HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK...

NOY: LRT, MRT FARE HIKE UNPOPULAR BUT LONG OVERDUE


President Aquino defended yesterday the increase in fares of the Light Rail Transits 1 and 2 and Metro Rail Transit 3 despite opposition from various sectors, saying he was willing to take the bullet for an unpopular but long overdue decision to improve train services.
“There is no perfect decision here,” Aquino said, noting the complaints from those who would have additional expenses daily were expected. But then he said the 86 million other Filipinos outside of Metro Manila who were not using the trains deserved to have projects that would directly benefit them. He told reporters that the contributions of non-Metro Manila residents should have been decreased a long time ago. “Mula panahon pa, hindi naman ni Magellan pero noong pagkatagal-tagal na,” Aquino said, referring to an old Filipino joke about something from long ago that would date back to the time Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan led a Spanish expedition and discovered the Philippines. READ FULL REPORT.....

Train fare hiked critics only after boosting image — Noy

 
President Aquino yesterday took a swipe at critics of the train fare hike, noting that their actions are carried out only for “personal” aim and improving their public image.
“If it (facilities) successively fails, an accident, delay, someone hurt, the blame is pinned on us again. Maybe if a problem is really seen, why not do a thing about it... (But) of course this is a good time to take the spotlight: ‘I’m against the increase!’ All of us don’t want an increase in commodities, but that’s the truth,” Aquino said in an interview after inaugurating infrastructures in Romblon. He insisted that the fare adjustments were “reasonable” and will result in improvement of train services.
“We want to improve the lines, we need to add more units, we need to replace the signaling system, we need to change the radio and improve the rails …” the President stressed. While he said he is willing to listen to his detractors, Aquino dared them to offer better solutions, not just complain. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Abaya snubs train fare hike House probe


ABAYA  ---
MANILA, Philippines - Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya was a no-show yesterday at the House of Representatives inquiry into the fare hikes of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Railway Transit (LRT) lines as lawmakers sought a detailed listing of where the proceeds will go. Abaya’s absence riled independent and opposition lawmakers, who said it only showed the Aquino administration’s insensitivity to the plight of commuters. Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, chairman of the committee, said the panel would summon Abaya to the next hearing, as he knows the details of the various agreements between the LRT and MRT and the government. “He (Abaya) is the only one who can shed light on this all-important issue of the year,” Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said during the hearing. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Aquino calls for end of 'parochial mindset'  

 
President Benigno Aquino III delivers his speech during the commemoration of National Heroes Day at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City on Monday (August 25). Robert Viñas / Malacañang Photo Bureau MANILA, Philippines - Days before Pope Francis visits the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III on Monday urged nations to shun a parochial or a narrow mindset in solving the world's problems. In his message and toast at the 2015 New Year Vin D'Honneur, Aquino cited the example of Pope Francis, who is expected to issue an encyclical on "the imperative for all of humanity to take action" on global concerns such as climate change. "In facing the problems common to all of us, it has become clear that we can no longer look at complex issues and situations with a parochial mindset. Now, more than ever, the truism of the saying, 'United we stand, divided we fall,' comes to the forefront," Aquino said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Gov’t finalizes elaborate security for Pope Francis

 

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Philippine National Police officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Lieutenant General Gregorio Pio Catapang in a meeting with media organizations in Camp Crame on Monday. Photo by Julliane Love De Jesus/INQUIRER.net (First of two parts)
MANILA, Philippines – Three days before the pastoral visit of Pope Francis, joint government agencies and security forces have finally laid out their security plans for the much-awaited Philippine trip of the pontiff. Cabinet secretaries and top police and military officials gave the media on Monday a glimpse of what to expect in the four-day papal visit, considered one of the biggest security challenges for the country this year. READ FULL REPORT...


READ FULL MEDIA NEWS REPORT:

Noy: LRT, MRT fare hike unpopular but long overdue



ROMBLON, JANUARY 7, 2015
(PHILSTAR) 
President Aquino defended yesterday the increase in fares of the Light Rail Transits 1 and 2 and Metro Rail Transit 3 despite opposition from various sectors, saying he was willing to take the bullet for an unpopular but long overdue decision to improve train services.

“There is no perfect decision here,” Aquino said, noting the complaints from those who would have additional expenses daily were expected.

But then he said the 86 million other Filipinos outside of Metro Manila who were not using the trains deserved to have projects that would directly benefit them.

