PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK

THE FARE HIKE: METRO MANILANs ARE FAVORED OFFSPRING


By Solita Collas-Monsod  ---The following information may help to shed more light on the raging controversy over the LRT and MRT fare increases. These are the cold, hard facts:
Until the recent increase, the LRT fares had remained the same for 11 years, while the MRT fares had remained unchanged for 13 years—both at P15. None of those protesting the hike have bothered to mention this salient fact; maybe it is in the briefs they filed with the Supreme Court, but I doubt this very much. Another important fact is that bus fares, which, at P12, were identical to LRT fares in 2002, are now (2015) at P32, according to Malacañang. I have seen other data that show them to be at P27. These bus fares are controlled by the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board), and interestingly, a reader e-mailed me recently and asked me to look at the basis for these rates, because he could make neither heads nor tails out of them. Maybe the LTFRB should be a little more transparent. But I digress. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO According to Abaya: Building 2 facilities to link LRT1, MRT3, and MRT7 seen likely solution


Constructing two facilities to link the Light Rail Transit (LRT) line 1, Metro Rail Transit (MRT) lines 3, and 7 is becoming a possible solution to the current impasse in the government’s plans to connect Metro Manila’s overhead mass transit systems, according to Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya. This developed as LRT 1 concessionaire Light Rail Manila Consortium (LRMC) has reportedly agreed to the proposal of MRT 7 concessionaire Universal LRT Corp. (ULC) to shoulder the cost of building a common station for MRT 3 and 7. LRT - 1 “There’s prospect in (building) a second common station,” Abaya told reporters last month. “LRMC has already seen the MRT 7 proposal and both concessionaires seem to agree. Once LRT 1 and MRT 7 concessionaires sign (an agreement), it will be presented to SM and hopefully, it will solve things.”  READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: China builds ports, helipads on Spratly islands


Aerial surveillance images obtained by The STAR show Ma- bini Reef in March last year (left), with only one building that served as a temporary shelter for workers. The image on the right, taken recently, shows more structures and trees planted on the reef. MANILA, Philippines - China’s reef reclamation and development projects in the disputed Spratly islands in the West Philippine Sea last year have progressed by leaps and bounds, and security officials expect them to be turned into man-made islets ready for occupation by Chinese military personnel and civilians. Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Pio Gregorio Catapang confirmed the massive development projects of the Chinese in the disputed region. “It’s 50 percent complete. It’s alarming in the sense that it could be used for purposes other than peaceful,” Catapang said last week during the AFP-sponsored media gathering at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Queen Elizabeth II honors Filipino cancer patient

 

Composite photos of community volunteer Doreen Jaen-Mooney and Quen Elizabeth II. Facebook | AP photo
MANILA, Philippines — British Queen Elizabeth II recognized a Birmingham-based Filipino cancer patient for her "services to the community." Hailing from Butuan City, Doreen Jaen-Mooney of New Heights, Kingstanding was granted the rank of Member under the Order of the British Empire, an order of chivalry, earlier this month. The rank is awarded to persons for "significant achievement or outstanding service to the community," the United Kingdom government says on its website. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO PHILSTAR Opinion: Bilibid Tales  


By Lila Ramos Shahani ---When I first visited New Bilibid, I interviewed a drug lord who boasted that he was entitled to three types of conjugal visits: one with his wife and children, one with his “mistress,” and one with his casual women – each with separate rooms and on different days. Today, Chief Overseer Ricardo Bansi assures us this is no longer practiced, although (despite a temporary ban on visits due to the recent bomb blast) prisoners are entitled to regular conjugal visits. Legal and common-law wives are still allowed to visit inmates twice a month. So imagine my surprise when I last visited the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW) and found, to my unending dismay, that the women are not entitled to any conjugal visits whatsoever! Like the New Bilibid, CIW is a walled prison under the Bureau of Corrections, and is a logical counter-point to the latter, although it is infinitely smaller in scale. READ FULL REPORT FROM BEGINNING...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

ECONOMIST VIEW: Metro Manilans are the favored offspring; shedding light to fare hike controversy


Solita Collas-Monsod, popularly known as Winnie Monsod, A.K.A. Mareng Winnie is a Filipino Broadcaster, TV host, Economist, Professor, and Writer.

