By Erick A. Fabian
The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is on the warpath against critics of the LRT-1 PPP project, and they are not helping in quelling public suspicion by being defensive.
The PPP in itself is already controversial, because it threatens to diminish public services into profiteering enterprises by big business oligarchs, who all have their men carefully placed in strategic positions in the Aquino administration.
Rather than open up the records and show transparency, as befitting a public servant, DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya has played the ‘us-versus-them’ card.
“This is clearly an attempt to block progress. The project will give residents of Paranaque, Las Pinas, and Cavite convenient and affordable transportation to the metropolis. Those who cannot afford to live in the business districts and economic centers will be given access to jobs and educational opportunities. Intrigues shouldn’t prevail over the interest of the riding public,” said DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya.
The DOTC’s insistence that the bidding process for the Php65 Billion Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) Cavite Extension (Cavex) project was fully in accordance with law is moot.
Rather than demonize the protesting public by accusing critics, the DOTC should just come clean and expose the corruption within its ranks.
One way to arrive at solutions to problems besetting the country is to identify the actual causes of the problem.
Appealing to the public’s sympathy over a controversial bid is like asking for more of the public’s ire.
The Lica Group-Ayala Connection
Abaya even went further and addressed the mounting criticism from the media by saying, “We disagree with the assertion that this project does not need to be awarded yet. We cannot honestly say this to the riding public who have been waiting for this project for many years, those whose lives will be uplifted with the opportunities and quality of life that the project presents.”
The DOTC denies the allegation that Undersecretary Rene K. Limcaoco’s brother is an officer of the winning bidder.
Supposedly, there is no Jose Teodoro K. Limcaoco listed as a director, officer, or shareholder of AC Infrastructure or any other member company of the Light Rail Manila Consortium.
But one look at the Bloomberg listing of executives online would reveal that there WAS a Jose Teodoro K. Limcaoco who worked as an executive for the Ayala Corporation.
Whether the latter is still with Ayala Corporation on an official basis is not the point. That he is affiliated with them is already questionable in itself.
The consortium is composed of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation, which has a 55% interest, AC Infrastructure (an Ayala infra arm) with 35%, and Macquarie with 10%.
It should be noted that Undersecretary Rene K. Limcaoco and his brother’s family business is the Lica Business Group.
The group is involved in real estate projects via Lica Land, which is seeking expansion in the Metro and in surrounding provinces.
Lica Land malls are slowly sprouting near significant roadways, and it is a telling sign that the Limcaocos have vested interests in the LRT-1 PPP project.
Influencing the outcome of the LRT-1 project will mean potential benefits for the Lica Group, as it is vying to gain a seat among the ranks of the country’s corporate giants.
Same Old Circus
The country’s public transport system is turning into a playground by the same group of political and big business bullies who want to keep the pie to themselves.
The MRT-3 transactions in the past have practically remained under the control of Manny Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific group, despite government takeover.
In fact, the DOTC’s takeover of the light rail system has not really improved the worsening service of the MRT-3.
It is no different from flogging a dying horse to run, and squeezing the last billion pesos from a train system that has been plagued with controversies over the years.
Meanwhile, the commuting public suffers, and safety hazards due to below-standard maintenance is threatening the lives of commuters.
It is not hard to do the math on the millions that the DOTC is spending just to send out public rebuttals disguised as press releases to the media.
This is being done to distract us consumers from the intentions of politicians who want to cement the PPP program into public legislation.
The DOTC’s defensive front shows the public that the government agency has a lot of things to hide.
The corruption within its ranks is already brimming over, and people are already noticing it.
Yet, rather than be true to the ‘inclusive’ motto that the Aquino administration likes to throw around, the agency only manages to keep us all in the dark as to its machinations.
Government and big business in this country sleep in the same bed, and if suspicions by online journalists do come to pass, the ‘Cavite mafia’ that reportedly operates in the DOTC’s agencies are poised for a major power takeover.
As a variant of a common saying goes, nothing is so visible than what you want to hide.
By Erick A. Fabian
The installment of a fast, cost-effective, and convenient bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Metro Manila can be a significant solution to the traffic congestion in the metropolis. That is, if the government can implement it in a transparent manner, with full disclosure to the public sector.
Otherwise, even a well-intended plan will gather dust in the storerooms of the Department of Transportation and Communications if tainted by corruption, which the government agency has yet to cleanse itself of.
