PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK

PALACE: NO REASON TO GRIPE; FARE HIKE NOT
EVEN ENOUGH

 
Militant groups hold a protest in front of the Supreme Court to denounce the LRT-MRT fare hike yesterday. EDD GUMBAN MANILA, Philippines - Commuters have no reason to gripe against the increase in fares in the Light Rail Transit and Metro Rail Transit as such is not even enough to turn the system around or cover the existing government subsidy, a Palace official clarified yesterday. “Every year we have subsidized MRT with quite a big sum. This year, we have lessened it to P10 billion,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda pointed out. The annual subsidy stood at P12 billion. “We are not saying we are taking out the entire subsidy. Let me be clear with that,” he said. “So of those P2 billion that we can save, we are going to allocate the resources outside of (Metro Manila), or in other areas like the Visayas and Mindanao,” he said.

ALSO: CHIZ SLAMS MRT, LRT FARE HIKE; SAYS DOTC MISLED SENATE ON BUDGET REQUEST 

 

PHOTO: Chair Senate Finance Committee ESCUDERO --
The Senate would have not approved the 2015 budget request of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) had it known that it would implement fare increases in the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT ), Senator Chiz Escudero said. "They [DOTC] asked for budget allocation from Congress and said that was what they needed. We gave it to them already, but they did not even inform us that there will be an increase," Escudero said. "Had we known that there will be a fare hike, we could have given them a smaller amount from the 2015 budget." ...No transparency Senate Committee on Finance chairman Francis Escudero, for his part, criticized the DOTC for its lack of transparency in implementing the fare hike. Escudero noted that the DOTC never mentioned anything about the planned fare increase during the hearings of the chamber on this year’s national budget even though the issues surrounding the MRT-3, LRT-1 and LRT-2 were discussed.  READ FULL PRESS RELEASE FROM THE SENATE.

More oppose fare hike INCREASES OPPRESSIVE, UNJUST, AN UN-CHRISTIAN MOVE

 
INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES MANILA, Philippines–A commuter group and party-list lawmakers have joined calls to stop the fare increases in Metro Manila’s elevated train lines, saying the costlier daily commute was “unjust” and “oppressive” to minimum wage earners as the adjustments were enforced without public consultations. In separate petitions, the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters’ Inc. (UFCC) and Bayan Muna on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to halt the enforcement of the fare hike at the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 and Light Rail Transit (LRT) Lines 1 and 2, accusing the transportation secretary of grave abuse of discretion in enforcing the increases. The petitions followed two suits against the fare hike filed separately on Monday by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: SC asked to stop MRT-LRT fare hike 

 

PHOTO: A resident checks the reading from rows of water meters at a compound in Teachers Village, Quezon City yesterday. Aside from higher MRT-LRT fares, residents of Metro Manila will soon also have to pay more for their water. BOY SANTOS MANILA, Philippines - Two separate Supreme Court cases greeted the implementation of the fare increases in the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) on the first working day of the year yesterday. In separate petitions, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and former Iloilo congressman Augusto Syjuco asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a status quo ante order stopping the fare adjustments, which began last Sunday. The petitioners also urged the SC to void a Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) order last month allowing the increases. The two petitioners shared the position that the fare hikes would only benefit the private firms operating the lines and that the move was a violation of the constitutional right to due process of millions of mass transit commuters. Members of militant groups on Sunday launched mass actions at some MRT and LRT stations to protest the fare hikes. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO 'TAKING THE 'BOSSES' FOR A RIDE': DOTC asked to account for P120.7B gov’t poured into MRTC

 
Government on top of MRT situation, Aquino insists ---MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation and Communication
(DOTC) must account for the P120.7 billion the government has poured into the Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC), the owners of the 25-year build-lease-transfer contract of a rapid transit line system traversing Edsa, before it demands higher fares from the public. Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares made the demand as he claimed that the Light Rail Transit 1 and 2 (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT) were generating close to P2 billion in operating revenues between them annually which would belie DOTC’s claims that these trains were operating in the red. “Malacañang is taking the people for a ride because there is no need to increase fares. Annual MRT and LRT revenues outstrip operation expense so it is deceptive for government to insist that it is losing. MRT earned P2.2 billion in ticket sales and only spent P1.8 billion in operation expense last year. LRT earned P2.5 billion but only spent P1.03 billion for operation expense,” Colmenares said in a statement. He said that even DOTC officials, in their testimony during the House budget hearings, were in agreement that revenues for both LRT and MRT were bigger than their operating expenses.

ALSO TRIBUNE EDITORIAL: Blame it on DAP removal 

 
Some devious schemes are being employed by the ruling party in an obvious effort to build up its campaign kitty for the 2016 polls.The Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) would have been a convenient source of party funds but the creation of the Palace money pool was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC) last year. The SC also ordered those who cooked up the scheme to prove good faith or face accountability. The essence of the SC ruling was that the Executive can’t usurp the power of the purse of Congress and the arbitrary generation of savings to build up the DAP funds which was not in accordance with the Constitution. The SC decision did not stop the Palace and its clique from bastardizing the budget and fill it with lump sum funds, with their use being entirely under the discretion of Noynoy. A favorite cash cow was the Metro Rail Transit (MRT)-3 system which became prone to breakdowns as it is worn down by the corrupt practices to which it is subjected.
Transportation and Communications Chief Jun Abaya for instance said the P2 billion in “subsidy savings” with the increases he imposed on the mass transit system fares is the right thing to do. He said the savings would be used for infrastructure buildup which is not necessarily related to train systems. READ FULL EDITORIAL...

