Two days ago, the Manila Standard reported the supposed P2 billion Tarlac road projects funded by the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program which first appeared in this blog. The news report confirmed funding for the road project, with Malacanang saying that there is nothing wrong if the President pours in P2 billion for public works in his home province. Malacanang seems to have forgotten that time when Arroyo was being criticized for funding so many projects in her home province of Pampanga.

In any case, we should look closer at the projects being funded by the so-called DAP. Some projects are either implemented because of patronage politics or because they provide an opportunity for corruption (or both). The DAP spending submitted by the DBM to the SC belies the government propaganda that the DAP was supposed to stimulate the economy and have a positive effect on growth.

In all their memos to the President, Abad and the DBM always claim that the proposed additional projects have been chosen based on three criteria:

a)      their multiplier impact on the economy and infrastructure development

b)      their beneficial effect on the poor

c)       their translation into disbursements

Against these criteria, let us now examine some of the uses of DAP based on an October 2011 memo to the President by the DBM.

The DAP was used by the Department of Agrarian Reform to pay P5.432 billion as landowner’s compensation. DAP’s beneficial effect and multiplier impact on the economy is achieved by paying landlords? How much do you think would go to compensating landlords that are political allies of the regime? Was DAP also used to compensate Luisita landlords?

The Department of Justice used P11 million through DAP for the operating requirements of 50 investigation agents and 15 state attorneys.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP) was given P1.819 billion through DAP as supplementary budget for unfunded GPH-CPLA peace pact livelihood projects, support for so-called peace and development communities of the MNLF, PAMANA communications plan, support for reintegration of CPP-NPA rebels, farm-to-market roads, health centers, multi-purpose halls, livelihood and agriculture production etc. So OPPAP now wants to play congressman with its own set of infrastructure and livelihood projects for the implementation of questionable peace deals?

The DPWH had P5.5 billion for “various infrastructure projects” usually upon the recommendation of politicians. To quote the DBM, “the requested amount shall provide for additional priority infrastructure projects of the DPWH which include road, bridges and flood control projects. Many of the identified projects are quick-disbursing projects below P40 million which will be implemented by the district offices nationwide”. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how corruption will take place in this set up.

There’s also the P6.5 billion “LGU support fund” also released through DAP which was justified as a buffer for the cut in the IRA share of LGU’s. The support fund was set up for “LGU’s requiring financial assistance to implement projects under a prescribed menu”. This definitely stinks like pork. LGU’s lining up to the DBM and DILG to get “financial assistance”? Good old-fashioned patronage politics.

There’s the P8.592 billion ARMM Transition and Investment Support Plan that covers “improvement of service delivery performance, creation of enabling environment for PPP towards equitable growth, improvement of public safety and security, cleansing the electoral system etc. This DAP allocation is supposed to be implemented by several agencies. The very description of the project raises a lot of questions on its legitimacy.

Still on the DILG, there is the P250 million Performance Challenge Fund that claims to be “People Powered Community Driven Development”, an empowerment fund that covers “various capacity building activities for the poor and participatory poverty action planning and budgeting projects in crafting local anti-poverty plans in the poorest municipalities. The project is jointly undertaken with the DSWD and NAPC. Pork, this time in the guise of poverty alleviation.

Residents of North Triangle in Quezon City should know that P11 billion was supposedly allotted for in-city housing for “20,000 informal settler families”, along with the construction of a Medium Rise Building in Camarin, Caloocan. We should find out the status of this housing project, especially in the aftermath of the very violent demolition of residents recently. Are they even aware that an MRB project is waiting for them in Caloocan?

To illustrate where congressional and presidential pork intersect, there is the DAP to cover PDAF projects, under the title “Various Other Local Projects”, worth a whopping P6.5 billion. This will be used to augment presumably existing projects already funded by PDAF. That DAP is used to augment graft-ridden PDAF projects shows how this program cannot be but part of the system of corruption.

It gets better for 2012.

In a memorandum to the President dated June 25, 2012, Abad  again sought authority to utilize government savings (DAP) for “big ticket projects” such as the “National Road Projects” in the President’s home province of Tarlac amounting to P2 billion.

Abad also recommended the use of DAP to fund the fraud-tainted Tulay ng Pangulo para sa Kaunlaran project which began under the Arroyo administration. Around P1.8 billion was recommended for this, where P500 million will be sourced from DAR. These bridges are supposed to help farmers, but may have ended up, like in the past, bridges to nowhere.

Abad sought authority to use pooled government savings to fund “urgent” and “critical” projects such as a P5 billion Tourism Road Infrastructure Project, and again the so-called “priority local projects” nationwide amounting to an additional P8.295 billion.

Some P1.6 billion meanwhile was supposed to be allotted for the “Capability Requirements for the Operations of the Philippine Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea”. How funding the Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea has a multiplier impact on the economy and a beneficial effect on the poor is not clear from the memo.

Clearly, in many cases, the DAP projects mentioned here do not fulfill the three criteria set by the DBM. Many of the projects do not really have a multiplier impact on the economy or have any beneficial effect on the poor, especially not when projects become wells of corruption. The submission by the DBM to the SC undermines governments own claims that the DAP was a necessary stimulus program. Billions went to infrastructure projects, including those already funded by the PDAF, raising concerns about corruption. Tigilan na ang panloloko sa taong-bayan. The only thing stimulated by the DAP was the appetite for corruption by government officials.

DAP is a tool for patronage politics — for influence over lawmakers and local officials– as well as an opportunity for greater corruption in the form of lump-sum allocations.

What is alarming is that while the Solicitor General says that DAP is no more, the authority invoked to create DAP still remains. Presidential pork still remains. Our work is far from over then.  ###

 

P.S.

 

From Ibon’s November 6, 2013 release:

The Aquino administration defends the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as, among other things, stimulating the economy in 2011 and creating momentum that continues until today. Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III in particular claimed that the DAP contributed 1.3 percentage points to growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in the fourth quarter of 2011. However this is an exaggerated interpretation of a misleading World Bank report.

