02 January 2015
The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) has found another reason to oppose the impending fare hike in the metro rail system upon learning that government obligations to subsidize the travel budget of public officials has been increasing by at least P1.5 billion every year since 2011.
Fares in the MRT/LRT systems shall increase by up to 87% beginning Sunday, January 4.
“Clearly, there is a tale of inequality in this issue. First, the fare hike, as admitted by Sec. Abaya himself, is meant not for service upgrade but mainly for debt payments to an onerous contract with a private concessionaire. Second, the budget cut is imposed against poor commuters while travel budget for public officials keeps on increasing,” said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.
According to Fortaleza, while Malacanang has uncaringly decided to remove the P7 to P10-B subsidy to millions of train riders, purportedly to re-channel the freed budget to other social services, it resourcefully kept on increasing the travel budget of public officials by at least P1.5-B every year.
He explained that based on the Summary of Obligations of the National Government, CY 2013-2014 posted at the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) website, travelling expenses in 2011 amounted to P7.8-B; P9.3-B in 2012 and P11.8-B in 2013.
Under the general provisions of the General Appropriations Act, Travelling Expenses is defined as payment of claims for reimbursement of travelling and related expenses incurred in the course of official travel by officials and employees of the government. They may include free air, land and sea travel, fuel subsidy, hotel accommodations, and even parking fees.
“Compared to a daily crushing ride at MRT, the billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money appropriated for travelling expenses provided safe and comfortable travel to our public officials, many of whom do not utilize the mass transport system,” said Fortaleza.
The labor group disclosed further that VIP’s in government shall enjoy a good amount of privileges from the more or less P15-B of travelling expenses allotted for 2015. They include the following:
Office of the President
Office of the Vice President 23,900,000
House of Representatives
The Supreme Court
Likewise the heads of government agencies enjoy big amounts of travel budgets this year.
Fortaleza cites, for instance, the Office of
Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya of the Department of Transportation and
Communications (DOTC), the agency that oversees the operations of the MRT and
LRT system enjoying a travel budget of P69.9 million or P192,000 a day.
Meanwhile the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), a small office under the Office of the President, is getting a 38% increase in travel budget amounting to P123,410,000 or P338,000 a day.
Travelling expense, according to PM, is a major part of the government’s maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and forms part of the many perks and privileges public officials enjoy in the performance of their duties and responsibilities.
“Workers cannot ask for the same privileges unless we ourselves run this government. It is absolutely just and fair, however, to demand better treatment amid the comfort and affluence of our rulers,” concluded
The group called on train riders to express their opposition to the fare hike in various forms such as official petitions, social media campaign, and direct actions.