ALSO FROM MANILA TIMES: Grace Poe finally saw PNoy’s true colors 


Grace Poe: ‘Abaya, Abad did something treacherous’ in hiking MRT, LRT fares ---by MANILA TIMES ERWIN TULFO ---“Totally insensitive and treacherous.” I agree that those words precisely describes the Aquino administration’s attitude toward the sad plight of the riding public that depends on the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and the Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines in their daily commute. No less than the amiable Senator Grace Poe made the succinct depiction of PNoy’s style of mismanagement over these four-plus years, beginning June 2010. Insensitive because PNoy and the brains behind him do not seem to care about the working class’ extreme difficulty coping with the costs of living, much less make ends meet what with the prevailing starvation wages. READ FULL COMMENTARY BY ERWIN TULFO

ALSO: Poe slams ‘insensitive’ MRT, LRT fare hikes 

 

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Senator Grace Poe believes the move of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to increase the fares for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) was treacherous and insensitive.
Poe noted that the fare hike was announced during the holidays and supposedly without undergoing proper public hearing. “Ito ay parang ginawa nila na hindi malinaw sa atin at kung kailan nga hindi natin inaasahan. Ito ay treacherous, insensitive. Kasi kung meron silang puso sa pasahero, hindi po dapat nangyari iyan,” Poe said. Poe said the MRT fare hike, in particular, is not justifiable since Congress had just allocated funds for the train’s repairs and other financial needs in the P2.6 trillion 2015 budget. “Kakatapos lang ng budget kung saan nabigyan naman sila ng tamang budget para sa taon na ito, para naman magawa ang dapat nilang gawin sa MRT,” she said. “Hindi lang iyon, marami pang naibigay sa supplemental budget, sa pagbayad ng buwis nila na hindi nila nababayran, at ibang mga bagay na hiningi nila sa Kongreso. Kaya kami ay nagtataka kasi ni pabulong wala silang sinabi sa amin na baka magtaas sila.” Poe also noted the poor maintenance of the MRT which is being blamed for its frequent bogdowns. READ FULL REPORT...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Palace: Fare increase not even enough

MANILA, JANUARY 7, 2015 (PHILSTAR) By Delon Porcalla and Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 6, 2015 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


Militant groups hold a protest in front of the Supreme Court to denounce the LRT-MRT fare hike yesterday. EDD GUMBAN

MANILA, Philippines - Commuters have no reason to gripe against the increase in fares in the Light Rail Transit and Metro Rail Transit as such is not even enough to turn the system around or cover the existing government subsidy, a Palace official clarified yesterday.

“Every year we have subsidized MRT with quite a big sum. This year, we have lessened it to P10 billion,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda pointed out. The annual subsidy stood at P12 billion.

“We are not saying we are taking out the entire subsidy. Let me be clear with that,” he said. “So of those P2 billion that we can save, we are going to allocate the resources outside of (Metro Manila), or in other areas like the Visayas and Mindanao,” he said.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), meanwhile, announced yesterday the appointment of Roman Buenafe as general manager of MRT-3, replacing Renato San Jose.

San Jose was appointed MRT-3 officer-in-charge after Al Vitangcol III resigned in the wake of accusations that he had tried to extort $30 million from Czech-owned Inekon Group.

“We did not take away the subsidy. The subsidy is still there. And if you compare it with the other modes of transportation, it is still lower compared to the other – the buses, air-con or regular,” Lacierda pointed out.

He said the fare hike was based on consultations, and that militant groups were just simply not ready to accept it.

“If I recall, there were consultations made. In fact, Bayan or Bayan Muna were obviously not happy with it,” Lacierda said. “It was reported in the papers that consultations were made and Bayan et al were present and they were not happy with it.”

Lacierda also fended off criticisms from administration lawmakers like Sens. Francis Escudero and Grace Poe, who said that fare adjustment was not necessary as there is allocation in this year’s DOTC budget for the rehabilitation of the country’s mass transport system.

The senators had pointed out the fare hike issue was not raised during budget deliberations.

The budget for the rehabilitation of the LRT and MRT coaches this year is P2.5 billion, compared to the P1.2 billion allocated to the DOTC in the 2014 national budget.

“Certainly, we appreciate the work of the legislators. But that’s only to bring... from where we are to improve the system. Just because we put a budget for this year, doesn’t mean everything is okay,” he said.

“But, certainly, we’d like to have a system that is at par with other countries,” Lacierda said.

“The bigger picture is not focused simply on MRT itself. The bigger picture is really to identify what can we use, what resources can we allocate to the other regions also,” he explained.

“This is not the first time that we have publicly manifested the intention to raise the MRT rates. In fact, the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of the President some years ago already mentioned why we needed to increase the MRT rates, at the same time allocate resources to areas and other regions which do not benefit from the MRT service,” he said.

Aboveboard

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya argued the move to raise MRT and LRT fares was aboveboard. He said the same procedures were followed as when the LRT fares were increased in 2003.

He pointed out that the DOTC as well as the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) conducted a series of public consultations on the proposed fare hike for MRT-3 as well as for LRT-1 and 2.

“The procedures were laid out and we had public consultations,” the DOTC chief said.

He explained that as early as May 2011 the LRTA board had approved a formula wherein a fixed rate of P11 base fare plus P1 per kilometer would be charged to MRT and LRT passengers.

The proposed fare hike was revived when President Aquino stated in his 4th SONA in July 2013 the need for a fare increase.

This prompted the DOTC and the LRTA to conduct its last public hearing on the proposed fare hike for the mass transit systems in December 2013.

Using the uniform distance-based fare scheme, passengers of the 17-kilometer MRT-3 from North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City are charged P28 for stored value and single journey tickets from the current fare of P15.

When the mass transit system started operating in 1999, fares ranged from P17 to P34.

On the other hand, LRT-1 passengers would have to shell out P30 for single journey and P29 for stored value tickets from the existing P20 fare.

LRT-1 runs to and from Baclaran in Paranaque City and Monumento in Caloocan City.

