Huge businesses join pre-bidding for LRT-1 amid people’s opposition to planned sale

The RILES Network said Aquino actually has choices for solving the LRT-1 problems, without resorting to privatization.

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Why is the Aquino government selling the LRT-1 when it could subsist from its earnings, and the spare parts problem it is encountering are not that insurmountable? Why not solve this problem of spare parts by developing the local industry which could provide Filipinos more jobs? And, why is the government selling off the LRT-1 now, centralized under Mar Roxas’ DOTC, just when a midterm election is approaching? Will someone or some group get a cut from the sale?

These are just some of the questions raised by Riles Laan sa Sambayanan (RILES) Network as they picketed the Department of Transportation and Communications office in Quezon City this Wednesday to oppose Aquino’s LRT-1 privatization project. The first pre-bidding conference for LRT-1 was held Wednesday.

Those selected as pre-qualified to get their hands on the likely profitable LRT-1 include big names now controlling much of the country’s utilities and services. These bidders are: Light Rail Manila Consortium (controlled by Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and Ayala Corp.), SMC Infra Resources, Inc. (a subsidiary of San Miguel Corp.), DMCI Holdings, Inc. (the holding firm of the Consunji family) and the MTD-Samsung Consortium (led by Malaysia’s MTD Capital Bhd [33%] and South Korea’s Samsung C&T Corp.).


Members of RILES Network protest LRT-1 planned privatization in front of DOTC in Ortigas (Photo by Jhun Dantes / bulatlat.com)

These firms, or the groups/families behind it, are already the controlling operators of the largest telecommunication companies, electric distribution companies, water concessionaires, power plants and oil refineries, toll road and highway network, hospitals, ports, among others in the Philippines. All of it have noticeably jacked up prices of services since these previously publicly owned services and businesses were transferred to their hands.

For this reason, the Riles Laan sa Sambayanan (RILES) Network picketed the pre-qualification bidding at the Department of Transportation and Communications office in Quezon City Wednesday morning, to oppose LRT-1’s privatization. They warn that under private hands, the LRT-1 riding public will surely see their fares rising continuously, as with today’s prices of oil, phone, SMS and internet services, water and electricity rates.

No need, no reason to sell LRT-1 to private groups

The RILES Network said there is no need to privatize the LRT-1, as the train system manages on its own from its earnings and that it only needs government subsidy in certain projects such as railways construction.

In a program in front of the DOTC, members of the network, which include former employees of LRT-1 and consumers’ groups, reminded the government that providing mass transportation to the public is one of its responsibilities. Considering that the Filipinos are paying taxes for services such as mass transportation, the network warned it against reneging on its responsibility.

It also told the government that the LRT-1’s supposed main problem – the procurement of critical spare parts— does not justify transferring the train system to profit-driven private operators.

The network said Aquino actually has choices for solving the LRT-1 problems, without resorting to privatization. These include customizing the country’s Procurement Law for LRT-1.

In the long-term, the government could create or support factories that would manufacture the spare sparts needed by the train system and even its coaches, said Herman Tiu Laurel, RILES Network spokesperson.

Such a move, he added, can generate more jobs in the country.

As such, the group sees no point in privatizing the LRT-1, “except to allow the government to further renege on its responsibility to provide accessible transportation and let big corporations rake in huge profits. Privatizing the LRT-1 will surely be harmful, not beneficial, to the riding public,” said Laurel.


Consumers urge LRT-1 riders to oppose the train’s privatization (Photo by Jhun Dantes / bulatlat.com)

“We can see on a daily basis how the LRT-1 can be a profitable business because of the sheer volume of people who ride it,” Laurel said.

Questionable privatization, questionable processes

In their picket, the RILES Network demanded to know the government’s privatization contract for LRT-1. They fear that it contains sovereign guarantees, meaning the government will have to “spend the people’s money for the guaranteed profits of the winning bidder, on top of its profits,” Laurel said.

RILES Network also questioned why the bidding process for the LRT-1 is centralized into the DOTC, when the department’s attached agencies have their own charters for the project.

Surveying the country’s experiences with privatization, Laurel said corruption is the twin of privatization. With the looming privatization of LRT-1, “the centralization of privatization process into the DOTC puts its credibility into question,” he said.

“Who will earn from the process? Is the Aquino government raising money for the election through privatization?” Laurel asked.

The group vowed to intensify protests against the LRT-1’s privatization in the coming weeks. They expressed confidence the public will oppose the privatization scheme as the fare hike being proposed in the train system is meant to entice big corporations to bid for the train system’s ownership. ()

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