Legalized extortion: PNoy’s New Year’s gift to Filipinos

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PNOY has a twisted way of ushering in 2015 – the fifth and last full year of his administration. His idea of good tidings for the new year is slapping ordinary Filipino commuters with a fare hike.

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With the 50 to 87 percent increase in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) fares taking effect two days ago, many Filipinos are now being forced to shell out more money to go to work or to school, courtesy of PNoy’s administration.

Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary (and Liberal Party stalwart) Jun Abaya’s announcement on December 20, 2014 that both the MRT and LRT would be implementing a P11-base fare plus an additional one peso per kilometer starting last Sunday was a tasteless (and painful) Christmas gift.

An MRT trip from North Avenue to Taft, for instance, now costs P28, from the previous fare of P15. A single journey LRT-1 trip from Roosevelt to Baclaran which previously cost P20 now costs P30. Meanwhile, a single journey LRT-2 trip from Recto to Santolan now costs P25 from P15.

The fare hike will definitely impact the less privileged sector of our society since the bulk of LRT and MRT riders are ordinary workers, employees and students.

But according to Abaya, the fare increase is necessary to improve the poor state of the railway system. This, of course, is a big, fat lie.

The additional revenue from the estimated P1-billion additional income that the DOTC will collect from the fare hike will not be used to upgrade or improve the trains but will go to an escrow account set up by the Aquino government so it could pay Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC)’s guaranteed 15 percent annual return on investment (ROI), as stipulated in the 1997 PPP contract.

In effect, PNoy is passing on to ordinary Filipino commuters, the burden of paying off the obligation which his government ought to be shouldering in the first place. And he has the temerity to call us his “bosses?”

Why is PNoy and his close friend and ally, Jun Abaya so bullheaded in settling the multimillion-peso money claims of MRTC, knowing fully well that the PPP contract is grossly one-sided in favor of the private concessionaire – and manifestly disadvantageous to the government and the commuting public?

Did MRTC make certain commitments to PNoy and Abaya in exchange for the prompt settlement of its money claims?

What PNoy and Abaya ought to do is to find ways to terminate the PPP contract for the failure of the private concessionaire to do what it was supposed to do in the first place (i.e. to properly maintain and operate the rail transit). At the very least, they should re-negotiate the terms of the PPP contract in order to remove highly questionable provisions like MRTC’s guaranteed 15 percent income.

Obviously, however, PNoy and his cohorts don’t give a hoot about what LRT and MRT riders think.

And as if to taunt critics of the fare hike, Malacañang said last week that “only a temporary restraining order [TRO] from the Supreme Court can stop the DOTC from implementing the fare increase in the LRT/MRT commuter train system.”

What’s more infuriating though is the treacherous and underhanded manner the fare hike was rammed through by the Aquino government while most folks weren’t looking.

For one, it was announced the weekend before Christmas when many of our countrymen had left for the provinces or were too busy preparing for their own celebrations to pay attention or react to the fare increase broadcast.

Abaya’s announcement of the rate increase also came while Congress was in recess thus ensuring that opposition lawmakers could not conduct any investigation or hearing to question it.

Not coincidentally, the announcement as well as the date of effectivity of the fare hike both fell on a weekend when the courts were closed and no temporary restraining order could ever be issued. In fact, if our memory serves us right, this is the first time a fare hike of any sort was made effective on a Sunday.

From our perspective, the LRT-MRT fare hike amounts to legalized extortion, plain and simple. Filipino commuters are being coerced to pay more without the DOTC conducting the public hearing required by law and without any commensurate improvement in the quality of the rail transit service.

We recall that during his inaugural speech, PNoy said that he knew and felt the problems of ordinary citizens, promising Filipinos that his administration “will not be the cause of [their]suffering or hardship.”

So, apparently PNoy was right when he said in his New Year’s message for 2105 that a “promising future” awaits every Filipino. It means we should expect more empty promises from his administration in the future.

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9 Comments

  1. Malacanang also played the NCR vs province card. Another divide-and-conquer tactic given that it would be an unpopular decision.