Passengers of LRT-2 from Recto Ave. in Manila to Santolan in Pasig City would have to pay P24 for stored value and P25 for single journey tickets from P15.

The government last raised fares for LRT-1 to P15 in 2003 while fares of LRT-2 remain unchanged.


FROM THE INQUIRER

Press Release
CHIZ SLAMS MRT, LRT FARE HIKE; SAYS DOTC MISLED SENATE ON BUDGET REQUEST January 5, 2015 Share on facebookShare on twitterShare on emailShare on printMore Sharing Services0


ESCUDERO

The Senate would have not approved the 2015 budget request of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) had it known that it would implement fare increases in the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT ), Senator Chiz Escudero said.

"They [DOTC] asked for budget allocation from Congress and said that was what they needed. We gave it to them already, but they did not even inform us that there will be an increase," Escudero said. "Had we known that there will be a fare hike, we could have given them a smaller amount from the 2015 budget."

The new LRT-MRT fare hike increased to P11 from P10 the base fare and P1 more per additional kilometer effective January 4.

Escudero, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance, said the new rates would burden the public without any improvement in the service of the rail transit system.

"The reason why this fare increase is such a burden is because the service is not improving. We already allocated money for the MRT rehabilitation and improvement for 2015. There is enough funding. We don't need the money from the fare hike in order to improve MRT3," Escudero pointed out.

"We are not in favor of this LRT-MRT fare hike. They never mentioned this, not during the senate hearings with the department, not even during the budget deliberations." Escudero said.

According to Escudero, before a fare hike can be implemented, there must be a public hearing. The DoTC, however, said there was a public hearing that happened in 2011.

"If that is their basis for the hike this 2015, I think that is not fair. They will implement the fare hike four years after the public hearing and they will tell us that that is the public hearing as required by law? I certainly disagree with that logic," said Escudero.

During the Senate budget deliberations for the 2015 budget, Escudero slashed P54 billion from the Unprogrammed Fund for the supposed buyout of the MRT 3 and allocated the funding for other more essential services such as the much needed infrastructure to ease the traffic congestion and improve disaster preparedness programs.


FROM THE INQUIRER

More oppose fare hike INCREASES OPPRESSIVE, UNJUST, SAY OPPOSITORS Gil C. Cabacungan, Tarra Quismundo | Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:34 AM | Wednesday, January 7th, 2015


INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES

MANILA, Philippines–A commuter group and party-list lawmakers have joined calls to stop the fare increases in Metro Manila’s elevated train lines, saying the costlier daily commute was “unjust” and “oppressive” to minimum wage earners as the adjustments were enforced without public consultations.

In separate petitions, the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters’ Inc. (UFCC) and Bayan Muna on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to halt the enforcement of the fare hike at the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 and Light Rail Transit (LRT) Lines 1 and 2, accusing the transportation secretary of grave abuse of discretion in enforcing the increases.

The petitions followed two suits against the fare hike filed separately on Monday by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, said the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) must account for the P120.7 billion the government had poured into Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC), the owner of the 25-year build-lease-transfer (BLT) contract of MRT 3, the rapid transit line system traversing Edsa, before jacking up the fares.

Colmenares said LRT 1, LRT 2 and MRT 3 were generating close to P2 billion in operating revenue annually, belying DOTC’s claims that these trains were operating in the red.

“Malacañang is taking the people for a ride because there is no need to increase fares. Annual MRT and LRT revenues outstrip operation expense so it is deceptive for government to insist that it is losing. MRT earned P2.2 billion in ticket sales and only spent P1.8 billion in operation expenses last year. LRT earned P2.5 billion but only spent P1.03 billion for operation expenses,” Colmenares said in a statement.

In a petition for certiorari and prohibition, UFCC impleaded the DOTC, MRT Corp. and LRT Authority (LRTA), saying Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya committed grave abuse of discretion in enforcing the hike.

‘Un-Christian’ move

The group scored the respondents for the “un-Christian” move, citing the lack of consultations before the fare hike was announced just before the holiday break.

“Public transportation is critical to this nation’s economy and future. A properly managed mass transport system will definitely contribute to a stronger economy and progressive nation,” UFCC said in its petition.

“Unfortunately, however, nothing can be more un-Christian than to honor the birth of our Lord with a message of added hardship for our people. Especially considering the fact that the DOTC did not even have the conscience to consult commuter groups and the public as required for such an undertaking before announcing these increases,” the petitioners said.

Seeking legal relief three days after the fare increases took effect, Bayan Muna Representatives Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate, Bayan Muna members Imelda Luna and Carl Ala, and blogger and commuter Anthony Ian Cruz asked the Supreme Court “to void and permanently enjoin the implementation of the rate hike” and to issue an immediate temporary restraining order against it.

Named respondents in the petition were Abaya, MRT 3 officer in charge Renato San Jose and LRTA Administrator Honorito Chaneco.

Greed, mismanagement

“It is not the subsidies and the present fare rates that render life miserable for the Filipinos but the inordinate greed of the private investors, the mismanagement by the government, including the respondents,” the petition said.

“The fare hike is oppressive to the low income workers/commuters who comprise the largest number of the passengers and is violative of the social justice provision of the Constitution; government subsidy and light rail fare rates must be based on the ability to pay of the minimum wage earners,” the petition said.

The fare hike of between 50 and 87 percent at the three metro rail lines took effect on Jan. 4, just as employees and students prepared to go back to work and school after the Christmas holiday break.

The trains, which serve an estimated 1.2 million passengers daily, now charge a base fare of P11, with an additional P1 for every kilometer.

Abaya said the fare increase would support improved maintenance of the trains, which recently figured in successive accidents due to poor upkeep.

No public hearing

In their petition for certiorari and prohibition, the Bayan Muna lawmakers and members said Abaya issued the Dec. 18 department order enforcing the hike “without notice and hearing to the stakeholders and the public.”