He told reporters that the contributions of non-Metro Manila residents should have been decreased a long time ago.

“Mula panahon pa, hindi naman ni Magellan pero noong pagkatagal-tagal na,” Aquino said, referring to an old Filipino joke about something from long ago that would date back to the time Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan led a Spanish expedition and discovered the Philippines.

Taxes, higher fares and prices are always a bitter pill to swallow for the people but Aquino said he did not want to leave the LRT and MRT problems behind.

In his speech, Aquino said he has no more qualms about leaving office by 2016. The President was here for the aerial inspection of the Romblon-Sawang-Agpanabat provincial road and ceremonial inauguration of new buildings at the Romblon Provincial Hospital and Romblon Public Theater in Poblacion.

“The decision is not about popularity, okay. I don’t want to be part of the problem,” he said, noting that he could not defer the increase and then just pray to St. Jude that the trains would run safely until the end of his term and the burden would be on the shoulders of his successor.

The President admitted he was told that the timing of the decision was bad but the truth was that the issue about increasing train fare structures had been around since 2011.

Offer solutions

He urged those criticizing him to offer solutions that would solve train woes without fare hikes.

Aquino appealed to the train commuters to consider the fact that the train facilities being used by 14 million people were also being paid for by 86 million other Filipinos.

He explained the government would have to subsidize P45 out of the P60 daily expenditure per train passenger from end to end because commuters were only paying P15.

“Now what’s painful is that the equipment is old. The newest (relatively) is MRT (that was built) in 1999,” the President said.

He said it had been 16 years since MRT 3 was constructed and the major overhaul was done eight years ago.

The President said the P12-billion subsidy from the government could just make the trains run daily.

“Can we improve them (with the subsidy)? No. Can we add service? No. Pwede mo bang basta mapatakbo lang ‘yung tawag sa amin noong bata kami ‘maskipaps’ or maski-papaano. We spend P12 billion for that (daily operations),” Aquino said.

The President said the 86 million non-train users could very well question why they had to pay the P45 subsidy for a passenger daily without any benefit.

Aquino said the people in the provinces could also ask for better public transport, airports and seaports for them.

The President stressed the P2-billion subsidy that would be taken out of train operations could be used for other programs while the P10 billion retained by Congress would be allotted for improvements of the train system — for escalators, elevators, comfort rooms, waiting areas.

He again said he could not depend on luck to keep the trains running.

The President said taking the trains should be better than the bus and thus he wondered why people were willing to pay higher for an air-conditioned bus than the train.

Aquino said there would be additional train coaches and facilities like the signaling system, among others that would be changed.

The President told the noisiest of his critics that his ears were open all the time and ready to listen if there would be suggestions to solve the problem.

“If they could solve the problem, I will listen. If what they have is better, then what are we going to do? Pero kung puro reklamo at wala namang solusyon na inihahain, talagang nagpapa-cute lang sila at wala silang hilig na magkaroon ng solusyon sa problema,” Aquino said.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) has decried additional fare increases to be shouldered by commuters using the LRT 1.

Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said this was admitted by officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) in the House public hearing last Thursday.

“The DOTC admitted that under a concession agreement with the Light Rail Manila Consortium of Ayala and Metro Pacific, the private operator will be getting a 10.25-percent fare increase every two years, regardless of their financial standing,” the group noted.

Lawmakers also assailed President Aquino for what they said was his insensitive and insulting remarks that critics of the MRT and LRT fare hikes were just seeking publicity.

Buhay party-list Rep. Joselito Atienza said it was unfortunate that Aquino did not see the issue as about the ordinary commuters’ welfare and effect of the fare hikes on their daily wages.

“I’m very disappointed if that’s how he (Aquino) sees the issue. This is not about politics or papogi. This is about the ordinary Filipinos’ condition and the mandate that the MRT and LRT provide the most efficient ride at the minimum cost,” Atienza said.

Abakada-Guro party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz and former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño said the comment was insulting for those fighting the fare hikes, including senior administration lawmakers who do not support the move.

De la Cruz said several lawmakers from Aquino’s Liberal Party were strongly opposed to the fare hikes but could not say so openly for fear of reprisals.

Casiño, one of the petitioners before the Supreme Court against fare hikes, said it was “tragic that Aquino trivialized what is a very important gut issue for ordinary Filipinos, especially the minimum wage earners who are already overtaxed.”

Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello, one of Aquino’s allies, said that minimum wage earners would be among the hardest hit by the fare increases.

Citing data from the 2013 Annual Poverty Indicator Survey (APIS), Bello said citizens residing in the National Capital Region (NCR) are spending around P42 per day on transportation – 6.6 percent of the daily household budget.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo urged Malacañang to certify as urgent a bill creating a Rail Regulatory Board “to supervise, oversee, and regulate” the country’s railway system. – With Christina Mendez, Rhodina Villanueva, Paolo Romero


FROM THE TRIBUNE

Train fare hiked critics only after boosting image — Noy Written by Joshua L. Labonera Saturday, 10 January 2015 00:00 By Joshua L. Labonera and Angie M. Rosales

President Aquino yesterday took a swipe at critics of the train fare hike, noting that their actions are carried out only for “personal” aim and improving their public image.

“If it (facilities) successively fails, an accident, delay, someone hurt, the blame is pinned on us again. Maybe if a problem is really seen, why not do a thing about it... (But) of course this is a good time to take the spotlight: ‘I’m against the increase!’ All of us don’t want an increase in commodities, but that’s the truth,” Aquino said in an interview after inaugurating infrastructures in Romblon.

He insisted that the fare adjustments were “reasonable” and will result in improvement of train services.

“We want to improve the lines, we need to add more units, we need to replace the signaling system, we need to change the radio and improve the rails …” the President stressed.

While he said he is willing to listen to his detractors, Aquino dared them to offer better solutions, not just complain.

“If all they do is complain without a solution to give, all they are doing is posing cute without actually having the urge to give an appropriate solution,” he said.

He added the decision to support the fare adjustment in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) may not be popular but it is right.

Last Sunday, the Department of Transportation and Communications

(DoTC) started implementing an increased base fare of P11 for both the LRT and MRT, with P1 charged per additional kilometer.

Four petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court seeking to stop the recently implemented train fare adjustments.

Several lawmakers, including Senators Grace Poe and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, have also criticized the train fare hike, describing it as “treacherous” and “unacceptable.”

Relatedly, an independent think tank noted that the rationale of the “user pays” principle in transportation service pricing cited by the DoTC for the LRT-MRT fare hike should be rejected.

According to research group Ibon Foundation, the principle goes against public good and the public service nature of mass transport.

“The principle is an essential element of public-private partnership (PPP) projects the government is pushing to ensure that they are attractive for profit-seeking firms,” Ibon noted.

The DoTC earlier explained that the “uniform distance-based fare scheme” for the three light rail transport lines applies the “user pays” principle directed by the government’s Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) 2011-2016.

But the research group assailed the DoTC’s defense, saying the principle, which the World Bank has been promoting since the early 1980s, is based on the idea that the cost of a service must be substantially recovered from its beneficiaries or those who directly use it.

“The ‘user pays’ principle is being invoked while the DoTC has not yet provided the public a clear and detailed information on LRT and MRT expenses,” it said.

“It remains unclear how much of the fare hikes will go to improving facilities as opposed to paying onerous obligations to various private firms involved in rail-related deals,” Ibon noted.

It also noted that the ‘user pays’ principle wrongly identifies the commuters as the only ones who benefit from the LRT/MRT rail services and hence the only ones who will be charged additionally, specifically through the rate hikes.

It said the burden of financing the rail service can be more equitably distributed if all the business-related beneficiaries and the wider economic benefits are properly identified.

“Fare hikes can be mitigated or even entirely avoided if only the government was more willing to charge all beneficiaries and to have a more progressive general tax system,” the think tank said.

“Commuter interests including affordability, accessibility and safety are not served by profit-oriented approaches such as the ‘user pays’ principle and the commercialization of public services,” Ibon said.

Meanwhile, a member of the upper chamber renewed his call on the proposed student fare discount on all kinds of public utility vehicles (PUVs) amid the imposition of price adjustments in train fares.

“Majority of Metro Manila students who depend on the affordability of LRT and MRT will definitely suffer from the recent fare hike. We should assist the parents and students in shouldering transportation expenses relative to the rising cost of education in our country,” Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said.

He added the grant of a 20-percent discount to students in all PUVs should be applicable not only during school days but also on weekends and holidays.

The senator wants to duplicate the system in the United Kingdom (UK) on the student fare discounts.

Angara, who studied in London, said he was able to avail himself of student discounts on airfare and public transport, including bus and rail transit system.

