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Bacolod City, Philippines Saturday, February 3, 2018
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Stop the profit TRAIN

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Ma. Teresa Habitan, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Finance, recently urged bus and ferry companies who implemented fare hikes in Bacolod and Negros Occidental to justify the increase after those recent fare increases were pinned on the increase of fuel prices brought about by the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law.

Habitan made the plea when she was asked about the increases during the last day of the Open Government and Participatory Governance Regional Dialogue to present the TRAIN law in Bacolod City, Wednesday.

Vallacar Transit Inc. had to raise its fares because of higher fuel prices but the company's Legal and Media Relations Manager Jade Seballos said that the increases were still within the fare matrix issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board. Weesam Express operator Frank Carbon attributed the increase to higher prices of fuel and lubricants needed by sea vessels. Habitan, on the other hand, believes the fare hikes are too big and said transport companies should be checked by the LTFRB and Maritime Industry Authority.

Habitan said that before implementing TRAIN, they conducted studies on its effects based on real life situations. “If people do not really know how this law is functioning, then they will really believe that it will cause price increases,” she said. Habitan also added that business leaders should “not use TRAIN as a convenient punching bag for profiteering objective.”

She also asked for the help of the Department of Trade and Industry to closely monitor commodities amid the TRAIN implementation as there will always be bad guys who will take advantage of it.

If the bean counters at the Department of Finance made the correct assumptions while crafting TRAIN and the price of everything isn't supposed to go up significantly, then why is it happening? Did they make the correct assumptions but fail to coordinate with government agencies like the LTFRB, DTI and MARINA in order to put in place safeguards to protect Filipinos from what they claim to be profiteering activities now that the actual rise in the price of almost everything does not match their computations?

If the recent price increases being blamed on TRAIN are truly excessive, government should do more than just claim that “bad guys” are taking advantage of it. A government that cannot keep the price hikes to within the estimates of its experts cannot stop its people from blaming it and its TRAIN if prices continue to rise and make life difficult. *


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