MRT and the economy


SENATOR Grace Poe is one lucky MRT rider.  Although she waited in line for 40 minutes to buy a ticket and get a ride, she did not experience being pushed, shoved, squeezed, or mashed.

She took the MRT ride when the sun was not so bright, and it was not raining.  Perhaps that’s why she said that it was a “pleasant” experience.

The day before the lady senator took the MRT ride, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the gross domestic product (GNP), which measures a country’s economic performance, rose by 6.4 percent, from 5.6 percent in the previous quarter.

For sure, a deteriorating mass transport system is not an indication of a growing economy.

Is it fantabulous to claim that more people take the MRT nowadays because the economy generated more employment opportunities?  PSA reported that unemployment rate decreased to 7 percent in the first quarter of 2014, from 7.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. That means more people found jobs in the first three months of the year.

Unemployment rate averaged 9.01 percent from 1994 to 2013, reaching an all-time high of 13.90 percent in the first quarter of 2000 and a record low of 6.30 percent in the third quarter of 2007, according to figures from the National Statistics Office.

But the latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey on “joblessness rate” conducted from June 27 to 30 showed that the number of jobless Filipinos increased by 300,000, from 11.5 million in March this year.

And more jobseekers are less optimistic about finding a job. The survey showed that net optimism on job availability declined from +13 in March to +3 in June, the lowest level since May 2012.

The Manila Times reported that the survey results showed an unemployment rate of 25.9 percent, equivalent to an estimated 11.8 million adults. The figure was up from the 25.7 percent or 11.5 million recorded in the first quarter.

The SWS said adult joblessness has been above 20 percent since May 2005, although it hit 19.9 percent in March 2006, 17.5 percent in December 2007 and 18.9 percent in September 2010.

The highest unemployment rate ever reached since SWS started doing the survey 20 years ago was 34.2 percent in February 2009.

How can the government make an ordinary citizen appreciate reported expansions in the economy, or availability of more employment opportunities?

Doesn’t more employment mean higher tax takes for the government to improve the delivery of basic services? Or does it mean higher spending for salaries and maintenance of the offices of new government hires?

PSA attributed the faster economic growth than expected in the second quarter largely to the strong manufacturing sector that grew 7.8 percent, putting the country back on track to meeting state targets.

Just as ordinary commuters don’t feel improvements in the country’s economic indicators, Senator Poe did not actually see and feel the true state of the mass transport system.

Taking the LRT 1 line during the morning and afternoon rush hours is the real challenge.
Abigail Valte, the President’s deputy spokesperson, had promised to take the MRT challenge without media coverage or security escorts.

Former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal had done so even if he is no longer in government.  Former Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon had written in his blog about his experiences taking the MRT when he was still in government.

Let us see who else takes up the challenge to take the MRT/LRT during the rush hours after today’s Senate hearing on Senate Bill No. 2266, or the proposed National Transportation Safety Board Act that made Senator Poe decide to take the MRT ride challenge last Friday.

After taking up the MRT ride challenge, what’s next? Can we expect the MRT and LRT stations to be less muddied, the toilets to be less stinky, the ticket vending machines and escalators and elevators working?

As I had written in February, ticket vending machines in MRT stations are mostly inoperative.  TV monitors and clocks in most stations are not working. Using the comfort rooms is not at all comfortable because of broken or inexistent door locks, offensive smell, and soiled toilet bowls. It is worse today.

The mass transport system operators have miserably failed in its primary mission to “provide an adequate, regular and faster mode of transport service by operating a safe, efficient and reliable light rail transit system designed to meet the standards of service, quality and customer satisfaction.”


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  1. It is so annoying to read that politicians “have a first experience” riding public transportation. It should not be a news item but a routine part of their daily life. Unless they don’t take reporters and media assistants on the ride to publicized how close to the people they are, they will NOT be close to the people. This goes for the Philippines but also in many other parts of the world.

  2. Nancy got a first hand look at the MRT. The MRT is but one of the many government controlled sectors not being planned or run correctly. We need to have competent people running things and not political cronies. We need to prioritize what to do. Imagine if we had spent the money used to triple the pork fund on fixing the MRT. The MRT would be a fine mode of transportation. There are so many things that can be done. But the current prez would have to give up bribing and get rid of his incompetent firends.

  3. Helpful discussion. Thank you, Ms. Tita Valderama. You are more restrained than your “kabaro”, Kristina Stuart Santiago. Both of you are making the Manila Times Opinion pages the best among Philippine newspapers.