HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK...

PALACE STANDS FIRM ON MRT-LRT FARE HIKE

Unfazed by protests and a challenge before the Supreme Court, Malacañang stood firm yesterday on the fare increase in the Light Rail Transits 1 and 2 and the Metro Rail Transit 3, saying it would lead to better service.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. gave assurance that the upgrade of the LRT and MRT facilities would continue whatever the outcome of the petitions filed before the Supreme Court to stop the fare increase. Coloma said important programs had been laid down to make the train commute for millions of Metro Manila residents safe and comfortable. He said one of the major undertakings would be the MRT capacity expansion involving the purchase of 48 additional train coaches. This will cut travel and waiting time for passengers. Coloma said new rail installation would also be a priority along with the upgrade of ancillary systems like power sub-stations, depot facilities for parking, construction of the the North Avenue turnback and Taft Avenue pocket track extension, upgrade of signaling system, overhauling of 25 light rail vehicles, overhauling of traction motors and installation of new radio communications system. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: SC studying possible TRO on MRT, LRT fare hike, says high
court spokesman 

 
THE SUPREME COURT OF THE PHILIPPINES ---
MANILA, Philippines–Will the Supreme Court stop the fare increases in the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) for the benefit of 1.3 million daily commuters? As of Tuesday, the Supreme Court is still studying the possibility of a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the train fare hike, according to Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te. “The petition filed by the militant groups on Monday will be reviewed and a recommendation will be made,” Te said in a chance interview with reporters at the 203rd birth anniversary celebration of Melchora “Tandang Sora” Aquino in Quezon City.ERAD FULL REPORT...

ALSO: How MIAA is preparing for Pope Francis' visit
Check In Counters, Terminal 3, Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines ----MIAA will set up a drop-off point for Terminal 3 and 4 passengers with departing flights at the NAIA Terminal 1 Parking B. From Parking B, the passengers will be shuttled to Terminals 3 and 4. The NAIA Terminal 3 arrival and departure lobbies will be closed to non-passengers during the entire day on January 15 and from 12 midnight to 12 noon on January 19. MIAA will hold a final consultative meeting with the airlines and government agencies on January to discuss flight schedule revisions and preferences being considered by affected passengers. “The spiritual benefit of His Holiness’ visit far outweighs the little inconvenience and disruptions that preparations will cause to NAIA operations,” said Honrado. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Palace, Senate on collision over LRT, MRT fare hikes 
SEEING RED: A student throws paint at a photograph of Transportation Secretary Emilio Abaya during a rally in Pasig City. PHOTO BY MIKE DE JUAN ---Malacañang and the Senate appear headed for a collision over the recently-implemented fare increases in the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3), Light Rail Transit 1 and LRT 2 as a Palace spokesman maintained that such adjustments are beyond the reach of Congress. “Fare adjustment is a long overdue structural reform that goes beyond annual budgetary provisions,”   Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a text message to The Manila Times. He was reacting to Sen. Grace Poe’s assertion that the manner of the implementation of the fare adjustments was “treacherous” and “Judas-like” as these were done just after the olidays and caught commuters unprepared. Poe, who heads the Senate public services sub-committee on transportation, said the government should have been more transparent on its plan to impose new train rates. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: PH pulls out stops to protect Pope during visit - Catapang


"Our greatest worry is the people surge on the Pope, that is why we are putting up the barricades. Hopefully, the people will be understanding. They will all have a chance to take a glimpse of the Pope...They should be happy already if they take a glimpse of the Pope because all of us cannot really get near," Catapang said. The Philippines is deploying up to 37,000 soldiers, policemen and reservists to protect Pope Francis when he visits Manila and Leyte next week. Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said at least 6,000 to 7,000 soldiers and another 5,000 reservists will secure the Pope during his visit to Manila and Tacloban from January 15-19. This is on top of a reported deployment of 25,000 police officers for the Pope's 5-day visit. Describing the visit as a security challenge, Catapang said the Armed Forces and Philippine National Police have already crafted plans and will be conducting security rehearsals in all areas that the Pope will visit. READ FULL REPORT...
 


