PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
MRT riders fight fare hike Congress to stop increase if DOTC fails to justify it
SELFIE PROTEST Members of #StrikeTheHike protest light-rail fare increases at LRT-2 Pureza Station in Sta. Mesa, Manila, on Sunday. The group urges commuters to protest the fare hikes by taking selfies and “groupfies” at train stations. JOAN BONDOC MANILA, Philippines—Congress will suspend the fare rate increase implemented Sunday in the Light Rail Transit (LRT 1 and 2) and Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT) systems if the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) fails to justify it at a committee hearing scheduled for Jan. 8, even as protesting commuters took matters into their hands by staging a protest on a moving LRT-2 train early Sunday. READ FULL REPORT...
2 dead Filipinos in Vietnam sinking named; 16 others missing
Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier Bulk Jupiter was built in 2006 and owned by Gearbulk Norway. It is seen in this January 2013 photo in Adelaide, Australia. Les Blair for ShipSpotting.com MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday identified the two Filipino seafarers who died in the sinking of a cargo vessel off Vietnam. DFA spokesperson Charles Jose said that the bodies of Captain Ronel Acueza Andrin and Third Officer Jerome Maquilang Dinoy were brought to southern the province of Ba Ria Vung Tau on Sunday. Andrin, 35, hailed from Quezon province while Dinoy, 23, came from Cebu. Their ship, the Bahamas-flagged carrier Bulk Jupiter, sank with 19 Filipino crew members on Friday en route from Malaysia to China. READ FULL REPORT...
PNoy defends political figures in rare TV interview
President Aquino appears in comedic talk show "Gandang Gabi, Vice!" with Vice Ganda aired on television on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015. Vice Ganda/Facebook MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino III revealed his impressions on some key government figures and entertainment personalities in a television talk show interview aired Sunday night. Defending some Cabinet members and commenting on his relationship with others, Aquino appeared on ABS-CBN's "Gandang Gabi, Vice" hosted by the network's top comedic talent Vice Ganda and set in Malacañan Palace. READ FULL REPORT...
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MRT riders fight fare hike Congress to stop increase if DOTC fails to justify it
SELFIE PROTEST Members of #StrikeTheHike protest light-rail fare increases at LRT-2 Pureza Station in Sta. Mesa, Manila, on Sunday. The group urges commuters to protest the fare hikes by taking selfies and “groupfies” at train stations.
MANILA, JANUARY 5, 2015 (INQURER) Gil C. Cabacungan, Nathaniel R. Melican and TJ Burgonio - MANILA, Philippines—Congress will suspend the fare rate increase implemented Sunday in the Light Rail Transit (LRT 1 and 2) and Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT) systems if the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) fails to justify it at a committee hearing scheduled for Jan. 8, even as protesting commuters took matters into their hands by staging a protest on a moving LRT-2 train early Sunday.
“If there is really a need for us to ask for a deferment, we will do it, we will ask for it,” said Catanduanes Rep. Cesar V. Sarmiento.
He said Congress could opt for a full deferment or implementing the fare hike on a staggered basis.
At least two senators on Sunday castigated the DOTC for the new LRT-MRT rates, which are roughly double the previous rates and went into effect 15 days after they were announced while Congress was on a holiday break. The House and the Senate sessions will reopen Monday, Jan. 5.
About 10 members of the militant Strike the Hike consumer group, stylized as #StrikeTheHike, refused to hold on to safety handrails, sit or stay still, all the while taking selfies on a Santolan-bound LRT-2 train, to protest what they said was the “unjust” fare increase.
Holding greeting card-sized thumbs-down signs patterned after Facebook’s ubiquitous “like” button, the young protesters first posed for selfies on the platform of the LRT Pureza Station, before boarding a train heading toward Santolan. The group continued to take selfies and even managed to convince a few passengers to pose with them.
Mark Louie Aquino, the Strike the Hike Network spokesman, said the selfie protest was just one of the creative ways the group has thought of to protest against the LRT and MRT fare hike.
“We encourage our fellow Filipinos to create protest actions in any forms. For the selfies, we hope they post them to Facebook with the hashtags #NoToMRTLRTFareHike or #StrikeTheHike,” he told reporters.
“We will do more protests on Monday, and seek a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court, and if the government will not listen, we will make more noise,” he said.
Aquino said that the fare hikes were “treacherously” implemented after the Christmas holidays to minimize opposition.