  • ·         Pres. Aquino based his claim on the World Bank’s  March 2012 Philippines Quarterly Update which said that “the government’s DAP was partially successful and contributed 1.3 percentage points to GDP growth in [the fourth quarter of 2011]“.  The same report clarifies, although only in a footnote, that this  “1.3 percentage point” contribution actually refers to the contribution of total government consumption and public construction and not just of DAP-related spending.
  • ·         DAP-related spending was only a portion of total government spending in the fourth quarter of 2011. The Php61.4 billion in actual disbursements under DAP accounted for just 19.8% of Php309.7 billion in total government spending in the fourth quarter (Php309.7 billion) and just 5.4% of total government spending for the year (Php1,144.2 billion). Total spending is the sum of government final consumption expenditure (GFCE) and public construction in the national income accounts measured at current prices.
  • ·         The hype about the supposed contribution of DAP to growth is a selective use of statistics. GFCE actually grew slower at 6.4% in 2011 from 2010 compared to 10.6% growth in 2010 from 2009; public construction meanwhile contracted by 29.5% in 2011 after 8.1% growth in 2010. These are measured at current prices. Real GDP growth in 2011 of 3.9% was also a marked slowdown from 7.6% in 2010.
  • ·         The real contribution of DAP-related spending to economic growth is likely just one-fourth of a percentage point at most in the fourth quarter of 2011 and an even more negligible fraction for 2011 as a whole.

 

 

During last week’s SC oral arguments, the Solicitor General said that the Disbursement Acceleration Program no longer exists thus making the petitions before the court moot. The line was new insofar as we’ve never heard this from the President, during his televised defense of DAP or during media interviews. Of course it is a bit of a stretch to argue that the petitions should be thrown out because the DAP has been terminated as early as mid-2013. Constitutional issues remain.

More importantly, accountability issues remain. Look at how DAP was probably used in 2012 based on a memorandum from the Department of Budget and Management.

In a memorandum to the President dated June 25, 2012, DBM secretary Butch Abad sought authority to utilize government savings (DAP) for “big ticket projects” such as the “National Road Projects” in the President’s home province of Tarlac amounting to P2 billion. No other lucky province received such allotment for that year based on the memo. The project had prior approval by the President.

DBMs Abad also recommended the use of DAP to fund the fraud-tainted Tulay ng Pangulo para sa Kaunlaran project which began under the Arroyo administration. Around P1.8 billion was recommended for this, where P500 million will be sourced from DAR. The project had prior approval by the President.

Abad sought authority to use pooled government savings to fund “urgent” and “critical” projects such as a P5 billion Tourism Road Infrastructure Project, along with “priority local projects” nationwide amounting to an additional P8.295 billion. We suspect that these “priority local projects”, often considered priorities upon the recommendation of politicians, could be where the pork for lawmakers goes. At the time of the memo, the projects have not yet been approved by the President.

Some P1.6 billion meanwhile was supposed to be allotted for the “Capability Requirements for the Operations of the Philippine Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea”. Another P1 billion was allotted as a credit facility exclusively for agrarian reform beneficiaries, through the Land Bank in coordination with the Department of Agriculture. Both projects had prior approval of the President at the time the memo was submitted.

From the above, DAP has all the markings of presidential pork. It is a mechanism used to pool so-called “savings” then utilize these for “priority local projects” that are often upon the recommendation of the local and national politicians. Abad said that some 116 projects were funded through the DAP. All of these projects had presidential approval, he said.

One justice had asked Abad if the allegations of bribery during the Corona impeachment were true. Abad said there was no bribery and that the DAP funds did not go directly to the lawmakers.

Maybe. But isn’t that what the PDAF was all about? Those accused of corruption in the PDAF always say that they never touched the money; that they simply recommended projects and that implementation was done by government agencies. Yet everyone knows that in the course of implementation, the money does always end up with the politician. DAP is no different, especially when the budget secretary says politicians merely “recommend”.

DAP the stimulus mechanism may be “dead” according to the DBM, but the presidential authority used to pool “savings”, and utilize these for items not included in the General Appropriations Act, that’s a different matter altogether. The authority to utilize “savings” for the pet projects of politicians remains. That authority, if we are to believe the Solicitor General, is a valid exercise of presidential prerogative.

DAP’s not dead. And so is the corruption that comes with this serving of presidential pork.

  Revilla Roxas Aquino
 Did a meeting take place? “Inimbitahan ako ni DILG Secretary Mar Roxas sa kanilang bahay sa Cubao…Ipinatanggal niya ang kanyang plaka, pinaupo niya ako sa likuran at pagkatapos noon ay umalis na kami patungo sa Malacañang.” “Sa isyu naman ng pagpupulong nila ni Pangulong P-Noy, natural sa Pangulo na humarap sa matataas na opisyal ng bayan.” “I was just confirming reports that there were a lot of sectors exerting a lot of pressure on the senators during the trial.” 
What was the meeting about? “Aaminin ko sa inyo, ako ay nabigla dahil tila dinidiktahan ako ng Pangulo (kaugnay ng impeachment).” “Dati kaming magkasama ni Senator Bong sa Senado kaya nang iparating niya na mayroon siyang gustong i-take-up sa Pangulo kasama ang Cityhood ng Bacoor at ang kanyang pagiging Pangulo ng Partido Lakas, gumawa ako ng paraan para magkausap sila. “We were trying to lessen the pressure on all of them (senator-judges).
What happened during the meeting? “Habang nag-aalmusal kami ng pan de sal, kesong puti, itlog, hamon, tapa, sinangag, at mga prutas, bumangka si Secretary Mar tungkol sa mga dahilan kung bakit dapat ma-impeach si dating Chief Justice Corona. Bago kami magtapos, nagulat ako nang sinabi sa akin ng Presidente… “Pare, parang awa mo na, Ibalato mo na sa akin ito. Kailangan siya ma-impeach.” Sabay sunod naman ni Secretary Butch Abad, “Magtulungan tayo Senator.”   “What I was trying to do was basically ensure that they decide on the merits of the (impeachment) case rather than any other outside factor.”
Anything else you want to say? “Sya ang nag-imbita sa akin, si Boy Pick-up…Tamaan ng kidlat kung sino ang nagisinungaling.”
 