READ FULL MEDIA NEWS REPORT:

Palace stands firm on MRT-LRT fare hike

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MANILA, JANUARY 7, 2015
(PHILSTAR) 
By Aurea Calica - Unfazed by protests and a challenge before the Supreme Court, Malacañang stood firm yesterday on the fare increase in the Light Rail Transits 1 and 2 and the Metro Rail Transit 3, saying it would lead to better service.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. gave assurance that the upgrade of the LRT and MRT facilities would continue whatever the outcome of the petitions filed before the Supreme Court to stop the fare increase.

Coloma said important programs had been laid down to make the train commute for millions of Metro Manila residents safe and comfortable.

He said one of the major undertakings would be the MRT capacity expansion involving the purchase of 48 additional train coaches. This will cut travel and waiting time for passengers.

Coloma said new rail installation would also be a priority along with the upgrade of ancillary systems like power sub-stations, depot facilities for parking, construction of the the North Avenue turnback and Taft Avenue pocket track extension, upgrade of signaling system, overhauling of 25 light rail vehicles, overhauling of traction motors and installation of new radio communications system.

The completion of these programs is set within the year and the process of procurement had begun, Coloma said.

Hernando Cabrera, spokesman for the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), added the government is pursuing the replacement of old rails of the LRT-1 and MRT-3 worth close to P370 million as part of efforts to improve the condition of the mass transit system in the metropolis.

He said the government took delivery of 1,300 pieces of 18-meter rails last month for the P279- million LRT-1 rail replacement project.

Asked why the improvements took so long, Coloma said there had been shortcomings and glitches before that were now being addressed, including those involving maintenance service providers.

Coloma earlier said the hike in fares should not be linked to the upgrade of train facilities since there had been a budget for improvements even before the increase was finalized.

Moving forward, Coloma said it would be better to avoid the blame game and just proceed with what should be done for the sake of the safety and comfort of passengers.

Coloma said those who had shortcomings or who committed irregularities would be made accountable.

“On hindsight, there were weaknesses, there were mistakes; and there are processes to fix them, change them and make responsible those who made mistakes,” Coloma said.

“What we are just saying here is we cannot focus on pinning or assigning blame, getting mad at those who made mistakes or had shortcomings,” he noted.

Coloma said this was the reason why they again focused on service improvement projects, including those rendered on a daily basis such as expediting the sale of tickets so there would be no long queues in terminals.

Aside from improving the queuing system and lessening the time to purchase tickets, Coloma said other practical solutions would be done to ease the burden or sacrifices of train commuters.

“The funds and resources for all these projects have been allocated. These will not be affected should there be any legal action that will stay the implementation or reverse the implementation of the fare adjustments,” he said.

Coloma said it was important for people to be assured that services would improve in due time.

More petitions

On Monday, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the decision to increase the train fares might not be popular but it had to be done.

Lacierda emphasized the government had not completely cut its subsidy for the mass transport system but merely reduced it from P12 billion last year to P10 billion this year.

He said President Aquino explained that the subsidy for the LRT and MRT fares must be reduced so that the government could allocate its resources to regions not benefiting from LRT and MRT services.

Also on Monday, two separate petitions were filed before the Supreme Court seeking the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) or status quo ante order that would stop the train fare adjustments.

The petitions, filed by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and former Iloilo congressman Augusto Syjuco, also urged the SC to void a Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) order issued last month that allowed the increases.

The two petitioners said 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.

Syjuco also said the DOTC approved the fare adjustment even without the private operators asking for it.

Two more petitions were filed yesterday by Bayan Muna and United Filipino Consumers and Commuters Inc. (UFCC), both seeking a TRO or status quo ante order stopping the implementation of the fare hike.

Both groups asked the high court to void the DOTC order last month allowing the increase.

