Monday, January 5, 2015

Protesters vs MRT-LRT fare hike go full blast, to file TRO at Supreme Court today

Protest against the fare hike at LRT 1, LRT 2, and MRT 3, 5 January 2015. PARTIDO NG MANGGAGAWA FACEBOOK PAGE

MANILA - Protesters against the fare hike at the Metro Rail Transit and the Light Rail Transit train lines on Monday went full blast in their protest actions, including going to the Supreme Court to file a petition against the fare hike.

“Today we fight back,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), which is spearheading the protests, in a statement.

Protest actions are planned at various MRT stations. Partido Manggagawa (PM), Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) and Federation of Free Workers (FFW) will lead the protest at Pasay-Taft station, while Sentro and other members of the labor coalition Nagkaisa! will take the North Avenue (Trinoma) Station, and the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) will have its protest action at the Cubao Station.

Tagging the fare hike as “Aquino’s Great Train Robbery,” Bayan called on commuters and taxpayers to “resolutely oppose” the fare increases for the MRT3, and the LRT 1 and 2 train lines.

“These added burdens, treacherously announced and implemented during the holidays, are without legal basis and are patently anti-commuter. These increases merely serve the profit interests of the private stakeholders in the train system while justifying government’s abandonment of its responsibility to provide affordable and efficient mass transportation for the people,” Bayan said.

The multisectoral group said the 50% to 87% fare hike will take P2.1 billion from at least 1.3 million commuters who use the three train lines every day.

“Today and in the coming days, we will stage mass protest actions to air the people’s outrage over the unjust fare increases. Today, we file a petition for certiorari and prohibition before the Supreme Court seeking a stop to the fare hike,” it said.

A broad array of groups and individuals united to challenge the fare hike before the High Court and seek a temporary restraining order.

Petitioners include Bayan, represented by its secretary general Renato Reyes Jr., activist and former lawmaker Teodoro CasiƱo, former LRT Administration chief Melquiades A. Robles, Kilusang Mayo Uno chair Elmer C. Labog,

RILES Network spokesman Sammy T. Malunes, Courage chairman Ferdinand R. Gaite, Anakbayan chair Vencer Crisostomo, Alliance of Health Workers president Jossel I. Ebesate, Kadamay chair Gloria G. Arellano, businessman Herman Tiu Laurel, Myrleon E.Peralta,

SSS union president Amorsolo L. Competente, commuter advocate Elvira Y. Medina, commuters Maria Donna Grey Miranda and Angelo Villanueva Suarez of Tren, labor leaders Atty. Jose Sonny G. Matula of the FFW and David L. Diwa of National Labor Union, journalist James Bernard E. Relativo of TREN and Giovanni A. Tapang of Agham.

“The fare hike is without legal basis. The DOTC and its secretary cannot be the fare hike proponent, approving body, and implementor all at the same time. The fare hike cannot be valid without a proper public hearing where the proponents present all the bases for the fare hike and the public is given the opportunity to oppose it,” the group said.

The protesters said the fare hike only seeks to benefit the private stakeholders of the train system.

“It has nothing to do the improving the services of the trains. Congress already appropriated some P9.3 billion for the improvement and rehabilitation of the train system. Why increase fares when Congress has already allocated increased budget?” it said, quoting Senator Francis Escudero, head of the Senate finance committee.

The group explained that the fare increase is due to the privatization scheme being upheld and implemented by the Aquino government.

“The MRT 3’s Build-Lease-Transfer Agreement entered into under the Ramos government had guaranteed the private stakeholders of MRTC a 15% return on investment. This is where the bulk of government subsidy goes, to ensuring the profits of private companies,” the group said.

“It is the same case with LRT 1 whose operations have been privatized in favor of the Ayala Corporation and Metro Pacific. They are now entitled to collect and utilize the fares as a part of a P65 billion privatization deal. The LRT2 is also up for privatization and the same will apply,” it added.

The Aquino government has so far guaranteed the profits of a few while guaranteeing the misery of millions of low and middle-income commuters who depend on the train, it said. Aquino invokes the neo-liberal notion of “users-pay” where the public is forced to spend more while government cuts back on subsidy.

“It is time to stop this unjust fare hike dead on its tracks. It is time to put the brakes on the privatization of the train lines. We will not be run over by a callous and anti-commuter regime,” the group said. -

Sunday, January 4, 2015

4 reasons why workers oppose LRT, MRT fare hike - labor groups

MANILA - What are the four basic reasons why workers, who make up the bulk of LRT and MRT commuters, oppose the fare hike?

The labor coalition Nagkaisa! names these reasons as:

  • Fare hike is not meant for service upgrade but for debt payments to a private concessionaire.
  • Most of train riders belong to lowly-paid workers and cannot afford the increase.
  • Government is cutting MRT/LRT subsidy but hiking travel budget of public officials.
  • Fare hike is a move towards privatization.

In a joint statement, Nagkaisa! also asked LRT and MRT riders, who also include a majority of students, to express their opposition to the fare hike through:

  • Taking selfies or group pictures holding mini posters and posting them on their social media accounts with the hashtag, #MRTprotest
  • Joining online petitions addressed to the DOTC, Malacanang, and Congress
  • Seeking remedy from the courts
  • Joining scheduled mass actions

The Nagkaisa! coalition, which includes various labor groups, plans to hold various protect activities on Monday.

Members of Partido Manggagawa (PM), Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA), and Federation of Free Workers (FFW) will be leading the protest at the MRT Pasay-Taft station while the Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (Sentro), Public Sevices Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), PM and other members of Nagkaisa! are taking the MRT North Avenue station. The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) is taking the Cubao station.

Aside from the mass action, Nagkaisa! will be distributing leaflets explaining why commuters should oppose the fare hike.

‘First oppressive policy of 2015’

“The fare hike is the first oppressive policy of the year, the first assault by government on workers’ living condition. Workers were first to pay their taxes but they were also the first to carry the burden of budget cuts and other unjust policies by government,” said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.

He added: “Sa daang matuwid, manggagawa ang tinitipid (on the straight path, workers are shortchanged).”

For his part, PALEA President Gerry Rivera lamented that while fares in other modes of transportation, including airlines, are dropping significantly because of the sharp drop in oil prices, fares in the MRT and LRT are rising by as much as 87 percent.

SENTRO Secretary General and Nagkaisa! convenor Josua Mata said, “The true logic of removing the MRT subsidy is the government shifting to the role of shameless facilitator to the transfer of public money to private hands. In this particular case, the commuters are subsidizing the guaranteed returns of private investors.”

In a series of dialogues with the President, Nagkaisa! has called for a cost-effective and efficient mass transport system since the heavy traffic has been eating up a lot of the workers’ productive hours.

“The PNoy administration has not only failed to address the traffic mess, it is shamelessly adding a three-fold burden to workers who will have to shell out more for their own train fare and that of their children who go to school,” said Julius Cainglet of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW).

The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) proceeded with the implementation of the rate hike Sunday, amid oppositions from labor, commuter groups and legislators.

Hundreds of thousands of people use each of the metro lines every day.