September 15, 2010
With the impending unprecedented fare increases in the three major elevated railway systems—the Light Rail Transit (LRT) 1, LRT 2 and Metro Rail Transit 3—in Metro Manila, we ask this timely question: Does Aquino’s ‘Daang Matuwid’ include an affordable public mass transportation system?
They administration wants to raise train fares so that it would level with buses and FX whose fares are ever changing due to the volatile oil prices. At present, the LRT and MRT is the most affordable and effective mode of transportation in the Metro Manila. For the year 2009, the ridership of MRT is138.54 million, the LRT1 113.57 million, and the LRT2 48.57 million. It is estimated that about 1.2 million Filipinos who ride the LRT and MRT everyday will bear the brunt of the planned fare hike.
Students are among the many that will be primarily affected by the fare hike. Thousands of students avail of the MRT and LRT daily. Trains have become a very convenient and affordable means of transportation to the students especially during heavy traffic and rush hours. Many students especially those taking the Santolan-Recto route, where a large number of University Belt students are studying, will be severely affected. Like any other hike, this will have a ripple effect on the students. Instead of having extra money for food or academic requirements, the additional fare will eat it away. Basic commodities may not be affected with the hike but the partition of their daily budget will be sacrificed.
A student’s regular daily budget for transportation may rise up from the regular Php 30.00 to Php 50.00. This ultimately places the burden to the parents who are also passengers like them working under a daily wage not even enough to answer their family’s needs. Php 900 is needed for a family to survive every day according to the IBON Foundation, but a minimum wage worker in the Metro Manila takes home only Php 404 per day.
The hike will only add burden to parents who have difficulty sending their children to school. Children of ordinary workers, laborers and employees can only take so much with their very meager salary. Now that more and more students enroll in state colleges and universities, fare hikes will be added to the computation of troubling concerns of the youth and their parents.
Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose “Ping” de Jesus earlier said that the administration is planning to have discount for students. If the government seriously wants the riding public, especially the students, to be relieved of their transportation concerns, a student discount should have been offered before. Such move intends to pacify the outrage of many passengers who are against the hike.
Even now, there have been proposals from the administration that discounts be implemented in the current fares. Discounts should have been implemented even before the fare hike issue was raised. Even if they implemented student discounts, it won’t make a difference once the hikes are fulfilled. The student discount the government is peddling is just a smokescreen that won’t make any difference.
Earlier, President Benigno Aquino III announced that his administration will be slashing subsidies for the MRT and LRT since funds are no longer available. The proposed 2011 budget, however, shows that the government increased its allocation for the MRT and LRT. The Department of Budget Management has allocated Php 7.3 billion as subsidy for the MRT in 2011. The subsidy increased from Php 5.7 billion this year to Php 7.3 billion next year. Contrary to Aquino’s statements that the country is running on a very meager budget, billions of Pesos came out.
Dubious and lopsided public-private partnerships (PPP) are the reasons behind the hikes. Instead of allotting the funds to subsidize public transport, the funds are meant to pay the government’s debts to private corporations. Taxpayer’s money are being paid to lessen the debts on MRT’s contractors namely Metro Rail Transit Corp. and MRT Development Co. and the 15% return on investment (ROI) which is under the 25-year build-lease-transfer agreement between MRT and Department of Transportation and Communication. The lopsided agreement states that the government is obliged to pay the 15% ROI every year.
Apart from the debt payment to corporations, several banks are also being paid with the taxpayer’s money. Among the banks are Export-Import Bank of Japan, Sumitomo Bank, Bank of the Philippine Islands.
In order to gain support, the administration said that it would be unfair to citizens who are in provincial areas to pay taxes in services which they don’t gain access such as the MRT and LRT. Such insignificant statement diverts the people’s attention in questioning the government where do there taxes go. They don’t explain why banks and private corporations are the ones eating up the taxpayers money, that it is the people who subsidize for their interest to earn.
The Php 100M budget for the feasibility study of PPPs is just a big waste of taxpayer’s money. It has been proven that PPP is not the solution to the chronic problem of the country. This is a same old, brand new policy that has been copy-pasted from administration to administration. If privatizations will continue, nothing will essentially change, debts will grow bigger, the government will further entertain globalization policies and enter gravely lopsided agreements which will put the people in peril.
This flagship solution of the current administration will just make a longer and more winding road of burdens.
Don’t pass the burden to the masses, collect fees from big businesses. Big businesses have maximized the strategic design of train stations. Of the malls positioned on strategic stations are SM North Edsa, Trinoma, SM Megamall, SM Makati and Greenbelt. Passengers are held hostage to consume products offered by these malls and thus compensates big with the significant station-to-mall connection. The ones in the advantage here are the business magnates such as Henry Sy and the Ayala clan. If such sums of money were to be collected from them, subsidies for the MRT, LRT will be bigger.
Insistent on its plan to impose higher LRT and MRT fare rates, the new administration already reveals how it views vital public goods such as transportation. As with other social services such as education and health, the government seems to treat public transportation as a mere commodity and consumer product that ought to be left to the devices of the market-driven economy. (Bulatlat.com)
Office of Rep. Raymond ‘Mong’ Palatino
Room 419, North Wing, House of Representatives,
Batasan Complex, Quezon City
Kabataan Party-list Rep. Mong Palatino