Just like the first two petitions filed last Monday by Bayan and Syjuco, the two groups accused the DOTC of committing grave abuse of discretion in approving the increase and also of violating the constitutional right to due process of millions of mass transit commuters.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno gave assurance yesterday that the Supreme Court would look into the petitions.

SC spokesman Theodore Te said the high court would act on the issue based on the recommendation of the magistrate who will be in charge of the case.

Te declined to give a timeline on when a decision will be issued, but said the issue will have to go through the proper proceedings.

The petitions were filed while the SC was still on holiday recess. But while there is no session, the rules allow the Chief Justice to act on urgent petitions and issue relief like a TRO subject to consultation with other justices and affirmation when they resume session on Jan. 13.

Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, chairman of the House committee on transportation, said the panel may seek a deferment of the unpopular MRT-LRT fare hikes “if warranted.”

Sarmiento issued the statement after opposition lawmakers warned that the hearing of the committee on the issue on Thursday might only be used by Malacañang to justify the fare hikes as the panel is dominated by administration allies.

“If there’s really a need for us to ask for a deferment, we will ask for it,” he said.

The lawmaker said the panel might also look into proposals to create an agency to approve or reject applications for fare adjustments of the LRT and MRT.

Last Dec. 20, the DOTC issued Department Order No 2014-014 setting the new fares for the country’s three major mass transport systems in the metropolis starting Jan. 4.

The DOTC has decided to adopt a uniform distance-based fare scheme for MRT-3 as well as for LRT-1 and LRT-2 pursuant to the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan.

Based on the new matrices, end-to-end trips on LRT-1 (Baclaran to Roosevelt) and LRT-2 (Recto to Santolan) will increase from P20 to P30 and P15 to P25, respectively.

End-to-end trips on MRT-3 (North Avenue to Taft Avenue), meanwhile, will increase from P15 to P28. – Edu Punay, Janvic Mateo, Paolo Romero, Lawrence Agcaoili, Mike Frialde, Non Alquitran


FROM THE INQUIRER

SC studying possible TRO on MRT, LRT fare hike, says high court spokesman Rima M. Granali @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 5:31 PM | Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

MANILA, Philippines–Will the Supreme Court stop the fare increases in the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) for the benefit of 1.3 million daily commuters?

As of Tuesday, the Supreme Court is still studying the possibility of a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the train fare hike, according to Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te.

“The petition filed by the militant groups on Monday will be reviewed and a recommendation will be made,” Te said in a chance interview with reporters at the 203rd birth anniversary celebration of Melchora “Tandang Sora” Aquino in Quezon City.

Bayang Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) led the petitioning groups on the grounds that no public consultation was conducted.

Te said a petition needed to be filed before the court could act on the LRT and MRT fare increases.

“The Supreme Court had to wait for a petition to be filed,” he added.

How long will the commuters wait for the TRO?

“Every case is different and it would depend on what’s written in the petition,” Te said.

“If it’s urgent then the Supreme Court may issue a TRO right away,” he said.


FROM ABS-CBN

How MIAA is preparing for Pope Francis' visit ABS-CBNnews.com Posted at 01/05/2015 2:48 PM | Updated as of 01/05/2015 3:55 PM


Check In Counters, Terminal 3, Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Pasay, Metro --IMAGE GOOGLESEARCH.COM.

MANILA – The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) is again reminding passengers to adjust their flight schedules on January 15 and 19 to give way to the arrival and departure of Pope Francis.

“As we have earlier announced, there will be no flights arriving in all NAIA Terminals from 2 p.m.-7 p.m. on January 15 and 6 a.m.-10:30 a.m. on January 19, 2015,” MIAA general manager Jose Angel Honrado said in a statement.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) earlier issued the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) announcing the suspension of flights that will arrive on the same period. Departure flights, meanwhile, will proceed subject to the availability of aircraft.

Honrado said that the prerogative to cancel, advance, delay or divert flights rests on the airline companies.

