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Opinion

Skyway or skyjack?

CTALK - Cito Beltran -

Motorists who should be enjoying the benefits of the expanded Skyway are too distracted by the equally expanded toll rates. In fact, some of us might be wondering if we are just paying for toll fees or are we refunding campaign contributions?

During the times I spent visiting former President Erap Estrada in Tanay, I remember how he always repeated and reminded us that one of the reasons he made enemies in the business community, was because he refused to approve requests and demands to increase water, electricity rates and the likes.

Estrada could not imagine allowing 20 to 30 percent rate increases during the first year of his Presidency, for fear of betraying the trust of the masa or common people. What he got instead was a “rich people’s revolt”.

Apparently, the opposite has taken place in the first year of the Aquino administration. Instead of showing political will and presidential influence, the new administration has virtually allowed companies to “name their price” as far as toll rates, electricity, water, fuel prices go.

Unless President Noynoy Aquino acts fast, things could turn out differently.

The rich people and business community may all be feeling fine, but the average Filipinos are now coming to terms with serious inflation, underemployment and the brazen “in-your-face” attitude of companies that impose price increases knowing they have a monopoly of sorts.

Since yesterday, the shocker has been the Skyway, but in truth they are just the latest and the boldest, but we have long been subjected to politically based inflation, where companies collect payback on campaign contributions.

The other type of inflation is the one due to lack of political will. 

While I may give the oil companies some slack because fuel increases are a global reality, I cannot comprehend why the Philippines, a third world country, has the highest prices for electricity in the region? Even more disgusting is the obvious betrayal of public trust on the part of almost all our lawmakers and government officials who have not made any sincere or serious effort to correct the abuse.

Senators like Recto, Zubiri and the likes have bitched about fuel prices but I have yet to see consistency and intent on their part as far as correcting what is an apparent cartel if not a monopoly in terms of where we get our electricity.

The Aquino administration has talked and talked about fuel prices with as much PR intent as they have attacked their political enemies. But when will we hear of a serious inter agency committee including the BIR and the Department of Justice that will really investigate why Filipinos have to pay the highest price for electricity!

It is tragic that those who accuse the Ombudsman of not going after crooks in government are equally guilty of not going after the owners and officers of utility companies who are responsible for our unaffordable electricity costs.

I would like to believe that the Aquino administration is not engaged in a post election “payback scheme”, where corporations that made serious contributions now have the green light to collect via price or rate increases.

However, PNoy and his boys should be particularly sensitive to rate increases that strike consumers or commuters like a slap in the face. In the end, while people may initially resent the service provider, PNoy and Malacañang will ultimately be part of the collateral blame and collateral damage.

One way or another, the Aquino administration has to grab the bull and the B-S and help the public either by enforcing business reform or initiating consumer education. One way or another, people need to know that the administration is doing something about inflation and brazen rate increases.

If not, there is a likely possibility that PNoy’s enemies, just like big business, will cash in on the situation and turn the tables on him. Don’t be a sitting duck, Mr. President.

*      *      *

I’ve been receiving emails from various sources who are actively calling for, if not demanding, that Malacañang should reconsider the Open Skies policy or initiative because it does not require or provide for a condition or policy of reciprocity.

In other words, foreign airlines may do business in the Philippines but our flag carriers won’t have the same privileges. Yes it does seem unfair and it’s only fair for local airline companies to lobby for reciprocity.

But since we are talking about fairness and reciprocity, perhaps the local airlines should also make certain changes or corrections on how they do business.

First and foremost, before making any demands for reciprocity, all local airlines should first take off on schedule and arrive on time! When we flew to Shanghai via PAL, our flight was delayed by about an hour. When we flew back to Manila out of Shanghai, our departure was once again delayed by an hour.

Cebu Pacific, which used to take pride in arriving ahead of schedule, has obviously stopped crowing about being the clock watching company because they have had problems as well.

Both airlines should also be willing to adjust their seat capacities at the same level as other international airlines. Reciprocity should mean that people should have the same leg room they have on foreign airlines.

Yes I will continue to fly PAL and Cebu Pacific as all Filipinos should do, but if these companies demand reciprocity with their international or regional counterparts, they should first operate on the same level of expertise and excellence. If they want respect, then respect your local customers and treat them the way you would international travelers.

AQUINO

CEBU PACIFIC

COMPANIES

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

MALACA

MR. PRESIDENT

OPEN SKIES

PRESIDENT ERAP ESTRADA

UNLESS PRESIDENT NOYNOY AQUINO

WHILE I

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