MANILA, JANUARY 12, 2015 (INQUIRER) Get Real By Solita Collas-Monsod @inquirerdotnet - The following information may help to shed more light on the raging controversy over the LRT and MRT fare increases. These are the cold, hard facts:

Until the recent increase, the LRT fares had remained the same for 11 years, while the MRT fares had remained unchanged for 13 years—both at P15.

None of those protesting the hike have bothered to mention this salient fact; maybe it is in the briefs they filed with the Supreme Court, but I doubt this very much.

Another important fact is that bus fares, which, at P12, were identical to LRT fares in 2002, are now (2015) at P32, according to Malacañang.

I have seen other data that show them to be at P27. These bus fares are controlled by the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board), and interestingly, a reader e-mailed me recently and asked me to look at the basis for these rates, because he could make neither heads nor tails out of them.

Maybe the LTFRB should be a little more transparent.

But I digress.

The increasing price differential between rail transit and bus transit is obviously (at least to elementary economics students) the reason behind the flocking of passengers to the LRT and MRT.

This can be explained using the usual demand-supply graphs, but anyone can figure out that between two alternative ways of getting somewhere, one costing half the other, guess where you would go? Oh, I forgot to mention: The lower-costing one gets you there faster.

No wonder then that the rail transit systems carry more passengers than they should. And following the logic, that means more wear and tear on the trains, the carriages, the air-conditioning systems, the stations. They conk out faster, in other words, and have to be replaced more often.

What then should be done to correct this state of affairs? A fare increase is indicated, don’t you think?

Additionally, we have an aggravating condition in the form of the losses to the government arising from the fare situation, to the tune of about P12 billion yearly (this was what it was for 2012).

The total losses of government over that 11- or 13-year period must be on the order of P90 billion to P100 billion (the exact amount can be calculated). In other words, the government has been subsidizing the rail transit passengers by that amount.

The amount that the government subsidizes, per passenger, per ride, is, according to the government spokespersons—no, correct that:

The President himself, in his 2013 State of the Nation Address, said (and no one corrected him at the time) that the subsidy was P25 per passenger per ride for the LRT and P45 per passenger per ride for the MRT.

Well, I tested those figures against the LRT and MRT financial statements for 2012, assuming that ridership was at full capacity for every day of the year, and the subsidy figures I got were P24 for the LRT and P37 for the MRT. Pretty close.

So the question is: Why should Metro Manilans and their transport expenses be subsidized, at the expense of the rest of the Filipino people?

What is so special about us, that we expect the government to shell out P12 billion a year for the rail transit passengers?

Here’s where the hearts and flowers begin.

The rail transit passengers are poor, and increasing fares by so much will drive them into greater poverty.

There are also arguments I read, from the critics of the fare increase, that transport is a cost of production, and therefore should be paid by the businesses. Good grief!

But let us discuss the poverty of Metro Manilans.

Based on the 2012 Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES), the family poverty incidence for the whole Philippines (the percentage of Filipino families who live below the poverty threshold amount of P18,355 per capita a year, or roughly P91,775 for a family of five) is 19.7 percent.

The poverty threshold for Metro Manilans was P20,344 (or P101,720 for a family of five; for a family of 5.6, which is the average size of a poor family, it is P114,767). And the family poverty incidence for the National Capital Region was all of 2.6 percent. That is not a typographical error.

The population in Metro Manila in 2012 was about 12.2 million. Assuming five per family, that means we have 2.4 million families, and the number of poor families was therefore 2.6 percent of 2.4 million, or 63,000 families.

How can 63,000 poor families generate daily ridership of at least 540,000 passengers a day for the MRT, and 560,000 passengers a day for the LRT1 (I don’t know what it is for LRT2)? Please.

In other words, the majority of the riders in the rail transit system are not poor.

Keeping fares down subsidizes the nonpoor more than it helps the poor. If we want to subsidize the poor, charging everybody low fares is not the answer. And remember that the subsidy is being paid by Filipinos everywhere, who are probably poorer than their Metro Manila brethren.

Also, remember that the fare increases will only reduce the total subsidy by P2 billion, or only one-sixth of it, according to estimates. So the Metro Manilans are still the favored offspring.

P-Noy, in his 2013 Sona, said, “Wala tayong balak magpamana ng problema sa susunod sa atin.”

He is not going to export the problem to his successor. And he is not going to favor Metro Manilans at the expense of the rest of the Filipinos. Bully for him. I wish he would do it more often.