“Hindi solusyon sa problema niya ang paglilihis ng isyu, pagbaluktot sa katotohanan at panloloko ng tao.” So was it right for me to just step aside while all these sectors were really threatening, pressuring and doing things to our senators?” (Aquino also admits to meeting with other senators during this period.)

What is clear is that a meeting did take place. All three confirm this.

With the exception of Mar Roxas, both Revilla and Aquino admit that the agenda of the meeting was the impeachment trial. Mar says it is the cityhood of Bacoor and Revilla’s chairmanship of Lakas. No one believes Mar.

Aquino says he was merely trying to lessen the pressure on the senator-judges… by exerting presidential pressure on one of them. Amazing, right? The President believes people are actually stupid enough to believe this shiz.

In fact, when the President was asked who were these sectors purportedly exerting “a lot of pressure” on the senator-judges, he replied… “Do I have audiotapes? Do we have affidavits? I have none,” he said, except “intelligence reports.”

Ah ganun. 

What makes the meeting troubling is that there are indications that the President attempted to bribe Revilla. There is no clearer indication of this than the presence of Budget Secretary Butch Abad. Why did the president need Abad to be there? Because Abad is the chief architect of the Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP, that special fund considered part of the presidential pork that was believed to be used as reward money for the conviction of Corona, among others. “Magtulungan tayo,” says Abad. That’s like a talking to a guy with a sackful of money asking you to do something for him. What else could “magtulungan tayo” mean? If that’s not an attempt at bribery, I don’t know what is.

That’s an impeachable offense and once again raises questions about Aquino’s fitness to lead the nation. 

 

 

Sa Enero 21, nanawagan ang Bayan ng pagkilos sa harap ng Korte Suprema at sa iba pang mga lugar, laban sa pagtaas ng singil sa kuryente ng Meralco. Panawagan ito sa lahat ng galit sa pang-aabuso ng power industry at sa sabwatang Meralco-Aquino.

Magkaano muli ang itataas ng singil sa kuryente ng Meralco?

 

Sa orihinal na plano, isang one-time P3.44kWh increase ang balak nila. Kung kasama ang VAT, aabot ng P4.14/kWh ang itataas ng singil sa kuryente.

Dahil sa public pressure, at para i-preempt ang House hearing, ginawang staggered ng Meralco ang rate hike. Sumulat ito sa ERC. Spread over 3 months na lang daw ang increase. Sa unang buwan pinakamalaki, aabot ng P2.00/kWh

Inaprubahan ng ERC ang mungkahi ng Meralco na gawing staggered ang increase.

Hindi nagkaroon ng public hearing. Ayon sa Meralco at ERC, automatic pass-on ang increase na ito at hindi na kailangan pang dumaan sa public hearing. Mahalaga ang puntong ito sa usapin ng due process at interes ng mga konsyumer.

Ano ang ginawa ng mga tutol sa rate hike?

Naghain ng petition ang Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan at ACT Teachers partylist sa SC para hilingin ang TRO sa increase. Kasama sa demanda ang Meralco at ERC. Naghain din ng petisyon ang Nasecore.

Nag issue ng 60-day TRO ang SC kontra sa rate hike bago mag-Pasko. Ipinatigil ang koleksyon ng dagdag singil. PERO MARAMI NA ANG NAKABAYAD. Dapat isapubliko ng Meralco kung gaano na kalaki ang nasingil nito bago ipataw ang TRO at kung nasaan ang pera at kung kumikita ito ng interes.

 Ano ang nangyari sa kaso ng Meralco sa SC?

Pinarami pa ng SC ang sangkot. Kasama na ngayon ang mga generation companies, ang DOE, PEMC (spot market) etc. Nakatakda ang oral arguments sa January 21. Halos buong industriya na ang sangkot.

Bakit nga ba tumaas ang singil sa kuryente?

Tumaas ang GENERATION CHARGE ng Meralco. Ang generation ang pinakamalaking item sa ating electric bill. Ang generation rates, hindi tulad ng distribution, ay deregulated. Sa practice ay ginagawang automatic pass through ang mga increases dito. Ipinapasa ng Meralco ang mga increase sa generation rates direkta sa konsyumer nang hindi na dumadaan sa anumang hearing.

Ano ang dahilan ng pagtaas ng generation charge?

Sinasabing ang scheduled Malampaya shutdown ang naging isang salik sa pagtaas ng gen charge. Ang Malampaya ay dumaranas ng scheduled maintenance shut down kada 3 taon. Ibig sabihin ay predictable ito. Alam na mangyayari ito. Pwedeng paghandaan para mapunuan ang shortfall sa kuryente na ireresulta ng shutdown. 

Nagpasya ang Meralco na i-dispatch ang mga planta ng First Gas, na tatakbo gamit ang liquid fuel sa halip na natural gas. Mas mahal syempre ito nang doble sa natural gas. Nagresulta ito ng P1.04/kWh na increase.

Nangontrata din ang Meralco ng kuryente sa ilang mga gencos. Kumuha din ang Meralco ng 11.5% ng kuryente nito sa WESM. Pero labis na mataas ang presyuhan sa merkado dahil sa mga naganap na unscheduled shutdowns ng ilang planta.

Ang 11.5% na kinuha ng Meraco sa WESM ay nag-contribute ng 70% increase ng generation rates ng Meralco. Napakaliit ng share ng WESM sa kabuuang supply na kuryente ng Meralco pero ito ang nagtatakda ng presyo. Ito ang nagpapataas ng presyo. Yung P2.38/kWh sa kabuuang P4.14/kWh ang galing sa WESM!