  2. “Did MRTC make certain commitments to PNoy and Abaya in exchange for the prompt settlement of its money claims?”—but of course! a largess big enough for the liberal party to buy votes, for it is the only way for them to win the 2016 elections!

  3. This is the problem with the PPP projects under BOT schemes. The winning bidder of the project is guaranteed a certain percentage of profit for their undertaking. If the project does not earn any profit, the gov’t. will have to subsidize the project for the guaranteed profit of the operator. That is why, MRTC does not care if the fare is increased or not because the gov’t. will have shoulder if there is shortfall in their guaranteed profit.

  4. It seems that we give a guaranteed profit to the owners , a guaranteed sovreign debt to the finders , no accountability to the people who run the system. Everybody benefits except the public who pays for the service, the debt the inefficiency and the corruption . Welcome to matuwid na daan.

  5. Legalized extortion is what the government has been doing to Juan dela Cruz since EDSA 1. Behind this extortion is the international lending mafia made up of the world’s biggest banks and their slick frontman the IMF. Their product is debt which means the more we borrow the more wealthy they will get, its that simple. That explains why we have the world’s highest power rates, sin taxes, vat, the PPP, and all those means that end up fleecing the people of their hard earned money to pay for borrowed money the banks just created out of thin air. This BS and the yellow regime are their instruments, foreign banking interests are the instrument wielders. Our job is to make sure the next president is an instrument of the people ! Now you know why their propaganda instrument named the SWS is limiting the choices to yellow presidentiables only, and why they will make sure smartmatic/Comelec mafia stays in place.

  6. Naming a new MRT-LRT manager is just one way to distract the masa to project an image that reforms are being done. Pnoy must once and for all do some self-reflection and not listen this time to what his favorite Cabinet members are whispering to him. May kasabihan sa Tagalog– “Malapit ng mapuno ang salop.” The ordinary man is really getting the brunt of every conceivable suffering now. No amount of external beautifying with all Metro Manila surroundings can camouflage reality. The Pope will eventually know about some serious concerns here in the Philippines such as separated couples living in with new partners without undergoing annulment proceedings because it’s so expensive for an ordinary citizen, illegal business practices, contractualization, oligarchs getting richer and richer, poor management of rehabilitation efforts to the typhoon victims,etc. and other practices that make the poor people’s lives miserable. He can fire a government official with a bullet’s speed when he wants it but gets so stubborn when the favored person is in his select group. Time to reflect during Epiphany and the rest of 2015.

  7. Hayup ang pagka-ganid ni abaya at Aquino!nakakuha na ng pondo ng2014 at ngayon bagong budget 2015 ng Billion para sa lahat ng kailangan para maisaayos ang mrt at lrt, nakuha pang magtaas ng pamasahe ngayon ilalagay lang daw ang kikitain dito sa ibang priority na kailangan nila,election 2015!
    Dapat na talagang mag alsa ang tao!kaya lang sasama kaya ang visaya at Mindanao dito sa problem ito ng mrt at lrt?
    Sana!!dahil hindi pinag-uusapan dito ang lugar kung hindi kung paano nakawin ang pera ng sambayanan!

  8. P. Akialamiro@yahoo.com on

    The proposed increase it too much for the ordinary wage earner to bear. Yet they cannot rely on the efficiency of
    the system and its employees.

    Instead of direct fare hikes, how about a certain percentage (say 1%?) tax hike on commodities and services in the cities of Metro Manila? This is what is being done in the SF-Bay Area for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). This being a major transportation benefiting the metropolitan areas, perhaps, even the individual cities should contribute directly to subsidize the operations.

  9. The seething hatred for the illegitimate president is now a conflagration. Nobody in the streets has any approbation for the Abnoy. Everyone wants him dead and out! I can’t really blame them because sobra na ang paghihirap ng bayan. The poor are just bearing it out. Increased fare rates, Increased water rates. Corruption in the COMELEC. Most everyone appalled by our country’s worrisome situation is trooping to the Supreme Court. May the Justices be guided and enlightened to save the republic.