“At this time, when there have been many expenses over the holidays, and with 70 percent of LRT and MRT riders either minimum wage earners or students, this [fare] hike is an awful surprise,” he said.
Citing various news reports, he noted that the government itself has said that the additional profits from the increase would not benefit the system.
“In previous years, the government said the increase will go to improvements in the system. But now, (Transportation Secretary Jose Emilio) Abaya himself said that the money from the increased fares would just go back to the private firms involved in running the trains,” Aquino said.
Sympathy from passengers
Passengers who agreed to have their selfies taken with the protesters were sympathetic.
“It’s okay for me to spend more on LRT fare, but this is just too much,” said Aurora Chua, 57, who commutes from Marikina to Binondo to her workplace. “If most of my daily wage goes to my fare, then life will be more difficult for me.”
Others seemed more surprised than angry.
“I normally pay P15 to get from Santolan to Recto, but now, I have to add P10 more,” said a 19-year-old female student, who declined to be identified. “The price hike was surprising, but it seems we can’t do anything about it.”
After getting off at Gilmore Station in San Juan, the group of protesters then crossed the tracks going in the opposite direction, without buying new tickets for the journey.
They repeated this act, highlighting a ripped portion of the protective rubber joint of a part that connected the train wagons.
The antifare hike sentiment spilled over to Twitter, with users such as @maxell_lander tweeting, “LRT, MRT fare hike starts today—What?! This gov’t is in the pits, rewarding bad service and corruption by fare hike, shame on you all!”
Another user, who goes by the handle @_ChristianDale_, said, “Long queues, disrupted operations by stalled trains, not functioning escalator and elevator, and filthy toilets, NO to MRT/LRT fare hike!”
Fare hike OK
Other users, meanwhile, defended the increase, saying that train fares in the Philippines are way lower compared with rail fares in other countries.
“Ayos lng sa ibang bansa na nasa $2 or P50 to P100 ang bayad (The hike is okay, because in other countries, rides cost around $2 or P50 to P100 each),” said user @HooverMon.
Twitter user @seantwenty said it’s about time the government hiked fares: “Well aside from the ‘sudden’ implementation, there’s really nothing wrong (with the fare hike). Gov’t has been subsidizing, fare not increasing in years.”
“There’s nothing else to do but feel indifferent. Because no one is really going to stop the hike!” said Twitter user @JGDelica. “Nobody’s really going to give a s–t about how we feel.”
Sarmiento said the hearings on the fare rate hike formed part of the congressional oversight function over the DOTC and of Congress’ duty to protect the public interest.
Officials of the DOTC, LRT, MRT and Philippine National Railways have been invited as resource persons to the House hearing.
Sarmiento said he would defer any opinion on whether the fare hike was justified or not till after he had heard both sides. “Some sector would say that the fare increase is probably high time but then again, given the circumstances of chronic glitches, some might say it is untimely,” he said.
He cautioned though that there was a difference between the state-owned LRT and the MRT, which was built and leased to the government by a private group.
Sarmiento said the confusion over the fare rate hike, specifically accusations of lack of public consultations, should serve as an eye-opener for Congress on the lack of a dedicated government agency regulating train fares.
Abaya, Abad to be confronted
Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero on Sunday said they would confront Abaya and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad on the “treacherous” increase at the resumption of the Senate public services subcommittee hearings into the MRT’s problems.
“That’s one of the issues we will ask of them. If there’s still a way, we can try to stop, and ask for their commitment to suspend it,” Escudero said.
Otherwise, only the public, not the Senate, has the power to stop the fare increase by petitioning the court, the two said.
Escudero and Poe accused the DOTC of putting one over the public by enforcing the fare increase during the holidays.
They said the increase was ill-timed as Congress had already approved allocations for the MRT and LRT in the P2.606-trillion 2015 national budget, and that the MRT has yet to fix its glitches.
No reason for hike
“I don’t see any reason to increase the fare, financially and practically. As to its benefits for the commuters, there’s no basis,” Escudero told dzBB radio, noting that the government did not hold public hearings before announcing the increase.
“It’s sad to think, but it appears they did something treacherous,” Poe told dzBB in a separate interview.
“They have very bad services, and then they announced the increase while the public was on holiday, and they couldn’t go to court,” she added.
Escudero, who heard the budgets of various agencies as finance committee chair, said transport officials never mentioned the fare increase during the budget hearings.
