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Back to school, back on roads

AS THE classes in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) opened last August, Thomasians once again braved the streets and the railroads in the crowded cities of Metro Manila.

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AS THE classes in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) opened last August, Thomasians once again braved the streets and the railroads in the crowded cities of Metro Manila.

Before they open their books and click their pens, Thomasians face different challenges of different streets and modes of public transportation for them to get in class on time and avoid the bitter tardy mark in their class cards.

With the recent woes on the metro’s trains and the seemingly endless lines of cars stalled on major roads, what exactly is the current situation of public transportation in Manila?

‘Beep’ in MRT/LRT

MRT

The train is one of the fastest ways for Thomasians to get to UST on-time for classes. The Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) are the two train systems surrounding Metro Manila. Commuters of the metro have been faithful patrons of these two trains, with an approximately 12 million passengers boarding the LRT-1 (Baclaran-Monumento) each month, 5 million for the LRT-2 (Recto-Santolan), and 14 million for MRT-3 (Edsa Taft-North Edsa).

Long lines to ticket booths and train doors have prompted the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) and Metro Rail Transit Authority (MRTA) to launch an automated fare collection system (AFCS), similar to that of neighboring countries, in the form of “Beep cards”.

The Beep card is a stored value card that allows for a tap-and-go access to various modes of public transportation such as rail transit and bus rapid transit. The plan is to have a unified ticketing system for all modes of public transportation, but as of the moment it is only implemented on the LRT lines 1 and 2.

“Kasi yung beep card, […ang] bagong stored value ng LRT. Pwede mo siyang gamitin sa LRT line 1, line 2 at MRT. Yung beep card, kapag bumili ka, valid na siya for four years. Reloadable siya, minimum of 12.00, maximum of 10,000.00,” Legarda Station Project Team Leader Brenda Orlanda said.

“Yung dating old magnetic card, ini-insert siya. Yung bagong stored values, tina-tap na lang siya. Ang old magnetic card, may free ride; kapag kulang ang load mo [sa Beep card,] kailangan mo pa siyang  pa-loadan. Yun lang yung disadvantage. May discount naman siya 2-3 pesos per ride,” Orlanda added.

LRTA spokesman Hernando Cabrera also mentioned that the cards can be personalized to allow senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) to avail of the 20% fare discount. The registration to avail such cards started last Aug. 19.

The pilot testing started at Legarda Station last June 20 and now, all the stations of LRT-2 are Beep card ready. The commuters still have the right to avail magnetic cards but their exit is separated from the exit of Beep card patrons.

All LRT-1 and MRT stations are now Beep card ready, allowing seamless train transfers to owners of stored value cards early this October.

The ticketing system may have improved but it still leaves much to be desired. Frequent LRT commuters say that the new ticketing system created several problems that even made the already long lines at stations even longer.

“Hindi lahat ng cool at tumutunog, maganda. [… L]along pinabagal yung pila. Kulang-kulang pa ng cards. Sana yung tren nalang ung dinagdagan nila,” sophomore Communication Arts major Alexandra Nocheseda said.

Mark Angelo Amoroso, senior Medical Technology major, shared the same sentiment, “They say tap-tap na lang, wala ng insert, pero kasi ‘pag single journey ticket, kailangan mo pa i-insert sa machine ‘pag palabas. It creates confusion sa mga rare gumamit ng LRT, lalong bumabagal makalabas ng LRT.”

“Sira naman lahat ng machine nila pang-load ng Beep card e. Dati may stored value dun sa machine, tapos ngayon single journey na lang mabibili dun. Yung mga bumibili ng single journey, halos pumipila din dun sa counter eh kasi mahirap ata sa machine parang maarte sa papel,” 5th year Accountancy major Hazel Victora Co said.

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Fares in jeeps, UV Express, bus, and tricycles around UST, untouched

uv

Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Winston Ginez announced a one peso fare cut on the minimum jeepney fare last December 2014, bringing it down to P7.50 from P8.50 for the first four kilometers. This brings the minimum fare for students and senior citizens down to P6.00 due to the 20% discount. Meanwhile, the minimum fare on UVs and buses remain steady, ranging from P13 to P12.

