Friday, August 16, 2013

Labor challenge to VIPs in gov’t: If you can’t feel the pain, ride the poor man’s train

15 August 2013

If 91 per cent of members of the Swiss Parliament report to work by taking the tram, why can’t Philippine officials do the same, argued Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), one of the many groups opposing the proposed P10 increase in MRT and LRT rates.

“If you can’t feel the pain, ride the poor man’s train,” declared PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza while reacting to lawmakers’ defence that Presidential and public officials’ travel allowance is not comparable to commuters’ subsidy since the former serves a distinct need and upholds national interest.

The labor group, which earlier disclosed the allocations of hefty travel privileges to government VIPs compared to what millions of train commuters receive in travel subsidy, made the challenge so public officials  get a real sense on how lowly paid workers suffer punishing experience in using the mass transport system on a daily basis.

An online petition initiated by a certain Dinna Dayao made a similar challenge to public officials.  Also earlier, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle called on lawmakers involved in the pork barrel scam to walk around poor communities, and see how robbing the poor is akin to killing them.

Fortaleza argued that even with the subsidy, commuters pay P15 for every crushing train ride while comfortable travels of public officials are fully subsidized by taxpayers. 

“We pay for VIPs air travel.  And when they travel by land, they usually travel in big, luxurious cars that we gas up,” said Fortaleza.

While the poor man’s train, added Fortaleza, is witness to the economic plight of its regular riders, citing a previous study which came out in Roel Landingin’s article in Newsbreak, LRT, MRT fare hike: Will the poor pay more?”  In that article, the income profile of regular train riders was presented as shown in this table.


Income Profile of LRT/MRT Commuters

Monthly Income

% Share



Less than P8,000


P8,000 -- P10,000


P10,000 -- P15,000


P15,000 – P20,000


P20,000 – P30,000


More than P30,000




Source:  Mega Manila Public Transport Study, 2007


The study showed that 67.7 % of LRT and MRT riders earned monthly incomes of less than P10,000 or below the minimum wage and it was assumed that this was the reason why 70% of the riders use  single-journey tickets rather than stored-value cards that cost Php100. 

It also showed that even people without income, perhaps most of them students, utilize the train and they comprise 15% of the riders compared to only 1.4% of those whose monthly incomes are more than Php30,000.

The group said the study merely reflects the fact that Philippine growth is highly unequal, with the bigger share of the GDP cornered by richest families.  Half of the labor force live under vulnerable conditions while close to three million Filipinos is completely unemployed.  More than a third of employed persons are laborers and unskilled workers, therefore low-paid.  Poverty incidence remained at 28%. 

The party reminded President Aquino of his SONA pledge last July that Filipinos don’t have to wait for growth to trickle down. “Sagarin ang opurtunidad para sa lahat,” the President was quoted.

But PM insisted that in the absence of full and gainful employment in the country, the social policy must tip towards providing people with a universal system of social protection, a policy being pursued by no less than the United Nations (UN) and the International Labor Organization (ILO). 

“If the government cannot provide for free social services, the least it should do is to ensure that public services, including transportation, are accessible and affordable to everyone,” said Fortaleza.

The P10 fare hike, he added, is definitely a burden to minimum wage earners and lowly paid workers whose incomes cannot even meet half of daily family living wage estimated to be at least P1,000.00. 

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