Support for increase
Amid the backlash from angry commuters, Malacañang touted the expressions of support from its congressional allies representing districts outside Metro Manila not served by the LRT and MRT systems.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Sunday rattled off the names of the supporters, noting that they were “elected directly by our people.”
“That’s why we also have to recognize that there are also a lot of groups and sections of our population who agree with the increase in LRT and MRT fares,” he told the state-run Radyo ng Bayan.
Coloma cited Representatives Ben Evardone (Eastern Samar), Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro City), Oscar Rodriguez (Pampanga), Rodolfo Fariñas (Ilocos Norte), Eric Singson (Ilocos Sur), Cesar Sarmiento (Catanduanes) and Joaquin Chipeco (Laguna).
Malacañang earlier noted that it was unfair for taxpayers outside of Metro Manila to contribute to the LRT and MRT subsidized fares when they did not use the trains. With the new round of increases, the government is hoping to reduce its subsidy from P12 billion to P10 billion.
Militant groups led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) will question the increase in the Supreme Court Monday, a move Coloma said the Palace respected.
But he appealed to the protesting groups to keep protests orderly and not to disrupt traffic.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said militant groups were just giving “false hopes” to commuters by filing a petition seeking to block the LRT-MRT fare hike in the Supreme Court.
He said the high court was likely to reject the petition for lack of jurisdiction, lack of due process and the argument that the fare hike was long overdue.
“It’s hard to get a TRO when the government is the one involved, most especially when income from the increase in fares will result in an increase in revenue,” he said.
Bias vs bus, jeepney riders
Barzaga said removing the P2 billion in subsidies to LRT and MRT commuters would reduce the government’s bias against commuters riding the jeepneys and buses on which fares are not subsidized.
“I think it is really unfair, my constituents in Cavite who travel to Makati receive no subsidies of up to 60 percent of the fare for LRT and up to 75 percent for MRT,” he said.
Beginning Sunday, LRT and MRT fares increased by 50 to 87 percent. The new base fare is P11, plus P1 for every kilometer. End-to-end fare on MRT 3 increased from P15 to P28.
The fares on LRT 1 moved up from P20 to P30 for single-journey tickets and to P29 for stored-value cards. The fare at LRT 2 increased to P24 on stored-value cards and P25 for single-journey tickets, against the previous P15.–With a report from Christian V. Esguerra
2 dead Filipinos in Vietnam sinking named; 16 others missing By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated January 5, 2015 - 5:17pm 5 195 googleplus0 0
Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier Bulk Jupiter was built in 2006 and owned by Gearbulk Norway. It is seen in this January 2013 photo in Adelaide, Australia. Les Blair for ShipSpotting.com
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday identified the two Filipino seafarers who died in the sinking of a cargo vessel off Vietnam.
DFA spokesperson Charles Jose said that the bodies of Captain Ronel Acueza Andrin and Third Officer Jerome Maquilang Dinoy were brought to southern the province of Ba Ria Vung Tau on Sunday.
Andrin, 35, hailed from Quezon province while Dinoy, 23, came from Cebu.
Their ship, the Bahamas-flagged carrier Bulk Jupiter, sank with 19 Filipino crew members on Friday en route from Malaysia to China.
The ship's chief cook, Angelito Capindo Rojas, is the only known survivor.
Jose said Vietnamese rescuers aided by commercial ships passing through the area continued to search for the 16 others, identified by Vietnamese state media Tuoi Tres News as:
Renner Carl Resos Abugadie Gibbson Ladica Ranara Alexis Thomas Piala Bacalla Joseph Bantolino Damasen Lot Olavides Correos Reydante Santos Mendoza Ricky Arangorin Gapasin Jonniefer Derapite Aleta Renator Flores Toribio Wynfred Penaranda Balazo Edgar Tabanao Melecio George Barbaso Espliguera Jr. Edwin Deriada Acebo Rosilo Navarro Sansolis Gilbert Feliciano Flora Mark Timothy Denosta Causarin Rojas told officials that he had no idea what happened with the ship.
"I don't understand why the ship had the accident and sank," Rojas was quoted as saying "I just knew that the ship, which was on its way, suddenly tilted. I just had time to put on life vest and jump into the sea."
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, said that the Philippine military is being asked to extend assistance in the search operation, which yielded no new survivors as of Monday.
"Ang latest update from the Philippine Embassy in Hanoi is that there are no new remains recovered or survivors rescued aside from the earlier two bodies recovered, which are now in Ho Chi Minh City, and the one survivor who was rescued," Lacierda said in a televised press briefing on Monday.
