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Youth groups gearing for repeat of 2010 protests, this time vs. fare and tuition hikes

January 11, 2011

Youth groups gearing for repeat of 2010 protests, this time vs. fare and tuition hikes

Hundreds of youth activists marched to Mendiola Bridge to condemn the recent series of transport fare hikes, calling them a ‘PPP’: patong-patong na pabigat sa mga Pilipino (accumulated burdens for Filipinos). They were led by youth groups Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students, (LFS), Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP), Karatula, College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), and the National Union of Students in the Philippines.

On the very first day of 2011, the Aquino administration announced increases in the toll fares of several expressways bridging Metro Manila and Central and Southern Luzon. This was almost immediately followed by increases in provincial bus fares, as well as the prices of vegetables in Metro Manila’s wet markets. Hikes in taxi fares, and the MRT and LRT train systems, were also approved shortly after. Transport groups have also petitioned for jeep and bus fare hikes in Metro Manila, citing the rising cost of fuel.

Anakbayan spokesperson Charisse Bañez criticized President Noynoy Aquino for “putting profit over the welfare of the Filipino people”.

“The various recent hikes have one thing in common: a private corporation making millions and even billions of pesos in profits at the expense of ordinary Filipinos, with the government remaining an indifferent spectator” said the youth leader.

She cited as an example the MRT fare hike: “The government subsidy to the MRT that will be ‘saved’ once fares go up won’t go to other social services, but to the private corporations who were promised certain levels of return in their investments to the MRT”. In the agreement with the companies that invested in the MRT, a 15% annual Return of Investment (ROI) was guaranteed by the previous administration.

Another example is the Oil Deregulation Law, which has been criticized through the years for allowing oil companies to overprice their products, but has remained untouched under Aquino.

“It is the government’s responsibility to shield the poor from ‘price shocks’. It is shameful that it is actually the government which is pushing for hikes in various transport fares and other basic goods and services” added Bañez.

She said “As Noynoy has made it clear in the past times that he has been asked about the ‘PPP’ (Private-Public Partnership), he will do anything to attract foreign investors, including the offering of the opportunity the ‘chance’ to squeeze millions of Filipinos dry”.

Meanwhile, CEGP national president Trina Federis expressed concern that the hikes would push many college students into dropping out, especially with the Commission and Higher Education refusing to implement a moratorium in tuition increases in private universities for the next school year.

She warned that should Aquino refuse to stop transportation fare and tuition hikes, “he will be treated to a ‘sequel’ of last year’s anti-budget cut protests”.

Last year, tens of thousands of students and out-of-school youths barricaded campuses and took to the streets to protest cuts in the 2011 education budget. Despite the denial of the Aquino administration of any budget cut, Congress ‘inserted’ an additional P200 million into the funds for State Universities & Colleges (SUCs).

The groups Anakbayan, LFS, SCMP, Karatula, CEGP, and NUSP were among the main organizers of the said series of protests.


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