In this, he is acting like a statesman, in contrast to the other politicians who, conscious of the Metro Manila vote, are standing on their heads trying to justify an unjustifiable situation.

Pope Francis said: “Serve the poor, do not use the poor.” Amen.


FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Building 2 facilities to link LRT1, MRT3, and MRT7 seen likely solution by Kris Bayos January 5, 2015 Share this:


DOTC SEC. ABAYA

Constructing two facilities to link the Light Rail Transit (LRT) line 1, Metro Rail Transit (MRT) lines 3, and 7 is becoming a possible solution to the current impasse in the government’s plans to connect Metro Manila’s overhead mass transit systems, according to Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

This developed as LRT 1 concessionaire Light Rail Manila Consortium (LRMC) has reportedly agreed to the proposal of MRT 7 concessionaire Universal LRT Corp. (ULC) to shoulder the cost of building a common station for MRT 3 and 7.

LRT - 1 “There’s prospect in (building) a second common station,” Abaya told reporters last month. “LRMC has already seen the MRT 7 proposal and both concessionaires seem to agree. Once LRT 1 and MRT 7 concessionaires sign (an agreement), it will be presented to SM and hopefully, it will solve things.”

To recall, the government originally planned to construct a common station for LRT 1 and MRT 3 patterned to New York’s Grand Central Station. The facility will be built in front of SM North EDSA Mall in Quezon City.

However, the Aquino Administration decided to move the location in front of Trinoma Mall, prompting SM Prime Holdings to sue the DOTC for breaching a 2009 agreement and payment of naming rights with the LRT Authority (LRTA). SMPH was able to secure a restraining order from the Supreme Court, placing the issue in an indefinite deadlock.

“Our (government’s) interest here is to proceed because dealing with a temporary restraining order takes time. What is more difficult is having the Supreme Court to design the rails for us,” Abaya added.

If SMPH consents to the plan, two common stations will be built: one linking LRT 1 and MRT 3 near Trinoma Mall and another one connecting MRT 3 and 7 near the SM North EDSA Mall. As such, LRT 1 terminates in Trinoma Mall while MRT 3 terminates in SM North EDSA Mall.

“The second common station for MRT 3 and 7 will be near or at the former site in front of SM. For the LRT 1, we will most likely build another structure there for those who wants to go down to SM but the rest continues to Trinoma Mall,” Abaya explained.

It is not immediately clear how much money the construction of a second common station would require but Abaya assured the public that it will not be shouldered by the government.

“We haven’t found out the figure yet. But the report is that it will be at no cost to government,” he added.

Abaya also assured SMPH that the P200 million payment for naming rights is intact and could be returned anytime should the Sy-led firm requires it.

“Our interest is to have it fixed, signed and done with. Hopefully we can have the signing by January,” he added.

The DOTC, during the leadership of Jose de Jesus, had started the original procurement process for the then P1.5-billion contract to design and build the LRT-MRT Common Station.

The bidding was indefinitely postponed after Mar Roxas undertook review of the project. During Roxas’ time, the project was nearly scrapped with the proposal of constructing “virtual” common station with “walkalators” and covered pathwalk. It was during Abaya’s tenure that the DOTC decided to move the location to Trinoma Mall instead of SM North EDSA, citing savings in construction and passenger convenience.


FROM PHILSTAR

China builds ports, helipads on Spratly islands By Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 12, 2015 - 12:00am 17 180 googleplus0 1


Aerial surveillance images obtained by The STAR show Ma- bini Reef in March last year (left), with only one building that served as a temporary shelter for workers. The image on the right, taken recently, shows more structures and trees planted on the reef.

MANILA, Philippines - China’s reef reclamation and development projects in the disputed Spratly islands in the West Philippine Sea last year have progressed by leaps and bounds, and security officials expect them to be turned into man-made islets ready for occupation by Chinese military personnel and civilians.

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Pio Gregorio Catapang confirmed the massive development projects of the Chinese in the disputed region.

“It’s 50 percent complete. It’s alarming in the sense that it could be used for purposes other than peaceful,” Catapang said last week during the AFP-sponsored media gathering at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

He assured the public that the military is well apprised of the situation in the West Philippine Sea through sustained air and maritime patrols.

Military aerial surveillance of the area last October and November showed that the Chinese have constructed buildings, ports and a soon to be completed circumferential road at the reclaimed portion of Mabini Reef.

“It is just a matter of time before these Chinese reclaimed features will be ready for occupancy,” a security official said.

