President’s rides not to sneeze at
‘Daily trips cost thousands more than train fare’
President Benigno Aquino III has no right to complain about the P25 subsidy in MRT and LRT fares because taxpayers subsidized his transportation by as much as P942,989 per day last year so he could travel safely, comfortably and in style, the Partido ng mga Manggagawa said Wednesday.
In a position paper submitted to the Transportation and Communications Department, the workers’ party said the Palace appropriated some P344 million for the President’s VIP ride last year.
Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, who heads the department, also had P65.88 million transportation allowance that cost taxpaers P180,495.89 a day.
Other VIPs also ride in style.
“The President was complaining about the P6-billion subsidy to millions of commuters in jam-packed trains while the entire country was also subsidizing the few VIPs, led by the President, a total of P8 billion,” said party spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.
“The difference only is that the VIPs call their rides ‘official privilege’ rather than a subsidy.
It is subsidy when it comes to the ordinary daily commuters and it irritates them so the subsidy had to be taken away,” Fortaleza said.
Travel expenses for public officials reached at least P8.7 billion in 2012, he said.
“Public officials enjoy bigger travel subsidies compared to what poor commuters receive from the government,” Fortaleza said.
Fortaleza revealed that public officials led by the President and his Cabinet, the Vice President, the members of Congress and the Judiciary, enjoy bigger allocations for VIP travel compared to the amount of subsidy enjoyed by millions of commuters for a “crushing ride” in MRT and LRT trains.
“This great imbalance makes the proposed fare hike for the MRT and LRT system not only unfair but unjust,” Fortaleza said.
The group’s position paper was in response to the public consultations being organized by the Transportation and Communications Department.
The workers group asserted that a state subsidy is not a bad thing if it is in pursuit of a social objective -- in this case, the general welfare of the commuting public.
During his fourth State of the Nation Address, the President complained of the big subsidies taxpayers pay for MRT and LRT commuters.
He said the amount of subsidy in the MRT line is P45 and in the LRT line P25.
To reduce this burden, he proposed that rates in the MRT/LRT systems be brought closer to the rates charged on air-conditioned buses.
Two days later, a proposed P10 fare hike to be realized on a staggered basis was announced, Fortaleza said.
The group, however, said the President’s presentation on subsidy was “erroneous” because he compared the cost of a train to a bus, which is a different utility and therefore cannot but used as a reference benchmark.
“Aside from advantages in terms of efficiency and economy of scale, the train is also a monopoly and therefore enjoys a captive market compared with the bus,” Fortaleza said.
Based on the workers party own computation, Fortaleza said the actual subsidy every commuter receives every time he uses the system amounts to only P13 or merely a third of the amount presented by the President.
Fortaleza said the group arrived at this estimate by dividing the P6-billion total subsidy by the total passenger traffic in the MRT and LRT systems. Passenger traffic reached total average of 460 million rides in a year, he said.
Citing official records, Fortaleza said MRT-3 had average daily rides of 520,000 to 600,000 or a total of 189.8 million to 219 million passenger rides in one year while LRT lines 1 and 2 had 241 million rides a year combined in 2012.
“The fact that the P6 billion subsidy at a rate of P13 per ride was enjoyed 460 million times by millions of poor commuters is not a bad thing. It was a productive expense,” Fortaleza said.
Fortaleza said the President was uncomfortable with the notion that taxpayers from Visayas and Mindanao were subsidizing commuters in Metro Manila.
“But aren’t all taxpayers all over the Philippines subsidizing the non-economy travel of our public officials, too?” he asked.
Based on the 2012 General Appropriations Act, Fortaleza said the President had a travel subsidy of P942,000 per day; the Vice President, P16.52 million or P45,000 per day; the 23 senators P311.69
million or P854,000 per day; the 278 congressmen, P618.26 million or P1.7 million per day; the 15 justices of the Supreme Court, at least P143.29 million or P392,000a day.
“Even Secretary Joseph Abaya whose department oversee the MRT and LRT operations enjoyed a daily travel subsidy of P180,000 in 2012,” he said.
“Perhaps comfort belongs only to public officials and not to the poor commuters,” Fortaleza said.
Also on Wednesday, a transport group criticized the Light Rail Transit Authority for acting both as regulator and operator in connection with the proposed fare increase.
Vigor Mendoza of the 1-United Transport Koalisyon, urged Abaya to order the LRTA to inhibit itself and let the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board decide the matter instead.
“I cannot see how LRTA can perform this dual function without comprising its impartiality, which is a critical element of due process.” With Rio N. Araja
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