Source of power
Contribution to increase
WESM P2.38/kWh
Gas Plants P1.04/kWh
Other plants P0.02/kWh

 

 

Source
Share in Meralco input
October 2013 price
November 2013 price
Total price increase
WESM 11.5% P13.74/kWh P33.22/kWh P19.48/kWh
Meralco IPP’s 41.9% P4.90/kWh P6.35/kWh P1.45/kWh
Meralco Power supply agreements 46.5% P4.44/kWh P5.27/kWh P0.83/kWh

 

Paano nangyari na ang 11.5% na kinuha ng Meralco sa WESM ang syang pinakamalaking bahagi ng rate hike? Paano nangyari na umabot sa P33.22/kWh ang average price ng WESM noong Nobyembre?

Nagkaroon ng mga unscheduled outages, nagresulta ito ng “tight supply”. Kailangang imbestigahan bakit sabay-sabay ang outage ng mga plantang ito. May pagsasamantala ba dahil alam nilang magkakaroon ng shortage sa supply bunga ng Malampaya shutdown? Kaya sinabayan nila ng sariling shutdown na magreresulta ng mas mataas ng presyo sa merkado?

Case Study Therma Mobile- Pag-aari ng Aboitiz

May kontrata ang Therma Mobile (diesel plant) na magsupply sa Meralco ng 0.6% ng power requirements nito. Ang presyo nito para sa Nobyembre, ayon sa kontrata, ay P8.65. Pero ayon sa records ng WESM, ang Therma Mobile ay nag-bid sa presyong P62/kWh nang ilang ulit noong Nobyembre at Disyembre. At ito ang humatak pataas ng presyo sa WESM. Ito ang nagpataas ng clearing price.

Paano nangyari na may bilateral contract sila sa Meralco pero nag-bid sila sa WESM ng napakataas?

Bilang may hawak ng supply contract, ang Meralco ang may kontrol sa bid ng Therma Mobile sa WESM. Ang Meralco ang nag-utos na mag-bid ang Therma Mobile ng P62/kWh sa WESM. Lumalabas na Meralco ang may kasalanan sa mataas ng presyo ng WESM dahil inutusan nya ang Therma Mobile na magbid ng mataas, gayong alam niyang hahatakin nito ang presyo pataas, bukod pa sa kumukuha din ng kuryente ang Meralco sa WESM (11.5% noong Nobyembre).

Nakinabang ba ang Meralco sa mataas na bid? Sasabihin ng Meralco at Therma Mobile na kapwa sila hindi nakinabang sa mataas na presyo sa WESM. Dahil na may kontrata na sila na P8.65/kWh, yun lang ang babayaran ng Meralco sa Therma, anuman ang kalabasan ang presyo sa WESM.

Yung ibang mga planta sa WESM ang nakinabang sa mataas na clearing price. Kaya dapat imbestighan, may iba pa bang planta ang Aboitiz na nakinabang sa mataas na clearing price during that time? May sosyo din ba ang Meralco sa iba pang generators sa panahong iyon? Sa mga plantang nag-shutdown, may iba pa ba silang plantang tumakbo na nakanibang sa mataas na clearing price?

Ang nakakainis dito, walang pakialam ang mga generators at maging ang Meralco sa itataas ng singil sa kuryente, dahil nga automatic pass-on naman ito sa consumer. Kahit pa umabot sa P62/kWh ang generation charge, ipapasa lang nila ito sa consumer. Oo nga pala, tinatayang P17 bilyon ang kita ng Meralco noong nakaraang 2013.

Ano naman ang ginagawa ng gobyerno?

Hindi inimebestigahan ang ERC ang posibleng abuso sa merkado. Inaprubahan ang staggered rate hike nang walang hearing. Hindi inimbestigahan ang kakaibang sirkunstansya ng increase sa WESM. Samantala, wala daw magic wand ang Palasyo para ipatigil ang mga rate hike.

Paano ba naman, makikinabang ang gobyerno sa P3.44/kWh increase dahil may dagdag pa itong 70 sentimos na VAT kada kWH. Ipagpalagay na ang Meralco ay nakakabenta ng 2.8 billion kWh sa isang buwan, ang kikitain ng gobyerno sa VAT sa rate hike ay aabot sa P1.96 bilyon sa isang buwan.

That’s P1.96 bilyon for not doing anything! Parang binigyan pa ng reward yung kainutilan ng gobyerno!

Ano ang magagawa ng mamamayan?

Ang problema ay nasa batas at sa klase ng industriya meron tayo. Privatized na ang halos buong industriya ng kuryente, mula generation, transmission at distribution. Tubo na ang gumagabay na prinsipyo dito. Ang patakarang automatic recovery o automatic pass-on ay nagtitiyak na tutubo ang mga pribadong negosyante sa kuryente, anuman ang sitwasyon o kundisyon. Nagagamit pa nga ito para pumasok sila sa mga kwestyunableng kontrata.

Kumabaga, mandato ng Meralco dapat na maghanap ng supply ng kuryente sa least cost o pinakamura. Pero paano nila gagawin ito kung may pribilehiyo sila ng automatic pass-on sa konsyumer, kung saan kahit gaano ka-mahal ang kuryente, ipapasa lang nila ito sa mga customer nila.

Noong ipinapasa pa lang ang EPIRA, nangako ang gobyerno na bababa ang singil sa kuryente dahil magiging mas efficient ang power sector at mawawala ang kurapsyon na matagal nang bumagabag sa Napocor. Fast-forward 10 years, dumoble ang presyo ng kuryente, at ang industriya ay kontrolado na ng iilang makapangyarihang negosyante. May WESM nga pero ito pa ang dahilan ng arbitraryong pagtaas ng singil sa kuryente.