They asked that the order be annulled and set aside.

In his statement, Colmenares said that even DOTC officials, in their testimony during the House budget hearings, were in agreement that revenues for both LRT and MRT were bigger than their operating expenses.

Colmenares said the DOTC officials had admitted that the MRT was losing money because the revenues were used to pay income taxes of concessionaires and their guaranteed loans.

The lawmaker said the government pumped more than P120.7 billion into MRT in the past 10 years alone (the government had a five-year grace period) or more than four times its original project cost of P28 billion in 1999.

For that amount, the government could build two more MRTs at current prices. Colmenares said the original private owners of MRT pumped in only P7 billion, with the balance of P21 billion borrowed from foreign banks.

Group of investors

The project started in 1995 during the Ramos administration with a group of investors led by the Fil-Estate group of Robert John Sobrepeña.

It was completed in July 2000 during the Estrada administration. The project was valued at $675.5 million. From 1995 to 1998, the peso exchange rate fell from an average of 25.71 to the dollar in 1996 to 40.90 to the dollar in 1998.

P600-M monthly payment

In a radio interview, Abaya explained that any savings from the fare hike would be used to reduce the government’s P600 million monthly payment to MRTC as part of its BLT contract in 1999.

This is unlike the LRT 1 and 2 systems where all savings from the fare hike would go to the administrator to spend for operations, maintenance and other capital expenses.

Buyout plan

This was the reason the government was pushing to buy out the MRTC-MRTH (MRT Holdings) from MRT and pursue the arbitration case filed in 2009, which would allow the government to exercise its equity value buyout exit clause in the BLT contract, according to Abaya.

Abaya said that once the government takes charge of MRT’s finances, it could immediately slash borrowing costs to 3 or 4 percent from the 15 percent embedded in the contract.

Abaya said MRTC’s refusal to hand over control to the government was the reason it was blocking government’s plan to bring in 48 new coaches for MRT.

He said the government had rejected offers from the private sector to take over the MRT because while it would relieve the government of any expenses, it would mean passing the full cost to commuters.

“I’m not saying that all businessmen will get your whole arm after giving them your hand,” said Abaya, who noted that President Aquino had already issued an executive order way back in 2013 to execute the buyout.

Colmenares said the P600 million monthly payment to the private concessionaire was the reason the contract had been tainted with irregularities.

“It is the government which entered that sweetheart deal which is the reason why it is losing. Why will they pass on their sin to the public? They should deal with the problem and jail negotiators who handled that contract,” Colmenares said.

Unconventional contract

Abaya said that the MRT contract was unconventional from the very start as the private company owned the facility but the government operated it; the private party took care of the procurement of facilities but the government was responsible for paying for it.

“This is the first time I saw this kind of setup. It’s usually good practice that the one who procures is also the one who pays. It will not be difficult for the one procuring to make a deal. It raises a lot of questions,” said Abaya.

He noted that a government takeover of the maintenance contract, which was widely criticized, had done away with this bad practice. “We should ask them (MRTC), why insist on this setup and not an open and transparent one?”

Shell company

Abaya described MRTC as a “shell company” after selling out its future revenue earnings to a new group, MRT Holdings, which was majority-owned by government banks. “In fact, if we require (MRTC) to pay or make an upgrade, I think it will have a hard time.”

Abaya pointed out that the MRT rail tracks needed replacement as early as 2008 when then contractor Sumitomo Corp. noticed vibrations. Once the tracks and signaling system were upgraded, Abaya said the MRT could double its speed from 40 to 60 kilometers per hour.

The transportation secretary said that up to the present, the MRTC merely presented to the DOTC a one-page proposal of “generalisms” on its plan to overhaul the MRT while it was going around media outlets giving sound bites.

Onerous

For Colmenares, the MRT’s contract should have been declared void for being an “onerous contract consummated against the interest of the people and disadvantageous to the government.

“Secretary Abaya is correct when he says it is difficult to understand the corporate layering in MRTC because it is untransparent. But if it (contract) is void, it should be voided whether it is going to end in one year’s time or ten years’ time,” Colmenares said.


FROM THE INQUIRER

SC asked to stop MRT-LRT fare hike By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 6, 2015 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus0 0


A resident checks the reading from rows of water meters at a compound in Teachers Village, Quezon City yesterday. Aside from higher MRT-LRT fares, residents of Metro Manila will soon also have to pay more for their water. BOY SANTOS

MANILA, Philippines - Two separate Supreme Court cases greeted the implementation of the fare increases in the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) on the first working day of the year yesterday.

In separate petitions, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and former Iloilo congressman Augusto Syjuco asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a status quo ante order stopping the fare adjustments, which began last Sunday.


ILOILO REP SYJUCO

The petitioners also urged the SC to void a Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) order last month allowing the increases.

The two petitioners shared the position that the fare hikes would only benefit the private firms operating the lines and that the move was a violation of the constitutional right to due process of millions of mass transit commuters.

Members of militant groups on Sunday launched mass actions at some MRT and LRT stations to protest the fare hikes.

“The LRT/MRT cannot claim such increases as a matter of right, and the DOTC, or any agency for that matter, cannot grant such increase ex-parte, because any such increase should be based on reasonable grounds to be determined in a quasi-judicial proceeding,” Bayan’s 58-page petition read.

“The secretary of the DOTC simply does not have any conferred authority and there is no available procedure within the DOTC to properly consider the propriety of a fare rate increase for the LRT/MRT,” Bayan said.

Bayan also assailed the lack of publication of the rate increase, a procedure required by law.

Bayan stressed the DOTC “has no authority nor jurisdiction to resolve the fare adjustment/increases of LRT and MRT, especially since both the LRT and MRT are public services and must be subject to regulation, and their fare rate may not be adjusted unilaterally.”

