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Dire Times Ahead: Poor Brace for Impact of Fare, Price Increases

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dire Times Ahead: Poor Brace for Impact of Fare, Price Increases


MANILA — The year 2011 started not with a bang but a lot of whimper – whimper, that is, from many Filipinos who complain about tough times ahead.

Much of the discontent so far is focused on the increasing cost of transportation. There’s the 300-percent increase in the toll fees for the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX); because many of the capital’s produce are sourced from the south, this inevitably raised as well the prices of certain goods, such as vegetables.
There’s the increase as well of the flag-down rates of taxis and the hike in the prices of basic commodities such as sugar and flour.

Then there’s the increase in MRT and LRT fares, which is eyed for implementation by March 1.

An analysis by the online newsmagazine Newsbreak shows that the MRT-lRT fare hikes will affect the poor most. It explains that the price of single-journey tickets will increase by 100% while the price of stored-value tickets increased by only 50%. Most rail commuters opt to buy single-journey tickets because, as Newsbreak points out, a stored-value ticket, which can be bought for P100, is out of their budget. But the publication finds that a single-journey ticket costs more per trip than a stored-value ticket.

The only thing that doesn’t increase, many minimum wage earners complain, is their salary, which in Metro Manila is pegged at P404 (less than $10) that barely covers the most basic necessities of a small family.
Shirley Pascua, 35, a housewife, thinks that the poor are getting poorer under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III. “He is proving to be a disappointment. The price of everything is going up,” she told Bulatlat.com.

Pascua’s husband is a taxi driver. She said what he makes is barely enough to make ends meet. They have two children; Adrian, 13, and Marielle, 12. “It’s a good thing my eldest is in a good school. If not for his scholarship, we will not be able to send him to a school like that,” Pascua said. Her youngest will also apply for the scholarship in the same high school.

A child in the slum community of Isla Puting Bato. Many like her are certain to suffer more as prices of basic commodities shoot up. (Photo by Ayi S. Muallam / bulatlat.com)
Her husband’s take-home pay is barely enough for their daily needs. “I just hope that none of us gets sick,” she said, noting a concern raised by many poor Filipinos.
Pascua thinks the P40 increase in the flag-down rate for taxis, to be implemented on Jan. 21, is useless. “The price of all basic commodities will surely shoot up. What’s the use of the increase in the flag-down rate?” she said. She worries that her family will face dire poverty the rest of the year.

Rowena Lopez, 34, is also a housewife with seven children. Her husband is a jeepney driver who earns P700 a day. She said the increase in prices of basic commodities affects their budget especially with seven mouths to feed. “We make do with what my husband earns,” she said..... MORE

Source:  Bulatlat.com

URL: http://bulatlat.com/main/2011/01/14/dire-times-ahead-poor-brace-for-impact-of-hikes-in-fare-prices/

Outrage by MRT-LRT Commuters Can Avert ‘Great Train Robbery,’ Groups Say

 Outrage by MRT-LRT Commuters Can Avert ‘Great Train Robbery,’ Groups Say


MANILA – There is hope that the proposed fare hikes of Manila’s two rail networks, MRT and LRT, can still be averted.

And all it takes is for the public, mostly poor Filipinos who would be affected, to register their opposition to the increases, said Sammy Malunes, spokesman of the Riles Network, an alliance of progressive peoples’ organizations that believe that “the railways should be for the people.”

In a protest action and petition signing held by Riles Network on Wednesday, Malunes told Bulatlat.com he is pegging his hope on the hundreds of thousands of largely low-income riding public who stand to be adversely affected by the proposed fare hike and who are, in fact, not only joining their petition against the fare hike but also articulating their protests in other ways.

A commuter signs the petition against the MRT fare hike during the Riles Network’s protest action at the MRT North Avenue Station on Wednesday. (Photo by Marya Salamat / bulatlat.com)
The government recently approved a “provisional” 50-percent to 100-percent hike in MRT and LRT fares, which will take effect on March 1. But as protests against the increases have spurred the formation of another consumers’ alliance vowing to hold more protest actions at the MRT and LRT stations, the transportation department said the “provisional” fare hike will still be tackled in public consultations.