EPIRA ang ugat ng problema. Ang  privatized at deregulated na industriya, kung saan walang accountability sa publiko ang mga pribadong negosyo, ang nagpapahirap sa mga konsyumer. Ang gobyernong walang pakialam sa kalagayan ng konsyumer ang nagpapanatili ng ganitong bulok sa sistema. Ito ang kailangang labanan at baguhin ng mamamayan. ###

Last December 12, as the country reeled from the effects of Yolanda, a massive power rate hike, and increases in the prices of LPG, the Department of Transportation and Communication decided to hold a “one-time” public consultation on the “proposed” MRT-LRT fare hike. The so-called consultation would be a venue for government to present the new fare matrix and the basis for the new fares. Or so we thought.

Bayan and other cause-oriented groups such as RILES Network, PISTON and Anakbayan had asked the DOTC for copies of documents related to the fare increase as early as June 24, 2013. A letter was sent to the Secretary of the DOTC. We received a reply dated July 2, 2013 which included some links to websites but did not include any of the documents that would explain the basis of the fare increase or the process by which the fares are determined.

Six months later, DOTC calls for a consultation and still we have not been provided with any documents. What the DOTC presented last December 12 was a 64-slide Powerpoint presentation. It was definitely not a proper public hearing.

What have we learned so far? Not much has changed with the proposed increase since it was first presented in 2011. The increase is still very significant as the maximum fares would double in some cases.

PROPOSED LRT 1 FARE MATRIX FOR STORED VALUE AND SINGLE JOURNEY

Stations SV Fare SV Fare  SJ FARE SJ FARE
Baclaran Baclaran 29 Bclrn 30
EDSA 12 29 15 30
Libertad 13 28 15 30
Gil Puyat 13 27 15 30
Vito Cruz 14 26 15 30
Quirino 15 25 15 30
Pedro Gil 16 24 20 30
UN Ave. 17 23 20 30
Central 18 22 20 30
Carriedo 19 22 20 30
D. Jose 19 21 20 30
Blumentrit 20 20 20 20
Tayuman 21 20 30 20
Bambang 21 19 30 20
Abad Santos 22 18 30 20
R. Papa 23 17 30 20
5th Avenue 24 16 30 20
Monumento 25 15 30 15
Balintawak 27 13 30 15
Roosevelt 29 Rsvlt 30 Rsvlt

The current maximum fare for LRT 1 is P20 for stored value tickets. Under the proposed scheme, the new maximum fare would be P29 for stored value and P30 for single journey tickets, a 50% increase from the current maximum fare. The LRTA says the average increase per commuter per trip, based on the average distance traveled, would be P4.70 per trip or P9.40 for a round trip. Single journey tickets will come in P15, P20 and P30 and will be significantly more expensive than the fares for stored value tickets.

PROPOSED LRT 2 FARE MATRIX

Stations SVFare SVFare SJFare SJFare
Recto Recto 24 Recto 25
Legarda 12 23 15 25
Pureza 14 22 15 25
V. Mapa 15 21 15 25
J. Ruiz 16 19 20 20
Gilmore 17 18 20 20
Betty-Go B 18 17 20 20
Cubao 19 15 20 15
Anonas 21 14 25 15
Katipunan 22 13 25 15
Santolan 24 Sntln 25 Sntln

For the LRT 2, the new maximum fare would be P24 for stored value tickets and P25 for single journey tickets, an increase of 66% from the current maximum fare of P15. Single journey tickets will come in P15, P20 and P25 values. The LRTA estimates that the average impact on commuters, given the average distance traveled, will be P5.60 per trip. That’s P11.20 increase if you go round trip. Those who have taken the LRT 2 know that most of its passengers are actually students studying in the university belt in Manila.

PROPOSED MRT 3 FARE MATRIX OF SV AND SJ TICKETS

Stations Fare Fare
North Avenue North Avenue 28
Quezon Avenue 13 28
Kamuning 13 24
Cubao 16 24
Santolan 16 24
Oritgas 20 20
Shaw 20 20
Boni 20 20
Guadalupe 24 16
Buendia 24 16
Ayala 24 13
Magallanes 28 13
Taft 28 Taft

The maximum fare of the MRT 3 will go up from P15 to P28 for single journey and stored value tickets. That’s an 87% increase from the current maximum fare. The minimum fare also goes up from P10 to P13. According to the DOTC, the average increase per passenger per trip of the new fare matrix, based on the average distance traveled, would be a whopping P7.92 per trip or P15.84 for a round trip. That’s nearly P16 increase for a round trip.

As we said, the increase is significant. Coming on the heels of increases in electricity rates, oil prices and premiums for SSS and Philhealth, and without any significant wage increase, the new fares will burn a hole in the pockets of commuters.

Let us now examine the basis for the increase. Is there a legitimate ground for such fares? How did the new fares come to be? What is the basis of the computations? How were the rates approved?

The DOTC justified the increase by saying that the government should be reducing its subsidy for the train lines and that commuters should be the ones paying for the real cost of transportation (users pay principle). It also said that the train fares need to be adjusted so that they would be closer to the fares of other land transport such as buses and AUV/FX. However, the DOTC failed to present any basis for their computations, other than the so called need to reduce government subsidy and the need to continue paying debts incurred in the construction of the train lines.

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Let’s first address the argument that the train fares need to approximate the fares of other land transport. This is obviously without basis, the comparison is between apples and oranges. Land transport such as buses and AUV/FX are being operated for private profits. The train lines receive subsidy and are considered part of government’s service. These train lines are the fastest and cheapest means of transportation to bring workers and employees to their workplaces and to bring students to their schools. It is government’s obligation to provide this kind of service for working people and students because in the end, the whole economy benefits.

As for the question of subsidy, government says that the actual fare for the MRT is P53.96 but that commuters only pay an average fare of P12.40 while government subsidizes P41.56. How and why the “actual fare” reached P53.96, they do not explain.

What they do say is that government has been subsidizing the MRT at about P6-7 billion a year and that this subsidy should be reduced. What they do not sufficiently explain is why the need for a P6-7 billion yearly subsidy. What is government subsidizing here?