The militant group emphasized only the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is empowered to decide on fare issues.

The group, through its secretary general Renato Reyes Jr., called the fare hike “unjust and unreasonable” and “patently anti-commuter.”

In his petition, Syjuco pointed out that the DOTC approved the fare adjustment even without the private operators asking for it.

“It is irregular for DOTC to grant these private concessionaires these fare hikes, even without their actually applying for a fare hike, and even without a hearing where they should have presented the bases on why they deserve a fare hike, and the extent of the fare increase,” he said.

Syjuco also argued that the LRT and MRT are a “public utility” and should be subject to “public regulation.”

He argued that no public consultation was made before the fare hike, noting that the Dec. 12 consultation conducted by the DOTC was a presentation of the new fare matrix.

“Given the public interest involved, as spelled by millions of our citizenry availing of the service of our rail transit, proper public hearing should have been undertaken by DOTC before willy-nilly approving the fare increase scheme,” Syjuco said in his petition.

Named respondents in both petitions were DOTC Secretary Jose Emilio Abaya, MRT 3 Office officer-in-charge Renato San Jose, LRT Authority administrator Honorito Chaneco, MRT Corp. and Light Rail Manila Consortium of Ayala and Metro Pacific.

While the SC was still on holiday recess when the petitions were filed, rules allow the Chief Justice to act on urgent petitions and issue relief like TRO or SQA subject to consultation with other justices and affirmation upon resumption of session on Jan. 13.

The DOTC allowed an increase in base fare of P11 for both the LRT and MRT for the first four kilometer, starting Jan. 4, with an additional P1 charge for every kilometer.

Solons vs fare hike

At the House of Representatives, lawmakers asked Malacañang to rescind the fare hikes ahead of a congressional inquiry into the issue beginning Thursday.

Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello and Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon, in separate statements, said the adjustments would be a big burden to LRT and MRT commuters, most of whom belong to the middle- and low-income groups.

Bello said the administration is faithfully performing its contractual obligations to private sector players, but is not living up to its social contract to provide inexpensive, adequate and safe public services to the people.

“With inflation eating at their incomes and some 26-28 per cent of people remaining under the poverty line, the 100 per cent fare increase will mean less to spend for food and shelter for the average urban family,” he said.

Ridon said “higher train fares will directly translate to less food on the table for millions of households.”

“Above-inflation train fare hikes will eat up a significant chunk of a typical Filipino family’s daily budget, quickly leading to a hard-felt domestic crisis in thousands of homes,” he said.

The two lawmakers noted that even the DOTC had admitted that proceeds from the fare increases would not go to the improvement of train services and facilities but to pay off debts.

Bello also said Abaya should not rail against proposals for government subsidies for the LRT and MRT.

“Perhaps he should be faulting the Bureau of Internal Revenue for being ineffective in collecting taxes from the rich and the Department of the Budget for the wrong priorities in budgetary management,” he said.

“With tax revenues coming to only 15 to 17 per cent of GDP – the lowest in Southeast Asia – we urgently need reform in the formulation, legislation and implementation of tax policies,” he added.

Ridon, who is a member of the House committee on transportation, said that for minimum wage earners to cope with the fare increase, they must work at least one hour more each day.

“A minimum wage earner who rides the whole stretch of the MRT or the LRT everyday needs to shell out about P30 more for roundtrip train tickets under the new rates. President Aquino and his Cabinet might sneer at this amount, but our policy-makers must understand that that amount is almost equivalent to an hour’s worth of work,” he said.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, for his part, renewed his appeal to the DOTC for staggered increases in fares.

No transparency

Senate Committee on Finance chairman Francis Escudero, for his part, criticized the DOTC for its lack of transparency in implementing the fare hike.

Escudero noted that the DOTC never mentioned anything about the planned fare increase during the hearings of the chamber on this year’s national budget even though the issues surrounding the MRT-3, LRT-1 and LRT-2 were discussed.

He said that the Senate would have not approved the 2015 budget request of the DOTC had it known that the department would implement fare increases in the mass transit systems.

“They asked for budget allocation from Congress and said that was what they needed. We gave it to them already, but they did not even inform us that there would be an increase. Had we known that there will be a fare hike, we could have given them a smaller amount from the 2015 budget,” he said.

“The reason why this fare increase is such a burden is because the service is not improving. We already allocated money for the MRT rehabilitation and improvement for 2015,” he said. “There is enough funding. We don’t need the money from the fare hike in order to improve MRT3,” he added.

He also chided the DOTC for citing a 2011 hearing on the fare hike issue as proof of the department’s compliance with rules.

“If that is their basis for the hike this 2015, I think that is not fair. They will implement the fare hike four years after the public hearing and they will tell us that that is the public hearing as required by law? I certainly disagree with that logic,” he said.


EJERCITO

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, for his part, said there was an apparent attempt to mislead the public when the government imposed the MRT/LRT fare hike during the holiday season and just days before the Feast of the Black Nazarene and the visit of Pope Francis.

In a statement, Ejercito said it was heartless for the administration to impose higher fares considering that commuters had to bear poor and even unsafe train services.

He said commuters wouldn’t mind paying more if the LRT and MRT services are excellent like those in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Too late

Had the DOTC implemented the planned improvements in the MRT and LRT as scheduled, rate hikes would not have been necessary, Sen. Nancy Binay said.


BINAY

She said the P4.5 billion earmarked for the purchase of additional coaches for the MRT-3 ended up instead in other projects under the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

“In 2012, the DOTC surrendered P4.5 billion allocated for purchasing additional cars for the MRT3 to the DAP. Now, the commuters are aghast because the funds that should have been used for the improvement of the service of the MRT are gone,” Binay said.

“If the P4.5 billion was used properly by the DOTC and resulted in the purchase of new trains then most likely there would be no fare increase for the MRT and LRT,” she added.