“The Great Train Robbery”

Based on what the government has initially approved, starting March the MRT and LRT lines would be charging a boarding fee of P11.00. The government will also simplify the current fare matrix into three denominations of P15, P20 and P30, effectively hiking the fares by 50 percent to 100 percent. Four kilometers will now cost P15.00 while five to nine kilometers will cost P20.00. End-to-end trips may cost as much as P30.00 or twice the present fare.

“The increase is so huge  the DOTC should not implement it even on a provisional basis,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato M. Reyes Jr. in a statement. “They are doing this sans any public hearing, without any transparency and without any regard for public welfare.”

He added that an increase of this magnitude “will have far-reaching effects on the pockets of some 1.2 million combined LRT and MRT commuters.”.... MORE

Source:  Bulatlat.com

URL: http://bulatlat.com/main/2011/01/13/outrage-by-mrt-lrt-commuters-can-avert-great-train-robbery-groups-say/

Apart from ‘Shocking’ 300% Toll-Fee Hike, Philippines Has to Account for Dramatic Jump in SLEX Project Cost

Apart from ‘Shocking’ 300% Toll-Fee Hike, Philippines Has to Account for Dramatic Jump in SLEX Project Cost

MANILA — It’s not just the exorbitant toll-fee increase, it’s the project itself that’s anomalous.

Last January 7, anti-corruption advocate and lawyer Ernesto Francisco filed a formal request for investigation with the Office of the Ombudsman on the issue of the 300-percent toll hike at the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). According to Francisco, the South Luzon Toll Corp., which operates the expressway, is using the multibillion project cost for the expansion and improvement of the expressway as a reason for raising toll fees. The projected cost is the primary basis for the 300-percent toll hike.
Aquino Disappoints on Toll Hike but That’s Not a Surprise
“I see nothing wrong if President Aquino wants to honor the Philippine government’s commitments to foreign investors, but what about his commitments to the Filipino people?” lawyer Ernesto Francisco asks.
Read the full story Click here for more stories on the toll-fee increases
Francisco said that that the South Luzon Toll Corp., the SLEX investor Malaysian company MTD Capital Berhad and the Toll Regulatory Board, which allowed the toll-fee increase, should be compelled to explain why the project cost

ballooned to P12.5 billion from a much smaller P5.88 billion a few years ago. He said the massive increase should not have been allowed without a review by the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Commission on Audit.

The Toll Regulatory Board is the agency that regulates all toll roads in the Philippines. It was created via Presidential Decree No. 1112 or the Toll Operation Decree, and has regulatory authority over all toll facilities in the country. According to its charter, it is authorized to enter into contracts on behalf of the government, with qualified persons, natural or juridical, for the construction, operation and maintenance of toll facilities. It exercises jurisdiction over the toll facilities of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX); the SLEX,; the Manila-Cavite Expressway (Coastal Road);  the South Metro Manila Skyway (Skyway); the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (Star Tollway); and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX).

The South Luzon Expressway: Anti-poor imposition. (Photo by Mithril Cloud / skyscrapercity)

According to Francisco, the Office of the Ombudsman should immediately investigate whether or not the Toll Regulatory Board and the South Luzon Toll Corp. complied with the provisions of Letter of Instructions No. 579, which states that all plans and specifications for any proposed extension projects of the Manila North and/or Manila South Expressways be first subject to the review and approval of the the Department of Public Works and Highways before the Toll Regulatory Board decides to recommend or not to the president the construction of such a project..... MORE

Source:  Bulatlat.com

URL: http://bulatlat.com/main/2011/01/13/apart-from-%E2%80%98shocking%E2%80%99-300-toll-fee-hike-philippines-has-to-account-for-dramatic-jump-in-slex-project-cost/

Farmers Urge Noynoy to Reopen Mendiola Massacre Case

Farmers Urge Noynoy to Reopen Mendiola Massacre Case

MANILA — As the 24th anniversary of the infamous Mendiola Massacre nears, farmers led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas KMP) called on President Benigno S. Aquino III to bring justice and closure to the issue by reopening the investigation.