The tricycle fare around UST is still unmoved, with a P10 minimum fare per passenger, provided that they travel in groups. A P30 minimum fare is charged for solo passengers.

trike

“Minimum natin, pinakamalapit, trenta. Nakaraang taon, ganoon rin. Kapag maramihan, pwedeng sampu [ang babayaran kada tao.] Depende kung saan papunta. Kapag minimum ng maramihan, kunwari mga limang tao, sampu isa. [Kapag malayo] nagpapadadag kami ng bente pesos,” said Edgae Miba, treasurer of the Navarra-Dapitan Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association.

Some student commuters say that some drivers do not give out student discounts and the exact change.

“Walang tamang panukli si manong driver kapag may cents na. Kapag nagbayad ako [ng] 10 [pesos] tapos 7.50 [pesos ang] pamasahe, 2 pesos ang sukli”, sophomore Education major Ruth Jamel Castillo said.

Junior Education student Rose Marie Jane Rementina questioned why UV express services do not offer a student discount unlike jeeps or buses.

“Sa ibang bus, walang student discount. Kapag sa FX, reasonable naman yung price pero sana may 10 pesos na student discount,” junior Civil Engineering major Justine Reyes said.

Roads under construction

Various infrastructure projects were started almost simultaneously this year which caused bottlenecks all over Metro Manila.

“Basta na lang gawa ng gawa and ‘di nawe-weigh yung cost and benefit kaya mas nagiging traffic. And ang bagal gumawa if may ginagawa silang improvements,”  5th year Accountancy major Andi Maligaya said.

Those coming from Marikina and Rizal should expect heavy traffic on Marcos Highway due to the LRT-2 extension project which is scheduled to be finished on January 2016. The electro-mechanical phase of the project is expected to be finished on June 2016.

A floodwater interceptor being installed at Blumentritt caused a bottleneck at the corner of Abad Santos Avenue and Rizal Avenue. Affected vehicles are advised to reroute to Abad Santos Avenue then left to Tecson Street then back to Rizal Avenue.

Repairs and asphalt overlays being done from Osmeña Highway to Magallanes Interchange and the Skyway Stage 3 project reduced the passable lanes on the said roads, which causes congestion due to the sheer volume of vehicles, especially during peak hours.

Another bottleneck at the South of Manila is the construction of the NAIA Expressway Phase 2 which is the source of heavy traffic along Domestic Road, Airport Road and NAIA Road until the major intersection serving as the boundary of Roxas Boulevard and Manila-Cavite Expressway.

In relation to the construction efforts’ impact on the traffic, some student commuters expressed doubt on the necessity and timing of such infrastructure projects and their impact on the daily activities in the metro.

“I’m not an engineer pero nava-vibes ko lang, bakit kaya ang tagal ng ginagawa especially yung sa NAIA? May something ba sa funding for the capital? Is the PPP (Public-Private Partnership) of the government effective in investing capital on constructions such as this?” Accountancy senior Rhett Spencer Tañada said.

“Also, sana nasa tamang time yung peak time ng construction nila, hindi yung rush hour. Lastly, if this is for the proper urban planning of NCR, there are more places [needing] constructions or rehabilitation projects, not just on the main or national roads,”  Tañada added. M.N. Bornales and A.J. Nipas

Photos by Denise Sabio and Chealsy Murphy

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Flatten curve to revive economy, solon says

The government should remain in its goal of flattening the curve to revive the economy, a lawmaker advised Saturday, Oct. 24.

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Photo courtesy of the UST Central Student Council

The government should remain in its goal of flattening the curve to revive the economy, a lawmaker advised Saturday, Oct. 24.

“Klaro naman na hindi natin kailangan pumili between saving lives and livelihood. Hindi na tama na ang trade-off between the two…[b]ecause we can save both,” Marikina 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo said. 

Quimbo, who is also an economist, stressed the importance of evidence-based policymaking and monitoring, as well as business continuity and job projection interventions. 

The solution and interventions included grants for technical assistance, subsidies for COVID-19 testing, and wage subsidies with retention clauses. 

“We can afford to rise, pero dapat balansehin so as not to fall into a debt crisis… [b]ecause as we all know napakadali po to become poor pero napakahirap mag-exit sa poverty. Importanteng importante ang datos,” Quimbo said.

Quimbo also laid out the framework for the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines (ARISE), which she is one of the principal authors. 

Under the ARISE, a comprehensive plan will be followed to address the pandemic-brought economic crisis with a proposed P1.3 trillion budget over three years.