In a press release last July 2, the DOTC announced that one of its many modernization projects will be the creation of BRT systems.
One such project is now being implemented in Cebu, expected to be operational by 2017. The DOTC is confident that eventually, Metro Manila will also have its own BRT system in the future.
DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya admitted that the current bus system is inefficient due to the fact that there are no exclusive and integrated bus lanes. The current BRT system will have those lanes in place.
“Road space is a scarce resource. It is the responsibility of the state to manage this. It’s better to move Filipinos through intelligent buses than cars. The use of BRT requires a paradigm shift. We will bring the BRT to Metro Manila. It will soon be a reality in our neighborhood,” he says.
The BRT system is considered an innovative, high capacity, low-cost public form of transport that can efficiently improve urban mobility.
This permanent, integrated system uses buses or specialized vehicles on roadways or dedicated lanes to quickly and efficiently transport passengers to their destinations, while offering the flexibility to meet transit demand.
BRT systems can easily be customized to community needs and incorporate state-of-the-art, low-cost technologies that result in more passengers and less congestion.
“BRT systems around the world have been successful in mobilizing masses of people in dense urban settings, getting them to their destinations reliably through fixed schedules, efficiently through segregated lanes and priority passage, comfortably and safely through modern, well-equipped buses, and affordably through relatively lower capital costs and maintenance expenditures,” said Abaya.
“BRTs are game-changers. They are as effective as rail systems in terms of moving people around quickly and efficiently, but are much cheaper to build and are faster to develop. Since they will be granted as concessions, their riders will not be at the mercy of ‘colorum’ vehicles or transport strikes. They will be spared from unnecessary disruptions and unsafe traveling conditions,” Abaya noted.
The BRT concept started in Curitiba, Brazil in 1974, but the “BRT” name and the system’s popularity did not come until it was introduced in Bogota, Colombia in the year 2000. Currently, there are over two hundred BRT systems either operating or being built worldwide.
There are at least five generally-accepted components for a BRT system:
Modern buses with technical specifications designed precisely for the system, such as bus floors with the same height as station platforms as these would save time for boarding and alighting;
A segregated lane or “busway,” which only BRT buses my ply;
BRT stations at locations identified to be most suited for riders;
Continuously-operating services programmed to meet passenger demands; and Intelligent transport systems or information technologies which ensure the efficient operations of the system, such as automatic signaling which control traffic lights to ensure that the BRT buses are not impeded during trips.
The Country’s First
After obtaining the National Economic Development Authority’s approval last May to construct the country’s first BRT system in Cebu, the DOTC is now proposing a Manila BRT to serve the Quezon Circle-Manila City Hall route.
Both these projects are made possible due to a grant and technical expertise provided by the World Bank.
The DOTC is also considering other possible BRT locations in Metro Manila, with the supposed intention of providing commuters with a modern, safe, convenient, and efficient mass transit bus system which current transport schemes are unable to offer.
If implemented nationwide, and synchronized with the current RORO (roll on, roll off) system, we can expect improvements in public safety, faster travel time for commuters, less road accidents, and more possibilities for the manufacturing and agricultural sectors.
A Safer System
Since BRTs are designed to have their own separate lanes, just like light rail transit trains, road accidents can be expected to decline upon operation.
Most road accidents happen as a result of congested roads and highways, coupled with bad traffic management and undisciplined drivers.
BRTs will have stricter standards in selecting its drivers, and there will be stricter rules to follow so that the system can stay in operation.
Less congestion in our roads will result to better transport of people and goods, and less deterrents to communication systems and industries that rely on roads.
Foreign investors often balk at the idea of investing here because of the terrible state of our road infrastructure.
A simple but functional BRT system is a promising solution to the country’s problems in road maintenance, as only BRT buses will be allowed to use specific lanes, thus lessening the wearing down of public roads.
An efficient transport system is an assurance for investors that the moving of goods and services will be smooth and efficient.
Less Cars, More BRTs
Research after research has proven that too many cars in a crowded metropolis contribute immensely to pollution and global warming.
Global warming experts are advocating for cars that use alternative fuels, but the transition will take some time and development is still considered expensive.
An efficient BRT system will provide an alternative to using cars to get around the city. Since speed limits will be strictly imposed in this system, a reduction of greenhouse gas emission can be expected due to low fuel consumption.