“President Aquino has yet to prove that he is no different from his predecessors. From the time he entered Malacanang he has yet to lay down any decree, ruling or program that will genuinely benefit Filipino farmers. His own mother former president Cory Aquino presided over a government that committed so many violations against the economic, political and human rights of farmers – none of us has forgotten the Mendiola Massacre, ” said KMP secretary-general Danilo Ramos.

“We challenge the 50-year-old president to re-open the Mendiola Massacre case and pursue a full-blown and independent probe. The murderers are still out there and worse, nobody from past administrations and even under Mr. Aquino’s administration dares to revive the investigation which we have been demanding since 1987.”

On Jan. 22, 1987, some 10,000 to 15,000 farmers marched from the agrarian reform office in Quezon City to Mendiola in Manila to remind the late former president Corazon C. Aquino to make good on her word to implement genuine agrarian reform. According to reports, anti-riot personnel under the command of then Capital Regional Command commander Gen. Ramon Montaño, Task Force Nazareno under the command of Col. Cesar Nazareno and police forces under the command of Western Police District (WPD) Chief Brig. Gen. Alfredo Lim had been prepared to block the protestors.

The phalanx of civil disturbance control units was comprised of policemen from the WPD, members of the Integrated National Police Field Force, members of the Philippine Marine Corps, and the Marine Civil Disturbance Control Battalion. Behind the line of these fully armed personnel were army trucks, water cannons, fire trucks and two Mobile Dispersal Teams prepared to launch tear gas.

As the farmers reached Claro M. Recto, the government forces attacked. In the melee, 13 farmers were killed, 39 were wounded by gunshots, and 20 suffered various injuries. Killed were Danilo Arjona, Evangelio, Leopoldo Alonzo, Angelito Guiterrez, Adelfa Aribe, Rodrigo Grampan, Dionisio Bautista, Bernabe Laquindanum, Roberto Caylo, Sonny Boy Perez, Vincent Campomanes, Roberto Yumul, and Ronilo Dumanico.

In the immediate aftermath of the massacre, the peace panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) withdrew from peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

Now, 24 years later, the KMP remains vigilant in demanding justice for the slain and punishment for the masterminds and perpetrators of the massacre.

Ramos, in a statement, called on Mrs. Aquino’s son, the incumbent president, to reopen the case and support the conduct of a full-blown and independent probe. The KMP has also issued the same call to former presidents Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when they were in power, but the call was met with silence. All these years, the group said, justice has been denied the victims, their families, and the rest of the protestors who could have been killed in the attack.

Flashback to Cory government’s Citizen’s Mendiola Commission

Back in 1987, Cory Aquino issued Administrative Order No. 1, which created a body to investigate the massacre. Called the Citizens’ Mendiola Commission, the body later absolved the security forces involved in the brutal attack that left so many dead. It was composed of retired Supreme Court Justice Vicente Abad Santos as chairman, retired Supreme Court Justice Jose Y. Feria as member and Antonio U. Miranda. Created on January 22, 1987, it was tasked to submit its findings no later than February 7, 1987..... MORE


URL: http://bulatlat.com/main/2011/01/14/farmers-urge-noynoy-to-reopen-mendiola-massacre-case/

2 extravagant peas in a pod EDITORIAL 01/15/2011

2 extravagant peas in a pod

Click to enlarge
Gloria Arroyo and a big number of congressmen accompanying her on her trip to New York who dined at the posh Le Cirque a little over a year ago, received a severe bashing — mainly from the Yellows who were keeping tabs on Cory Aquino’s last days — with accusations of Gloria’s extravagance, luxurious living and insensitivity amid the poverty gripping the Filipinos.