Binay also questioned the timing of the fare increase, considering that the approved national budget for this year contained allocations for the improvement of Metro Manila’s mass transit systems.

“The recently approved 2015 General Appropriations Act already has a budget of P10.6 billion to improve the country’s railway systems, including the rehabilitation of LRT Lines 1 and 2 and subsidies to MRT,” Binay said.

She added that the recently approved P22.5-billion supplemental budget also includes P2 billion for the rehabilitation and capacity extension of the MRT and LRT.

Protests continue

In anticipation of protest actions, the Eastern Police District deployed anti-riot policemen outside the DOTC head office in Mandaluyong.

“There are technicalities and requirements that the DOTC failed to comply with in announcing the fare hike,” Train Riders Network spokesman James Relativo said. He said the public cannot be faulted for doubting government’s assurance that the fare hikes would result in better MRT and LRT services.

“We have seen and tested this time and time again – the fare increase wouldn’t ensure better services,” he said.

“The mass railway system’s direction of privatization has incurred so much debt that the chunk of government subsidy is actually going to the private sector, and not to actual maintenance,” he added.

A group opposed to the fare increase has also launched a “selfie protest” against the fare increase.

“The selfie protest is just the online aspect of the massive disapproval of the Filipino people against this anti-people policy being implemented for the benefit of private companies,” #StrikeTheHike Network spokesman Mark Louie Aquino said.

“Not even a single centavo of increase for the MRT and LRT is unjustifiable as its service to the riding public remains poor,” he added.

Make them pay

For a coalition of labor groups, the government should have gone after private contractors that messed up the operations of the MRT instead of penalizing commuters with higher fares.

“Liabilities borne out of an onerous contract should not be passed on to consumers, penalizing them in effect as in the case of the Build-Lease-Transfer (BLT) contract with the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) that built the MRT3 in 1997,” Gerry Rivera of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) and Partido Manggagawa (PM) said.

He said adjusting fares is tantamount to rewarding private concessionaires with “steady flow of income from the fare hike shouldered by lowly-paid workers.”

Rivera noted that with the new rates, ordinary workers who take the MRT would have to shell out at least P8,000 yearly to cover the fare hike.

Josua Mata, secretary general of Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa, said the government should rescind its contract with the train system’s operators and take over operations.

“When the government takes money from commuters through a fare hike and transfers that money to fraudulent hands of private companies, that is not subsidy. That’s malady,” he said. –Marvin Sy, Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez, Sheila Crisostomo, Janvic Mateo, Non Alquitran, Rhodina Villanueva


FROM THE INQUIRER

DOTC asked to account for P120.7B gov’t poured into MRTC Gil C.Cabacungan @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 9:29 PM | Tuesday, January 6th, 2015


Government on top of MRT situation, Aquino insists ---

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) must account for the P120.7 billion the government has poured into the Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC), the owners of the 25-year build-lease-transfer contract of a rapid transit line system traversing Edsa, before it demands higher fares from the public.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares made the demand as he claimed that the Light Rail Transit 1 and 2 (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT) were generating close to P2 billion in operating revenues between them annually which would belie DOTC’s claims that these trains were operating in the red.

“Malacañang is taking the people for a ride because there is no need to increase fares. Annual MRT and LRT revenues outstrip operation expense so it is deceptive for government to insist that it is losing. MRT earned P2.2 billion in ticket sales and only spent P1.8 billion in operation expense last year. LRT earned P2.5 billion but only spent P1.03 billion for operation expense,” Colmenares said in a statement.

He said that even DOTC officials, in their testimony during the House budget hearings, were in agreement that revenues for both LRT and MRT were bigger than their operating expenses.

Colmenares said the DOTC officials admitted that the MRT was losing money because the revenues were used to pay income taxes of concessionaires and their guaranteed loans.

“I hope that the Supreme Court would immediately issue a TRO to derail the fare hike and stop this injustice dead on its tracks. The fare hike is beyond doubt unjustifiable because up till now the DOTC has yet to account for the more than P120.7 billion it has spent on the MRT for the pass 10 years. Worse, with all the funds spent, the MRT service is very dismal and still deteriorating,” said Colmenares.

Colmenares said the government has pumped in P120.7 billion into MRT in the last 10 years alone (the government had a five-year grace period) or more than four times its original project cost of P28 billion in 1999. For P120.7 billion, the government could build two more MRTs at current prices. Colmenares said the original private owners of MRT pumped in only P7 billion with the balance of P21 billion borrowed from foreign banks.

The project started in 1995 during the Ramos administration with a group of investors led by the Fil-Estate group of Robert John Sobrepeña. It was completed in July 2000 during the Estrada administration. The project was valued at $675.5 million. From 1995 to 1998, the peso exchange rate fell from an average of 25.71 to the dollar in 1996 to 40.90 to the dollar in 1998.

In a radio interview, Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph E.A. Abaya explained that any savings from the fare hike would be used to reduce the government’s P600 million monthly payment to MRTC as part of its BLT contract in 1999.

This is unlike the LRT 1 and 2 system where all savings from the fare hike would go to the administrator to spend for operations, maintenance and other capital expenses.

This was the reason, Abaya said, that the government was pushing to buy out the MRTC-MRTH from MRT and pursue the arbitration case filed back in 2009, which would allow the government to exercise its equity value buyout (Evbo) exit clause in the BLT contract.

Abaya said that if the government took charge of MRT’s finance, it could immediately slash its borrowing costs to three or four percent from the 15 percent embedded in the contract. Abaya said MRTC’s refusal to hand over control to the government was the reason why it was blocking government’s plan to bring in 48 new coaches for MRT. He said the government has rejected offers from the private sector to take over the MRT because while it would relieve the government of any expenses, it would mean passing the full cost to commuters. “I’m not saying that all businessmen will get your whole arm after giving them your hand,” said Abaya who noted that the President has already issued an executive order way back in 2013 to execute the buy-out.