This has been proven to be effective in currently-running BRT systems around the world. As BRT buses are made of newer technology, fuel efficiency can be achieved.
As soon as BRT systems become operational in Metro Manila, we can expect consequential improvements in our infrastructure, and in our economy as a whole.
The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has begun its operation of deploying two additional light rail vehicles (LRVs) which could serve the public an additional 2,364 riders per hour in an attempt to lighten overcrowding in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 system.
The DOTC says that the additional deployment started in the first week of June on orders of OIC Honorito Chaneco. The set-up resulted in “significantly” shorter queuing times, especially in congested stations, adding that street level lines have cleared as early as 8am.
Meanwhile, Chaneco said that the MRT commenced on implementing the skipping train scheme, where train cars bypass some stations and go directly to the more congested ones.
The DOTC also stated that from 2015 to 2017, 48 new coaches will be delivered to address the overcapacity of the MRT-3, adding that the train supplier was given 18 months to deliver its archetype unit for testing.
By Erick A. Fabian
Colorum bus companies operating in Metro Manila exist because several corrupt officials in the Department of Transportation and Communications and its agencies are in collaborating with illegal bus operators.
The operators are often relatives and associates of politicians with vested interests in the DOTC’s agencies.
Since 2013, several tragic bus accidents in the Metro and the provinces have shown that the DOTC’s respective agencies Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and Land Transportation Office (LTO) are not capable of stopping the unauthorized bus companies.
In a recent claim to aggressively rid the streets of colorum PUV operations, the DOTC and the two aforementioned transport agencies issued a Joint Administrative Order (JAO) No. 2014-01, that essentially charges Php1 Million on colorum bus operators for first offense, and successive amounts for offenders depending on the type of vehicle used in violation.
These fines will not prevent illegal bus operators from operating and continue in bribing government officials. They can easily afford a million pesos just to keep their dilapidated-but-repainted buses in the highways.
Former president and current Manila mayor Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada even revealed to the public that colorum bus operators can afford to pay Php150,000 per day (Php1,050,000 in a week) in bribes.
Mayor Estrada has proven that political will and a strict and systematic enforcement of laws are more effective in keeping colorum buses out of the national capital.
The million-peso fine is also suspect as it seems like disguised bribery. All that a colorum operator needs to do is to prepare the money and still continue with his operations like nothing happened.
It is a racketeering scheme in a sense that certain insiders in the LTFRB and LTO can benefit from the fine charges, unless a genuinely transparent system can be put in place.
The MMDA lost its spine the moment former chairman Bayani Fernando left it to successors that eventually led to Aquino apointee Francis Tolentino.
Like Erap, Fernando had the political will to address the colorum problem but had very little time left to fully engage it.
That Fernando also did not get the full support of the LTFRB in prosecuting colorum bus owners is quite telling. There are officials in the agency who treat colorum bus owners as untouchables.
The public secret is that the operators of these colorum buses are police generals, politicians, and oftentimes, the mistresses of both. Celebrities with government ties also own some of these unauthorized bus companies.
DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya has warned unauthorized operators that any colorum bus caught in violation will be impounded and blacklisted for PUV use in the future.
This kind of sanctioning is ineffective and superficial because colorum operators can always buy cheap discard buses from China, South Korea and Japan, as has been customary for certain bus operators in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces.
The vehicle can also be made to appear unregistered through skillful tampering of the chassis and engine, then repainted and registered under a different name.
Sources have attested that there are fixer syndicates working within the ranks of the LTO and LTFRB who specialize in such racketeering schemes.
What the DOTC should do is take away the bus franchise of the violators, and ban the operators and their close associates from running any kind of transport business for the sake of the lives that can be saved.
It makes one wonder why the LTFRB and LTO rarely penalize those who should be punished, whether they are not doing much because there are officials there colluding with colorum operators.
The Don Mariano bus accidents of the past few years should be indicator enough that the LTFRB and LTO are impotent in preventing major accidents from happening.
Journalist Raissa Robles has raised the issue of LTFRB not revealing to the public the names of colorum bus operators, other than a list of ‘Manila’s Most Dangerous Buses’ in 2011.
Is LTFRB trying to hide benefactors linked to the Aquino administration, officials who are related either by blood or affinity to colorum operators?
Reportedly, Melissa L. Lim and Dalmacio Lim Jr., both owners of canceled franchisee Don Mariano Transit Corporation, are listed as financial contributors in the 2013 campaign of two prominent lawmakers.