The dinners didn’t even amount to P4.5 million that Noynoy Aquino splashed on a German sportscar, a Porsche, also in the face of growing poverty and hunger among Filipinos; the flood-stricken victims who have been displaced, with some 40 persons already declared dead; high gasoline prices, higher light rail transit fares and overall higher prices for goods and services. Yet the Yellows aren’t into flailing Noynoy for his extravagance and his gross insensitivity. Talk about double standards they always engage in, when it is their anointed who does just what Gloria did..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110115com1.html

Failed coup FRONTLINE Ninez Cacho-Olivares 01/15/2011

Failed coup

Ninez Cacho-Olivares
If there was such a coup plot to unseat Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, that coup bid is dead for now, as media had already bared the claimed coup plot, albeit without anyone confirming it.

But this doesn’t mean that a group or groups will stop plotting a coup against whoever sits as Senate president — because mostly, what a successful coup means is that those who are not in top official Senate slots, as well as their not being given the chairmanships they want, there will always be plots after plot, no matter the equal treatment of a leader to senators belonging to the majority and minority.

At this time, with only a few Liberal Party members in Senate, and very few Nacionalista Party members as well as some members of the Arroyo administration party, it would be very dificult to get the requisite number in getting the Senate leadership.

This, incidentally, was what drove various party members to rally round Enrile and retain him as their Senate president..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110115com2.html

Haiti’s lost generation stares into abyss focus 01/15/2011

Haiti’s lost generation stares into abyss


PORT-AU-PRINCE — Like most teenagers, Pierre-Noel has a lot of dreams. As a Haitian, his future looks like a nightmare.

One minute he wants to work in a bank. The next to play with David Beckham in the LA Galaxy soccer team. Or become a head coach.

“People in America should know about me,” the starry-eyed 15-year-old says.

A waft of raw sewage through the Port-au-Prince tent camp where he’s lived since last year’s earthquake brings him back to earth.

“I don’t like this place,” he says sadly..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110115com3.html

Angie Reyes may face plunder probe By Charlie V. Manalo, Gerry Baldo and Benjamin B. Pulta 01/15/2011


Angie Reyes may face plunder probe

By Charlie V. Manalo, Gerry Baldo and Benjamin B. Pulta 01/15/2011

With suspicions that former Armed Forces Chief of Staff turned Arroyo’s Defense Secretary Angelo “Angie” Reyes that he is one of the top ranking Department of Defense (DND) officials who may have been involved and may have been directly behind the multimillion-peso raid on the military coffers for which the AFP comptroller, retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, has been charged with plunder, a congressman yesterday demanded the inclusion of Reyes in the plunder charges, even as he called on Garcia to turn state witness and spill the beans on his former boss.

At the same time, however, it has been suspected that Garcia was able to obtain a plea bargain deal with the prosecutors from the Ombudsman’s office due to his alleged threat to squeal on his superiors if he is made to rot in jail, but if his plea bargain is finally approved by the Sandiganbayan with a conviction of a lesser charges of direct bribery and money laundering, there is little possibility that Garcia will keep his trap shut..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20110115hed1.html

Enrile unfazed by coup rumors, ready to go ‘if they have the numbers’ By Angie M. Rosales and Aytch S. de la Cruz 01/15/2011

Enrile unfazed by coup rumors, ready to go ‘if they have the numbers’

By Angie M. Rosales and Aytch S. de la Cruz 01/15/2011

Whether Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile will keep his position as Senate president when Congress reopens sessions on Monday remains uncertain, although talk of a brewing coup had been denied by some colleagues, including the senator who was supposed to replace him.

Enrile, however, yesterday stressed that he is not about to take counter measures to crush the alleged plot to unseat him, saying he will turn over the position “in a silver platter” if they have the numbers.

“If they can tell me today that they have the numbers, I will give them my signed consent,” Enrile told reporters in an interview.

