Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bigger subsidy for VIP travel of public officials makes MRT/LRT fare hike unfair and unjust

14 August 2013

Public officials enjoy bigger travel subsidies compared to what poor commuters receive from the government, the labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) said in a statement.

The group revealed that public officials led by the Office of 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 at MRT and LRT trains.

According to PM, this great imbalance makes the proposed fare hike for the MRT and LRT system not only unfair but unjust.

In a position paper the group plans to submit to the government prior to the public consultations being organized by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), PM asserts that 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.

But President Aquino during his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) complained of the big subsidies taxpayers pay for MRT and LRT commuters.  He said the amount of subsidy in MRT line is P45 and in LRT lines P25.  To reduce this burden, he proposed that rates in the MRT/LRT systems are brought closer to the rates of air-conditioned buses. 

Two days later, a proposed P10 fare hike to be realized on a staggered basis was announced by DOTC.

Subsidy to commuters

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 former is also a monopoly and therefore enjoys a captive market compared with the latter,” said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.

Based on PM’s own computation, the actual subsidy every commuter receives every time he/she uses the system amounts to only P13 or merely a third of the amount presented by President.  The group arrived at this estimate by dividing the P6-B total subsidy with the total passenger traffic in the MRT and LRT systems.  Passenger traffic reached total average of 460 million rides in a year. 

According to reports, MRT-3 has 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 have 241 million combined in 2012.

Passenger Traffic

LRT Lines 1 & 2
241 -M
460 -M
Actual Subsidy/Passenger/Day                      =             Php13

“The fact that the P6-B 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,” asserted Fortaleza.

Travel subsidy for public officials

On the other side public officials enjoy a bigger amount which they prefer to call official privilege rather than subsidy.  Based on the 2012 General Appropriations Act, select government officials received the following amounts:



Amount Per Year
in Php

Amount Per Day
in Php
Office of the President
Office of the Vice President
House of Representatives
Supreme Court
DOTC Secretary

The government is subsidizing commuters by only P13 per day and the President expressed discomfort why all taxpayers including those from Visayas and Mindanao have to unfairly subsidize commuters in Metro Manila. 

But aren’t all taxpayers all over the Philippines subsidizing the non-economy travel of our public officials, too?  Based on the 2012 GAA, the President had a staggering amount of travel subsidy of P942,000 per day; P45,000 for the Vice President;  P854,000 for the 23 senators; P1.7 million for 278 congressmen; and at least P392,000 for the 15 justices of the Supreme Court. 

Even Secretary Joseph Abaya whose department oversee the MRT and LRT operations enjoyed a daily travel subsidy of P180,000 in 2012. 

Travel expenses for public officials reached at least P8.7-B in 2012. This is outside their allotted pork barrel which is close to P30-B for 2014, intelligence funds, representation allowances, and other perks.

“Perhaps comfort belongs only to public officials and not to the poor commuters,” lamented Fortaleza.

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