Critics have also noted that the LTFRB and LTO have given out an excessive number of franchises in the past, and that these were supposedly approved to favor campaign supporters.
Some Possible Solutions
Transportation expert Dr. Yves Boquet, a French national who worked in research with the UP Department of Geography, proposed solutions to the colorum problem based on his study of Asian cities entering modernization as they grow into metropolitan size, as in the case of Metro Manila.
One way is to plan the city to limit travel needs. Bus rapid transits, or roads and highways dedicated exclusively to authorized buses, can be constructed within proximity of major urban and commercial centers, and be connected to terminals and airports apart from the main roads. It will be operated similar to train stations.
Cebu is already making plans to create the country’s first BRT, expected to be fully operational in 2017.
Another is to strictly enforce the ‘no terminal policy’ on a nationwide level, as in the case of the City of Manila, where Estrada pushed for the banning of buses if they do not have a terminal within city proper.
Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno has also emphasized on the importance of having approved bus terminals in Manila, and bus operators are charged a fee to use them.
These terminals also function as safeguards against colorum bus operators, who will be easily exposed if they try to bribe their way into the ‘no colorum zone’.
By Erick A. Fabian
PNoy and his Liberal Party cohorts are moving forward in their plan to sell the Philippines, one train system at a time, to Chinese corporate interests.
Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Undersecretary Rene Limcauco is being used as bait for the Chinese train companies, most probably with his consent, in a deadly game being played by Liberal Party appointees and presidential cousin Jorge Licauco.
Limcauco was one of the speakers at the 2013 Asia Pacific Rail, a rail industry event of which the speakers and attendees are mostly from China’s rail industry.
The deals that were made within and after the conference came into play as the MRT-3 expansion plans were rolled out.
Usec Limcauco is co-chair of the Philippine National Railways and scion of the Limcaocos, owners of the Lica business group. His interest in the matter stems from his family’s intent to expand into the lucrative railway industry.
The Lica Group is known for its car dealerships, as a supplier of farming vehicles, and as a real estate developer.
It’s hard not to imagine that direct involvement with the MRT-3 operations will be of utmost profit for the group.
It’s a strategic move for expansion, and Chinese companies are scrambling for the kill.
News publications like South China Morning Post have given out the impression in its report last year that there is a billion-dollar gold rush in the Philippines.
Local transport systems are slowly being doled out by the Aquino administration via the DOTC to Chinese companies with close links to the government of China, as in the case of Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Company.
That President Benigno Aquino is being used as a spineless lackey for Liberal Party agenda is no secret. That he is a willing accomplice to their plans to squeeze and strangle the country’s economy dry of its lifeblood is nothing new either.
But what very few in mainstream media address is that PH Trams’ sudden appearance into the MRT-3 bidding scene looks like a trick orchestrated with deft hands by Aquino’s cohorts and their Liberal Party friends, so that they can keep the MRT -3 pie to themselves.
In Broad Daylight
It seems that very little effort was made by the incorporators of PH Trams to conceal the fact that it was made up of the same people who were either Liberal Party appointees or involved in the alleged Inekon extortion scandal.
It is very telling of how these people think of the public: they assume that the Filipino people are so used to being robbed that doing it outright would make not much of a difference.
This is an act of robbery because Filipino workers and commuters who rely on the train to get to work are not going to get the quality service that they deserve.
Public Safety, High Stakes
Our public safety is being played around in a game of high stakes that favors China’s plans for economic and political expansion in Southeast Asia.
The question still remains as to whether the trams to be supplied by Dalian Locomotive are safe enough to be used with the old Czech-supplied train technology.
The overcrowding in the stations might prove to add to the hazards, not to mention potential casualties should the Dalian trams fail.
PH Trams, despite its partnership with Comm Builders & Technology Corp., still has to create a track record, as it is barely a year old.
The CB & T partnership seemed like it was done as an afterthought, to provide credibility to PH Trams.
After all, the concerned public found it unbelievable that the bidding was awarded to a new company that does not even have a website as of this time.
The practice of government insiders creating a new company to compete in government biddings, under the guise of being a privately incorporated outfit, has long been considered de-rigeur despite being questionable.
Some do it to cut costs, others to make kickbacks.
It often happens when an agency wants public biddings to play out in their favor. Quality of service is often sacrificed in such as practice, and the recipients suffer.