“I’m not making any challenge. It’s up to anyone. They are free to campaign, to gather together and put up a bloc of 13. I’m not, I will not, I shall not, (make any counter move),” the Senate chief emphasized..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20110115hed2.html

Solon: Binay could be the first casualty in Roxas’ appointment By Gerry Baldo 01/15/2011

Solon: Binay could be the first casualty in Roxas’ appointment

By Gerry Baldo 01/15/2011

The impending appointment of Liberal Party (LP) president and defeated vice presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas in the Aquino government could adversely affect the working relationship between President Aquino and Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay.

Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong yesterday speculated that Binay could well become the first casualty in the Aquino government once Roxas takes on his post as the chief government “troubleshooter.”

“Of course, somehow this (Roxas appointment) may affect the working relationship between Binay and Aquino. However, this is a matter within the discretion of the President,” said Datumanong who was the Justice Secretary during the time of former President Arroyo.

He is currently a member of the House minority bloc..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20110115hed3.html

SC dares Vizconde to prove claims vs Justice Carpio By Benjamin B. Pulta 01/15/2011

SC dares Vizconde to prove claims vs Justice Carpio

By Benjamin B. Pulta 01/15/2011
An official of the Supreme Court (SC) has challenged the camp of Lauro Vizconde to prove its claim that Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio convinced his fellow justices to acquit Hubert Webb and six others previously convicted for the 1991 massacre of his family in Parañaque City.

“If they (Vizconze camp) don’t have any evidence and all will be just hearsay, then I think it’s their responsibility to keep quiet first until they have substantial evidence to prove their allegations,” SC spokesman and court administrator Jose Midas Marquez told reporters at a press conference.

“File it. They always say that. They better come up with evidence,” he added, reacting to a reported statement of the camp of Vizconde that it is planning to file an impeachment complaint against the magistrate for alleged “betrayal of public trustand graft and corruption” after meeting three members of the judiciary “privy to the alleged efforts of Carpio..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20110115hed5.html

Gov’t, MILF to resume formal talks next month 01/15/2011

Gov’t, MILF to resume formal talks next month

Formal peace negotiations are in the offing between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front starting Feb. 9, GRP-MILF peace panel chairman Marvic Leonen said yesterday after holding an informal meeting with members of the MILF panel in Kuala Lumpur last Thursday.

Both Leonen and Peace Process Adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles considered the meeting as fruitful since it has allowed both parties to come up with a consensus on various administrative issues that ultimately paved the way for the formal resumption of the peace talks.

“We agreed to resume the negotiations with exploratory talks on Feb. 9 and 10 in Kuala Lumpur, each side bringing in their personal panel. We agreed to positively act on the extension of the mandate of the International Monitoring Team which is part of the ceasefire mechanism of both government and the MILF and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group,” Leonen told a news conference in Malacañang..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20110115hed6.html

$7.5 million compensation to Marcos’ victims 01/15/2011


$7.5 million compensation to Marcos’ victims

Malacanang yesterday considered as a breakthrough the recent United States federal court’s approval of the compensation to human rights violation victims under the Marcos regime which was reportedly amounting to $7.5 million.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told reporters that this is certainly a welcome development for the Aquino administration and the government is currently looking into it to see how it can go about this matter..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20110115nat8.html

FASAP slams PAL for retiring 8 flight attendants By Mina Diaz 01/15/2011

FASAP slams PAL for retiring 8 flight attendants

By Mina Diaz 01/15/2011
Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP) president Bob Aduiza denounced the Philippine Airlines (PAL) management for retiring eight female flight attendants despite an order from the labor department raising the retirement age of all PAL flight attendants to 60 years old.

He said the PAL management’s move to retire its female flight attendants at 55 years old is an utter disregard toward Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz’ s recent order.

“This is an affront not only to FASAP but also in utter disregard toward Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz’s recent ruling” Anduiza said in a statement..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20110115nat1.html

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