China claims the entire disputed region as an integral part of its maritime domain and embarked on reclamation projects early last year on Mabini Reef, Chigua Reef, Cuarteron Reef and Burgos Reef.

Known to local sailors as Luli (for Lulubog, Lilitaw) depending on sea conditions, these reclaimed reefs, if not within the country’s 200-nautical exclusive economic zone (EEZ), are part of the Phiippine-occupied Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) based on Presidential Decree 1596 that former President Ferdinand Marcos issued in 1978.

In the case of Mabini Reef – also known as Johnson South Reef – the area is within the country’s maritime domain as it is located 194 nautical miles from mainland Palawan and well within the country’s 200-nautical mile EEZ.

In March last year, the military spotted only a single rectangular structure that serves as temporary shelter of workers in the man-made islet that prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a diplomatic protest against Beijing.

Beijing rejected the DFA protest, maintaining that it has sovereignty over almost 80 percent of the West Philippine Sea.

The Chinese have completed a building and even planted tropical trees in the building’s front yard at the reclaimed Mabini Reef.

They have also started construction of a three-story building on the reef.

At the Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef) China is reportedly planning to build an airstrip that could accommodate wide-bodied aircraft as well as jet fighters.

At least five giant barges and ships were spotted last November, apparently to connect an already reclaimed and heavily fortified area to an adjacent atoll in line with China’s air and naval base projects.

The Chinese have also started infrastructure development at the reclaimed Chigua Reef (Kennan Reef).

From a J-shaped reclaimed area monitored in April last year, Chigua reef – located 167 nautical miles from mainland Palawan – now has helipads and ports.

The area now looks like a modern resort facility rather than a military feature. It was gathered that aside from military facilities, China is developing tourist destinations in the Spratlys.

At the reclaimed Burgos Reef, the Chinese have also built ports and roads.


FROM PHILSTAR

Queen Elizabeth II honors Filipino cancer patient By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated January 12, 2015 - 5:34pm 1 1 googleplus0 0


Composite photos of community volunteer Doreen Jaen-Mooney and Quen Elizabeth II. Facebook | AP photo

MANILA, Philippines — British Queen Elizabeth II recognized a Birmingham-based Filipino cancer patient for her "services to the community."

Hailing from Butuan City, Doreen Jaen-Mooney of New Heights, Kingstanding was granted the rank of Member under the Order of the British Empire, an order of chivalry, earlier this month.

The rank is awarded to persons for "significant achievement or outstanding service to the community," the United Kingdom government says on its website.

It is also awarded for local "hands-on" service, which stands out as an example to other people.

Mooney is among the volunteers who established a community café to build friendships and get access to training and jobs, the Great Barr Observer reports.

She has also taken care of disabled people despite suffering from breast cancer herself.

"I am so grateful and honored to be given such award. Never in my dreams that I would be given such honors! What a humbling experience, indeed," she tells the local publication.


FROM PHILSTAR

COLUMN: Bilibid Tales CONJUGATIONS By Lila Ramos Shahani (philstar.com) | Updated January 12, 2015 - 12:00am 1 142 googleplus0 9


By Lila Ramos Shahani

An inmate was reported dead and nineteen others injured after an explosion rocked the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa last Thursday. The prison has been in the news for several weeks now, what with tales of excessive drug lords and their luxurious cells, equipped with expensive liquor, stripper bars, jacuzzis and an impressive arsenal of automatic weapons. Forced to vacate these sumptuous digs, some have even accused Justice Secretary Leila de Lima of violating their human rights. Meanwhile, news of corruption and violence continues to seep out, including the recent report of the sexual assault of an eight year-old girl on New Year’s Day.

Three years ago, I visited New Bilibid and was astonished at what I saw. Here was this walled city within a city, teeming with life and bustling with enterprise. I had anticipated seeing something like the Western-style prison structured along the lines of the “panopticon” first devised in the nineteenth century by Jeremy Bentham, the English utilitarian. He envisaged the panopticon to be an architecture of discipline that enacted constant and unending surveillance. A watchman was supposed to be positioned at a central point where he could observe all inmates in an institution without the inmates being able to tell if they were being watched. It was meant to be as cost-efficient as it was pervasive, compelling the inmates to internalize the very structure of surveillance so they would become their very own internal police.