In the bill still pending in the Senate, Quimbo specified transitional, financial, sectoral, and structural support that, according to her, were the basis of the framework for the “mini-version” of the Bayanihan 2 that is in effect until the end of this year.

‘Reform the economy’

IBON Foundation executive director Sonny Africa urged the government to “reform and shape” an economy that benefits everyone. 

According to Africa, the government’s current response is focused on a “very artificial poverty reduction” by granting cash transfers without addressing the structure that continues poverty.

“The government is very keen on infrastructure to promote economic growth, but the Philippines is so lacking in economic fundamentals as it uses infrastructure as a short-cut to growth,” he said.

Africa also criticized that while the government is focused on infrastructure development, decades of neoliberal health privatization eroded  the public health system, which worsened the mortality rate even pre-pandemic.

The webinar “EkonDisyon: Philippine Economic Recession and COVID-19” is a part of the MulaTalakayan organized by the University’s Central Student Council. 

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Tourism recovery to revamp economic sectors, officials urge

Tourism officials stressed the importance of a responsible and “new normal-ready” recovery in the tourism sector amid gradual easing of health protocols in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Photo courtesy of the UST Research Center for Social Sciences & Education

Tourism officials stressed the importance of a responsible and “new normal-ready” recovery in the tourism sector amid gradual easing of health protocols in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Officer Alfonsus Tesoro called for sustainable and strategic recovery efforts to support and revamp economic sectors.

“Tuloy-tuloy dapat ang pag-conduct ng tourism site assessment and planning kasama ang iba’t-ibang stakeholders from the national government agencies, provincial government offices, and the private sector,” Tesoro said in a webinar, Thursday, Oct. 23. 

According to Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes, a survey conducted in Eastern Visayas showed that 66 percent of the respondents admitted that health risks affected their decision to travel, while 80 percent are now eager to visit tourism sites within the region only. 

“This gives us an idea of what tourism activities we should prioritize when we reopen our [tourism] sites. A large majority expect health and safety protocols in place, there should be value for money, and that fun activities will still be offered even under the ‘new normal,’” she said.

Tiopes added that despite the steady reopening of the tourism sector, health protocols would still be strictly employed to ensure safety of tourists and residents. 

The webinar titled, “Philippine Tourism Development and COVID-19 Pandemic: Recovery through Sustainable Development,” was spearheaded by the University’s College of Tourism and Hospitality Management in partnership with the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines, Inc., and co-organized by the UST Research Center for Social Sciences and Education. Paolo Alejandrino 

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Take courage to fight tyranny, says Artlets prof

Veteran journalist and UST journalism professor urged media practitioners on Monday, Oct. 19, to take courage amid persistent attacks and to withstand tyranny in the country. 

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Screengrab from "ThePressRoom: a PressOnePH commentary" livestream

Veteran journalist and UST journalism professor urged media practitioners on Monday, Oct. 19, to take courage amid persistent attacks and to withstand tyranny in the country. 

Christian Esguerra stated that despite uncontrollable tyrants in the Philippines, journalists and citizens can control their responses to disputes. 

“[M]as dumadali ang buhay ng mga nang-aabuso kapag pinababayaan mo sila, kapag tumitihaya ka na lang,” Esguerra said in PressOne.Ph’s live commentary. 

The continuous blatant attacks on the media, according to Esguerra, has pushed journalists to be more critical and “timid” of their coverage of the current administration. 

Amid the issue of timidness of the media, he reminded his colleagues to remember journalism’s loyalty to the citizens and truth. 

“Hindi ko sinasabing magiging madali, kasi nakasalalay ang paycheck mo, career advancements mo, lahat-lahat, but at the end of the day kaya mo bang lunukin yun, kumbaga pwede ka namang lumaban pero hinold back mo yung sarili mo,” Esguerra said. 

As of May 2020, 16 journalists have been killed since President Duterte took office in 2016, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. 

“Democracy and the free press always go hand in hand. Hindi ka pwedeng magkaroon ng tunay demokrasya kung wala kang free press. At hindi rin pwedeng magkaroon ng free press kung walang demokrasya,” Esguerra added.

Esguerra was named this year’s Marshall McLuhan fellow on Oct. 9, 2020 by the Canadian Embassy in the Philippines and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and was lauded by Canada’s ambassador to the Philippines Peter MacArthur for his “consistency in providing outstanding coverage of most pressing stories of the day.”

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