Under the MRT’s Build Lease Transfer Agreement, the train line has financial obligations in the form of Equity Rental Payments and Administrative Costs amounting to P5.504 billion and Taxes, Duties and Fees amounting to P2.088 billion. These debts are the result of an onerous contract during the Ramos administration that guaranteed the profits of the private developers. For example, the private developers were given a 15% guaranteed return on investment even if the trains were filled or not. Such were the demands of the private developers before “investing” in this so-called public-private partnership venture. In fact the loans of these private developers were also guaranteed by the Philippine government.

If the government thinks the subsidy is too much, then it should stop honoring the patently disadvantageous BLT Agreement which is the source of the financial woes of the MRT. It is this debt which is being passed on to the commuters via the proposed fare hike. It is this debt which government wants us to shoulder.

As for the LRT 1 and 2, this is a slightly different situation. The people at the LRTA combined the financial standing of LRT 1 and 2 (amounting to P4 billion) to make it appear that both trains were bleeding financially and therefore an increase is necessary for both.

However, in this presentation in 2011, the LRTA showed that even without a fare increase, the LRT 1 would do just fine. It would still have an excess of P23 million at the end of the year. It is the LRT 2 which has a deficit.

It is not clear how much LRT 1 and 2 have respectively in terms of obligations. During the consultation, the LRTA admitted that it is LRT 2 which has the bigger debt. Based on the LRTA’s estimates, LRT 1 will have the bigger revenue from the fare hike at P621 million compared to LRT 2’s P321 million revenues. This is because LRT 1 has a bigger ridership than LRT 2.  By combining financial obligations and revenues of the two different train lines, the effect is that commuters of LRT 1 are also paying for the debts of LRT 2.

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Meanwhile, the MRT 3 hopes to generate an additional P1.122 billion in revenues from the fare hike. All in all, the fare hike from LRT 1 and 2 and MRT 3 will give the government P2.06 billion in additional revenues.

The additional revenues will be used to compensate for the subsidy reduction for the trains. When we asked the MRT officials how much would the subsidy reduction be under the 2014 budget, they said P200 million. So where will the P1.2 billion in additional MRT revenues go? They did not say.

Also noticeable from the presentation was the very low non-rail revenues of the LRT 1 and 2 and MRT3. The non-rail revenues are generated from advertising and development of commercial space in train stations and other facilities. The LRT 1 and 2 had a combined non-rail revenue of P227 million, or just 6.1% of total revenues. For MRT3, non-rail revenues comprise a measly P27 million or 1.2% of total revenues. In other countries, non-rail revenues comprise up to 20% of total revenues. This is indeed strange since so many malls and commercial establishments are connected to the LRT and MRT. The trains themselves are moving billboards. What we know in the case of MRT3 is that the revenues from ads and development of commercial space go not to the government but to a private corporation owned by the original developers. This is another result of the onerous contract between the government and the private developers.

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Many Filipinos seemed to welcome the arrival of US troops to aid in relief efforts for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, believed to be one of the strongest storms recorded in history. The devastation was just too extensive and the Philippine government was incompetent, disorganized and unprepared to meet the needs of the victims.

It was during the first 48 hours in the aftermath of the storm that US forces began establishing a presence in the Eastern Visayas region. In a matter of days, US air and naval assets were being moved from Japan to Tacloban City in Leyte. About 300 US forces were initially deployed. In the first week of the calamity, the US Department of Defense said it would ramp up its ground presence to 1,000 US troops. The USS George Washington also arrived from Hong Kong and was stationed off Samar Island. Some 8,000 US troops were reported to have been involved in the relief operations.

On November 15, newscaster Noli de Castro, a former Philippine vice president, said that US troops were the ones directing air traffic at the Tacloban airport.

The US has a long history with the Samar and Leyte islands. It was in this region that Filipinos fought American colonizers, resulting in the Balanggiga massacre of US troops in 1901. In retalitation for the massacre, Samar was declared a “howling wilderness” by US Gen. Jacob Smith, who ordered the killing every male over the age of 10 capable of bearing arms. The church bells taken by the US soldiers from the Balanggiga town still remain in American custody and are considered trophies of war. It was in Leyte where Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed with Philippine leaders as the US led the “liberation”of the Philippines from the Japanese colonizers, only to have the Philippine revert to being a US neo-colony saddled with two of the largest overseas US military bases.

The return to Leyte of the US soldiers has been hailed as some kind of “second coming” of MacArthur. Now US troops are helping bring relief goods and evacuating people from disaster-stricken areas. The US was said to be “liberating” the people from hunger and despair.

But behind the humanitarian rhetoric and military show of force is a disturbing agenda by the superpower that calls us its “special friend”. Some have in fact openly praised the US humanitarian efforts as a brilliant way of reestablishing US presence in the Philippines more than two decades after the dismantling of US bases. They have pointed out how the so-called US humanitarian mission came just at the right time, when the US and Philippine governments were negotiating increased US military access to Philippine facilities.

In an eye-opneing op-ed piece on USA Today, Jonah Blank said that “deploying military resources for disaster relief is a remarkably effective — and inexpensive — investment in the future.”

One of the largest such deployments in history, the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and other assets following the Asian tsunami of 2004, is estimated to have cost $857 million. That’s roughly the price of three days’ operations in Afghanistan last year,” Blanks said.

Like any investment, the US hopes to get some positive returns from its engagement in Eastern Visayas, as Blank explains.

The goodwill the tsunami relief brought the U.S. is incalculable. Nearly a decade later, the effort may rank as one of the most concrete reasons Southeast Asian nations trust the long-term U.S. commitment to a strategy of Asian rebalancing. The Obama administration recognizes the value of disaster relief. As the Pentagon attempts to shift more of its weight to the Asian Pacific region while balancing a shrinking budget, this could turn out to be one of the best decisions it could make,” Blank said.