The New Bilibid prison, however, is anything but panoptic. It is not a “hard” facility, where every prisoner is inside a cell at all times. Rather, it is a “walled” community -- almost medieval in feel. Free to walk around, at least during the day, inmates barter and trade, engage in sports, work on various crafts, such as carpentry and painting. Their incarceration consists of living in a barangay-like setting, in a manner that is decidedly un-panoptic, free from what Foucault would later call the “violence of the gaze.” At night, of course, it’s a different story, with inmates packed inhumanely like sardines into jam-packed cells.

When I first visited New Bilibid, I interviewed a drug lord who boasted that he was entitled to three types of conjugal visits: one with his wife and children, one with his “mistress,” and one with his casual women – each with separate rooms and on different days. Today, Chief Overseer Ricardo Bansi assures us this is no longer practiced, although (despite a temporary ban on visits due to the recent bomb blast) prisoners are entitled to regular conjugal visits. Legal and common-law wives are still allowed to visit inmates twice a month.

So imagine my surprise when I last visited the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW) and found, to my unending dismay, that the women are not entitled to any conjugal visits whatsoever! Like the New Bilibid, CIW is a walled prison under the Bureau of Corrections, and is a logical counter-point to the latter, although it is infinitely smaller in scale.

The warden, Atty. Rachel Ruelo, explained that there are no conjugal visits for female inmates because of the lack of facilities and custodial personnel. Another reason: the “low demand,” among the women prisoners for such visits. In 2012, the Bureau consulted 2,000 women inmates and only 500 conveyed that they “needed” such conjugal visits.

Atty. Ruelo did admit, however, that the absence of conjugal visits for women prisoners was a human rights concern. The burning question, at least for me: in what contexts would a women inmate feel that she had no need for conjugal or family visits? If it is such a pressing and acknowledged need for male inmates, why is it not one that is institutionally provided for women as a matter of course? Is there a fear that female inmates might be impregnated? Certainly, there is no doubt that family conflict plays a factor and could be one reason why conjugal visits in both male and female prisons might be less frequent. A more glaring possibility: women inmates lack the resources and purchasing power of the men. This may well lead to their being abandoned by their families. After all, it remains a real puzzle as to why the women would choose, if they did in fact do so, not to receive visits by their partners, whether straight or lesbian, not to mention their parents, siblings and children.

Certainly, there is much that needs to be done in terms of prison reform. As tempting as it may be to think of pulling our present prison system out by the roots and starting anew, “reform” indicates we must do a better job of dealing with the system we have. That means taking a long, hard look at what is working, what is not working and what has never worked before. The walled-city approach has many advantages. Prisoners are organized into gangs—their version of civil society—and are encouraged to govern themselves. The result is better socialization that, among other things, has eliminated prison riots completely. Peace among the inmates has also been possible through the cultivation of arts, crafts and small-scale enterprises to encourage personal initiative. Within these walls, a kind of prisoners’ “republic” has arisen, not unlike what one sees at the Iwahig Penal Colony in Palawan.

A prisoner’s republic, however, also replicates the problems we see in the larger country: corruption, smuggling, and sexual violence, for example. The drug lords are still masters of their domain and through the collaboration of the guards manage to run their empire from the comforts of their villa-like cells. As in almost all prison environments, social hierarchies among prisoners are imposed with remorseless violence. As last year’s film “On The Job” depicted, officials have also been known to use prisoners to carry out assassinations of political enemies and reward them for their efforts when they return to the joint. After the flurry of raids by Secretary de Lima, there have been calls to control contraband and replace top officials to curtail corruption. Additionally, the rise of super-wealthy inmates allowed to feather their nests in the face of the often-abject poverty of the prison population as a whole creates acute class differences. Economic inequality further creates a second field of corruption among the inmates themselves. Inmate contributions to communal well-being should be encouraged, but individual ostentation creates the potential for class resentments.

The problems remain: how to reform our prisons into places of rehabilitation, addressing the excessive corruption while maintaining the barangay-like structure that keeps the peace? Are there other services and educational skills that the government and NGOs can provide for prisoners to speed up their reintegration into society? And how to break up the power of the drug lords and other privileged inmates, while cleaning up the corrupt administration of the prison system? Finally, how do we deal with the unequal treatment of women inmates, as compared to men, especially in the area of conjugal and family visits? These and many other questions are worth pondering as investigations of the recent prison scandals continue and in anticipation of the transfer of the New Bilibid to a new facility in NuevaEcija in the coming years.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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