The thief who sneaked in the night

IT WAS, after all, no longer a big surprise. Before the Holidays, we were already conditioned by some brilliant government functionaries that an increase in expressway toll and taxi rates will be coming.

But they have not really talked about how they will cushion the impact until now. They were leaving it to Malacañang to handle possible “damage  control”   In fact, Ricky Carandang, the presidential communication  and development strategic planning office chief, just came out with a statement saying that Coordinating 0ffices were already coordinating with each other to find a  common solution to the problem. But that was after the increases were implemented.

Now, the President is reportedly going to meet with government officials to discuss ways of cushioning the impact of the recent toll increases to the public.

The planned meeting was supposed to take place today.

Carandang was even quoted as saying “we are taking steps to make sure that consumers don’t feel the pain too much.”

But if we want specifics, Carandang suggested that we should get it from Secretaries Cesar Purisima of Finance and Ping de Jesus of Transport and Communication.” Those two people are on top of it,” Carandang pointed out.

I’m just wondering why everyone was silent about it, knowing that the increases were inevitable, and it would trigger a crisis if not properly handled. Perhaps, they thought that while there will be some protests, it will eventually die down, as just what had happened in the past.

In the meantime, along the South Luzon expressway, or SLEX, requires Class 1 vehicles (cars and jeepneys) traveling from Alabang to Calamba to pay P76 while Class 2 vehicles (light trucks and small buses) will be charged P152, and Class 3 vehicles (trucks for the North Luzon expressway, or NLEX, an 11 per cent – or 2.38 per kilometer—adjustment had been implemented.

The government has also approved the increase in flag down rates of taxicabs from the current P30 to P40 effective January 15. an additional P1 per succeeding 250 meter would also be added from the current P0.50.

So do we still have to debate on whether or not 2011 is going to be a bright year for us?

Not my driver, who suddenly immediately exited to Dinalupihan from the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) from the Subic toll (which increased from P18 to P20), but he still had to pay P39. Otherwise, he said he we would have had to pay P150 for the over 80 kilometers, when we reached the Clark exit, which will lead us to the NLEX.

He said the widening of the national highway from Bataan to San Fernando, is almost complete.  “Mas mabuti na ho dito, mas makakatipid tayo. ‘highway robbery’ na po ‘yang expressway,” he remarked.

He was right. It was even a shorter route, if not really a comforatble one since trucks were dominating the entire stretch. Then we entered the San Fernando toll, which was cheaper than passing through the entire SCTEX and NLEX.

But I didn’t tell him that the road construction there was actually another controversial issue. The taxpayers have to pay billions of pesos, just for the concreting of the highway on orders of then President Gloria Arroyo who had to prioritize the bulk of infrastructure funds for her district at the expense of other areas which badly needed good roads. But that was expected already of Mrs. Arroyo, considering that after her term ended she refused to fade away, and built her own political turf in Central Luzon.

Now, it’s not only the cynics who will be ganging up on President Aquino. The toll rate hikes were ominous enough for some people to conclude that the situation will worsen before it gets better.

Is this one of the remedies they have in mind to make Mrs. Arroyo looked like she was a good benefactor after all?

It may not look like “highway robbery” since everything was done legally, but those who programmed the toll increases were like the thief who sneaked in during the night and got away with it. Joel Paredes


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