Blank by the way describes himself as a “senior political scientist” for the conservative think-tank RAND Corporation which provides research for the US armed forces and is funded by the US government. He has also worked as a policy director for the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Jonathan Bogais of the University of Sydney also situates the US deployment in Eastern Visayas within the onging negotiations for greater US military access to the Philippines. He cites the rotational presence of US troops in Mindanao, the setting up of a US private defense contractor in Subic to service US warships, and the tensions between China and the Philippines as current issues related to the expanding US presence in the country.

In the midst of this humanitarian tragedy, Typhoon Haiyan has delivered the means for the US to show solidarity to its Pacific ally. It has also allowed the US to send a clear message to China that it has the muscle needed to intervene at short notice in the region to protect its national interest if it feels it necessary,” Bogais said.

It is clear that the national interest Bogias was refering to is not the Philippines’ own but rather the US’ strategic economic and security interests in Asia.

In another article entitled “Military’s aid operations help promote US interests”, Dan De Luce of the Agence France-Presse notes that “the rapid deployment of US naval ships, cargo planes, helicopters and troops to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan underscores America’s growing emphasis on disaster relief missions.These are seen as a strategic tool, allowing the United States to exert ‘soft power’ through means usually tied to ‘hard power’.”

“The US military’s relief efforts in the storm-ravaged Philippines will save lives, but also illustrate how humanitarian operations promote Washington’s interests in the Asia-Pacific,” the aritcle said.

That growing emphasis on disaster response is also evident during the annual Balikatan exercies between the US and the Philippines and has been used a justification for the permanent and continuing presence of the US military in the country under the Visiting Forces Agreement. In the course of these exercises, the US is able to project its military power in the region and asserts its role as a Pacific power.

“This (disaster response) is a classic example of why we need to be forward deployed and forward engaged, why we conduct theatre security cooperation, why we establish these relationships,” De Luce quotes a senior Marine Corps official.

“The speed with which US forces are able to respond to Typhoon Haiyan highlights the importance of the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises we carry out regularly in the Asia-Pacific,” de Luce quotes Pentagon spokesman George Little told a news conference Tuesday.

De Luce too notes that the US deployment in Eastern Visayas takes place during the negotiations for expanded US access to the Philippines’ bases and ports.

Finally, we have Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario to confirm our suspicions.

“What [we have seen] in Central Philippines as a result of this typhoon, and the assistance provided in terms of relief and rescue operation … demonstrates the need for this framework agreement that we are working out with the United States for increased rotational presence. It accentuates one of the main purposes of this framework, which is to make humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and response one of the major aspects of this agreement,” del Rosario told the media.

Del Rosario is practically begging the US military to reestablish permanent bases in the country. After all, the Philippines is visited by typhoons every year, apart from being part of the earthquake belt. Disasters are almost a certainty in this country.

From a negotiating standpoint, Del Rosario just showed the other side that we need them more than they need us. He just laid all his cards on the table and gave the US the upper hand.

Del Rosario also affirms a well-known fact, that the Aquino government does not have any long-term plans for disaster preparedness and would likely just wait for the next US aircraft carrier to bail us out in the event of another calamity. Disaster response, a basic function of the national government, is now dependent on a foreign army.

Now some would argue that philanthropy is philanthropy, whatever the motives are. Those C-130’s and Osprey’s still delivered relief to storm-ravaged communities, whatever geopolitical interests are at stake. Who could dispute the fact that typhoon victims were airlifted out of the province? Or that relief goods were air-dropped from US helicopters?

American activist and blogger David L. Swanson has this to say in reaction to the US deployment: “Good will is dependent on not dominating people militarily and economically — yet that seems to be exactly the goal (of the operations)”. He calls Blank’s earlier suggestions of using the relief operations to boost US presence in the Philippines as “taking advantage of the suffering Filipinos”.

As de Luce said in his AFP article, the US relief mission saved lives, but in the process promoted US geo-political interests. Military deployment is not always about humanitarian assistance. The primary objective of military deployment is war, or the preparation for war, which is what the US is undertaking through its rebalancing or pivot towards Asia. The US is pre-positioning troops and weapons in Asia not because it wants to help the next country that would be hit by a storm, but because it wants to strengthen its position as a global power, capable of imposing its will on other countries. 

With del Rosario’s latest statements, it now seems that the Philippines is close to concluding an agreement that would allow de facto US basing in Subic, Clark and other Philippine facilities. To make the proposal acceptable, the Aquino government will simply flash images of Haiyan and Tacloban. Never mind developing self-reliance and the capacity to prepare for future calamities. Never mind securing the people at the first instance, even before foreign assistance arrives. Never mind sovereignty.

Aquino merely has to invoke his government’s incompetence to justify its subservience. ###

 

Tacloban City, Leyte airport damaged by Yolanda

Photo by AP

In the aftermath of Yolanda/Haiyan’s devastation, many are now asking about the apparently slow pace of government’s response to the needs of the hundreds of thousands of storm victims, especially in Eastern Visayas. Just last November 11, Aquino went on national TV to appeal for understanding amid the apparent inadequacy of government’s efforts.

The November 11 speech is a far cry from the November 7 speech, delivered on the eve of Yolanda’s landfall, and apparently drafted to assure the nation that government was doing its job to prepare the people for the impact of the storm.

From his November 7 speech, we can get the following points.

1. The National Government was aware of the strength of the storm and its impact on the communities. Aquino said they were monitoring the threat (banta) of a storm surge where water levels can rise 5 to 6 meters in some areas. However, the National Government thru the NDRRMC, apparently left it to the LGU’s to interpret the information that was being given them, and to make plans according to their interpretation. Gawin na po natin ang ating magagawa habang hindi pa lumalapag si Yolanda. Uulitin ko po: Seryosong peligro ito, at maaaring mabawasan ang epekto kung gagamitin natin ang impormasyon upang maghanda,” Aquino said. The apparently decentralized and not-so-hands-on approach would later on prove to be problematic. In an interview by CNN, Tacloban Mayor Alfredo Romualdez said that “if authorities had given a different sort of warning before the storm, comparing it to a tsunami instead of merely calling it a typhoon, more people may have survived. We’ve done drills on tsunami. And we do (tsunami) drills, almost 80% of them really get out. Storm surge, they don’t understand,” Romualdez said.

