A “transport crisis” is hanging over Metro Manila, where nearly 13-million people live, aggravated by the recent dilemma that stalled three of the capital’s railways, which carry hundreds of thousands of passengers daily.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr., said “we have a mass transport crisis” and urged the Senate to investigate the issues that confronted three of the railways in the metropolis.
“Technical issues” stopped the reopening of the LRT 2 on Monday, three days after management suspended its operations following a fire in one of its stretches, forcing yet again some 220,000 passengers to find alternative transport modes.
Authorities last weekend failed to “tune up” the power supply and telecommunication system struck by Thursday’s fire, said LRT Authority Spokesman lawyer Hernando Cabrera.
“Until today, there are remaining technical issues with our telecommunications system and our power supply system,” he told radio dzMM, in a broadcast heard nationwide.
Three stations of the LRT 2 may remain closed for nine months after a fire hit its power transformer Thursday, the same day that LRT 1 halted trips in two stations due to “mechanical issues.”
An MRT train, meanwhile, bogged down on Wednesday, forcing scores of passengers to walk on rail tracks.
Meanwhile, a leader of the House of Representatives appealed to his fellow legislators to support the measure proposing adjustments in the Motor Vehicle User Charge to guarantee enough funds for road repair and other infrastructure projects, following the Department of Finance’s formal support for his version (House Bill or HB 3006) of this proposed tax reform.
Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte, at a recent House ways and means committee hearing, said the MVUC should be used for what it was intended”•as a form of regulation to take into account the damage inflicted by vehicles on roads.
“I feel that the funds earmarked or income for the MVUC should purely go either to the DPWH [Department of Public Works and Highways] or the DOTr [Department of Transportation],” said Villafuerte, one of the authors of the bills seeking the MVUC rate increase.
According to estimates by the DOF, the proposed increase in the MVUC will yield an annual incremental revenue of P11.6 billion during the first year of implementation, P24.9 billion on the second year, and about P39.9 billion on the succeeding years.
Villafuerte said that while he strongly supported efforts to ensure enough funds for the UHC, he said these have already been addressed through several measures, such as the bills increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol products and e-cigarettes.
Villafuerte, deputy speaker for finance and representative of Camarines Sur, is one of the authors of the House-approved bill raising excise taxes on alcoholic beverages, heated tobacco products, and vapor products (vaping).
“I would like to emphasize we already passed measures to fund the Universal Health Care. I feel the funds [in the road tax bill] for the UHC, should really go either to the DPWH or DOTr,” Villafuerte said during a recent hearing of the House ways and means committee on the proposed MVUC rate increase.
Various proposals have been introduced in the House plan to raise MVUC fees, including allotting 50 percent of the proceeds for the universal health care program and exempting so-called “green vehicles” from the payment of MVUC.
However, in a letter to Albay Rep. Jose Ma. Salceda, who chairs the ways and means panel, the DOF expressed support for Villafuerte’s version, which seeks a uniform rate increase for all types of vehicles.
“The DOF fully supports the proposal espoused under HB 3006 as it embodies the DOF proposal on MVUC rate increase,” said DOF Secretary Carlos Dominguez III in his letter to Salceda.
The DOF and Villafuerte both propose a phased-in period of three years to increase MVUC rates for all vehicles”•ranging from an adjustment of P1.40 per kg of gross vehicle weight on year one, P1.95 on year two and P2.50 on year three.
“The proposal will also provide sufficient sources of fund for the infrastructure programs of the government,” said Dominguez.
The DOF supported Villafuerte’s proposal on a uniform rate for all types of vehicles in lieu of a proposal submitted to the committee to exempt “green” vehicles from payment of MVUC.
The DOF pointed out in the letter to Salceda that “green vehicles carry the same externality on roads, therefore users should pay the same charge for road maintenance and repair,” and that these vehicles “are already given preferential excise tax rate” under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law.
Villafuerte also expressed concern over giving more funds to the Department of Health, especially to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., where several fraudulent claims were exposed.
“I don’t think they [PhilHealth] deserve money at this point. They should first clean house before they ask for additional funds, especially from MVUC,” Villafuerte said.