“If students from highly developed countries like UK can benefit from fare discounts, I think our underprivileged Filipino students need and deserve more this kind of assistance from the government,” he stressed.|

The House of Representatives has already approved on third and final reading a counterpart version of the bill in November last year.

“I am appealing to our colleagues here in the Senate to pass our version so as to lessen the impact of current economic difficulties brought by the rising cost, not only of the LRT and MRT fares, but of basic commodities and education as well,” Angara said.

Currently, the grant of student fare discounts in jeepneys and buses is only through a memorandum circular of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

Angara’s Senate Bill 203 seeks to put the thrust of the LTFRB circular forward by institutionalizing the grant of discount privilege to students on all land, water, air and rail transport utilities.

If enacted, the 20-percent discount will apply to regular domestic fares in airplanes and ferries while the LRT and MRT are mandated to designate a student/senior citizen fare booth in their boarding stations.


FROM PHILSTAR

Abaya snubs train fare hike probe By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 9, 2015 - 12:00am 3 45 googleplus0 0


ABAYA

MANILA, Philippines - Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya was a no-show yesterday at the House of Representatives inquiry into the fare hikes of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Railway Transit (LRT) lines as lawmakers sought a detailed listing of where the proceeds will go.

Abaya’s absence riled independent and opposition lawmakers, who said it only showed the Aquino administration’s insensitivity to the plight of commuters.

Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, chairman of the committee, said the panel would summon Abaya to the next hearing, as he knows the details of the various agreements between the LRT and MRT and the government.

“He (Abaya) is the only one who can shed light on this all-important issue of the year,” Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said during the hearing.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. clarified that Abaya did not snub the House hearing but only had to attend the meeting in Malacañang on preparations for the visit of Pope Francis on Jan. 15 to 19.

In a press briefing, Coloma said the government was standing firm on the fare increases but was acknowledging those opposed to the decision.

Present during the hearing were Transportation Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco, MRT-3 officer-in-charge Renato San Jose and Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) administrator Honorito Chaneco.

Limcaoco said the fare hikes are needed for the operations and upgrading of equipment.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares sought a more detailed and written explanation on where the proceeds of increases will go as the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has repeatedly asked and received allocations in the annual national budget for operations and maintenance of the rail systems.

“You increased the fares without proper public consultations,” Barzaga said.

Teddy Casiño, one of the petitioners against the fare hikes before the Supreme Court, told the panel that the DOTC did conduct public hearings.

He said the public consultations were perfunctory and just meant to show that stakeholders were consulted.

Colmenares said the DOTC sought and was allocated P977.60 million by Congress for the rehabilitation of LRT 1 and 2 in the 2015 national budget.

But the DOTC also sought exactly the same amount in the P22.4-billion supplemental budget that was approved by Congress.

The government also asked for P2.569 billion for the MRT-3 rehabilitation and P957 million for the same purpose in the supplemental budget.

“So where are you going to use this increase for? There is deception and treachery here,” Colmenares said.

Coloma added the protests against the MRT and LRT fares could not be a sign of civil unrest but part of the country’s democratic processes.

“We don’t see any significant physical disturbances. We don’t see disruption in travel time among thousands of those using MRT service. And the expressions of protest, we respect that,” Coloma said.

It is now up to the Supreme Court to make a ruling on the increase in LRT 1 and 2 as well as MRT 3 fares, Malacañang said yesterday as it reiterated all protests against the move were being respected.

In a press briefing, Coloma said the Palace could also understand the lawmakers’ duty to look into the matter in aid of legislation and in pursuit of their oversight functions.

“There is a way to deal with them and those opposing or fighting (the increase) had gone to the Supreme Court. The process in the Supreme Court is now moving. Their petitions have been accepted,” Coloma said.– With Aurea Calica, Marvin Sy


FROM PHILSTAR

Aquino calls for end of 'parochial mindset' By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated January 12, 2015 - 11:40am 9 49 googleplus0 0

P
resident Benigno Aquino III delivers his speech during the commemoration of National Heroes Day at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City on Monday (August 25). Robert Viñas / Malacañang Photo Burea
u

MANILA, Philippines - Days before Pope Francis visits the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III on Monday urged nations to shun a parochial or a narrow mindset in solving the world's problems.

In his message and toast at the 2015 New Year Vin D'Honneur, Aquino cited the example of Pope Francis, who is expected to issue an encyclical on "the imperative for all of humanity to take action" on global concerns such as climate change.

