When Mr. Estrada rode through the palace carried by a popular vote unheard of in our era, and surpassed only by Mr. Aquino, it began a decade that shifted towards populist policies. Populism never really took a backseat when the economist, Mrs. Arroyo took office. In fact, she used populist policies to help her maintain power through turbulent years.
The MRT for example is subsidized by the government. Now, unprepared to face the stark economic reality, our nation finds itself that projects entered into by the government can no longer be subsidized by the government.
It is easy enough to see the plight of the poor. Fare increase will without doubt reduce their already scant purchasing power. It isn’t like the poor have savings to speak of. They live from pay check to pay check.
There are two things people will do: scale back, or find more lucrative work. The latter difficult to find in the best of days, so all people will do is scale back.
Those who can’t afford the expense of the light rail will take other means of public transport.
The Jeepney drivers association should love this, right? They get more people riding.
It is the natural inclination of people in the Philippines to get the cheapest, and not the best. And enacting such subsidies only reinforced the notion. The problem of course stems from the very populist policies enacted in the first place. Someone always pays.
You can look at it this way. A subsidized MRT/LRT meant that even the taxpayer from Davao is paying for person riding on the LRT/MRT. Are patrons of the MRT/LRT entitled? An unsubsidized one now means that only the person who is actually using the service is paying for it.
There is… an alternative.
Some of the people who are pro-Charter Change have mentioned they are also Federalists. They are in favor of decentralization. There is already some level of autonomy granted to Local Governments, under the present Constitution. The National Capital Region accounts for nearly 40 percent of the economic activity in the Philippines. Perhaps, a portion of the tax revenue generated by Metro Manila ought to go to subsidizing the operation of the MRT/LRT. After all, it is Metro Manila’s workers and residents that use the service.
What is certain is that something can not come out of nothing. The National Government needs to be in many places that it can not afford to do so. What is certain is that fare hikes will cause pain but that doesn’t mean Metro Manila’s residents and workers owe other taxpayers any entitlement, nor does the state owe these riders anything as well. What is certain is that we should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.