2. The National Government said that it already prepositioned relief goods and that its air and naval assets were already on standby. Fully mission capable po ang tatlo nating C130 upang rumesponde sa nangangailangan. Naka-standby na rin po ang 32 na eroplano at helicopter ng ating Air Force. Nakapusisyon na po ang 20 barko mula sa ating Philippine Navy sa Cebu, Bicol, Cavite, at Zamboanga. Ang mga relief goods ay naka-preposition na rinsa karamihan ng mga apektado o maaaring maapektuhang lalawiganFive days after the storm hit the first coastal town in Eastern Samar, relief has not reached many of the devastated villages. Hunger is on the rise. PNP Chief Allan Purisima in one interview said that the prepositioned relief goods were also flooded and swept away, indicating that the government may have underestimated the impact of the storm.

3. After leaving it to the LGU’s and concerned people to interpret the information, the National Government seemed prepared to lay the blame on the people if there are many casualties. Marami na po tayong pinagdaanan sa taong ito; tulungan na po sana natin at huwag nang pahirapan ang ating mga Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils at kanilang mga personnel,” Aquino said.

 It should therefore come as no surprise that Aquino faulted the LGU’s a day after the storm hit, describing Tacloban as ill-prepared for the storm surge.

However, two days after the storm, it became clear it was the National Government who had not done enough. In the days after the first footage of the devastation were aired on national media, the National Government sought to highlight looting and downplay the number of the deaths, the acute shortage of supplies, widespread hunger and the inability of government to respond to the needs of many of the victims. And the promised aid contained in the President’s November 7 speech did not materialize.

Aquino went on air again to deliver a speech to the nation on November 11. He starts off with praising the National Government’s efforts and downplaying the impact of the storm on several provinces. Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa mga dalubhasa mula sa PAGASA, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Phivolcs, at DOST, na kumalap at nagbigay ng tama at detalyadong impormasyon na naging dahilan upang makapaghanda nang maayos ang ating mga kababayan. Ito ang nagbigay-daan para sa iniuulat na mababang casualty count mula sa ilang mga probinsyang dinaanan din ng bagyo, tulad ng Oriental at Occidental Mindoro, Negros Occidental, Palawan, Aklan, at Romblon, kung saan maagang nakapaghanda ang lokal na pamahalaan. How the president can still claim credit for lower casualties in some areas while there’s a mind-boggling number of deaths in other areas is truly unbelievable.  The president can use this statement to feel good about what he’s done, but the people are hardly convinced and their worries hardly assuaged.

Bagaman nakapagtala ng mababang casualty count sa maraming mga probinsyang dinaanan ni Yolanda, sa mga lugar naman na tila naembudo ang bagyong ito, talaga naman pong malaki ang pinsalang nasaksihan nati,” Aquino said. Not only is the statement a form of pampalubag-loob for the people, it also provides a way out for the national government. When the casualty figures are low, government claims credit and says it is due to the timely information they provided to the provinces. When casualty rates are high, government blames nature. But as Romualdez mentioned, there may be a disconnect between the information being provided and the capacity of the local government units to interpret such information.

As pointed out by the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, the National Government failed to prepare the nation for the storm surges brought about by Yolanda despite the available information. The national government could have laid down clear, unequivocal guidelines and enforced these guidelines rather than leave it to LGU’s on how they choose to interpret data. It is not enough that the President refer the people to websites on the eve of the storm (Para sa dagdag na kaalaman, pumunta po tayo sa mga website ng PAGASA, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, at ng Project NOAH upang makita kung gaano kaapektado ang inyong komunidad sa pagdating ng bagyo). It is not enough to say on national TV that his speech was the last warning (Magsilbi rin po sanang babala ang pahayag na ito sa ating mga LGU: Seryosong peligro po ang kinakaharap ng inyong mga nasasakupan).

In his November 11 speech, gone were the references to air and naval assets or the supposedly prepositioned relief goods. Aquino instead makes references to the distribution of family food packs, saying that as of that date, 24,000 packs have been distributed to 8 of the biggest baranggays in Tacloban City. Problem is, Tacloban has a population of more than 220,000. And there were many more people outside Tacloban who were reeling from hunger and sickness.

The mass movement in the Philippines and abroad is currently undertaking a massive relief campaign for Yolanda victims. Thousands of activists are being mobilized to raise funds, resources and distribute relief goods and supplies for victims. Private organizations have been helping in a huge way. However, these efforts do not change the fact that the primary responsibility for relief and rehabilitation still rests with the government. So as we do our share to help the victims, we must also continue to call on the Aquino administration to do its job and do it right.

The people of Eastern Visayas are now victims several times over. By the poverty from the unequal socio-economic relations, making the region the 3rd poorest in the country and number one when it comes to incidence of hunger even before the typhoon hit. By the corrupt politicians who looted public funds as seen from the pork barrel scam. And by super storm Yolanda and the slow and inadequate government response.

The news reports are becoming frustrating as the days go by. Everyone but the national government seems to know something is not right. CNN’s Anderson Cooper had this much to say of the situation.  “As to who’s in charge of the Philippine side of the whole operation, that is not really clear. I’m just surprised that on this day 5, maybe I’ve gotten here late, that things would be well in hand. It does not seem like that.”

Yolanda is to Aquino as Katrina was to Bush.  And at some point after things start to stabilize, there must be an audit of the government’s  preparation and response to the super storm.  As Cooper went on to say in his November 13 report,  “The people in Tacloban have great dignity and deserve better than what they have gotten.”###

Photo by Raul Banias