“Whatever it is, MIAA and other government agencies in NAIA will support them,” he said.

Cebu Pacific has already announced several flight cancellations due to the Papal visit.

Meanwhile, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) has cleared the airlines of any liability to effects that may result from the flight suspensions.

Honrado is also reminding passengers with departing flights on these days to be at the airport much earlier than the usual 3 hours due to several road closures within the NAIA complex.

Roads within the NAIA complex will close at 3 p.m. on January 15 and at 7 a.m. on January 19. The NAIA complex will only be accessible via the South Luzon Expressway the through Bicutan, Alabang and Sucat roads.

The entire stretch beginning from Sales Avenue fronting Terminal 3 all the way to the Domestic Road fronting Terminal 4 will be closed and will not be accessible to vehicular traffic during the given period.

MIAA will set up a drop-off point for Terminal 3 and 4 passengers with departing flights at the NAIA Terminal 1 Parking B. From Parking B, the passengers will be shuttled to Terminals 3 and 4.

The NAIA Terminal 3 arrival and departure lobbies will be closed to non-passengers during the entire day on January 15 and from 12 midnight to 12 noon on January 19.

MIAA will hold a final consultative meeting with the airlines and government agencies on January to discuss flight schedule revisions and preferences being considered by affected passengers.

“The spiritual benefit of His Holiness’ visit far outweighs the little inconvenience and disruptions that preparations will cause to NAIA operations,” said Honrado.


FROM THE MANILA TIMES

Palace, Senate on collision over LRT, MRT fare hikes January 6, 2015 11:03 pm by JOEL M. SY EGCO SENIOR REPORTER


SEEING RED: A student throws paint at a photograph of Transportation Secretary Emilio Abaya during a rally in Pasig City. PHOTO BY MIKE DE JUAN

Malacañang and the Senate appear headed for a collision over the recently-implemented fare increases in the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3), Light Rail Transit 1 and LRT 2 as a Palace spokesman maintained that such adjustments are beyond the reach of Congress.

“Fare adjustment is a long overdue structural reform that goes beyond annual budgetary provisions,”

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a text message to The Manila Times.

He was reacting to Sen. Grace Poe’s assertion that the manner of the implementation of the fare adjustments was “treacherous” and “Judas-like” as these were done just after the olidays and caught commuters unprepared.

Poe, who heads the Senate public services sub-committee on transportation, said the government should have been more transparent on its plan to impose new train rates.

The senator wants the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to explain why it did not inform the Senate of its plan to adjust rail rates when the agency was defending its budget for 2015 that includes the government subsidy for the train systems.

“For me, the timing of the fare increases is wrong and unjustifiable given the poor condition and services being provided by the management of the train systems. Para sa akin, napaka-Hudas ng ginawa nila [For me, what they did was a clear, Judas-like betrayal],” Poe said.


An activist pelt paint on the photos of President Benigno Aquino III and DOTC Sec. Joseph Emilio Abaya during a rally in front of the DOTC office in Ortigas, Pasig City on Tuesday, January 6. The activists are protesting the MRT and LRT fare hike implemented on January 4. COURTESY OF GMA News

Other lawmakers backed moves calling for a congressional inquiry into the matter.
The 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA) signed recently by President Benigno Aquino Jr. allotted a P4.65-billion train subsidy, P7.94 billion for MRT 3 rehabilitation and P4.67 billion for unpaid MRT 3 taxes.

But Coloma maintained that there was no “treachery” in the fare hikes’ implementation, noting that the President had tackled the issue in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in 2013.

“This was announced by the President in the 2013 SONA. DOTC held public consultations. User-pays principle is embodied in Philippine Development Plan that was adopted in 2011,” he said.

In a news briefing in Malacañang also on Tuesday, Coloma presented a chart showing the timeframe of all projects lined up for 2015 in connection with improving the services at the railway systems.