Three helicopters, meanwhile, were added by the Vietnamese Navy to the search efforts while calling on neighboring countries to offer help, he said.
Thanh Nien quoted Nguyen Anh Vu, general director of Vietnam's maritime search and rescue operations coordination center, as saying the search operation was hampered by bad weather.
The ship owner, Bergen-based Gearbulk, said the vessel was 155 nautical miles (287 kilometers) off Vietnam with a cargo of bauxite when it sent a distress signal that was picked up by the Japanese coast guard.
The 190-meter (623-foot) long, 56,000-ton ship sank off the coast of Vung Tau, which is 96 kilometers (59 miles) from the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City.
Vessels from Liberia, Oman, Singapore and China were helping in the search, the DFA said. - with Minh V. Tran, the Associated Press
PNoy defends political figures in rare TV interview By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated January 5, 2015 - 10:53am 23 3 googleplus1 0
President Aquino appears in comedic talk show "Gandang Gabi, Vice!" with Vice Ganda aired on television on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015. Vice Ganda/Facebook
MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino III revealed his impressions on some key government figures and entertainment personalities in a television talk show interview aired Sunday night.
Defending some Cabinet members and commenting on his relationship with others, Aquino appeared on ABS-CBN's "Gandang Gabi, Vice" hosted by the network's top comedic talent Vice Ganda and set in Malacañan Palace.
The President called Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima his "friend" since the year after his mother, Corazon Aquino, assumed presidency in 1986. Purisima was ordered suspended by the Ombudsman last month over entering some allegedly anomalous contracts.
"Yung 'pag may imahen tayong negatibo sa kapulisan, hindi 'yon yung nakilala ko sa pagkatao nitong si Allan. Hindi namimili ng assignment, and dami n'yang pinauuli at wala siyang sinasanto, marami siyang kabaro na may maling ginagawa ngayong nakakulong," Aquino said.
Aquino also considers Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman as a reliable member of his Cabinet despite criticisms that the agency failed disaster victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and Typhoon Ruby last December.
"Maasahan. Kunwari may parating na sakuna, nando'n na," he said.
He also recalled his friendship with Vice President Jejomar Binay, a key opposition figure, dating back to the People Power Revolution in the 1980s.
"Matagal ko na ring kaibigan. Siya yung kasama ko noong EDSA revolution," Aquino said.
He was also asked to give brief descriptions of other known personalities, whose photos were flashed on a screen next to him.
Lawyer and activist Jejomar Binay (left) confers with Benigno "Noy-noy" Aquino III, son of martyred Ninoy Aquino, at the height of the People Power Revolution in 1986. OVP
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas - "Masipag at thorough."
Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares - "Maraming natatakot."
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman - "Nagba-blush on pala siya." "Maasahan. Kunwari may parating na sakuna, nando'n na."
Camarines Sur Rep.Leni Robredo - Nakikita mo yung kay Jesse, tinutuloy yung ginagawa ni Jesse.
Police Chief General Alan Purisima - "Kaibigan ko na 'tong si Alan [mula] '87. Tulad ng mga iba sa pulis at militar, bihira ngumiti, dito pinakiusapan na lang 'ata [na], 'Puwede bang pakilabas mo na na lahat ng ngiting hindi lumabas'." ... "Yung 'pag may imahen tayong negatibo sa kapulisan, hindi 'yon yung nakilala ko sa pagkatao nitong si Allan. Hindi namimili ng assignment, and dami n'yang pinauuli at wala siyang sinasanto, marami siyang kabaro na may maling ginagawa ngayong nakakulong." Justice Secretary Leila de Lima - "Sa hitsura pa lang, seryoso ... Doon kami nagkakaigi, sa trabaho talagang seryosong seryoso, pero kaya din naman pagaanin yung mundo."
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago - "Sa pose pa lang n'ya. Combative"
Vice President Jejomar Binay - "Matagal ko na ring kaibigan. Siya yung kasama ko noong EDSA revolution." (Asked who is more good looking between them, he answered, "Siya na lang tanungin mo.")
Stylist Liz Uy , whom Aquino was rumored to be dating - "Successful." Radio disc jockey
Grace Lee, Aquino's former girlfriend - "Successful din 'ata."
Aquino's sister and television personality Kris Aquino - "Interesting ang buhay n'ya."
Vice Ganda - "Very interesting."
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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