"In facing the problems common to all of us, it has become clear that we can no longer look at complex issues and situations with a parochial mindset. Now, more than ever, the truism of the saying, 'United we stand, divided we fall,' comes to the forefront," Aquino said.

"We are responsible for our world and its future. Whether in combating climate change and its effects, or in fighting inequality, or in taking a stand against terrorism and instability: the time to act is now," he added.

Aquino said if countries think only of themselves instead of working together, the challenges confronting the world will "grow more convoluted, and more insurmountable until we are all consumed by them."

The President recalled the problems the international community faced in 2014 such as the Ukraine conflict, the increasingly erratic weather patterns brought about by global climate change; issues regarding the price of oil and the world market, the threat of pandemics like MERS-Corona Virus or Ebola and the violent acts witnessed in Pakistan, Australia and Canada.

Aquino said the vast majority of the world was able to show unity in responding to the issues.

"Instead of being daunted or wallowing in fear, we have chosen to hope. Instead of being divided by hatred, we have chosen to stand together and link arms, in order to alleviate the suffering and despair of others," Aquino said.


FROM THE INQUIRER

Gov’t finalizes elaborate security for Pope Francis Julliane Love De Jesus @JLDejesusINQ INQUIRER.net 9:20 PM | Monday, January 12th, 2015


Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Philippine National Police officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Lieutenant General Gregorio Pio Catapang in a meeting with media organizations in Camp Crame on Monday. Photo by Julliane Love De Jesus/INQUIRER.net (First of two parts)

MANILA, Philippines – Three days before the pastoral visit of Pope Francis, joint government agencies and security forces have finally laid out their security plans for the much-awaited Philippine trip of the pontiff.

Cabinet secretaries and top police and military officials gave the media on Monday a glimpse of what to expect in the four-day papal visit, considered one of the biggest security challenges for the country this year.

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said security will be much tighter now that the country’s population ballooned to100 million from 68 million in1995 when five million flocked to Quirino Grandstand in Manila to see Pope John Paul II.

“This is not an overreaction. We’re preparing this to secure the Pope and the ‎public in line of the recent events like the deadly stampede in China,” Roxas said.

All events are cut into 44 sub events (arrival, route going to UST or the Mall of Asia). Each one will have specific ground commander and all of these will be supervised by the national committee headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and other Cabinet officials.

The PNP command center will be at the Aloha Hotel on Quirino Avenue corner Roxas Blvd.

In a meeting with the media, Transportation Secretary Emilio Abaya said no-fly and no-sail zones will be enforced at certain hours while the Pope is in the country.

Abaya said the Philippine Coast Guard will not allow bancas, leisure yachts to venture near the venues of Pope Francis’ scheduled engagements (200 meters from a certain distance to the coast).

Ports will be allowed to operate, he added, but all ships coming in will be screened‎.

The no-fly zone will be imposed within three nautical mile radius and 18,000 feet of altitude.

Roxas also reminded news outlets that no camera drones will be allowed to fly ‎during the Pope’s engagements.

“Aside from being arrested, those who will be flying drones will be fined by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines with P300,000 to P500,000. So that’s definitely much more than the drone you’ll invest,” Abaya said.

During the Pope’s arrival, flight to Tacloban, and his departure, there will be changes in flight schedules at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport since airports will be closed to arriving aircraft for selected hours.

“There will be [some] arrivals that will be allowed but all departures will be allowed,” he said.

In preparation for the Pope’s arrival at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City on Thursday afternoon, the secretaries presented the roads that will be closed and route changes.

closed roads Jan 15

The Pope will be having an open motorcade going to his temporary residence at the Apostolic Nunciature on Taft Avenue, Manila after his arrival‎ at about 5 p.m.

Leyte trip

After the Pope’s courtesy call in Malacañang and meeting with families at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City, ‎the Pope will fly to Tacloban, Leyte.

Roxas said the Mass officiated by the Pope will be held at a 10-hectare open area near the Tacloban airport. A motorcade to Palo, also in Leyte, will follow where he will have lunch with Yolanda victims.

“‎Equal preparations are being done in Tacloban and Palo. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Lieutenant General Gregorio Catapang will also go there,” he said.

“The challenge in Tacloban is the expected surge of crowd at the 12-kilomter open motorcade going to Palo, Leyte,” he added.

On Saturday afternoon, Francis will also fly back to Manila.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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