“Ipinapakita po natin ito upang ipaliwanag at ipaunawa sa ating mga mamamayan ‘yung konteksto ng pinag-uusapan din ngayon hinggil sa pagbago ng sistema ng pagsingil na ‘yung pagdadagdag ng singil sa pamasahe kasabay naman nito ‘yung seryosong programa sa pagpapahusay at pagpapabuti ng mga pasilidad ng MRT at LRT. Kaya’t hinihiling po natin ‘yung pag-unawa ng ating mga mamamayan sa mga kasalukuyang kaganapan [We are showing this to explain to the public the context of this issue, with the rate adjustment comes serious efforts to improve and enhance the facilities of MRT and LRT],” he said.

Coloma explained that the most important project concerning MRT 3 is capacity expansion. He noted that starting in September, 48 additional coaches will be added. Once this project is completed, the official said there will be more train rides, thus shortening waiting time for commuters.

Coloma said new rail tracks will also be put in place of old ones.

Besides these, the Palace official said the DOTC will also upgrade ancillary systems such as power sub-stations, depot facilities for parking, construction of North Avenue turnback and Taft Avenue pocket track extension, upgrade of signaling system, overhauling of 25 light rail vehicles and traction motors and installation of new radio communications system.

Meanwhile, groups that oppose the train fare increases claimed that no consultations were made between the DOTC and other stakeholders.

“Fare hike consultations were just an afterthought. The LRT fare increase was already provisionally approved in January 2011 by the LRTA [Light Rail Transit Authority], ahead of any public consultation. The LRTA board then again approved the fare hike on February 24, 2011, after ‘public consultations,’” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.

“The LRTA Board also got LTFRB [Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board] concurrence on May 10, 2011. Therefore the approval was already ‘completed’ so to speak, BEFORE the December 13, 2013 ‘public consultations’, which at the time was nothing more than a public forum, a simple FYI [for your information],” Reyes added.

Two more petitions questioning the rail fare increases were filed on Tuesday at the Supreme Court by Bayan Muna and the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC).
Bayan Muna party-list Congressmen Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate filed the Bayan Muna petition, and Anthony Ian Cruz, Imelda Luna and Carl Ala that of UFCC.
On Monday, Reyes and former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco also filed petitions assailing the DOTC order increasing rail fares.

Bayan Muna said DOTC Secretary Jose Emilio Abaya does not have the authority and jurisdiction to decide applications for fare hikes and issue orders for the implementation of such increases.With JOMAR CANLAS


FROM ABS-CBN

PH pulls out stops to protect Pope during visit -CATAPANG ABS-CBNnews.com Posted at 01/06/2015 5:42 PM

MANILA - The Philippines is deploying up to 37,000 soldiers, policemen and reservists to protect Pope Francis when he visits Manila and Leyte next week.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said at least 6,000 to 7,000 soldiers and another 5,000 reservists will secure the Pope during his visit to Manila and Tacloban from January 15-19.

This is on top of a reported deployment of 25,000 police officers for the Pope's 5-day visit.

Describing the visit as a security challenge, Catapang said the Armed Forces and Philippine National Police have already crafted plans and will be conducting security rehearsals in all areas that the Pope will visit.

The AFP chief said soldiers will be deployed in high-rise buildings along Roxas Boulevard in Manila where the Pope will be passing through.

Philippine Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado said all available PAF assets in Metro Manila and Leyte will be dedicated to secure the pope during his visit.

He added that he is recommending the declaration of a no-fly zone of the areas where the Pope will be visiting on specific dates but this may need the approval of the President.

"Most likely, we’ll limit the airspace for air cover," he said.

Catapang said barricades will be put up to prevent a mob of the faithful from surging towards the Holy Father.

"Our greatest worry is the people surge on the Pope, that is why we are putting up the barricades. Hopefully, the people will be understanding. They will all have a chance to take a glimpse of the Pope...They should be happy already if they take a glimpse of the Pope because all of us cannot really get near," Catapang said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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