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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sham TRB hearing on proposed toll hikes slammed

An alliance opposing toll fee hikes condemned today the public consultation held by the Toll Regulatory Board yesterday, saying the meeting is a bullheaded attempt to ram the newly-proposed toll fee hikes down the public’s throat.

Taxpayers’ Unity vs. Toll Fee Hike (TUTOL Hike, formerly TUTOL-SLEX) slammed the absence of the TRB Board of Directors in the meeting, with only TRB executive director Manuel G. Imperial in attendance.

TUTOL Hike also criticized the inability of the TRB to furnish stakeholders, prior to the meeting, a copy of the petition for a new round of toll fee hike in the Subic-Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), the STAR Tollway and the Manila-Cavite Expressway.

“What kind of a public consultation is this? Government officials sitting in the TRB board of directors, who are supposed to uphold the public’s interest on this issue, are absent. Stakeholders were not furnished with a copy of the petition for a toll hike, making us unable to prepare to refute pro-hike arguments,” said Sammy Malunes, TUTOL Hike spokesperson.

“It is clear that the TRB and the Aquino government are not taking public consultations seriously. They are very arrogant in thinking that they can ram through another toll hike down the public’s throat. They think they can impose another burden on the public’s back without the public fighting back,” he said.

The contract between the government and the private corporations managing the expressways states that the corporations may increase toll fees after every three years after holding public consultations on the proposal.

Bad for Metro public

Ramon Te, councilor of the City of Caloocan and TUTOL Hike co-convenor, decried the ill effects that will be brought about by the implementation of another toll hike.

“Local government officials here in Metro Manila should speak up against the toll hikes. Our constituents are suffering from the increase in the prices of basic goods and services that is being caused by the toll hikes,” Te said.

“Our small vendors will be selling more expensive rice, vegetables and other agricultural products to a public whose wage has remained almost constant through the years. They will most likely end up with less sales and therefore less income,” he added.

He said the country’s expressways are being used to transport agricultural products from the provinces, the prices of which are now increasing because of the successive toll hikes.

“We will continue with our protests in the coming days. We cannot take this additional burden on our backs. It is clear that the Aquino government will not be asking stakeholders’ for their opinion on the issue – and the private corporations managing the country’s expressways could not be happier,” Malunes said. Sammy Malunes, TUTOL Hike spokesperson

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