Colmenares said that this P600-million payment to the private concessionaire has been the reason why the contract has been wrought with irregularities.

“It is the government which entered that sweetheart deal which is the reason why it is losing. Why will they pass their sin to the public? They should deal with the problem and jail negotiators who handled that contract,” Colmenares said.

Abaya said that the MRT contract was unconventional from the very start as the private company owned the facility but the government operated; the private party took care of the procurement of facilities but the government was responsible for paying it. “This is the first time I saw this kind of set-up. It’s usually good practice that the one who procures is also the one who pays. It will not be difficult for the one procuring to make a deal. It raises a lot of questions,” said Abaya who noted that the government’s takeover of the maintenance contract, which was widely criticized, had done away with this bad practice. “We should ask them (MRTC) why insist on this set-up and not an open and transparent one.”

Abaya described MRTC as a “shell company” after selling out economic interest or future revenue earnings to a new group, MRT Holdings, which was majority owned by government banks. “In fact, if we require (MRTC) to pay or make an upgrade, I think it will have a hard time,” said Abaya.

Abaya said that the MRT rail tracks needed replacement as early as 2008 when then contractor Sumitomo Corp. noticed vibrations. After the upgrading of the tracks and signalling system, Abaya said the MRT could double its speed from 40 to 60 kilometers per hour.

Abaya said that up to the present, the MRTC has merely presented a one-page proposal of “generalisms” on their plan to overhaul the MRT to the DOTC while it has been going around media outlets giving sound bites.

For Colmenares, the MRT’s contract should have been declared void for being an “onerous contract consummated against the interest of the people and disadvantageous to the government.

“Secretary Abaya is right when he says it is difficult to understand the corporate layering in MRTC because it is un-transparent. But if it is void, it should be voided whether it is going to end in one year’s time or 10 years’ time,” said Colmenares.


TRIBUNE EDITORIAL

Blame it on DAP removal Written by Tribune Editorial Wednesday, 07 January 2015 00:00



Some devious schemes are being employed by the ruling party in an obvious effort to build up its campaign kitty for the 2016 polls.

The Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) would have been a convenient source of party funds but the creation of the Palace money pool was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC) last year.

The SC also ordered those who cooked up the scheme to prove good faith or face accountability.

The essence of the SC ruling was that the Executive can’t usurp the power of the purse of Congress and the arbitrary generation of savings to build up the DAP funds which was not in accordance with the Constitution.

The SC decision did not stop the Palace and its clique from bastardizing the budget and fill it with lump sum funds, with their use being entirely under the discretion of Noynoy.

A favorite cash cow was the Metro Rail Transit (MRT)-3 system which became prone to breakdowns as it is worn down by the corrupt practices to which it is subjected.

Transportation and Communications Chief Jun Abaya for instance said the P2 billion in “subsidy savings” with the increases he imposed on the mass transit system fares is the right thing to do.

He said the savings would be used for infrastructure buildup which is not necessarily related to train systems.

Government’s use of infrastructure funds is equated with party slush funds since the allocations are mostly infused in the districts of political allies, which is a system employed in the DAP.

Opposition Sen. Nancy Binay also noted that P4.5 billion appropriation meant to fund additional coaches for MRT-3 was rechanneled to the DAP.

The admission that the funds were diverted to the DAP came from Abaya under grilling from Binay during a Senate inquiry on the supposed stimulus fund.

The MRT’s poor maintenance and its rundown coaches has been the showcase of the deplorable state of public transportation under the Aquino government.

The excuse that the DAP was meant to stimulate the economy was only debunked through the reallocation of the funds for the MRT. The project to improve mass transportation is exactly what would have helped spur the economy.

The several problems of the train system also mushroomed after the supply deal for MRT-3’s coach expansion got held up along with the proposed increase in fares.

The coach expansion contract has been the subject of a controversy in which Czech Republic Ambassador Josef Rychtar had alleged a high-level $30-million extortion attempt on the bidding.

The Rychtar revelation implicated several allies and even relatives of Noynoy as having cooked up before eventually aborting the deal but with the Czechs being left hanging as obviously money had already changed hands.

By the way, what has happened to the Obudsman investigation on the Rychtar allegations?

Nothing again, since there is the involvement of presidential relatives and allies of Noynoy who must be protected.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said that the anti-graft agency had formed its own investigating panel for the extortion allegations. The last time anything was heard from her on this supposed probe, she had said it was still in the phase of inviting Rychtar to “shed light on the matter.”

It would be too much to expect Noynoy-appointee Carpio-Morales to investigate deeply into the racket since the closest of Noynoy’s kin including his sister Ballsy have been implicated.

MRT general manager Al Vitangcol whom Rychtar had accused of being the ringleader in the extortion racket resigned without any investigations or sanctions imposed on him.

The Palace even defended the guy for the sloppy operations of MRT-3 which commuters consider to be related to the anomalous expansion contract.

The MRT-3 expansion project was later awarded to Chinese firm Dalian Locomotive but Rychtar said that Inekon would have been assured on the deal had it acceded to the mulcting attempt.

DoTC insiders, however, said the deal was actually sealed and money likely changed hands but the high-level syndicate took too much time in drafting the terms of reference that would have aligned the bidding for the contract to Inekon.

Rychtar seems to be running after the members of the extortion syndicate after reneging on their promise to deliver the contract to Inekon.

Now the Czech ambassador is getting all the flak from the Palace alliance, from Congress to the myriad of officials and business cronies of Aquino branding Rychtar a liar and challenging him to shed off his diplomatic immunity from suit.

It seems that striking down of the DAP has made life complicated for Noynoy and his opportunistic clique in the Palace.


