Withhold permits for realigned subway, QC councilors resolve
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - February 19, 2020 - 12:00am

The Quezon City Council has resolved to withhold business and construction permits from the Metro Manila subway project. This is due to the sudden realignment into quiet residential zones and an earthquake fault that makes the underground rail unsafe and disruptive.

Voting unanimously Monday the Council also called on the Dept. of Transport to revert to the original EDSA route. Councilors deemed EDSA best for a million daily riders yet least costly to government. The Katipunan plan, aside from passing quake and flood areas, will displace more residents and structures in QC and six other cities.

“This is the sense of Quezon City residents,” said Councilor Victor Ferrer Jr., whose ways and means committee sponsored the resolution. From public hearings in Oct. and Nov. they gathered info on safety, social and environment impacts, and implications on city tax takes.

“That EDSA is best is the sentiment of the Council,” added committee vice chairman Winston Castelo. “Let DOTr know.”

The Council adopted the committee’s four findings why subway realignment “is detrimental to the best interest of Quezon City, its residents, and the public at large”:

• Earthquake risk - The new “Katipunan alignment ... does not uphold the highest and optimal safety of riders.” A representative of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology had testified that it is “very close to the West Valley Fault Line, increasing the risk of exposure of the commuting public to harm and injury... The original EDSA alignment is farthest from the West Valley Fault.”

• Disruption to residents – The City Planning and Engineering departments “pointed out that the Katipunan alignment, because it will pass through residential subdivisions, will result in large displacement of occupants and structures... It will mean more right-of-way acquisitions. Thus it is not the most viable route in terms of social and environmental impact, given the extreme disruptions to residents.”

• Sub-optimal station location – The Katipunan alignment is least efficient. Stations along the route are unserved by feeder jitneys and buses. “This will necessitate the riding public to walk farther distances to reach their next ride, making the commute more difficult... The proposed stations are not within reach of the city center and popular destinations.”

• Real property taxes – Dislocation of residents and shops would dent property tax takes and consequently city projects. “Payment of real-property and business taxes must be charged to the subway project in order that Quezon City’s ability to render services is not diminished.”

The Council urged the city engineer to withhold subway building and operation permits as realigned on Katipunan. It tasked its presiding officer to request DOTr to revert to EDSA.

“Construction is planned for three years, but protests of residents will delay it beyond the present administration,” Ferrer said. “We don’t want Quezon City to be stuck with an unfinished project.”

Cited in the resolution were studies of the funding Japan International Cooperation Agency. Comparative costs: EDSA, P208 billion; Katipunan realignment, more than P350 billion.

Usec. for Rails Timothy Batan, on the other hand, did not submit the requested justifications for the realignment and attendant redesigns.

Prepared 2013-2016 the plan was for 15 stations from Valenzuela and parts of EDSA in QC, onto Pasig, Makati, Taguig, and Pasay. Metro Manilans welcomed it as a solution to transport shortage and traffic.

But resistance sprang when DOTr suddenly rerouted it from EDSA to Katipunan, along with other abrupt changes in 2017. The Alliance of QC Homeowners Associations Inc. registered its protest in public hearings. In Valenzuela commercial-industrial lot owners complained to President Rody Duterte of “big-business interests” wanting to get hold of excess space, as DOTr quadrupled to 32 hectares the targeted depot lot from JICA’S recommended eight. In Parañaque homeowners wrote Duterte too of “oligarchs” behind the belatedly announced “Bicutan station” that would encroach their property.

*      *      *

Those pesky Universal Charge and Feed-In Tariff (FIT) continually increased the past decade. Fortunately electricity bills still went down. The 10-percent drop, when consumer prices rose 20 percent, was due to decline over time in generation, transmission and distribution costs. It would have been lower had Universal Charge and FIT not contravened.

The past Energy Regulatory Commission reportedly is to blame. In 2011-2018 the FIT – subsidies to startup renewable energy firms – soared 500 percent from 0.4¢ to 25¢ per kilowatt-hour. ERC granted more than what National Transmission Corporation applied for. Like, in 2016 when TransCo asked for 10¢/kWh increase, ERC provisionally approved 12.4¢ then finally 18.3¢. In 2017, when TransCo wanted 22.91¢, ERC gave it 25.63¢.

That period the Universal Charge – for missionary electrification, environment charge and government debts – zoomed 700 percent, from 4.79¢ to 37.89¢.

Through FIT, in effect, small consumers sponsored high-income ventures. And through the Universal Charge, newly electrifying areas like impoverished Antique financed prosperous electric cooperatives in Luzon. Notably ERC member Alfredo Non was then Oversight Commissioner for both FIT and the Universal Charge.

Recently ex-commissioner Non accused Meralco of overcharging. This was after Luzon’s largest distributor announced two consecutive months of lower billings due to lower power supply costs. He said in a TV interview that, if given data by ERC, he would prove his point in six months.

Yet records show that Non was also Oversight Commissioner for Distribution Rates in 2011-2018. As such he should have studied and stopped Meralco’s last application for rate increase in 2015. Instead he approved it, along with other commissioners.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives: www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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