Philippine News Roundup −20 May 2008

As expected, the suspension of the temporary measure to alleviate the plight of jeepney and bus drivers was met with dismay. TheLand Transport Regulatory and Franchising Board (LTFRB) earlier approved a temporary hike in jeepney and bus rates while the petition for fare increases is being heard. Yesterday however, the Secretary of Transportation and Communications ordered the suspension of such measure to prioritize other government support mechanisms such as a P2/liter fuel subsidy to the transport sector. Since the national government, through the DOTC is quick to suspend the LTFRB's poverty alleviation measures, it should be expected to act swiftly in implementing its own. For every day that passes with the poor suffering unnecessarily, the government is simply giving creating more reasons for people to create noise that will lead to inflation and more instability.

Yesterday, former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno criticized the P20/day increase in workers benefits as being insufficient. He was quoted as saying that P20 is not even sufficient to buy a kilo of rice. One thing grossly erroneous about this statement is that the amount is indeed insufficient to buy Japanese rice, Dinorado and other expensive varieties but definitely not the NFA rice that is selling for P18/kilogram. Let it be noted that the P20/day increase is intended for the minimum wage earners who consume the low cost varieties and not those who dine on the best that the market has to offer.

Based on my maid's account, a kilo of rice is more than enough for 5 of us in the household plus two dogs for one day. Let it also be noted that P20/day is about P480/month. Small as it may seem, a former budget secretary should be able to see its implications such as companies' costs, inflationary effects and the economy in general. Fighting for workers' benefits is a noble intention. But doing so by attempting to inflame their hearts is plain and simple unacceptable. Coming from UP, I am very disappointed, Professor Diokno.

Regarding the ZTE scandal, Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico announced the new witness against the president has gone underground and could not be contacted due to supposed suspicious men that has been casing his neighborhood. It could be that the opposition is just hiding the witness from people's attention for his safety's sake or that he has indeed gone underground on his own. If such is the case, the opposition has once again proven its inability to safeguard its anti government witness. Similar incidents such as the Ador Mawanay and Vidal Doble rescue cases that happened before and the opposition should have prepared for this by now.

On to consumer protection, the PDI has an article where former Economic Planning Secretary and UP Professor Cielito Habito talks about deceptive ways that companies use to lure clients. That article is worthy of distribution to yahoogroups, blogs and newsletters in order to prevent them from falling into such traps. That is this site's recommended reading for the day.

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