MANILA TIMES COMMENTARY

Grace Poe finally saw PNoy’s true colors January 6, 2015 7:25 pm by ERWIN TULFO


Grace Poe: ‘Abaya, Abad did something treacherous’ in hiking MRT, LRT fares --9:41 PM | Sunday, January 4th, 2015 PHILIPPINE DAILY IQUIRER

by MANILA TIMES ERWIN TULFO:  “Totally insensitive and treacherous.”

I agree that those words precisely describes the Aquino administration’s attitude toward the sad plight of the riding public that depends on the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and the Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines in their daily commute.

No less than the amiable Senator Grace Poe made the succinct depiction of PNoy’s style of mismanagement over these four-plus years, beginning June 2010.

Insensitive because PNoy and the brains behind him do not seem to care about the working class’ extreme difficulty coping with the costs of living, much less make ends meet what with the prevailing starvation wages.

Ironically, Malacañang surreptitiously tells the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Sec. Jun Abaya to raise the MRT and LRT fare rates while jeepney fares are going down, thanks to OPEC’s reduced world oil prices.

I suspect that for the sake of enticing private entities to buy out the MRT under the public-private partnership (PPP) program, the brains behind PNoy came up with this brilliant idea of finally raising the fares to create a semblance profitability for the MRT.

They reject the idea that MRT along EDSA is an essential public utility system that the government must continue to subsidize.

Insensitive, says Senator Poe, because the brains behind PNoy do not seem to realize that somehow they have to justify higher fares with improvements in the train services and facilities.

But, the services and facilities are much worse now than their condition during the Arroyo administration, which PNoy blames for everything that is wrong with it.

Senator Poe said the MRT fare hike, in particular, is not justifiable since Congress has just allocated funds for the “special purpose” of the trains’ repairs and other financial needs in the P2.6 trillion 2015 budget.

“Kakatapos lang ng budget kung saan nabigyan naman sila ng tamang budget para sa taon na ito, para naman magawa ang dapat nilang gawin sa MRT,” she said.

The senator noted, too, that additional funds have been allocated for the same purpose under the freaking Supplemental Budget passed just like a “midnight insertion.”

“Hindi lang iyon, marami pang naibigay sa supplemental budget, sa pagbayad ng buwis nila na hindi nila nababayran, at ibang mga bagay na hiningi nila sa Kongreso. Kaya kami ay nagtataka kasi ni pabulong wala silang sinabi sa amin na baka magtaas sila.”

Poe scored the very poor maintenance of the MRT which leads to frequent breakdowns.

But as always, PNoy and the brains that dictate to him from behind conveniently blame everything on the previous Gloria Arroyo and her cronies.

Was it Arroyo who was involved in the botched deal on procuring new trains for the MRT, which turned out to be an attempt to corner a multi-million peso kickback from a Czechoslovakian firm Inekon?

Or wasn’t it some Malacañang official’s relatives that tried to cash in on the MRT deal?

Utterly treacherous because Malacañang shrewdly timed the implementation of fare hikes before the holidays ended.

Senator Poe noted that the DOTC deliberately ruled out holding any public hearing.

“Ito ay ginawa nila na hindi malinaw sa atin at kung kailan nga hindi natin inaasahan. Ito ay treacherous, insensitive. Kasi kung meron silang puso sa pasahero, hindi po dapat nangyari iyan,” Poe said.

Merciless, Senator Poe says of PNoy and the brains behind him who do not seem to care about the aggravation that the higher MRT and LRT rates causes to low-income workers and poor students and senior citizens who now have to resort to taking the jeepney during rush hours.

Most people who are used to riding the MRT and LRT chose to take the trains to avoid the traffic gridlock.

Suffice it to say that the PNoy, in his inability to think for himself, has allowed those utak-ipis behind him to screw up bigtime.

Unfortunately for the desperate Liberal Party (LP), Senator Poe finally found out PNoy’s and his administration’s true colors.

I am now more convinced that Senator Poe far knows what she’s doing and what she has been elected to the Senate for.

Senator Poe has done her assignment and has proven that she is up to the task.


FROM BALITA ONLINE

Poe slams ‘insensitive’ MRT, LRT fare hikes Posted On 2015 Jan 06By : BMI Online EditorComment: Off

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Senator Grace Poe believes the move of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to increase the fares for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) was treacherous and insensitive.

Poe noted that the fare hike was announced during the holidays and supposedly without undergoing proper public hearing.

“Ito ay parang ginawa nila na hindi malinaw sa atin at kung kailan nga hindi natin inaasahan. Ito ay treacherous, insensitive. Kasi kung meron silang puso sa pasahero, hindi po dapat nangyari iyan,” Poe said.

Poe said the MRT fare hike, in particular, is not justifiable since Congress had just allocated funds for the train’s repairs and other financial needs in the P2.6 trillion 2015 budget.

“Kakatapos lang ng budget kung saan nabigyan naman sila ng tamang budget para sa taon na ito, para naman magawa ang dapat nilang gawin sa MRT,” she said.

“Hindi lang iyon, marami pang naibigay sa supplemental budget, sa pagbayad ng buwis nila na hindi nila nababayran, at ibang mga bagay na hiningi nila sa Kongreso. Kaya kami ay nagtataka kasi ni pabulong wala silang sinabi sa amin na baka magtaas sila.”

Poe also noted the poor maintenance of the MRT which is being blamed for its frequent bogdowns.

The neophyte senator said the Senate will ask the DOTC to explain the status of the MRT and LRT maintenance system. She, however, said stopping the fare hike is now up to the court.

As a result of the fare hike, an MRT trip from North Avenue to Taft Avenue now costs P28, from the previous P15.

A single journey LRT 1 trip from Roosevelt to Baclaran is now P30, from P20; and a single journey LRT 2 trip from Recto to Santolan is now P25, from P15. (MNS)


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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