and local governments are a) unaware, b) unconcerned, c) incapable, d) unwilling, e) impervious to change, etc. (picking one or some combinations of these) resulting in a needful country so chronically hamstrung in productivity and progress.

            Just ruminating.

            Lessons from history. The British Isles and the Dutch are two countries that have similarities to the Philippines that developed to where they are now because of the far-flung dominions in No America and the East Indies among other things. Granted the Philippines is an archipelago but now under duress. It behooves Filipinos to soul-search, intensively, about our similarities and differences from either G. Britain or Holland (and even the Swiss) on how these countries faced their challenges and found their respective strengths: ethnically diverse archipelago (G Britain, monarchy, erudition), water-logged Dutch (civil engineering & intrepidity), land-locked Swiss (financial leverage). We can even add the giftedness of a former colony like America and the regionalism and bureaucracy of France.

          • One hope I do see is if many young college graduates are inspired to travel these days. Avail of opportunities to do masters, doctorates and postdocs in Europe and Southeast Asian neighboring countries. Absorb experience and information abroad for a while.

            That internet-savvy generation is of course also perfectly equipped to find out about how other countries got their act together, with all the jumps and starts. The English with their own Game of Thrones (York vs. Lancaster, Wars of the Roses) up to the Tudor consolidation (Henry VII, Henry VIII, Mary, Elizabeth) and its aftermath (the Jameses and the Charles, Cromwell and the finally the Glorious Revolution i.e. William and Mary), the Dutch with their struggle against the water, the Swiss with their fight to be independent of the dynastic quarrels of Europe. All these crises and their resolutions predated these countries expanding or establishing themselves to secure their gains.

            Wasn’t too much different with Spain either – the Reconquista and its travails predated the Conquista. Or America – the American Civil War I think laid the groundwork for the expansion westwards, even up to the Philippines, and eastwards (WW1 and WW2 to Europe). There are of course opposite stories of countries and regions destroying themselves – the Greek city-states shortly before Rome, Middle Eastern dominions, Maya empire. Or regions that survived by laying low like the Balkan, the Caucasus, Central Asia.

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