“Profiting from the increasing burden of commuters is unethical, especially when the quality of service and level of safety of the system have actually gotten worse.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — The commuters’ group Riles Laan sa Sambayanan (RILES) Network, together with umbrella organization Bagong Alyansa Makabayan (BAYAN), filed a petition before the Supreme Court this afternoon, November 12, calling for the junking of the LRT 1 public-private partnership (PPP) agreement.
The concession agreement covers the privatization of the operation and maintenance of the existing 20.7 kilometers LRT Line 1, and the construction of some 11-kilometer extension of LRT from Baclaran, traversing the cities of Paranque and Las Piñas, and ending in Bacoor, Cavite.
The commuters’ group RILES Network cited as basis the use of public taxpayer funds to contribute to the profits of the private concessionaires and the displacement of LRT 1 employees as a result of these private concessionaries’ decisions. They said there had also been no public consultation.
“We are filing this petition on behalf of other thousands of daily LRT commuters as well as the Filipino taxpayers who will shoulder the ill effects of the contract for the next three decades. The contract is loaded with sovereign guarantees that are contrary to law and detrimental to the people. The Aquino government through the DOTC, negotiated a lopsided contract that will place us deep in debt,” the petitioners said.
Aside from the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) represented by its secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr., and RILES convenor Sammy Malunes, the petitioners in the case include Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, commuters group Train Riders Network (TREN), COURAGE chair Ferdinand Gaite, Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) employee Ma. Kristina Cassion and scientist group AGHAM represented by its secretary general Feny Cosico.
The filing of the petition followed the Senate hearing regarding corruption, mismanagement, and disconcerting safety issues surrounding the private concessionaires of the MRT-LRT. “All these problems are rooted in the public-private partnerships covering the LRT-1,” said Sammy Malunes, RILES spokesperson.
“The government should fulfill its responsibility to provide public transportation that is efficient and affordable. Profiting from the increasing burden of commuters is unethical, especially when the quality of service and level of safety of the system have actually gotten worse,” he said.
Despite previous promises that accompanied the PPP deal, there is still no indication of the better rail service promised by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Malunes pointed out. Recently, a system glitch even caused a delay that forced many to take other means of transportation. And, due to to errors, the newly-purchased trains have proved incompatible with the current rail system, he also said.
“Instead of solving problems, private concessionaires create them with irresponsible transportation planning and corruption. It is time for the government to bring us public transportation again,” RILES Network said in a statement.
Even Senator Grace Poe has publicly stated: “We deserve a better DOTC.”
Malunes expressed hope that Senator Poe will also support their SC petition.
The groups RILES Network and Bayan have long demanded for a better DOTC – “one that takes responsibility for the transit system rather than handing it to profiteers,” as RILES Network put it.
Before LRT’s privatization to Ayala-Pangilinan group, the LRT 1 was economically viable. Commuters’ groups ascribed it to responsible transportation planning, which they say could still expand LRT and help develop the rest of the national economy.
“Instead of purchasing incompatible trains abroad, the government should source from local inventors, and businesses,” it also suggested. It took note of recent Filipino inventions on train technology.
Inventor Jose Guardo Jr., chief maglev architect of the Hybrid Maglev Monorail Train, has proposed ways of solving traffic issues while keeping energy usage low.