But those things do not matter when those who intend to benefit from these transactions see the money coming into their bank accounts.
Former MRT-3 manager Al Vitangcol’s resignation and his uncle-in-law Arturo Soriano’s leaving from PH Trams sounded like it was scripted, both being part of the game played so that Aquino’s LP appointees can move in without much protest.
Chinese companies have been eyeing prospects in the Philippines and all over the ASEAN region since last year, and most of them involve transport and rail systems.
We should learn from history that those who control the trains, will control the country. The opening of the American ‘Wild West’ in the 19th century was done through robber barons who controlled railroads and trains.
The Aquino administration may end in 2016, but the Liberal Party’s people and system will then be well-established.
Even as the ASEAN starts opening up trade relations in 2015, investors in the region will find that China has already gained a foothold all over, and its political-economic influence is what they will have to deal with.
November 28, 2009 – Benigno Aquino III and Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II file for candidacy as President and Vice President.
June 30, 2010 – Atty. Pacquito Ochoa Jr., handler of Aquino’s legal affairs since his run for Congress in 1998, is chosen to be Aquino’s Presidential Executive Secretary. Atty. Ochoa’s father (former mayor of Pulilan, Bulacan) is a longtime close friend of Aquino. Ochoa is a partner in the Marcos-Ochoa-Serapio-Tan law firm (MOST), with Atty. Liza Araneta-Marcos, wife of Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. and cousin of Jose Miguel ‘Mike’ Araneta Arroyo, former presidential husband.
May 10, 2011 – May 13, 2011 – Political analysts and veteran government officials Ernesto Maceda (ex-Marcos executive secretary and former senator) and Albay Gov. Joey Salceda (ex-Arroyo chief of staff) predicted in an interview with ABS-CBN that a clash between the Ochoa and Roxas camps are inevitable. Maceda previously stated similar concerns in his Philppine Star column.
June 29, 2011 – In an interview with Newsbreak, Ochoa denies influencing Aquino in his appointment of Roxas as incoming DOTC chief rather than as supposed Chief Of Staff, as insinuated by Aquino in past press interviews.
June 30, 2011 – Despite public expectations that Mar Roxas will be appointed as Aquino’s Chief Of Staff, Roxas accepts Aquino’s offer to take on the then-recently vacated position of Secretary of Transportation and Communications, right after former DOTC head Ping De Jesus resigned.
August 31, 2012 – Aquino appoints Roxas as new DILG chief, and Cavite Rep. Joseph ‘Jun’ Abaya as new DOTC head.
September 3, 2012 – DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and Ochoa gave contradicting statements to the public on DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno’s exit. Roxas claimed that the President is giving Puno a different assignment, while Ochoa insisted that no such decision has been made by the President yet.
August 25, 2013 – Malacañang dismisses Brian Raymund Yamsuan, consultant to Ochoa, after being mentioned as the one who brokered the meeting between Napoles and the editors of Philippine Daily Inquirer.
September 10, 2013 – Ochoa denies link to Janet Lim-Napoles. His law firm MOST used to represent Napoles, as indicated by NBI affidavits with the MOST imprint in them.
November 4, 2013 – Palace denies rumors about infighting within the Aquino administration’s ranks. Mar Roxas and Pacquito Ochoa appear together in public, beside each other, during an awarding ceremony for the soldiers in the Zambo siege.
Nov. 6, 2013 – According to Francisco Tatad’s column in Manila Standard, “Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa was quoted in this paper as saying it was Roxas who had pushed Aquino to make that widely derided ‘I am no thief’ speech on television, which has now become the latest national calamity under the Aquino administration.”
-Compiled by Eric Fabian
- Snake Pit (opinyon2010.wordpress.com)
- Trouble at the top (manilastandardtoday.com)
- Aquino moves to stem skid in ratings (manilastandardtoday.com)
- Nancy Binay questions Mar Roxas’ housing program (rappler.com)
- Coloma tags MST report ‘speculative’ (manilastandardtoday.com)
- An irrelevant president (opinion.inquirer.net)
- Palace mum on Roxas-Romualdez tiff (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Roxas: ‘Yolanda’ relief efforts clear but need is as huge as a ‘swimming pool’ (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Get him out of there (opinion.inquirer.net)
- Roxas disputes Aquino’s ‘No Build Zone’ order (newsinfo.inquirer.net)