Interest groups led by the Stop TRAIN Network pushed through with their plans for “Black Friday” protests at key locations in Metro Manila, as they highlighted the need to keep prices down with most Filipinos facing more expenses with the opening of the new school year next week.
The main group, which opposes the extra taxes under the Duterte administration’s key Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion Act or TRAIN, simultaneously picketed at the Light Rail Transit station in Carriedo and public markets in Manila, Marikina and Quezon City starting 5 pm yesterday.
Stop TRAIN urged the people at those areas to join their one-million signature campaign to repeal the TRAIN Law. They had started gathering signatures outside of Metro Manila, from areas as far north as Cagayan Province, and through an online petition at Change.org.
“The TRAIN Law is a burden to the people, and then to the poor,” the protesters said.
Another cause-oriented group, the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, joined the protests and expressed alarm over the impact of the current 4.5-percent inflation rate—the country’s highest in the last five years—to the prices of school supplies and student meals after the implementation of TRAIN Law.
As the “Balik Eskwela 2018” approaches, Salinlahi said women and children—the most vulnerable sectors in society—shoulder the effects of Duterte’s TRAIN Law.
Public schools across the country are scheduled to open classes on June 4.
“The rising prices of commodities like food and now, school supplies will directly affect children. The usual P10 to P20 allowance of a pupil coming from a family with an average income of P512 a day will become almost useless because of TRAIN Law,” said Salinlahi secretary general Eule Rico Bonganay.
Bonganay warned that TRAIN might cause “price shock” among students who will return to school this year.
“Before, students can still afford to buy cupcakes and tetra-packed juice to survive a whole day of class. It might be a different scenario as they return to school this June. Their daily allowance might not even compensate the cost of transportation, as transport groups demand fare hikes due to soaring fuel costs,” he added.
If the government continue with the implementation of the TRAIN Law, the Salinlahi official said the rate of hunger and malnourishment among poor families will also increase.
Citing the Inter-Agency Regional Analyst Network and the Action Against Hunger, Bonganay said poor nutrition remains a major problem in the Philippines with 3.4 million children found to be stunted and over 300,000 underweight—all under five years old.
“At least one in every three Filipino children are malnourished. With the effects of TRAIN Law in basic commodities, this number is expected to rise in the coming months,” Bonganay added.
“Several researches also show the connection between malnutrition and poor academic performance. Who can expect them to do well in school while they can’t even eat three times a day?” he said.
Salinlahi called on Filipinos to participate in the ongoing petition signing to repeal TRAIN “and exert all efforts to repel Duterte’s burdensome tax reform law,” hopefully before the President gives his third State of the Nation Address in July.
“We also appeal to the public to join and organize creative events that shows the burdensome impact of the TRAIN Law, especially to children. Only in our unity we can win this fight against this anti-poor policy,” Bonganay said.
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