Making the bitter medicine go down


    SOME people wear their love of country literally on their sleeve.

    Some businessmen “wear” theirs up the lifeless posts of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 reportedly as part of an ongoing P500-million station improvement project (SIP).

    The report said the partnership between the Light Rail Manila Corp., which jointly runs Line 1, and Coca-Cola Philippines falls under the SIP’s Station Domination that involves tapping private companies to boost the LMRC’s efforts to improve structures and facilities of the line’s 20 stations.

    Aha! Corporate social responsibility (CSR) being practiced here by the LMRC and three other private groups that had taken over from the government the management of LRT Line 1 and started in 2015 a 32-year concession for the operation and maintenance of the line and continuation of a P65-billion extension project to Bacoor City, Cavite.

    In letting in the four outsiders, the government has simply defaulted on its role of fulfilling its presumed mandate to make Line 1 serve the tens of thousands of ordinary commuters that everyday use the 19.65-kilometer line—Baclaran to Monumento, then Monumento to North Avenue in Quezon City.

    Eventually, these riders could be slapped with another fare increase, as have been the customers of the other two elevated train systems in Metro Manila, LRT 2 (Santolan-Recto-Santolan) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 (Baclaran-North Avenue-Baclaran)—all in the name of “better services.”

    Meanwhile, on top of such services, escalators and elevators of the LRT 1’s Recto station have been “out of order” for perhaps five years now despite the line having raised its fare for the longest trip to an astronomical P25, from P14 a year or two ago.

    Coca-Cola Philippines or Coke, however, should not be begrudged whatever amount it is contributing to the P500-million SIP because, somehow, it has to exact its pound of flesh from the partnership, which would be in effect for one year from June 22.

    It is to be conceded that the beverage giant has done a lot in the first few days of walking the talk in its commitment to CSR—installation of LED lights, repair of ceilings, repainting of walls and putting up of digital ad screens and a video wall reportedly at the Lawton station (central) and the Doroteo Jose station.

    The bottling company has also painted the posts of the central station with bigger than life-size images of Coke that cannot be missed from a hundred feet or so because they are so in your face.

    If the LRT 1 managers had been more savvy negotiators, they at least could have bargained for LMRC and company to also help the Duterte administration stay ahead of the battle for the hearts and minds of Filipinos in connection with the Marawi siege. The train commuters are practically hostages once they enter the doors of the LRT 2 coaches. They would have been left with no choice but to stare at “patriotic” admonitions to support the brave and selfless troops dying for the motherland in Marawi City, at least if the LMRC and the three other private concerns had their nationalism stamped on their foreheads.

    As it is, Coke is getting way more than what it has supposedly conceded—advertising mileage.

    The PHAR, the exclusive partner of the LMRC in the partnership deal, said in the same report that it has chosen Coca-Cola because of its being “intertwined with the Filipino DNA.”

    Well, just a spoonful of sugar (the inseparability of Juan de la Cruz and the Filipino DNA) will make the medicine (the P500-million SIP) go down.

    If the deal seemed to have been shoved down the Filipino’s throat, he didn’t have much of a choice but to swallow it, did he?


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